Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Comments and Responses by the author : Socialism of 21st Century : Sunil

     After publication of my essay ‘Socialism of the New Century’ in Janata weekly, Independence day special issue, August 2010, posting of it on three blogs –‘Kafila’, ‘Anti-MNC Forum’ andGandhitopia.org’ and circulation by e-mail, I have received  a number of comments. Most of them appreciated and agreed broadly with the contents. But they have also raised certain important doubts and questions. I thought it proper to identify and club them and respond to them collectively rather then answering them individually. The response is attached herewith. I have thought it not necessary to mention those points where there is an agreement or further elaboration. I have selected only disagreements, doubts and questions to respond to. I have taken some liberty in sorting and formulating the questions implied in them. But for those who wish to read the original comments, they are also attached .The original essay is also attached for those who have not read it or those who want to refresh it. I hope to continue this debate and dialogue.
 I have received comments from following persons and I thank all of them for trouble they have taken:-
Felix Padel(UK), Sunil Deepak(Italy), Polly Dristas (Cubec, Canada),  Dolly Daftary, Ashish Kothari(Pune), Suraendra Mohan(Delhi), Prempal Sharma(Delhi), Dipak Dholakia(Delhi), Arun Kumar Tripathi(Delhi), Uday Prakash(Delhi), Ravela Somayya(Hyderabad), Prof. Rajinder Chaudhary(Rohtak), Prof. T. Ramakrishnan (Chittoor), S.N. Nagarjan(Coimbatore), Rajesh Ramkrishnan, P. Vishwambharam, M. C. Dinakaram and Upen Mahajan.
I am sorry for the delay in responding, but I could not help it due to unavoidable circumstances.- Sunil.
  Socialism of the New Century


The tussle between capitalism and socialism as alternative visions of human society is not yet over. It is like the old fable of the race between a hare and a tortoise. At times one seems to be the winner. At other times the other seems to be leading. Capitalism is like the hare of the story. It looks fast, impressive and dynamic but after some time it is tired and resting with its own contradictions. In the end, we know, it is the tortoise of socialism which will prevail. But that end is yet to be arrived at.

Capitalism looked supreme and unchallengeable in the latter decades of the past century. With the disintegration of USSR, reverting of China, Vietnam and many other communist countries to the path of capitalism, and downfall of social democracy in Europe, there was no challenge to capitalism. Thus ‘end of history’ was arrogantly announced. Market fundamentalism of Reagan and Thatcher varieties started ruling over the world. But soon many crises arrived. Ecological crisis with the dangers of climate change and global warming on the one hand, and the global financial crisis with the worst recession since the thirties on the other, shook the faith in the supremacy and immortality of capitalist civilization. Added to these were the growing crises of hunger, malnutrition, homelessness, violence and war. The number of hungry people in the world kept growing and crossed the figure of 100 cores in the first decade of the twenty first century i.e. every sixth person on the earth today remain underfed and starved. This is perhaps the biggest and the most glaring failure of capitalism. Even after more than two centuries of the industrial revolution and miraculous progress of science and technology, it is unable to fulfill even the most basic need of the humankind.

The twenty first century therefore started with new doubts about the supremacy, desirability and invincibility of capitalism. Search of alternatives began with new vigor. The word ‘socialism’ once again gained currency and became a talking point. But what kind of socialism? What does it mean? How is it different from what was experimented with in the last century which apparently failed? There seems to be a lot of confusion.

In a way, we who want to change the world for a better tomorrow are more fortunate than our predecessors in the last century. We have a longer history of capitalism before us to understand its functioning better. We also have the experiences of communist–socialist experiments of the last century to learn from them. What are the main lessons? How do we look at them and analyze them?  Are we wiser and clearer now? Do we have better insights now?

Observations and Lessons from the Twentieth Century

We may note certain developments and lessons of the last century.

 1.    Capitalism did not transform the whole world in the way its supporters claimed and even Marx expected. Rather, it transformed the different parts of the world in different ways. To some, it brought prosperity, luxuries and high levels of consumption. To others, it has brought misery, hunger, poverty and unemployment. Capitalism has been kind and benevolent to one set of people but discriminating and destructive to another. The adverse effects of capitalism in large parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America did not prove to be transitional as expected, but have persisted, continued and deepened. The industrial revolution that took place in Western Europe and later in North America and Japan could not be repeated in other parts of the world. Even where the state actively helped and planned industrialiasation could not take place to the extent of involving and employing a significant proportion of the population. That is true for USSR, China and India also. Even Marx was wrong when he saw in Western Europe the future mirror image of the rest of the world.

2.    Revolution  took place not in the most industrialized and capitalistically most developed countries of western Europe as was predicted by Marx, but in the countries that were relatively backward ( in capitalist  sense ) and less          industrialized. In countries like China, there was almost no industrial working class and it was totally a peasant revolution. This put a question mark on Marx’s expectation and prediction that industrial workers will be the ‘proletariat’ and the vanguard of the revolution.

3.    Trade Unions of organized / industrial workers everywhere developed a kind of economism and lost revolutionary zeal and urge for radical change. In the setting of most of the developing countries, their wages and salaries were much more than the rest of the population. They felt privileged and did not identify themselves with the poor masses. A kind of ‘Labour aristocracy’ gradually developed in both rich and poor countries. The call of Marx and Engels for the workers of the world to unite did not materialize. It has to be redefined and reformulated in the new context.

4.    Dictatorship of proletariat proved to be a misleading and dangerous concept that ultimately helped anti-socialist and opportunist elements. It arose from the mistaken belief that only industrial workers are capable of leading the revolution. Other sections of population such as peasants and artisans, not fully separated from their means of production, may have anti-revolutionary tendencies and at times may need to be disciplined to fall in line. This led to the enormous atrocities and repression on Russian peasantry in Stalin era. Such dictatorship and centralization of power was also necessary for the kind of industrialization (and military build up) the Soviet and Chinese rulers wanted to achieve requiring enormous level of capital accumulation and mobilization of resources. Another point to be noted is that violent revolutions have always led to some kind of dictatorship. Democracy could not be established after them.

5.    Private ownership of property was considered to be at the root of the evils of capitalism. But abolition of private property in communist countries did not do the (expected) trick. It was not sufficient for establishment of an egalitarian socialist society. One, there remained an attraction in the minds of the rulers for the kind of development achieved in western capitalist societies, and an attraction in the minds of the people for its consumerist life style. This proved to be a major source of weakness of communist regimes. The institution of property was abolished, but not the ‘Moha’ or attachment to the property and consumerism. Two, new hierarchies developed and the old ones (such as patriarchy) persisted. A surprising level of ethnic conflicts also emerged.

6.    The various experiments of social democracy in Europe, or mixed economy in countries like India, did not prove sustainable and suffered from many contradictions. A ‘welfare state’ without radically altering the basic structure of society and economy may not solve the problems and may not sustain for a long time.

7. The so-called ‘free trade’, attempts of industrialization and ‘export led growth’ in what are called ‘emerging economies’ such as China and India have brought new conflicts and crises. Many of them, at local, national and international level, relate to ‘Jal-Jungle-Jamin’ or minerals. In fact, for some time, natural resources have come to the centre stage. Major conflicts of the world relate to them. The impasse at WTO, for example, is mainly related to agriculture, a nature linked economic activity. Oil and natural gas are behind the war in Iraq, Afghanistan and threat to Iran. Peasant movements, movements against displacements, conflicts over land, water, oil and minerals etc. today make more news than workers’ strikes. Ecological problems of global warming and pollution are only one dimension of this crisis. Another equally important dimension (but ignored in the West-dominated discourse) is the continuous aggression against the people whose lives are still intimately linked to nature.

8. Imperialism did not come to an end with the independence of colonies after the Second World War. Rather it continued in neo-colonial forms through trade, aid and MNCs. International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Asian Development Bank (and similar banks for different continents), World Trade Organization etc. actively promote, help and sustain this imperialist unequal world order. It is also effectively helped by the military power of USA and its allied countries. The USSR and China also tried, though not very successfully, to imitate the imperialist military ways of USA.

9. Globalization is another phase of this imperialism. It is another name for removing all restrictions, and enhancing command of capital over resources of the world. Capitalism has an unending and ever-increasing lust for exploiting labour and extracting natural resources at world level. It cannot survive without that. The globalization of finance is just another mechanism of fulfilling their lust. The latest financial crisis of capitalism should be seen in this perspective. It is wrong to regard it essentially an internal crisis of USA and industrial capitalist camp, as some Marxist scholars have tried to do. (See for example, John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff, The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences’, Monthly Review Press, 2009).

10. The latest experiments of socialism are from Latin America which do not fit orthodox framework of the left. They have not abolished private property nor have they driven out MNCs. But they have attempted redistribution of land, tried to cut MNCs and big business to size, and increased state control of national resources and strategic industries. These regimes have come in conflict with organized sector workers and established trade unions, and have relied more on the support of poor people belonging to the informal sector. They have focused on providing social services (education, health, ration etc.) to poor people and increased state budget significantly for them. They have opted for democracy and have successfully mobilized popular support for their reforms. Important experiments of local councils and workers’ management are also going on there. They have tense relations with USA. Natural resources, again, are at the root of this conflict and a rich endowment of oil, natural gas or minerals has proved a source of strength for them. An important development to note is about Cuba which has been forced, after the disintegration of USSR, to change its approach to modern technology and development. It has gone back from chemical to organic cultivation and from tractors to bullocks. This change has helped it in reducing its dependency and achieving self-sufficiency in food.

Analytical Implications and Insights  

The purpose of outlining these events, developments, tendencies and lessons is not just to prepare a list of them. It will be a futile exercise if we do not link, interconnect and integrate them in order to analyse them and enhance our theoretical understanding of capitalism and its possible alternatives. We have to see how they reflect on the existing theories and assumptions and what corrections are needed. Some of them were already hinted by various thinkers such as Gandhi, Lohia, Rosa Luxemburg, Andre Gunder Frank etc. and lately re-emphasized by Indian socialist thinkers like Sachchidanand Sinha, Kishen Pattanayak and Bagaram Tulpule. They are further confirmed by later developments. A new vision of socialism in the twenty first century can only be based on such an analysis and updating of our understanding.

One: One important source of misunderstanding has been the single minded focus on exploitation of workers in factories by their capitalist owners and regarding it as the main (or the only) source of surplus value. It was like Arjuna of Mahabharat who focused only on the target of bird’s eye and did not see anything else. But the real dynamics of capitalism was never so simple. Another major source of surplus value, as pointed out by Lohia, has been the exploitation of colonial workers and peasants. Because of this exploitation, the workers of industrialized countries could get a share of it, albeit a small one and it became possible to postpone the conflict between workers and capitalists there indefinitely. Hence revolution did not take place there. This is also the factor behind labour aristocracy. Of course, Marx did take note of colonial plunder and loot and dwelt upon it in detail, but he did not integrate it into his analysis. It was like an after-effect of capitalism for him and not an integral and necessary element of it. One of his followers, Rosa Luxemburg, tried to draw attention towards this lacuna, but she remained mostly neglected and sidelined in the Marxist circles. Many of the Marx’s followers (like Paul Sweezy) still stick to this position that the main dynamic of capitalism is exploitation of workers within the capitalist society. But some Marxist economists from periphery like Andre Gunder Frank have, of course, challenged this orthodoxy.

Two: Another important source of surplus value and capital accumulation is nature, again noted by Marx but not given importance. From the beginning, the edifice of capitalism has been built on large scale loot and destruction of nature and natural resources. Displacement and deprivation of people whose life are linked with nature has accompanied it from the beginning. Marx noted it, but, alas, called it ‘primitive accumulation of capital’. But the adjective ‘primitive’ is misleading. The process has been continuously going out throughout the history of capitalism, in one form or the other, in one or the other parts of the world. It is not primitive or preliminary. It is still going on. Capitalism has fed on it. It cannot grow or survive without it. Some scholars have also pointed out that various forms of rent, and not profit, have been the main forms of surplus extraction in the history of capitalism (See Pranab Kanti Basu ‘Political Economy of Land Grab’. EPW, vol. XLII, no. 14, 2007). Elements of force, barbarism, domination and state supported monopoly have always been present behind the façade of the market.

The role of nature has also been neglected in the ‘labour theory of value’ propounded by Marx. While this theory rightly emphasized the role of labour in creation of value and wealth, it does not account for the contribution of nature. In fact, the present ecological crisis cannot be explained by sticking to labour theory of value.

Three: There are other forms of exploitation and hegemony such as patriarchy, race, Indian caste system, which jointly work with class and colonial exploitation. It was expected by both liberals and Marxists that Indian caste system, being a feudal institution, would gradually decline and die with the growth of capitalism, industrialization and modernization. It did not. Caste, class and patriarchy are interwoven and strengthen each other. It is erroneous to regard one of them as primary contradiction and others as ‘superstructure’. All have to be fought jointly and simultaneously. Moreover, blindly applying categories of European history (such as feudalism) to the rest of the world may lead to misplaced assumptions, expectations and conclusions.

Four: Imperialism is not the last and the highest stage of capitalism as professed by Lenin. It is rather the first stage and an essential ingredient for the development of capitalism. Modern capitalist industrialization did not and cannot take place at any significant level without colonial or neo-colonial exploitation. Therefore, the option of modern industrialization is closed today for poor countries, unless one tries to build its own empire as China is currently trying to do.

It is futile to follow a similar path of industrialization and development in the non-industrial world. It will bring its own contradictions and crises. Colonial exploitation is so fundamental to modern industrialization that attempts to bring it about without external colonies have landed up creating internal colonies. But even they are not sufficient for it. It requires colonial or neo-colonial exploitation at global level, or at least a share of it. Internal colonies could sustain only a limited industrialization creating a few islands of development and prosperity in the vast ocean of poverty, misery and unemployment.

Industrial colonies can be of various kinds and are not necessarily geographical – backward and tribal regions, the countryside, agricultural sector, other primary sectors, the informal sector etc. Their relationship to the modern-urban-industrial sector of the economy is essentially a colonial one. The fact and concept of internal colony is also helpful in understanding many regional, ethnic and tribal conflicts of today.

This mutually reinforcing relationship between capitalism and colonialism-imperialism also implies that capitalism cannot grow (and cannot be looked at) in isolation within the boundaries of a single country. To use the phrase of Gunder Frank, ‘development’ in one part of the world is necessary linked to the ‘underdevelopment’ in large parts of the world. No underdeveloped country at the periphery can really develop unless it breaks away and frees itself from this capitalist-imperialist relationship.

Five: Modern economics teaches us that what is required for industrialization is capital and technology. Sometimes entrepreneurship is also added as a factor. It is argued that poor countries are lacking them and therefore they remain backward. Invitation to foreign capital and technology transfer will remove this lacuna. But the actual history showed that even that could not help many countries in transforming into industrial societies. Now, with growing conflicts, we get to know the industrialization also requires land, water, minerals and energy on a large scale. Such requirements and conflicts were earlier unnoticed because the adverse effects were outside the industrializing countries. The link was remote and not clear.

Actually, modern industrialization requires several things – (1) supply of raw materials at cheap rates, (2) large scale natural resources (land, water,
minerals, energy etc), free or at throw away price,(3) cheap food grain to keep the wages low, (4) cheap labour, (5) huge capital created by earlier exploitation and transfer of resources and (6) a large and growing market for its products. Many of these requirements go beyond the borders of a country. They are never fully met through pure market mechanism, though keeping terms of trade in favor of industries can be regarded as one. They are actually facilitated, subsidized and supported by the state, at times even police and military power. Displacing peasantry or other primary producers, as noted by Marx in the context of Enclosure movement in England of 16th and 17th century, serves two functions in the interest of industries. It makes land and raw material available on one hand, and provides cheap labour by creating reserve army of unemployed labour on the other. It is for these reasons that modern industrialization is necessarily linked to colonial (or neo-colonial or internal colonial) domination and exploitation.

Six: Modern industries are often justified, supported and promoted in the name of generating employment and removing unemployment. Followers of various political and ideological streams (except Gandhians and a few Lohiaites) have been holding this faith in modern industrialization. A model presented half a century ago by a western economist Arthur W. Lewis still dominates the economic discourse, which assumed that modern industrial sector will develop and absorb the surplus labour in agriculture. But this model ignores the historical fact that this surplus labour (i.e. unemployment) was precisely created by de-industrialization and destruction of traditional livelihood to support modern industries in other parts of the country or the world. Net effect of modern industries is not to create, but to destroy employment. It is more visible now with increasing mechanization, automation and modernization of industries.
It should also be noted that even industrial revolution did not solve the employment problem in Western Europe of those days. It was basically solved by large scale migration to the ‘new world’ and the other colonies. In India also, more than five decades of industrialization has been able to provide formal employment to not more than six percent of workforce of the country. How long will it take to provide respectable employment in industries to any significant proportion of the population? Isn’t it a mirage? Isn’t it a case of modern superstition?

Seven: A similar kind of blind faith is exhibited in case of technology. It is assumed that the technologies developed in western capitalist countries are suitable for the whole world, and everyone has to necessarily imitate and adopt them. Some kind of divineness and universality seems to be attached to modern technology and industrialization. Every country has to first go through capitalism and western kind of development. That will develop ‘productive forces’ and then only, it is argued, a transition to socialism can take place. (In this sense, development of capitalism was seen as a progressive event taking the country forward in the history). No one can bypass this stage. Even if countries like Russia and China have opted for communism, they have to go through the similar kind of industrialization. History of the rest of the world has to necessarily go the European way. A kind of historical determinism is behind this absurd, but persisting, faith. It is high time that it is reviewed, re-examined and corrected.

Eight: It is this kind of obsession with modern (western) technology, modern industrialization and modern development and its contradictions with equality and other socialist ideals that is mainly responsible for the failure of soviet and Chinese experiments of socialism. Most of the commentators have focused on and highlighted the fact of dictatorship, regimentation, development of ‘new class’ of bureaucrats, managers and party bosses etc. But these were not the fundamental reasons. They were only symptoms and by-product of a deeper disease that is, obsession with modern development and modern life style. But that could not be achieved without depressing and exploiting large sections of  the population. Hence came Stalinism. Lakhs of Russian peasants - the partners of revolution till the previous day – were killed, evicted, tortured and sent to Siberia or forced work in mines, railways or factories because they resisted forced levy of their products at low prices. Such tragedies are inherent in modern development, whether it is a capitalist or a communist system. Alienation of workers, hierarchy and centralization of power are also inherent in modern industrial society. Any attempt to remove these evils has to look for alternative kind of industrialization and development.

Nine:  Democracy and socialism are inseparable and complimentary to each other. One is incomplete without the other. The phrase ‘democratic socialism” is a bit odd and the adjective is redundant, because there can not be an undemocratic socialism. Democracy is implied and necessary for any real socialism and vice versa. Perhaps it is used to differentiate and distance oneself from the communist regimes of USSR and China. But, as is clear now, they turned out to be neither socialist nor democratic.

Ten: An important element to make democracy and socialism real is decentralization of power, both in economic and political spheres. Small is not only beautiful, it is the only equitable, feasible and sustainable form of economic activity for a socialist society. To make democracy meaningful, it has to be brought to the grassroots, closer to the people, facilitating their active participation and empowerment. It should not be confused with the present Panchayati Raj in India, which is actually an extension of bureaucracy raj without curtailing the power of those at the top in any significant way.

It is also necessary to stress on self - reliance and localization for breaking away from the chains of imperial – colonial process at various levels. A respect for diversity (diverse cultures, languages, traditions and religions as well as bio–diversity ) is also a must for building a better world.

Eleven: Unlimited growth, unending wants, high level of consumption and labour–less luxurious life style are some of the goals that have been idealized, glamorized and glorified by modern civilization.  Private capitalists and corporations have promoted them through consumerist culture to boost their sales and profits. But even the communist rulers and intellectuals did not question these goals. There are at least three problems with them. One, this high consumption level cannot be available to the whole humanity. Rather it has been accompanied by growing disparity and deprivation of the masses. Two,even where available and achievable , it has not made the life and society happier and healthier. It has brought its own distortions and social crises. Three, it has brought the ecology and environment of the earth to the brink of disaster. The whole earth, for the first time, has become vulnerable for the luxuries of a few. It is estimated that if the whole population of the world is to achieve the US standard of life, we shall need at least five earths.

Twelve: While the debate of violence v/s non violence is never-ending (it has become more a matter of faith than logic based on actual experience), it is a historical fact that long armed struggles, it successful, lead to centralized dictatorial regimes. It is natural because they have to organize themselves on military pattern where there is no scope for debate and differences. They are always amidst a war where obeying the commander without questioning is necessary. As Gandhi pointed out, means start influencing and determining the ends. Thus, democratic and broadly non-violent means suit the goal of socialism, although one should guard against co-option and dilution. The worlds of ‘radical’ and ‘violent’ should not be confused. Non-violent movements can also be quite radical and revolutionary.

New Face of Socialism

        With these observations and lessons from history, we can be now   surer and confident about how the Socialism will look like in the new century. It will certainly be not like state capitalism of USSR. No one would like to repeat the mistakes and horrors of the Stalin era. Nor will it be like ‘market socialism’ of Chinese variety, where socialist principles have disappeared and what has remained is a total subservience to world market added by one of the worst dictatorships of modern times. It will also not be the social democracy of Europe that has little relevance for the poor underdeveloped part of the world. Socialism cannot also be equated to mere nationalization and establishment of public sector in an otherwise capitalist setup, as we have seen its limitation and failure in India.

      Most of the leftists today reject all these past models of socialism, but they are not sure of what really ailed them? They are also not sure of what is the alternative path. There is a lot of discussion on forms of ownership and management. It is indeed important. But little attention is paid to the question of scale, technology, life style and development model, which have emerged as crucial factors. (See, for example , a recent book by Michael A. Lebowitz, ‘Build it Now : Socialism for the 21st Century’, Monthly Review Press, 2006 or a background note by Abhay Shukla prepared for a meeting on ‘Socialism in the 21st Century’, at Nagpur, in the last week of July 2010). The colonial question (with neo-colonial and internal colonial forms) also remains neglected and under-emphasized, and its full implications are not recognized.

It is clear now that socialism can be built only on an alternative model of development. We need radically different and alternative kind of industries, technology, life style and values than what have historically developed under capitalism. Small units, labor-intensive techniques, alternative energy, local management, respect for diversity and harmony with nature will be important elements of this development.

          The state of neglect and exploitation of agriculture and other primary sector activities should be reversed. Assisted by nature, they are the activities that really produce and create values. Industries only reshape and reform them. Services only circulate and redistribute the values created by agriculture and industry. But, while giving prime place to primary activities, we need vibrant industries too. The present state of total dominance of (and dependence on) agriculture in village life is, in fact, a distortion. It is a colonial legacy, continued after independence and intensified further. A significant part of the village population has to be diverted to industries. But those industries will be small unit, labour-intensive and mainly village based. Villages and small towns have to be again made centre of development. Mega-cities with large slums are unmanageable and unsustainable. Some of the highly developed urban civilizations like Indus Valley and Maya could not sustain themselves and disappeared. If we want to avoid the same fate, a kind of de-urbanisation has to be planned and promoted by providing employment, prosperity and basic facilities to villages.

         Dalit and women activists may not agree. They have a legitimate fear that they will never find an equal and respectable place in traditional village life. But then what is the option? Even after six decades of independence and planned development, large member of Dalits live in villages. In the cities, they are confined to slums. If we leave out reservations in jobs, which in any case can lift only a very small proportion of Dalit population and which are also now shrinking due to privatization, the place for Dalits in cities is only in slums and ill-paid informal jobs. At the time of independence, there were a number of factories in cities employing tens of thousands of workers such as textile mills of Mumbai. There was a hope that they would grow in number and Dalits and Shudras would get jobs in them and also a more egalitarian space. But even those hopes are shattered now. With growing mechanization, now there is no hope for providing respectable employment to Dalits and OBC in any significant number. There is no alternative but to struggle to transform the village society. Had Ambedkar been alive today, he would have perhaps reconsidered his call to Dalits to leave village. He would have certainly opposed the modern development and globalization which has destroyed village industry, handicrafts and traditional livelihoods affecting Dalits and Shudras the most.

          Moreover, village in a socialist society will not be the same traditional village. Struggle to build a new society may get it transformed with less hierarchy, more equality and more freedom.

          Each village and its Gram Sabha should be given autonomy and full powers to run the village administration and decide about their daily life matters including ‘Jal-Jungle-Jamin’, but adequate legal protection of civil liberties and fundamental rights of every resident including those belonging to weaker sections should be ensured. Most of the powers of central and state governments should be transferred to a district level elected government along with village and town councils. State will perhaps never wither away, but it can be radically decentralized, democratized, cut to size, and brought closer to people. Direct democracy should replace present indirect and incomplete democracy in India whose failures are too apparent to be ignored.

         The dilemma of public v/s. private sector cannot be resolved without reference to the question of model of development. There is a third alternative of ‘people’s sector’ meaning ownership and management by community, but that is possible only when the structure of economy is decentralized and the forces of consumerism (promoting greed and individualism) are effectively banned. (1) If there are very few large units and the economy is mostly dominated by cottage, mini and small units of industries and services, they can be allowed to remain in private hands with strict discouragement to the tendencies of concentration and monopoly. An upper limit can be fixed to income, salaries, wealth and property as is done in India in case of agricultural landholding. There will be certainly no place for MNCs and big corporations and their harmful advertisements in a new society. Large units, if unavoidable, can be managed by workers with society retaining overall control. We can learn a lot in this matter from ongoing experiments of co-management and co-operation in Latin America. (2) In case of agriculture, collective farms and state ownership of land is not advisable but cooperation in various forms is. Collective use and ownership of natural resources (other than land) should be promoted, and we can learn from already existing (but now threatened) traditional forms of them. Absentee land ownership should be banned and ‘land to the tiller’ should be the norm. It should be noted that equal distribution of agricultural land among all rural families in India would be a foolish act making landholdings very small and uneconomic. (It may be a different case in other countries where population density is low and there are big landlords owning thousands of acres of land). Existing inequality in Indian countryside, conflicts over land, and the problem of high attachment to land can be removed and resolved only by industrializing the countryside and diverting a significant part of rural population to non-agricultural occupations.

        After the experience of communism, we may not completely do away with market. It is also not necessary. Market may remain, but its powers should be taken away. It should serve as a servant of the society, and not the master. It should be controlled and guided in the interest of society. Markets should be more localized, competitive and equal. The poor countries of the world have to certainly break away from the present chain of international trade, investment and finance which is unequal, dominating, exploiting, crises-creating and a tool of imperialism. Trade and cooperation among the poor countries is preferable. ‘Exchange among the equals’ should be the guideline.

        But there should be no market and no business of certain things like water, education and health. Allowing market for them means limiting access to them to the rich and denying the poor. It is inhuman and barbaric. Even if we allow a limited inequality of income (Lohia suggested that the ratio of maximum to minimum income should not be more than 10:1), there should be no discrimination in case of education, health, food, nutrition etc. A minimum of basic necessities should be ensured for everyone. Society and the state (including local governments) have to take up that responsibility. Cuba can be a modal for this. It has the best health service in the world, completely funded by the state. If a low-income, tiny island nation can do it, why not other countries?

       If there are multiple sources of domination and exploitation in a capitalist system, the struggle against it also has to be fought by heterogeneous and diverse forces jointly. Unorganized and informal workers, peasants, artisans, fisherman, cattle growers, tribals, Dalits, coloured people, women, hawkers, displaced communities and such other victims of the system have to combine and fight together. It is not easy, but there is no other way. Because of this diversity and heterogeneity also, the struggle has to be democratic, participatory, non-dominating, broadly non-violent and with a collective leadership.

       These are some of the broad principles, guidelines and hints for building a socialist society in the new century which emerge from the past experience. All details need not be chalked out in advance and should be left to the people to decide in the course of the struggle and construction.

          ‘Liberty, equality and fraternity’ were the ideals of French Revolution which inspired revolutionaries for last two centuries. Now in the twenty first century, other principles of decentralization, diversity, self-reliance, simple life and non-violence have to be added to them. And that will define the socialism of the new century.

                                                                           (email: sjpsunil@gmail.com)
                                                                                                                                                                                       The author is the national vice-president of Samajwadi Jan Parishad and can be contacted at:
Postal address: Village & Post Kesla, Via: Itarsi, Dist: Hoshangabad, Madhya Pradesh, 461 111, India.
Phone: 094250 40452.

Felix Padel, felixorisa@yahoo.com, Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 12:23 PM
An excellent essay here by Sunil bhai, one of the most outspoken & articulate of India's grassroots activists, with the Samajvadi Jan Parishad [socialist people's forum], a political party whose integrity is respected across the political spectrum 

Sunil Deepak
 Afloo ji, thanks for sharing this analysis of Sunil. I especially liked the second part of the analysis, where he draws conclusions and ideas for where to go next. I think that in general there is a crisis of ideas on what was traditionally called the "left" and thus, a serious attempt to go beyond the defensive/apologetic ideas that are usually paraded as "alternatives" is welcome.

I have a number of points regarding this article:
(1) Article uses phrases like "Capitalism versus socialism", end of communism, "communist-socialist experiments", which created a question in my mind, is Sunil considering socialism and communism, variations on same time, almost same and with neglible differences? Considering the positions of Lohia, JP and many others, how does this work out? If there are differences what are those? Is it time to go beyond words like "socialism" and "communism" to look at something new that explains better the final conclusions Sunil makes?
(2) The comments linking rise in hunger and malnutrition to capitalism sound a little too convenient. Probably they equally link or have greater links to dictators or other regimes? I would also like some other examples, where "socialism" experiments have led to better societies. The article gives some examples of Cuba and Latin America, but having been to some of them and appreciating what Cuba can achieve in terms of health, I feel such examples gloss over so many other negative aspects, including police control, lack of freedom, lack of expression, lack of choice, etc. Since Sunil clearly indicates preference for democratic society, isn't there some kind of contradiction between the aspirations of small industries, power in local communities, etc. and reality of controlling the society to achieve this?
To imagine that the alternate model can come by free choice of people because of change of mentality, isn't that day-dreaming? Or do we need higher goals, knowing they are not practical?
Countries like Reunion vote that they will prefer to continue as a colony of France rather than be independent. Everybody says the over-consumption life style is bad, but people who have the courage to actually refuse such a life style can be counted. The problem is also that not just rulers but all those "poor" as well, given a chance, would prefer to get better and more comfortable lives.
(3) For better or worse, globalization is part of our lives. Sunil tackles mainly economic globalization, but what about the rest of globalization - culture, society, internet .. and if the dream of "small and local is beautiful" can be realized in some communities, what kind of relationship are they going to have with rest of India and rest of the world? Technology that suits local needs, does not destroy environment and does not require resources, would that only mean going to bullock carts or it would also mean solar powered carts or something else that has still to be invented?

I am sorry for these long comments. It only means that the article did stimulate me into lot of reflections and most of the time, the present political thoughts fails to do that! :-)


Polly Dritsas <polly_dritsas@hotmail.com>toYour browser may not support display of this image. sjpsunil@gmail.com
dateYour browser may not support display of this image. Fri, Sep 3, 2010 at 10:35 PM

Dear Sir:
             My friend Mr. Dipak Dholakia sent me your article on socialism in the new century. I read it with great interest and want to congratulate you for your work. My English is not good enough to elaborate and I only wish to say that I appreciate the quality of your analysis as well as the new perspectives you propose in reference to what is happening in Latin America but without losing track of the particularities of Indian society. May we speak of "Gandhian socialism"? I wonder what you think of Gandhi's concept of trusteeship as a way to integrate wealth into a socialist economy and allow the rich to take an active part in society instead of having them flee away to some capitalist friendly haven. May I have your permission to translate the article in French for my friends?
                                  Polly Dritsas from Quebec, Canada


Dolly Daftary <ddaftary@gmail.com>toYour browser may not support display of this image. Sunil SJP <sjpsunil@gmail.com>
dateYour browser may not support display of this image. Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 3:47 AM

 Dear Sunil, 
Just saw Ashish Kothari's email to you and felt I must give a response, though belated, to your wonderful piece posted on Kafila. 
I think so many of your suggestions are concrete that they do give us a way to move forward. 
Two or three things- I didn't understand why you said so vehemently that Dalits and women would never agree to a strategy of ruralization. From working with women in tribal eastern Gujarat, I know that urban lifestyle, forced migration, the pollution of cities and their excess is as abhorrent to women as men. Rural women want local prosperity for themselves as much as men do. If women's opposition stems from deep rural gender inequality, I think we need to see this as a challenge for the social transformation (not only economic transformation) of rural areas- and this includes supporting women's leadership in panchayats and women's land rights (for both of which there are formal provisions, and some heartening grassroots actions by groups like the Mahila Swaraj Abhiyan and Anandi in Gujarat.) In other words, both women and Dalits need to be seen as (and made) allies rather than foes. Secondly, Dalit opposition should not be seen as a deterrant either but like th eowmn's question, as a challenge for the social transformation of caste relations in rural areas, which are oppressive for Dalits, even in relatively 'egalitarian' tribal areas. No one should have to live under such a radical form of exclusion and humiliation. Rural industrialization could play a big role in changing Dalits' status, but only if we ensure that the landless (largely Dalit) who work in factories get property rights (shares) in those factories. They must have ownership of the means of produciton like everyone else.
Finally, I like your idea about rural production units but was curious about what kind of an ecological vision we had there- still production-and-consumption centric.  
Your article showed you've been thinking about this question for many many years and it was one of the most comprehensive things I have come across in a long time, so thank you for it. There was much in it that was new and so apt for our times. Let's continue the dialogue.
My best to you, your family and SJP.
Ashish Kothari <chikikothari@gmail.com>

Dear Sunil,
Apologies for the late response. Your article is perceptive and important. I largely agree with your prescriptions for an alternative to today's capitalism/state socialism/'development' paths, which are ecologically and socially destructive. Interestingly, a colleague Aseem Shrivastava and I have just submitted a manuscript of a book critiquing globalisation in India, and positing an alternative we call "Radical Ecological Democracy", which has many many elements similar to the ones you point out for a new socialism (I've been hesitant to attach it to any 'ism' as I think all such ideologies have a tendency to get institutionalised, rigid, and self-defeating....but the basic ideas are v. similar). I am attaching a very early and brief article written last year, which was the starting point of the chapters written for the book (which should be out mid-2011).

I'd be happy to continue this dialogue...am also cc'ing Aseem.

Ashish Kothari
Apt 5 Shree Datta Krupa
908 Deccan Gymkhana
Pune 411004
Tel/fax: 91-20-25654239
Tel: 91-20-25675450
Email: ashishkothari@vsnl.com

Date: Fri, 3 Sep 2010 23:59:10 +0530
Subject: Re: FW: Socialism of the new century

Dear Sunil ji,
Courtesy a friend I had the opportunity to come across  your article "Socialism of the New Century'. I liked it so much that I have copied it, made a pdf, added English versions of the terms in Hindi so that I can send it to a couple of my friends from abroad. I hope you would not mind this. 
It is a thought-provoking analysis. While capitalism has failed people again and again, and for the last one hundred years we have been talking about the 'moribund capitalism'  it re-emerges with the same vigour. Socialism came once and failed once - and yet it is not re-emerging though it is the only way the poor of the world can rely upon. Re-emerge if it does, it will be by default on the part of capitalism and scholars would come out with some 'I-told-you-so' type solutions. Every attempt of these scholars gives the impression that  socialism was not a positive ideology capable of standing on its own, independent of capitalism.
Despite this, I am not inclined to call you a 'non-Marxist' socialist for the fact that it was Marx who put forward a consistent scientific theory of class struggle and social uplift. In fact, it would amount to moving backward from Marx's position.
You have analysed Marxism and its practical outcomes. Well, as far as the way the ruling socialist elite in soviet Union and other socialist states implemented it, you may have your own judgement and I tend to agree with you. 
I, however, feel, you have missed an important point: Marxism, in the main, deals with the ownership of means of production. Though, it  rightly highlights the role of the human labour in the development of the human society, transfer of ownership from the individual to society does not appear to have solved the problem. This is because, in my humble view, Marxism does not talk about how the process of production would undergo a change once it is in the hands of the collective, or the 'other class'. Moreover, a part of the surplus had to be kept apart for growth. During the lifetime of Marx the answer remained in the womb of the future. he could not test or adjust his predictions. He might have. in that case. spoken about the process of production. In the absence of this, the state, instead of whithering away became a powerful weapon - the dictatorship of the proletariat. 
I would like to say that I had the opportunity to spend about three years in Moscow during the Brezhnev era. it was evident that the process of production had not changed. Although, the foodstuff, house-rents, public transportation, medical services - everything was cheap and affordable and people were well-dressed and happy. However, there was a problem of Alcoholism. Every Friday evening you could see women moving about looking for their husbands who might be lying somewhere fully drunk by the roadside. 
There used to be long Qs and  people would join Qs without even knowing what actually was being sold.  One thing, people, at least in Moscow, had money, the ready cash, to join any Q. That was the positive sign. People did have purchasing power but that money had to chase goods all over Moscow from one shop to another. Money had inevitably to go to market for the people constantly felt the need to stock things. 
Also, there was corruption. They would, for example, sell Indian tea - one packet along with two packets of Georgian tea which you never wanted to buy but had to, because you wanted to  have a packet of the Indian tea.The compulsion to buy unwanted things was not a good sign. There was hardly any choice. In the late evening, you may again visit the same shop when the stock was officially sold out, ask the saleswoman about the stuff, give her a hint, go to their basement, pay some extra rubles and have your stuff in larger quantity. The control over production and marketing led to unhealthy society. 
Moreover, as it struck my mind then, it was a monopoly market where the  seller had a greater say.  To put it corectly, it was not even market - it was a distribution system.  And government enjoyed the privileges of a seller. At shop-floor level sales-people enjoyed that right.
I think it was a single-entity economy. If a company controls everything, from salt to missiles, it enjoys the  freedom to adjust prices. Nothing wrong as such but this affordability was not genuine affordability. It was management that produced that trick. It was like a man selling horses and cats. You can have a horse for just Rs. 100 provided you agree to buy a cat for Rs. 10,000! But you never wanted to buy a cat. So the cost of the horse, for you, was Rs. 10.000. It is unfortunate that the Soviet economic system can be analysed using the terminology of capitalistic market. I mean to say that the very fact that the capitalistic terminology could be applied to Soviet economy shows that it was not radically different from the capitalist economy. Process of production is an important factor in deciding the nature of economy.  This is how we distinguish between a handmade and a machine-made thing. it is the process of production.The Soviet Union had failed to provide an alternate system. And this is the crux of the matter. 
The centralism of, even simple decisions regarding consumer items was another aspect of the system. By the time the responsible authorities approved a design for shirts and put them in the market, you find no takers. Because,they used to sell oil or armament to their East European partners and, in return, import consumer goods from them who had to concentrate on these items. Their consumer items  used to be better manufactured than the Russian products.So, you may see thousands of people wearing the same type of shirts or pants bought from a particular shop that sold shirts or pants imported from Poland or Checkoslovakia or Germany, which, of course, specialised in consumer durables like moxie's and irons etc. The single-entity economy allowed them to manipulate prices, but it also became its nemesis. 
During Moscow Olympic days I recall I had joined a Q to buy butter that was imported from France. Now, there were three differently coloured wrappers and they were selling only two packs to a person! The pity was, even I was wondering what colour of the wrappers should I choose.  What was so special about the colour of the wrappers?  But I too was  caught in the psyche of scarcity. As I said, people did have money but what use? In fact,for the Olympics, they had opened the doors to Western goods, but could never control it. 
Yes, basic needs were met but in the Brezhnev era it was the third generation after the October Revolution. The generation that saw the revolution was above seventy and had grandchildren in 1980s but the rulers still kept on saying that they had provided all basic needs to the people. Was socialism only for this limited purpose of providing basic needs? Could people not expect anything more than that?  for the post-revolution third generation all basic amenities were 'given' things. They were expected to thank the CPSU for that! How long would you expect people to 'live on bread alone?" The dynamics of human life worked.  Once the common people were free from the worries of basic needs, they wanted something more in terms of quality and quantity  of those amenities - and also something different, such as right to speak, right to complain but they were totally depoliticised and did not even know how to do it. 
The present democracy in India is a sham.What is the use of freedom of speech when the government is neither able nor willing to feed them? What is the use of the freedom of speech or freedom to follow one's own conscience in a country where Khap Panchayats are deciding the issues of who should or should not marry whom? But, was it correct in case of Soviet Union of 1980s too? While capitalist nations had vested interest in the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the fertile ground was provided by the Soviet system itself. Most of the commentators have ignored this internal reality that existed in the first ever socialist state on the earth.
I agree with you that combination of Jal-Jangal-Jamin is the major problem today. You have pointed out that Marxism has not paid adequate attention to the importance of these as tools of capitalistic exploitation. In our country, as elsewhere including Russia, Governments working for the capitalists have taken upon themselves to crush the so called rebelions. as it happened in Gujarat in case of Nirma. Even the BJP MLA had to face the police atrocities. There is nothing like 'rule of Law" in existence. Tribal societies are under attack in the name of 'development'. 
Actually, Marxism stopped growing after Russian Revolution. This theoritical problem could have been dealt with by the scholars after Lenin and Mao but everyone surrendered their brains to a monolith power without examining its credentials. Another thing responsible for this is the so called 'democratic centralism'. Everywhere communists perennially believe they were facing imminent battle and support this principle. Prakash Karat justifies it in his article in MARXIST (Jan-March 2010 issue). In a quixotic tone he gives the impression as if their party was on the verge of leading a final assault on capitalism and talks about 'democracy in decision-making' and 'centralism in action'. Guessing what they collectively thought is not likely to fetch a prize. This kind of thinking amongst communists has actually isolated them from the reality. For them scripture remained more real than the reality itself. Communists are not in a position to give a lead, not only in India but elsewhere too. Dialectical  process of thinking stopped long ago among communists.
I share your views on decentralisation as an essential ingredient of socialism. But, my worry is : what do we expect to gain from decentralisation in our country where the upper castes are ruling and now with venom they are asserting themselves. Without abolishing the existing caste hierarchy, 'socialist village' is not going to come up.It will not be proper to draw a rosy picture of a village where everyone enjoys economic progress as equal partners. Villages are caste-ridden, much more than cities. I do not think Dr. Ambedkar would have required to modify his advice to the Dalits to leave villages and settle in cities. Situation in villages is worse than what it was in Dr. Ambedkar's time.  They would Like to wait till you succeed in translating your idea of a socialist village into reality.
You also seem to be making some concession to violence when you use the term "broadly non-violent' mass movements. Are they going to be 'narrowly violent' ones? Even during the freedom struggle, armed revolutionary movement faded into oblivion with Shahid-e- Azam Bhagat Singh. Ram Prasad Bismil openly advised against clandestine movements and called upon the youth to openly join the mass movement led by Congress. Gandhian non-violence had direct link with his efforts to involve masses who could never be fully armed. His adherence to non-violence had political background too although, he sincerely believed in non-violence. But more than anything he believed in mass mobilization which the computer-savvy, electronicalised communists of the day have given up. Maoist violence has not come up out of nowhere. They have filled a vacuum left by these radical sections of the political life. 
At some point I thought you prefer agriculture to industry but you seem to suggest that the vast majority of the people depending on the land has to be shifted to industry. I think a better plan has to come from you. In the same way, you also leave some scope for private sector. Well, to what extent and for what reason? How are we going to restrict market and Private sector?  I am confident you must be working on these issues. 
The Latin American examples are heartening, no doubt, and I watch them with interest and hope,but basically it is a response to a situation resulting from the rampant exploitation by MNCs.  It is more an anti-American voice, a rebellions, but not a clear voice of the Left. I admit the Latin American experiment contains germs for more systematic approach towards social and economic issues.I agree that they offer a lesson but I have my own doubts about there viability in India. You feel why cannot India do what  Cuba could do. I feel  India cannot do it precisely because of the size. Moreover, people here have not tasted the benefits of socialism. What they have had so far was slogans and bureaucratic  statism that actually worked to strengthen private sector and consumer industries. The vast middle class favours capitalistc pattern of growth and governments are working for that class. We need to experience the exploitation that small countries in Latin America have!
On the whole your diagnosis is correct but prescription is somewhat vague. Yes, you say they are broad principles - and obviously, the write-up cannot cover the entire plan of action, but thoughts must provide some idea    how   you are going to achieve your goals. People may  support your analysis but they want, and they need, more.  
I wish you very bright days ahead in your mission. 
Dipak Dholakia
Surendra Mohan surendramohan1@gmail.com
Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 10:03 PM
Dear Sunil Bhai,
It is an excellent article, anysing past experience, discussing recent new trends and focussing on the essentils which would be the basis for building socialism in the 21st. Century. Hearty congratulations.
As Editor of the Janata, I express my gratitude to you for sending the aricle to Janata.

arun tripathi <atripathi@hindustantimes.com>toYour browser may not support display of this image. Sunil SJP <sjpsunil@gmail.com>
dateYour browser may not support display of this image. Thu, Sep 16, 2010 at 6:42 PM

 Your article is excellent, specially the last leg titled as new face of socialism. You have described about the strucure of future indian village. that is fine but seeing the enormous tensions in village on caste and class basis there should be a new movement either to transform the old village or  set up new villages. villages of new centuary needs more detailed discussion and elaboration. please guide us in this uncharteted territory. thanks and regards.

Arun K tripathi

Uday Prakash <udayprakash05@gmail.com>
Date: 2010/9/4

अत्यंत प्रिय अफ़लातून जी,
सुनील जी का लेख कल सुबह कई बार पढ़ गया। रुक रुक कर। सचमुच बहुत अच्छा, व्यवस्थित तरीके से लिखा गया, हमारी अपनी चिंताओं को आज के संकटों और संदर्भों में समझने ही नहीं, उनका समाधान या विकल्प तलाशने की बहुत संलग्न  ईमानदारी के साथ लिखा गया महत्वपूर्ण आलेख है। शायद हममें से बहुत से लोग लगभग इन्हीं निष्कर्षों तक पहुंचते लगते हैं। उन तक मेरी बधाई पंहुचाएं। यह पत्र मैं आपको ही लिख रहा हूं क्योंकि आपसे ही मेरा संवाद और अदेखा ही सही एक लगाव-सा बन गया है। लेकिन एक प्रश्न आज दो दिन के बाद मेरे मन में उठ रहा है कि क्यों मुझे ऐसा लग रहा है कि जब हम आज के  चोअम्स्की, माइकेल अलबर्ट, स्व. हार्वर्ड जिन, ज़ाइज़ेक, स्व. रामचंद्र गांधी, हेनरी ज़ेरो या ऐसे बहुत से बौद्धिकों-समाचिंतकों को पढ्ते हैं, या पहले के गांधी, हक्सले, आइंस्टीन, ताल्सताय जैसों को पढ़ते हैं तो लगता है जैसे वे 'राजनीति' से अलग, उसकी निर्धारित सीमाओं को पार करते हुए, किसी एक अपरिलक्षित मानवीय-नागरिक-सामाजिक वैकल्पिक व्यवस्था की खोज़ में हैं। बहुत पहले, १९८२-८३ में मैंने रोम्यां रोलां की भारत पर लिखी डायरी के अनुवाद पर काम किया था। आप तो जानते हैं कि वे टैगोर और गांधी जी दोनों के प्रशंसक थे बाद में टैगोर के आलोचक भी हुए। उनकी चिंताएं भी किसी 'राजनीतिक-बौद्धिक' या 'राजनीति-कर्मी' की चिंताएं नहीं थीं। वे अंग्रेज़ों की औपनिवेशिक गुलामी से मुक्ति के बाद, गांधी जैसे 'सामाजिक-विचारकों' की अगुआई में पूरब के इस देश से कुछ उसी तरह की नयी सामाजिक-व्यवस्था के सूर्योदय की प्रतीक्षा कर रहे थे, जो अब तक के इतिहास में सिर्फ़ एक 'राजनीतिक' ही नहीं, एक सभ्यतामूलक परिवर्तन (civilizational turning point) सिद्ध हो, जैसा फ़्रांस की राज्यक्रांति के बाद 'लोकतंत्र' का जन्म था। उस समय लोकतंत्र और इससे जुड़ी राजनीति अब तक की मानव-समाज-व्यवस्था में सिर्फ़ ऐतिहासिक ही नहीं, एक सभ्यता-मूलक मूलगामी बदलाव के कारक थे।
जाने मुझे क्यों लगता है कि पिछली सदियों के बहुत से विचारकों और राजनीतिक-सामाजिक व्यक्तित्वों को १९८०-९० के दशकों के बाद, तीसरी प्रविधि के युग में प्रवेश के बाद, हम सबको, (भले ही हमारे पास उतना बड़ा इतिहास हो, लेकिन हमारे अनुभव तो हैं, जो निश्चित ही आज के समय के हैं) थोड़ी 'सापेक्ष्य' तटस्थता और खुलेपन के साथ देखना होगा। और इसमें मार्क्स और गांधी ही नहीं, उनके परवर्ती व्यक्तित्व भी शामिल है।
मेरा कहने का संक्षिप्त और सरलीकृत आशय यही है कि सुनील जी जैसे सामाजिक-बौद्धिक, समाजकर्मी, जिनके पास इतनी गहरी समझ, संवेदना, दृष्टि और सबसे ऊपर स्पृहणीय ईमानदारी है, उन्हें अब तक की 'राजनीति' द्वारा परिसीमित, निर्दिष्ट और सत्ता-संकुचित सीमा-रेखा का अतिक्रमण करना चाहिए। वे एक अप्रतिम व्यक्ति हैं और आज ही मैंने कोलकाता के एक मित्र से उनके इसी आलेख का ज़िक्र किया है, हेनरी ज़ेरो और उनके आलेखों की लगभग समान 'चिंताओं' के बारे मेम बताया है और उनसे वह आलेख पढ़ कर उन्हें दिसंबर में आयोजित होने वाले किसी कार्यक्रम में आमंत्रित करने का आग्रह किया है। इसे अधिक से अधिक लोगों तक पहुंचना चाहिए, ऐसा मुझे लगता है।
आपका आस-पास होना अच्छा लगता है। मुहे भी आप अपने आस-पास ही मानें।
सादर सप्रेम
उदय प्रकाश


Prempal Sharma <prempalsharma@yahoo.co.in>toYour browser may not support display of this image. Sunil SJP <sjpsunil@gmail.com>
dateYour browser may not support display of this image. Mon, Aug 30, 2010 at 12:09 PM
Dear Sunil ji,

Accha lekh hai. Kuch batein jaise Labour Aristocracy............. Bahut acche hain.

No doubt, your suggestion that there is no alternative but to struggle to transform the village society is the right solution but how to achieve it ?

What will be model for effective implementation ?

Let us hope your ideas are implemented in new century.

Best wishes,


 Rajinder Chaudhary <rajinderc@gmail.com>

Sun, Sep 12, 2010 at 8:32 AM
Dear Sunil Bhai,
I have read your piece on socialism of new century with interest. I almost fully share your vision of what new society shall look like. However, I have some queries about  the earlier, analytical part. I understand that your vision of future has space for elements of Social Democracy, welfare state and mixed economy. After all economy is going to be a mixed one though off course it will not be just a repeat of mixed economy that we have seen. Similarly, society ensuring that basic needs of all are met is not very different from welfare state. So, rather than rejecting all these categories, may be we can say that we will have elements of these systems with significant differences as well.
Another aspect, I missed was that you have not sought to define socialism though the term has been repeatedly used.
While I intuitively share ‘broadly non-violent’ bit, could you please elaborate on it.
Would you rule out private medical practitioners by definition or focus on extensive provision of state provided health services and regulation of private sector?
You refer to labour aristocracy. Do you believe that regulation of conditions of service conditions of school or for that matter University teachers is not required? Or that unionized industrial workers have got wages which is over and above value created by them? While I fully agree with you about wide gap between formal and informal sector wages and working conditions but from this one can not conclude that provision of regulated working hours or maternity leave etc is unwarranted. Unions may have often protected unproductive workers or made unreasonable demands, but to reduce labour movement to this may be going to another extreme. Please do throw more light on this issue.
Lastly, I for one have argued against possibility of abolition of classes as such at least in foreseeable future or that social structure that we seek to create can not be a hierarchy/class less society. You are silent about it.. May be that is the right thing to do. But by the way, what do you think about it?
On the whole, as I said at the outset, I almost fully share your vision.
With warm regards,                                                                         
Rajinder Chaudhary,
Professor, Department of Economics,
M. D. University, Rohtak (Haryana) 124001
Ph: 09416182061

From: thambisetty ramakrishna <drtramakrishna@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, Oct 1, 2010 at 8:56 PM
Subject: Re: Socialism of the New Century
To: Ravela Somayya <

Dear Sri Somayya garu

Thankyou for forwarding the thought provoking article
My comments are as follows :

Towards the end of the article, I see the author veering round the
ancient cocept of "JANAPADAS" ( sort of local republics such as
Lichchavi, Vaishali and Varanashi)
They are supposed to have flourished well, and I dream of " returning
' to them !

However I dread the prospect of not having a strong enough " CENTRAL
"command/ authority which can protect the country ( if any country can
, for that matter! ) against the staggeringly superior tecnology which
goes into making the destructive weapons which are in the posseession
of the capitalist countries ( or must I say country?)

My own , call it, conjecture if you wish, is that while  the local
"republics" ( JANAPADAS) flourished based on the decentralized
decision making which was vested in the people, and also based on the
" DHARMIC" ( call it righteousness if you wish ) principles of caring
and sharing, I am afraid India slowly but surely fell an easy prey to
the organized gangs with weaponry , due partly because of the lack of
such authority as was exerted by the emperor Asoka, for example. I am
no votary of monarchy, my concern merely is :

Small is beautiful, no doubt, but what about the security in this
complex world ?
Can we start with reforms in the UN and make it a democratic gaurdian
of the entire world?
And enable the peoples, the world over to organize their own economy
and the necessary political systems with out fear of interference?
I think in the fast changing scenario, of security concerns, we need
to have a "TOP DOWN APPROACH " .

How do we proceed?

I was happy to see the reference to Prof. Sachchidananda Sinha.
Is he the same who was elected as the first and interim president of
our constituent assembly, as proposed by Acharya J B Kripalani ?

I would like to know more about him.


Professor T Ramakrishna
Head, Dept of Biotechnology and Bioinformatics
Dravidian University,
Kuppam, Chittoor Dt, A P, India


 Vipen Mahajan vmahajan9@gmail.com
Fri, Aug 27, 2010 at 6:53 AM


I am not an economist, nor a politician or an academic. However the future interests me. We are heading for BIG changes. Significant "progress" or shall we say innovation has been made during the industrial era, or, as I prefer Industrial wave, thanks to Alvin Toffler, three wave theory. This century we see  the evolution of the Third, or Knowledge/Information wave. Each wave has its own "eco-system", societies, structures, laws etc. (Refer to Toffler's Future Shock, Third Wave, Power Shift, and his recent book (2005 era), Revolutionary Wealth). The notable thing about the Third Wave is that the driving force behind it is Knowledge, or Information. While earlier Waves drivers, force, capital, land etc were limited, and could onl be enjoyed/used by one person, and hence most attempts were made to optimise/rationalise their distribution or usage, so effectively economics became the science of shortages or scarcity. Now, if I have a certain knowledge, I am "rich" in the Third Wave context, if I share my knowledge with anyone else, my Knowledge does not depreciate, or diminish in any way. So Knowledge is not a scarce commodity like money, force, land etc which are owned or consumed by one person at a time only, and if consumed cannot be used by another, thereby creating shortages. (I am NOT a writer etc, for a better and more comprehensive explanation pl. read Third Wave).

Also the industrial wave, changed the First (agricultural wave's), production systems, which were prosumer (Toffler speak= producer + consumer) based and separated the producer from the consumer. Industrialization and cheap, fossil/oil based energy, spurred by mass production economies, gave a tremendous flip to productivity and the standard of living shot up. So an average American (and fast catching up Chinese or an Indian) could live the lifestyle even better than that of Emperor Akbar  To integrate them you introduce trade. However this has come at a BIG cost, to the planet, global warming, extinction of species, forests cover etc. In fact it has changed the basis of human existence, which had evolved in the First wave, and associated social structure, beliefs, culture religion thoughts etc. To gain the "benefits" of Industrialization you had to go in for the factory production system. This meant a total overhaul of the earlier First wave eco-system. Now that was painful and disruptive to say the least. So when the colonies, which were in the First Wave, were "liberated", they all, including India rushed into industrialization, with disastrous social and civilizational effects, which we can see all around the developing countries, and the tug of war between developed and developing countries, in WTO, trade, global warming, raw materials, oil etc.

Today, with Knowledge the production systems have changed significantly. Technology allows you to de-massify production. To produce electricity economically you do not need a capital intensive, 5000 MW super thermal, coal based power generating system, located in Jharkand, or wherever, linked by miles of transmission lines (with their attended losses, and thefts), to supply electricity to say Delhi, as well as the villages, their pump sets etc. Instead you can have smaller, home or village level and capacity power generation, which can be affordably built by the people with local capital and effort.This creates the prosumer. It empowers him. Shall we say it is a much more powerful innovation than Gandhi ji's charkha. Today, with Open Source software, Creative Commons writing and ideas, and Open Source Ecology, these technologies/knowledge are available freely to anyone who can access the Internet. With Cloud computing, even a monk, sitting in a remote corner, in the Himalayas, or a villager in any part of the globe, has access to this Knowledge. If he has a good idea, say a Google, or a Facebook's, Zuckerberg (spelling??), can with outsourced application/sw development, create a new wprld changing business, in a few years. So innovation etc is not limited to big, capital intensive MNCs etc. It is essentially new knowledge, ideas etc. So you can have Gandhi jis "villages" which will not only be self contained, and sustainable, like the villages of the First wave, but also have a very high standard of living./lifestyle.

Unlike the West, or more recently, China, which has successfully embarked on massive industrialization, I feel that we , in India should adopt the Third Wave model, skip the Industrial phase (70% of India still lives in the villages), and NOT have to undergo the gut wrenching trauma of change, because the Third Wave production systems can be sustainable, and NOT need to uproot all the people from the villages, into urban centers for mass production, followed by an elaborate, and energy intensive, global distribution system and trade.

In my own small way, I am working on sustainable, hi-tech villages, for India, which can have a high standard of living, with "modern" amenities, abundant "free" energy, from the sun, IT enabled information economies, so we move information, and not goods, and can work literally from home. The infra structure and social civilizational disruption of this leap frog from First to Third Waves will be far easier,, less disruptive, and painful for our country men. We could transition in a few decades. BTW, for an industrial economy, to transition from the Second Wave, to an Knowledge economy of the Third Wave will be MUCH more difficult and disruptive, than for a First Wave to the Third Wave.

Can our ""planners', policy makers and dream merchants/emperors, who have given New Delhi the on coming Common Wealth games, or all the sleaze of the mining barons, stop and re-think ? I think that is where India's Power Shift will start. It already has probably started, Vedanta, Naxalism , J&K etc ?

I am an Engineer, who went into Information technology, Management Consulting and developing "Software Factories". I have returned, after learning more about Industrialization where else, but the USA. I think India has a better chance into the 21st century. See link for more:

Vipen Mahajan

Note:-- Shri P. Vishwambharan  commented on this essay in an article published in ‘Janata’ weekly.

Socialism of the New Century
Response to the Doubts, Disagreements and Questions

Definition, Nomenclature

Question/doubt : You have not sought to define socialism (Rajinder Chaudhary). Are you considering ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’  as almost the same? Isn’t it time to go beyond words like socialism and communism? (Sunil Deepak)
Response :  The word ‘socialism’ is used here for a system that will be an alternative to capitalism and free from its evils, distortions and crises. Communism is used to denote the experiments that took place on Marxist lines in the last century in search of socialism. They might have failed and one may not like to call them socialist, but still one has to concede that they were inspired by noble goals. We may analyze and learn from them.
Anyway, I do not insist on any particular words. One may use other words. Ashish Kothari, for example, has informed that in their forthcoming book (written along with Aseem Shrivastava) critiquing globalization in India, they have used the word ‘radical ecological democracy’ for an alternative system which has similar elements of the new socialism suggested in this article.
 If by definition, you mean describing the basic characteristics, the whole essay is an attempt to define socialism and discover its essential features in the new contest. That is how it concludes with a clear statement. Traditionally, equality and liberty were regarded its central elements. I have argued that simple life, alternative technology, decentralization, diversity, localization, non-violence, direct democracy and harmony with nature are equally important principles and should be added to them. They are not necessarily separate elements, but listed here to convey full dimensions of an alternative system.

Q/D:- Do we want to build a classless, hierarchy less society? But classes cannot be abolished. (Rajinder Chaudhary)
Response:-  Yes, if we are using the word ‘class’ in the Marxist sense. There are exploiter classes and exploited classes and some are in between.   We want to end all kinds of exploitation in the society and thus want to abolish this division between exploiters and exploited ones. Not only classes, we are against all other kinds of hierarchies and inequalities such as those based on caste, race, gender, ethnicity, language, region, rural-urban gap etc. It is one of the defining characteristic and a yardstick of socialism. Even if we are not able to achieve complete abolition of inequalities and hierarchies, we should continuously aim and try to move forward in that direction.
But where we differ from the orthodox Marxists is that we do not believe that world will be polarized and reduced into only two classes of capitalists and workers and that the exploitation takes place only (or mainly) in the form of underpayment of wages to workers. There will always remain heterogeneous and diverse classes and sections of population. Peasants, fishermen, informal workers, hawkers, artisans, Dalits, Tribals, women etc. are the various sections of population which, when they jointly strive for a just place in the society, will be instrumental in building a new society.
One should also not confuse equality with uniformity. Diversity (as emphasized in the essay also) and respect for it will be one of the fundamental pillars of building a new civilization. Moreover I have suggested in the essay that we can tolerate a bit of inequality of income, property, and landholdings. It can not be a mechanical or arithmetical equality in the sense of allocating equal amount of bread to each. Even for Marx equality meant—‘To each according to his/her need, from each according to his/her capacity’. For practical reasons, limited inequality (say 5:1 or 10:1 ratio of maximum and minimum income) can be allowed to begin with. Some scope of earning more is also necessary for a limited incentive to work hard until we are able to fully develop non-income incentives.

Mixed Economy, Social Democracy, Welfare state,  Private sector, Trusteeship, Comfortable Life

Q/D:--  Doesn’t your vision of future have space for elements of social democracy, welfare state and mixed economy? (Rajinder Chaudhary) What do you think of trusteeship as a way to integrate wealth into a socialist economy and allow the  rich to take an active part in society instead of having them flee away to some capitalist friendly haven?
Response:-- Yes, the economy will be mixed in the sense that private sector, public sector, co-operative sector, community sector etc. (but not the corporate sector) will co-exist. No, if by mixed economy you mean what existed in India since independence. It will be radically different from that. The development model will be different. The production will mostly take place in small units owned and run by family or small entrepreneurs. If big units are necessary in some exceptional cases, they will be in public/ cooperative sector with some shares and control going to local community. There will be limits beyond which no one can amass property and assets. Property beyond a limit will belong to the society. I am not sure whether Gandhi’s concept of trusteeship will work for such a surplus property. While individual can change and get de-classed, it is difficult to transform the heart of the whole class. The exploiter class has to abolished, in a non-violent democratic manner. Public opinion and people’s force has to be mobilized for that. Legislative measures are also necessary. Vinoba’s ‘Bhudan’ in India failed in changing of exploitative relationship in Indian villages and transforming them because it relied only on change of heart without radically changing the whole system.
       ‘Social democracy’ is used to denote the various kinds of social democrat regimes in European countries.  But they are of little relevance for us in poor countries and cannot be our model. One, the kind of prosperity they achieved became historically possible due to colonial exploitation of the rest of the world. Most of them have their own MNCs. Directly or indirectly, they share the loot and benefit from imperialism. That is why, even when ruled by social democrats, they remained in the US camp. Because of this imperial prosperity, they could temporarily resolve and postpone the kind of conflicts which are inherent in modern industrial capitalism. The ‘welfare state’ could co-exist with it for a long time without altering the basic feature of it. But lately, with growing contradictions, it is giving way to the neo-liberalism. The other poor parts of the world have to adopt a different strategy and a different development model.
       Moreover, many other problems such as social and environmental, as well as recent deep recession have come up in the western capitalist world including those countries ruled by social democrats. But still we can learn from these experiences, specially about public provision of basic necessities and social service (e.g. Scandinavian countries) and decentralized administration (e.g. Switzerland).
       About ‘welfare state’. Yes, if it means a proactive and more responsible state in an alternative set-up. No, if it means simply taxing a bit more and spending a little more on social services without altering the basic structure of the economy and the society. It should not become a substitute to the basic change.
Take, for example, recent moves of present UPA government in India to pass a number of “pro-people” laws and to run programs like MNREGA along with adopting anti-people neo-liberal policies. These legislations (MNREGA, Forest Rights Act, Right to Education Act, Domestic Violence Act, proposed Food Security Bill, etc.) may look progressive and create an impression of a welfare state. But they fail to achieve their avowed objective because the full-fledged neo-liberal attack on the livelihood and lives of the people and public institutions is doing much more harm. Government can not be pro-people and pro-corporate at the same time. In such a situation, these legislations and moves become a farce and cover-up and serve only to create confusion.
Q/D: -- Would you rule out private medical practitioners? (Rajinder Chaudhary)
Response: -- One model in this regard is Cuba which has no private medical practitioner and has a completely state-funded, excellent (one of the best in the world), medical services. What is important is the state taking up the responsibility. Even if we allow some small and local private practitioners (who may also represent diverse pathies and medical systems), big business and profiteering should not be allowed. The elitist and expensive hospitals like Apollo and Escorts should not find a place in a socialist society. Otherwise, the influential and powerful sections of population will go to them and the public facilities will be neglected and get deteriorated. Like common school system, we should have a common medical system serving all sections of society without discrimination.

Q/D: -- Is socialism for providing basic needs only like former Soviet Union? Are people expected to live on bread alone? (Dipak Dholkia) Very few people are ready to refuse modern life-style. Poor people as well, given a chance, want comfortable lives. What about lack of choice? (Sunil Deepak)
Response: -- There is a famous and beautiful statement of Gandhi –‘There is enough in the nature for everyone’s need, but not for a single person’s greed.’ Basic needs for all should be the first task and priority. Once that is ensured, people can use their leisure time for arts, literature, music, entertainment, pursuit of knowledge and other such activities. But physical comforts and luxuries beyond a point boomerang and bring new problems.  
          They do not make individual and social life better and happier. Initially people may get mesmerized and hypnotised by their glamour, added by aggressive advertisements and fuelled consumerism. But there is a growing realisation that such luxuries are not only unsustainable and inequitable, the life full of them is also hollow, unhealthy and unworthy. Growing use of bicycles and organic food in West is an example. Growing environmental crisis is also forcing people to rethink about modern life-style.
          Consumer's choice is a myth created by modern capitalist economics. For majority of people who are poor and deprived, there is no choice. Looking from the angle of the society and humanity, we have no choice but to seek an alternative of modern civilization. This alternative civilization will be based not only on alternative production relations and alternative technology, but also on alternative values, alternative culture and alternative philosophy of life. The change has to take place at the levels of both: matter and mind.

Technology, Globalisation

Q/D:-- Would that (alternative technology) only mean going back to bullock carts, or it would also mean solar powered carts or something else that has still to be invented ? (Sunil Deepak)
Response : If we try to evolve an alternative technology for a new society in the twenty first century, it will never be the same as it was in the nineteenth or twentieth century. No one can go back in time and re-create the past. But we can learn from the past and try to correct the distortions in the present to create a new future. Specially the distortions brought by modern capitalist civilization have to be addressed. It is also necessary to emphasize that everything modern is not necessarily good and everything old is not necessarily bad.
          Bullock cart may not be the dominant mode of transport in a new society, but nor will be the private cars. Bicycles may be the dominant mode of local transport. Bullocks and bullock carts still may be useful. In these days of energy crises, when we are searching for alternative sources, let us not forget that animals are an excellent source of renewable energy. Solar power, wind power etc. may also be tapped. Once the ethos and priorities of society change and are freed from the corporate control, many new techniques and sources of energy may be discovered and invented which are appropriate for an alternative society.
          A few guidelines for alternative technology may be listed as follows (which is not an exhaustive list) :-
1.       It should minimise energy (specially non-renewable) use.
2.       It should be more labour-intensive, but degrading and dehumanising labour should be avoided.
3.       It should be based on small machines and small units, as far as possible.
4.       It should be decentralised and local, based on local goods, local skills and local knowledge.
5.       It should have a harmonious relationship with nature and environment. It should be less demanding, less polluting, less waste- creating and less aggressive.
6.       It should be available and accessible to common men and women.
7.       It should promote social mixing and collective participation rather than individualistic isolation. (Modern methods of entertainment, for example, are going in the opposite direction).

Q/D :-- In today's world of globalisation (not only economic, but of culture, society, internet...), what will be the relationship of local communities with the rest of India and the rest of the world? (Sunil Deepak).
Response : There is no conflict between local and global, if the relationship is based on equal footing. What is happening today in the name of globalisation is a kind of invasion at both economic and cultural levels. A kind of colonial relationship is still maintained in a new form. Again it is helpful to look to Gandhi (who was modern in many respects) for guidance. He wrote in a rejoinder to the criticism by his friend and great poet Rabindra Nath Tagore -
          "I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. I refuse to live in other people's houses as an interloper, a beggar or a slave."

Q/D: -- Please refer to Alvin Toffler's 'Three Wave Theory'. First was agricultural, second was industrial and the third is knowledge and information wave. Knowledge is now not a scarce commodity likes money, land etc. and freely available on Internet. India can skip the industrial phase and enter directly into the third phase. Third Wave production systems can be sustainable and do not uproot people from the villages. So we can have high-tech villages with high standards of living with modern amenities and abundant free energy from the sun. (Vipin Mahajan).

Response : Sorry, I have not read Toffler, but I do not share your enthusiasm about the Third Wave. One, access to Internet is still limited to a very small part of the world population. It requires at least large number of computers, large network of telecommunication and knowledge of English. Expanding these facilities to each village and family will require much more spending on infrastructure, which will further divert the limited resources from basic needs of the people. Two, the Internet, like newspapers and TV, is also financed by the advertisements of companies, which are playing havoc with people's lives, society and environment. Three, the third wave is therefore not free and independent of the second wave. High standards of living with modern comforts for all (and not for few) will require more of modern industrialisation, and therefore more neo-colonial exploitation, destruction of nature, diversion of resources and deprivation of local communities on a much larger scale, in one part or another of the earth. Four, solar energy is still quite expensive and it is not going to be available free of cost. In fact, beyond a point, everything comes with increasing costs. Bio-fuel was also presented as a panacea, but increasing use of it has brought new crises and disasters such as adverse impact on world food supply. There is no alternative to the pressing need of saving energy and reducing the consumption by affluent sections of population. Finally, there cannot be technological solutions to the problems, which are essentially social, economic, political, ecological and systemic. Let us not forget this important truth.
          Please do not mistake me. I am not against Internet. As you can see, I am using it. If a public access to Internet for all in their own languages in villages can be ensured (which is not an easy task and comes only after basic needs in priority list), it may help in decentralisation and building enlightened village life. But I don't see it a panacea to all the pressing problems before the humanity.

Trade Unions, Labour Aristocracy

Q/D :-- Do you think that there is no place for unions? There may be some weaknesses in labour movement, but calling it labour aristocracy is going to another extreme. It is unfair to reduce the whole labour movement to this. (Rajinder Choudhary)  

Response : Certainly, each and every section of the society (including factory workers, government employees and university teachers) has a right to organise itself and agitate for its problems. That is a fundamental right and a must for any democracy to function effectively. Otherwise, there will be no check and control on the arbitrariness and misuse of power by those in authority. This right should be protected and recent attacks on it in India should be resisted.
          What I have tried to impress upon in this essay is small role of such trade unions of organised sector workers or white-collar government employees in the politics of change. This is not a mere theoretical proposition, but is the actual experience. And this is because of their objective situation in poor developing countries. 
          Take, for example, the utter failure of Indian trade union movement to resist the policies of LPG (liberalisaiton, privatisation and globalisation). It did organise occasional strikes and Bharat Bandhs. But even the big unions (such as postal, telecom, bank, insurance, railway) have failed to block the moves of privatisation, entrenchment, outsourcing and contractualisation of labour in their respective departments which threaten their own existence. Teachers' unions (with, of course, some exceptions) have shown little inclination to oppose (or even debate) the moves to demolish and destroy the public education system and open the sector for commercialisation. Their concerns are mostly limited to their salary hike, promotion etc.
          The Indian rulers in post-1991 phase have cleverly exploited this situation to serve their purpose by implementing 5th and 6th Pay Commission recommendations. The high and sudden raise in salaries, especially of class 1, 2 and 3 employees, served two purposes. It gave a boost to the consumer goods market. The sale of cars, motorbikes, refrigerators, washing machines, computers, cameras, TVs, DVDs, flats etc. suddenly went up benefiting many MNCs, and Indian companies. Secondly, it bribed Indian middle class and intelligentsia to become silent and subservient.
          But still I have full sympathy with the struggle of workers (specially at lower ranks). I also do not insist on any word. The word 'labour aristocracy' is generally used for the current condition of workers movement. But if it is offending, I may withdraw it. The substance of my arguments is more important than any word.

Q/D:-- The challenge is how to organise the huge unorganised sector. That is the lesson, to learn from the Latin American experience, but specific conditions of India should not be lost sight of. (Rajesh Ramakrishnan).
Response:   I agree, and that is where I put my hopes. But being divergent and scattered groups, it is more difficult. Their demands are also not limited to wages, but include housing right, hawking right, ration cards, social security, etc.

Decentralisation, Village Society

Q/D:--  Small is beautiful, no doubt, but what about the security in this complex world ? I dread the prospects of not having a strong enough 'central' command/authority which can protect the country against the staggeringly superior technology which goes into making the destructive weapons which are in the possession of the capitalist countries. (T. Ramakrishna)
Response:   A strong center of power and a strong military are no guarantee of protection, as is clear in Iraq's case. The superpowers, especially the US, have a military power, which is many times stronger than other countries. No other country can match it, and if any country tries to match, it will have to put all its resources into it. Even that is not sufficient and one has to put others' resources also, i.e. grow into an empire itself. That is neither a feasible nor a desirable option. Moreover, such an arms race is ultimately benefiting the US and other capitalist countries, increasing their sale of armament and aircrafts. 
          The  real strength lies in the people, which will grow several times in a socialist society. And that will be the real deterrent. Cases of Vietnam and Cuba have shown that if people are solidly behind a nation, no superpower can enslave it. On the other hand, a strong centre and misuse of its powers has only served to aggravate and complicate the problems in Kashmir and North-East in India, weakening the nation. A nation can grow stronger if and only if there is a real decentralisation of power and empowerment and enrichment of its people.
          But it is also important that the poor countries of the world come together to resist the imperialist designs and onslaughts. International attempts of mobilisation and building a socialist solidarity can go side by side with the internal mobilisation for change.
Q/D:--  I share your views on decentralisation as an essential ingredients of socialism. But villages are caste-ridden. I do not think Dr. Ambedkar would have required to modify his advice to Dalits to leave villages and settle in cities. Situation in villages is worse than what it was in Dr. Ambedkar's time. (Dipak Dholakia) Seeing enormous tensions in villages on caste and class basis, there should be a new movement either to transform the old villages or set up new villages. Village of new century needs more detailed discussion and elaboration. (Arun Kumar Tripathi) Why do you say so vehemently that Dalits and women would never agree to a strategy of ruralization ? If women's opposition stems from deep rural gender inequality, I think we need to see this as a challenge for the social transformation (not only economic transformation). Same is the case with Dalit question. Rural industrialisation can play a big role in changing Dalit's status, but they should get ownership of those industries too. (Dolly Daftary).
Response: Dalit and feminist activitists have a legitimate doubt about getting a respectful and equitable place in a village society. It is the duty of others to come forward to find solutions and assure them. Yes, indeed, it is a real challenge. I only want to draw attention to the fact that migration to cities, even if it brings some sense of relief from caste atrocities and gender discrimination, is no solution. Seventy per cent of Dalits still live in villages. Job opportunities are shrinking and available only in unorganised sector with no security. Majority of these migratory are forced to live in miserable conditions in slums. 
          We have no option but to transform the villages. It may require multi-pronged actions for changes at economic, social, cultural and political levels. Some of them which come to my mind are as follows :-
1.       A social reformist movement attacking the caste system and the gender disparity (including dowry and parda);
2.       Abolition of absentee land ownership and land to the tiller;
3.       A drive of rural industrialisation, with ownership going to actual workers;
4.       Common school system with special emphasis on educaiton of girls and Dalit and tribal children;
5.       Constitutional and legal guarantees for prevention of atrocities against Dalits, tribals and women and for their minimum human rights and opportunities; in spite of an all-out decentralisation of power, centralised authorities may be necessary at district, state and centre for this purpose.
6.       A special drive to generate leadership from Dalits, tribals, women and other downtrodden sections of population in people's movements.

Means, Roadmap

Q/D:-- How do you achieve the desired changes? Isn't there a contradiction between democratic society and controlling the society? Isn't it day-dreaming to imagine that alternative model can come by free choice of people because of change of mentality? (Sunil Deepak).
Response:   These changes will be brought by the people themselves when they are convinced about them and they struggle for them. No such changes can be imposed from above. What we have done is only on attempt of hinting at the roots of the problem and possible solutions. Creating awareness is, of course, necessary. Thus there is no contradiction between democracy and change. Please do not think in Soviet or Chinese framework only, where violence, force, centralisation, control and dictatorship were used for change. Change can also be brought through democratic and non-violent methods. People's conciousness, people's democratic movements, satyagraha (civil disobedience), constructive work, change of power along with change of the state structure, etc. will be important tools for such a change. But let us also note that it is a political task to be undertaken by politically conscious movements with clear goals. Funded NGOs or present status-quoist (and degenerating) mainstream political parties cannot do it.

Q/D : What do you mean by 'broadly non-violent'? (Rajinder Chaudhary, Dipak Dholakia)
Response : Sometimes there may be spontaneous violence by an agitated crowd, but the strategy should be to promote non-violent and democratic means of struggle. Organised and armed violence should be shunned because of its inherent evils.
          Prof. M.D.N. Nanjunda Swamy, the late farmers' leader of Karnataka, forwarded a principle - 'we shall not harm the human beings but we may destroy the property and that is not violence.' The farmers-activists under his guidance attacked Mcdonold's outlets in Bangalore and uprooted the experimental crops of American MNC Monsanto. This distinction is also worth considering.
          While talking of non-violence, I want to distance myself from certain Gandhians, who preach peace and non-violence without addressing the root cause of the conflicts which lead to violence and wars. For example, the problem of wars and terrorism is very much linked to US imperialism, but they won't talk of it. Nor would they oppose capitalist forces and the state representing it. They are generally close to the establishment. Let us not forget that it is the injustice and oppression in the system, which lead to violence. It cannot be wished away without removing (or at least reducing) such injustice and oppression.

Idealist, Impractical, Vague

Q/D:-- Cuba is a very small country. I doubt whether India can repeat what Cuba could do, because of the huge difference in size. (Dipak Dholakia).
Response:   Cuba, being a very small country, was not self-sufficient in many respects. Disintegration of USSR created a crisis for it, because certain important supplies were from USSR. Economic blockade by USA and its allied counters further aggravated the situation. Still, with its resolve to protect the gains from its revolution, Cuba could find a way out and more or less continue with its socialist system. Compared to it, India is a large country with an inventory of almost all kind of natural resources, trained and skilled manpower, and a long history and cultural roots. It should be, therefore, easier for it to do new experiments of socialism. In fact, capitalising on these advantages, it can take a lead in showing a new path to the world.
          Bigness in size may appear a problem, if we wish to organise people at national level. But a beginning can be done in any part of it, with the movement gradually spreading to other parts.

Q/D:-- Even in Gandhi's time, many elements of the vision of Swarajya were considered not practical and too idealist. Today the world has changed further and his vision may be even more idealist and impractical. (Sunil Deepak).
Response: We need not follow Gandhi blindly in every respect. Let us take the essence of his teachings, which is becoming more relevant day-by-day. Then let us decide how to transform the society, and what is practical and what is not. The symbols of Gandhi (Charkha, for example) were suitable for his time. A century later, we have to choose new symbols. But the vision of Gandhi is as relevant today as it was then. Gandhi was a great critic and rebel of modern capitalist civilization. And a rebellion against it is still the need of the hour.

Q/D:-- Your diagnosis is correct, but prescription is somewhat vague. You must provide some idea how you are going to achieve your goals. (Dipak Dholakia) More elaboration is required, especially in respect of non-economic aspects like education, culture, health etc. (P. Vishwambharan).
Response:   You must have found more elaboration and further concrete suggestions about diagnosis, prescription and process of change in preceding pages. But you may still find it incomplete and lacking in details. As I said in the essay, everything need not be ready-made and decided in advance. If that is done in minute details, it may hinder rather than help the process of change. Our task is to analyse the historical developments and past experiences, learn from them, and chalk out broad outlines for the feasible and desirable change. The exact shades and colours in this picture may be left to the people to fill up in the process of change. They may be specific to the time, space and situations and may not fit everywhere.
          Still, a clearer picture of possible, feasible and desirable alternative system helps in the struggle. I invite all of you to join in this project of getting more clarity about it. Let us jointly work for it. And let the dialogue continue.  
E-mail: sjpsunil@gmail.com

1 comment:

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