SEARCH FOR PATRIOTIC ALTERNATIVES
This is an essay in four parts, on the development of Indian agriculture. First part is a critical overview of the Vision 2030 document, recently presented by the Indian Council for Agricultural Research. Second part reviews the institutional responsibilities for the management of Indian agriculture, at various levels. The current status of agrarian relations and the emerging trends are briefly discussed in the third part. The fourth part quickly summarizes the search path for anti-imperialist and patriotic solutions. The paper was presented in the Asian agricultural conference held in Delhi, April 2012
The Vision 2030 document, published in last January by ICAR (Indian Council for Agricultural Research – the apex R&D organization of India and founded in 1929 as Imperial Council for Agriculture Research), had summed up the present agricultural situation in the country, following words: “Our agriculture is dominated by small farmers, having small landholdings for cultivation. The average size of the landholding declined to 1.32 ha in 2000-01 from 2.30 ha in 1970-71, and absolute number of operational holdings increased from about 70 million to 121 million. If this trend continues, the average size of holding in India would be mere 0.68 ha in 2020, and would be further reduced to a low of 0.32 ha in 2030. This is a very complex and serious problem.”
The document elaborates on the uphill tasks facing the planners: “A large number of smallholders have to move to post- harvest and non-farm activities to augment their income. The research focus should be to evolve technologies and management options to suit needs of smallholders’ agriculture, and also to involve them in agri-supply chain through institutional innovations. ……To add to smallholders’ problem, the quality of production environment is worsening. The problem of land-and-water degradation is becoming a key constraint in augmenting agricultural production. Available estimates reveal that nearly 120.72 million ha of land in the country is degraded due to soil erosion and about 8.4 million ha has soil salinity and water-logging problems. etc etc”.
According to this ICAR estimates, nearly the entire currently cropped area in the country would be degraded by 2030 and the vision document goes on listing the other numerous problems to be tackled by S&T establishment in the country, for salvaging its dying agriculture. However, the document feels that “all these problems can be rectified by better management options….. The research and development challenge is to stop further degradation and go in for rehabilitation of degraded lands and water resources in a cost-effective manner. ”
ICAR has been “co-coordinating, guiding and managing research, education and extension services in agriculture, including horticulture, fisheries and diary production in the country. There is a vast network with 97 ICAR institutes, 46 state agricultural universities, five deemed universities and one Central Agricultural University and 589 Krishi Vijgana Kendras (KVK) spread across the country.” The vision document claims “to have played an enabling role in ushering green revolution and in the subsequent developments in agriculture in India through its research and technology development that enabled the country to increase production of food grains by 4-fold, horticultural crops by 6-fold, fish by 9-fold (marine 5-fold and inland 17-fold), milk by 6-fold, and eggs by 27-fold, since 1950-51; thus making a visible impact on national food and nutritional security.”
It is customary to give credit to ICAR for India’s green revolution, white revolution etc etc and it is also true that agricultural production in the country has been increasing steadily and in step with the population. Percapita production of food grains has been increasing, and India was free from hunger on the average, within a few decades of national independence. However, there are fears that, percapita production has already peaked some ten years ago, and there are concerns about the graph drooping further down. (Usta Patnaik.) And of course, several researchers had expressed serious doubts around the so called green revolution and the contributions made by ICAR and its all India network of institutions. These issues need detailed study, in the specific context of Indian agriculture continuing its primitive existence, despite tall claims by scientific communities and spokesmen of the establishment.
In fact, only a minuscule of the working people engaged in Indian agriculture (260 million) belong to the organized sector (1.5 million) and they mostly work for the plantations, dominated by the private corporate sector and big farmers. Vast majority of the working people, engaged in agriculture and allied activities, the self employed farmers as well as the agricultural labor, belong to the informal or unorganized sector of the national economy. Agricultural production has increased due to the expansion of cultivated land and increased productivity of land, thanks to expansion of irrigation facilities, use of chemical fertilizers, and switch over to high yielding variety seeds. Public investments in irrigation have played a key role in increasing production: There was an increase of over 30% in gross cropped area, thanks to irrigation even though the net cropped area had increased hardly by 12 % during the past sixty years. Gross irrigated area was only 17.4 % of cropped area in 1951-52 whereas the more recent figure is around 43 %. Assured water supply with the help of canal irrigation and tube-wells powered by highly subsidized grid electricity had facilitated not only application of chemical fertilizers but also adopting HYV crops.
The claims of ICAR over the green revolution were questioned, in the past, by several researchers. The more recent Report on Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in the Unorganized Sector (August 2007) by the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector, under the Chairmanship of Arjun K Dasgupta should serve as an eyeopener in this regard. Quoted below are a few selected observations from Chapter-9 of this report, supported by extensive field studies:
The report had pointed out that, “rising cost of cultivation, low remunerations, high risks with frequent crop failures, declining agricultural growth, and mounting debts have all led the farmer to a distress like situation.” It gives a graphic picture about the primitive nature of Indian agriculture and the hapless Indian farmer, “trapped by low literacy, lack of organization and poor connectivity with low levels of awareness regarding technology usage, institutional credit schemes and government’s support initiatives.” About 40 percent of farmer households dislike their occupation and farming, as an occupation, is looked down by the society as a whole. All these, including the rising suicide rates among farmers have, no doubt, everything to with the gross mismanagement of our agricultural sector.
An overview of the institutional responsibilities in the management of Indian agriculture, summarized as a chart, is given in the next page. Land being the most fundamental resource for agriculture, land-use planning is a crucial tool in managing agriculture development. This is so in any civilized country, but in India land is looked upon as a commodity, despite the town and country planning act being in existence for several decades. According to the act, village panchayats and town municipalities should have their own planning departments manned by trained personnel, and supervised by land use boards constituted by their respective local self governments. For over-viewing and guiding these activities and for making state level land use plans and production of quality maps, Land Use Boards were constituted by every member state of our union republic.
Many of the State Land Use Boards are headed by junior or disgraced IAS officers and have turned totally dysfunctional with very little role clarity, and stagnating due to lack of working funds and professional manpower. Like the Kerala State Land Use Board, many of these organizations have taken up foreign consultancy assignments. Survey of India, initiated by the British, continues to be an imperial institution under the central government, and has not cared to develop state level counterparts: Its linkages with State Land Use Boards are weak. Due to all these, India is extremely backward in the art and craft of cartography and the country simply does not possess even an essential minimum of inventory of quality maps, an essential input for the management of agriculture. All talks about national cropping plans etc based on the agro climatic resources of the subcontinent, make little practical sense, considering these grass-root level realities.
Situation with regard to water management and irrigation, as well as the weather resources, are similar to that of land use and land use planning. India is noted for its traditional canal irrigation networks, based on dams and reservoir as well as wells, tanks and bunds. Irrigation departments under the state governments are highly bureaucratized, and their linkages with agricultural departments, local administration and farmer collectives are extremely weak. Corrupt regimes at the state level naturally favor the rich peasantry, in the absence of comprehensive plans for individual river basins. Lack of professionalism in water resources planning and management has affected the quality and efficiency of the age old canal irrigation systems, leading to arbitrary increases in water-rates. There has been a massive shift to pumped irrigation, as a result: Cheap electricity, provided by State Electricity Boards, had led to even over-exploitation of ground water resources, all over the country. Central Water Commission, the federal custodian of our water resources has no counterparts at the state level, and as revealed in the recent Mullaperiyar conflict between Tamilnadu and Kerala, it is not even considered a competent body to arbitrate between two state governments.
Climate and weather studies in India are considered the sole prerogative of the Central Government. Daily, monthly and annual weather studies and forecasts by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) are made at regional levels and they have little relevance or use for the farming communities. In the absence of professional support from IMD, the farmers get guided by the local panchanga astrologers, or even water diviners. Our universities and research centers are engaged in climate studies related to global warming, sponsored by UNEP programs and foreign universities. They show little interest in weather and climate studies that are of relevance to local agriculture at the village or district level. Even the possibilities with our own weather satellites are not fully utilized. Rain gauges as well as weirs and notches, installed in the past for measuring surface water flows, have gone dysfunctional in many places, due to administrative neglect or lack of maintenance funds. Recently, IMD has drawn up plans for rectifying these deficiencies by strengthening itself. However, reconstitution and reorganization of IMD into a full-fledged federal body, so as to improve its coverage, quality, and efficacy, is not part of its immediate agenda.
MANAGEMENT OF INDIAN AGRICULTURE
Overview of institutional responsibilities
|Item||Central Government||State Governments||Local Self Governments||Farmer collectives|
|Land use plans||Low||Low||Nil||Nil|
|Water management||Mostly policy making||High||Nil||Nil|
|Weather forecasting||IMD- sole agency||Nil||Nil||Nil|
|Agricultural research||ICAR dominated||Low||Nil||Nil|
|Warehousing, price support||FCI, Central Warehousing||Low||Nil||Nil|
|Agricultural production||Policy making||Custodian of production||Nil||Nil|
|Human resource development||Nil||Nil||Nil||Nil|
|Development finance||Central plan +NABARD||State plans||Nil||Na|
|Overall||Bureaucratic regime.||Resource mismatch||Resource mismatch||No role|
As indicated in the Vision 230 document, 97 research institutes, 46 state agricultural universities, five deemed universities and one Central Agricultural University and 589 KVKs constitute the national network for agricultural research and extension services, presided over by ICAR. ICAR institutes cater to not only agricultural crops but also, horticulture, fisheries and animal husbandry and related technologies as well as mechanization. Like the Coconut Research Institute in my own village, their linkages with local farms and farming communities are extremely week. There is an agricultural university in each state: They are autonomous bodies under the state government, but depend on ICAR for academic guidance as well as research funds.
Scientists working for ICAR, inevitably, develop a split loyalty due to the pulls and pressures of international, research dominated by global finance. In the absence of any coherent patriotic program for agricultural development, they look for global opportunities. Indian agricultural research continues to be weak and hapless, despite the long years of ICAR. It does not have roots in Indian farms and farming communities: We seems to believe that, even agricultural sciences has to be learned and taught only in English and not in Indian languages. We do not have books and literature in agricultural sciences in the languages spoken by our farmers and farm workers. And, that is reason enough to campaign for the restructuring of ICAR network on genuine federal lines and democratize its administration, in order to take it closer to the farming communities and the people at large.
Food Corporation of India was setup in 1964, in order to provide farmers with remunerative prices, to make food grains available at reasonable prices, and to maintain buffer stocks as a measure of food security. With its four zonal offices and over 35,000 employees FCI has turned a highly bureaucratic and inefficient set-up. Like all other Central Public Sector Undertakings, FCI has also failed to build up state level counterparts or subsidiaries, with sufficient autonomy to deal with region-specific and crop-specific problems, with the involvement of state governments and local self government institutions. There is another Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC), that have promoted State Warehousing Corporations as joint ventures with the state governments (50:50) with similar or over-lapping functions. CWC with its 17 regional centers and dealing in some 200 commodities look at export as its sole priority, and have no interest in the operations and management of its state-level subsidiaries, which have turned virtual orphans, without any worthwhile policy inputs or financial support from state as well as central governments. For effectively implementing the warehousing and price support strategies the organizational set up already created need to be streamlined and modernized.
State governments are looked upon as the custodian of agriculture production, and they are expected to perform, using the inputs provided by Central Government and its numerous agencies, over which they have very little control. Even here, policy making is seen as the sole prerogative of Central Government and its Planning Commission: even the National Development Council (NDC) is hardly consulted on policy questions on agriculture. Agricultural Prices Commission finds even questions related to terms of trade difficult to handle, due to numerous regulatory complexities and diverse tax regimes. Liberalization of trade and bilateral trade agreements has brought in further complications in policy management at the state level.
Despite constitutional provisions for decentralized administration, several related sectors like social forestry, minor irrigation, local transport, small and village industries etc continue to be outside the purview of local governance. As already pointed out, Indian farmers are poorly organized as a collective and play virtually no role, or play an extremely weak role in policy making, related to land use, water resources management and irrigation, crop development, mechanization, or even formulating development plans. Even states like West Bengal and Kerala where land reforms and democratic decentralization of administration has registered substantive progress, farmers and their collectives play little role in the management of agriculture. A recent (January 2009) report by the West Bengal State Commission on Agriculture had lamented on the lack of participation by farmers and their collectives in the formulation and implementation of farm development programs in that state. If that is the situation in a state like West Bengal, the over all situations in the country must be far far worse.
VK Ramakrishnan, the noted agricultural economist reviewed the current status of Indian agriculture in an article published in the last issue of Marxist (Jan-June 2011): This article, based on an extensive study of several Indian villages had observed: “India is a vast and living example of the rule that capitalism penetrates agriculture and rural society in a myriad ways. If the development of capitalist relations in agriculture is clearly the major trend, it is equally clear that agrarian relations are marked by national, regional and local diversity, and by extreme unevenness in the development of capitalist relations of production and exchange……
Variations in agrarian relations are not just a matter of differences in the level of development of the productive forces leading to some regions being more or less ‘capitalist’ than others; the crucial feature of capitalist development in agriculture is, as Lenin wrote, that ‘infinitely diverse combinations of this or that type of capitalist evolution are possible.’ If this formulation was true of old Russia (or old China), it is true too of India, where the material forces constituted by backward ideologies of hierarchy and status add immensely to the ‘peculiar and complex problems’ arising from spatial diversity……
Data from nine villages in the States mentioned above showed that 21 per cent of households (mainly poor peasants) actually had negative crop incomes. By contrast, the average agricultural income of households in the top docile was over 3.2 lakhs per household. Not only do the data show that aggregate incomes from agriculture are highly unequal across cultivator households, they also show that there are large variations in the costs of cultivation and profitability across crops, and, for a given crop, across regions. Variations in the profitability of crops across different classes are substantial….
…..Data shows differences in gross output and net annual incomes from agriculture per acre of operational holding across villages and between cultivators operating smallest twenty and largest twenty land holdings. The data show that, given the concentration of land and other means of production in their hands, landlords and rich peasants are able to keep production costs lower than middle and poor peasants. In contrast, the poor peasants are forced to buy inputs at a higher unit price than the rich, and to pay rents for land and machinery. With more efficient input use, and better access to markets, landlords, big capitalist farmers and rich peasants also receive a higher income per unit of production than middle and poor peasants.”
True, India is a subcontinent of diverse cultures and subcultures, supported by vastly different agro-climatic conditions. Politically, we are a conglomeration of numerous developing nationalities and call ourselves a multinational country. The process of nationality development in the sub-continent was frozen by the British in their imperial interests, and the ruling classes, that inherited political power from the colonial rulers, were in no mood to complete the unfinished tasks of national liberation. Even the re-organization of Indian states on linguistic or cultural lines, a legitimate dream of Indian independence movement, was resisted by them. Indian big bourgeoisie and our ruling elites sustain their hegemony over the Indian people with the help of neocolonialists, and by blocking and suppressing their struggles for cultural and material development.
Our elite classes have even invented jargons like Unity in Diversity, for seeking moral justifications for the oppressive development policies, pursued by the Indian State. Culture is not generated in a vacuum: It springs from the material life of people. It is sustained by science and technology, and culture is the product of autonomous development of a society, with its own personality, history and geography. The abstract universal man is pure invention by the intellectual classes and doe not exist for the vast majority of the working people of our century. We have seen, in the earlier sections, the bogus character and hollow claims of the inefficient agricultural development programs followed by the Indian state, with little or no involvement of our farmers and their collectives, as well as the people at large. Vision 2030 of ICAR is a sure recipe for the further alienation of our working people from the Indian State, that rules over them. It will end up as an even bigger failure than the earlier development program, which has virtually pushed Indian agriculture into the present chaotic situation. And it could be salvaged only through the prolonged political struggles of the working people, and vast majority of them belong to agriculture.
Indian agriculture continues to be primitive in terms of technology and organization, even after six decades of intervention by the Indian state under the leadership ICAR. However, it has already entered the capitalist phase of development which is uneven, unstable and unsustainable. Vision 2030 document prepared by ICAR is incompetent to address the emerging crisis. Central Government and the elite classes that rule the country are getting ready to hand over the agriculture sector to foreign monopoly capital under the pretext of solving an impending crisis.
The big capitalist farmers and rich peasants are sure to join hands with the foreign monopolists in this process of takeover, as part of the ongoing globalization process. This will be at the cost of the rest of the farming community, consisting of small and marginal farmers, agricultural workers and other sections of our rural proletarians.
This process is sure to be prolonged and protracted. The big capital is equipped with modern farming technologies and agricultural research organized by imperialist states. A well planned strategy and effective intervention by the Indian state are absolutely necessary for protecting the interest of the farming communities and the country at large. ICAR and other central government organizations need to be strengthened by developing their state level counterparts and then transforming them into genuine federal institutions, capable of defending national interests.
Rural proletarians of India’s informal sector, including the agricultural workers need to be unionized for fighting for their basic human rights, such as minimum wages, reasonable working conditions, and social security. The report on unorganized sector by Arjun Sengupta committee on the unorganized sector of the national economy has highlighted the need as well as the possibilities for regulating the labor market in the informal sector.
In fact, Arjun Sengupta report is the byproduct and legacy of decades long struggles waged by the informal sector workers, in several parts of the country, under the leadership of working class parties which has by now acquired adequate strength and expertise to formulate and campaign for an alternative agriculture development program that is truly patriotic and anti-imperialist.
APARTMENTS IN KERALA:
NEW CULTURE WITH AN ECONOMIC RATIONALE
K Vijayachandran FIE
A dwelling without compound around was unthinkable for a Malayalee. It could be even plot as small as a cent and half: What is important was the smell of raw earth around. This life style is costing our society dear: Unplanned growth of our population centres substantially increases the cost of basic infrastructure and civic amenities. Road density in Kerala is 414 km/100 sqkm and it is far ahead of the national average of 75 km. Road length per lakh population in Kerala is 506 km against the national average of 259 km.
Kerala with a population density of more than double the national average has already set aside large land areas for road construction. Economy of the state finds it difficult to maintain these vast quantities of roads constructed year after year. Higher road length per person is also an indicator of the higher outlays subsumed for power and fuel supplies, water supply, sewerage and drainage as well as other utilities. Urbanisation is inevitable, and it was high time that, some sort of discipline was brought into the anarchic situation.
The apartment culture that is slowly setting in Kerala has, therefore, a definite social and economic rationale and the mushrooming real estate and property development business, undoubtedly, are creating real values. I may quote here the personal example of a close friend and comrade-in-arm Kunju Krishnan: we may refer him as KK for convenience. He was a poor man by any standard and working as a helper in a mechanical workshop near his ancestral home, frequently used as shelter by senior leaders of left movement, during the dark years of head-hunt by a blood-thirsty police.
KK along with his wife and three children was holed up in a small tiled hut, along with his aged ailing mother, when I came across him in the early eighties. He was a known leader in the locality, sincere to the core, and as usual rewarded less and respected more for his stubborn honesty. On dividing the family assets, bulk of his ancestral property went to his sisters, married and properly settled elsewhere: Title of the 40 cents of land and the house, where KK lived was held by his ailing mother who was under pressure to divide it once again as family property. He, however, was lucky on the legal front, after the mother died and within no time property developers closed in on him.
For the prices prevailing during late eighties, he got a good bargain: With the cash compensation received for the land, KK could purchase an acre of agricultural land in nearby village where he built a small farm-house, the two daughters were comfortably married off, and son got educated to work as an accountant in a respectable firm. In addition he was allotted three apartments: As on now, he lives in one and the others are rented out. KK was overnight catapulted into an altogether different social orbit.
More interesting part of this story of large value addition was the bankruptcy of KK’s builder, even before the apartments were completed and handed over. The hard liquidity problem of the early nineties, that brought to a complete halt the booming property business, had forced the builder to flee the country. Fortunately for KK, there was enough number of apartment aspirants who had fully paid up for the apartments and ready to go for legal remedies. KK as a man of public interest assembled the necessary expertise, legal, financial as well as technical, to form a cooperative enterprise for raising the balance money and completing the building project.
True, he could move into the new flat only four years behind the schedule: However, as per the contract entitlements with the builder, KK continued to stay in his good old place, from where he managed to marry off his two daughters. Despite all odds, he conducted the house warming ceremonies in grand style in the new flat in 1995. Possibly KK’s example was more of an exemption: several among the martyrs of the building industry of nineties are yet to recover and a good many among those who invested for apartments continue to wait indefinitely. Moral of the story is obvious: KK and others helped themselves using their collective endeavor.
Belonging to the collective of some eighty and odd apartment dwellers bring in several advantages and privileges. Managing electricity, phone, gas, water, drainage, sewerage and waste disposal collectively is of great advantage. Most apartment collectives have developed their own arrangements for paying up the utility bills and some are offering even internet connections. Convenience shops, common washing and ironing centres are developing as common amenities. A well-kept small garden and children’s playground are real luxuries even for the middle class. Instant geriatric care of the old, first aid and emergency medical help are within the reach of the collectives of apartment dwellers. Cultural evenings and festival celebrations are bringing people together in many apartments that simply strengthen our age old secular traditions. Common garages, car parking and 24 hour security at the gate are the new civic amenities that are now taken for granted by every apartment dweller: However these were simply the privileges of the elite classes till yesterday!
The new culture that is developing around our apartments are sure to stay: it is not a passing fad, simply because of the enormous advantages offered by it at very low costs. However, these are sure to face several serious problems, thanks to their unplanned growth. Servicing the apartments with utilities and infrastructure are likely to be a serious problem, which need to be pre-empted with the help of careful planning at intracity as well as intercity levels. Mushrooming of the apartments in almost all cities and major towns is sure to discipline us.
We will be forced to redesign our population centers in a far more rational way, sooner than later, consistent with the unique features of our land and waters. Kerala, as we know, is a narrow strip of land with a 560 Kilometer coastline on the West, and mountain reliefs on the East. Every 14 kilometer on the average, there is a river system flowing Westward, and forty-one drainage basins rush their heavy monsoon run-off, into a huge inland water body, stretching along the coastline and shaking hands with the Arabian sea, at half a dozen locations called pozhi.
Thanks to this unique hydrology, more than half of Kerala population live on its coastal planes, measuring only a third of total land area. This coastal plane, on the two sides of the backwaters network, with its lakes, canals and estuaries, numerous seaports of antiquity and large population centers, is developing into a single modern metro of some twenty million people; population densities crossing the level of 3000 persons per sqkm, for several long stretches. The North-South inland waterway along this backwater system, and the several kilometers of navigable stretches upstream of the forty-one rivers, were developed by several generations of Kerala rulers, before and after the great Cheraman Perumal took to Islam.
This 1700 Kilometer long inland waterway network was the backbone of Kerala economy and served the culture and commerce of the region for centuries, turning Parasurama legend into a living reality. Due to a variety of factors beyond our control, neglect and ignorance in the main, these arteries of history had turned totally dysfunctional, within a few decades of national independence, inflicting heavy damages on our economy and culture.
These are the unique features of Kerala and historical facts that had encouraged our President to recommend us to develop some sort of mysterious smart waterways. Even water supply and drainage systems as well as power and fuel lines could be built around such smart waterways and transportation network along the backwater system.
Reconstruction of Kerala economy and culture along its ancient waterways, with the help of modern Science and Technology, should be the twenty-first century dream project of Malayalees: Why not re-design our population centers by developing a master plan for the building of apartments for the 560 KM long metro that is emerging along Kerala coast? Perhaps, even our builders’ community could be asked to step in!
Socialist Globalization and United Nations
Er. K Vijayachandran FIE
Chairman Cochin Center for Policy Initiatives
This short paper, published on UN Day 2017, is the third part of my series on United Nations: First one was published in the Frontline magazine, four years ago: and the second with its focus on the failure of WTO was presented in the UN Day seminar of 2015 held in the Public Library of my home town, Kochi. UN is a new historical experience: Mankind possesses, today, adequate S&T and organizational resources to support a global political economy under UN umbrella.
Two decades ago, this author had observed in a seminar in Thiruvananthapuram: “Developments in computing, communication and satellite technologies have revolutionized the processing and transmission of information. These have given birth to Information Technology or IT. Electronic chip has, thus, ushered in a second industrial revolution; the first one triggered by steam engine had led to the extensive use of energy in processing and transportation of materials. The two revolutions, one after the other within a span of two centuries, are re-shaping the destiny of Man: He is preparing for a leap forward vis-a-vis his relationship with the universe he has come to occupy.” (1)
Knowledge and expertise to produce commodities or Science and Technology (S&T), as referred to in this article, was only emerging as a tradable entity or property, when Marx wrote his Das Capital in 1867, even though separation of intellectual powers from manual labor was very nearly complete in the earlier century. Nevertheless, the last Chapter XV of part IV of the book deals with the development and transformation of society, as it puts to use machines for commodity production.
Das Capital had examined in great detail the social origins of technology, how it was appropriated by capitalists as their private property, how bulk of the surplus value generated in the process was appropriated by the owners of capital, how it was used for lengthening the work-hours of proletarian classes instead of lightening the burden of their life, and how they got pauperized materially, culturally and spiritually in a rapidly advancing industrial society.
How Science and Technology (S&T) helped to consolidate the hegemony of capital over labor and society at large was explained in this chapter, through its ten sections and 133 pages (P-371 to 504 of the Soviet Edition, English-1959). As trading and export of capital and S&T gathered momentum, political map of the globe was redrawn under the dictates of global finance capital.
Social character and social role of S&T were explored and endorsed by hardcore scientists as well, including the famous physicist of last century, Albert Einstein in his celebrated essay Why Socialism? of 1949: Technology is to be seen as the product and manifestation of the innate desire of individual Man to belong to larger and larger Collectives and helping him to transcend the limitations of space and time. Communities expanded their boarders and cultural horizons, and merged together to form larger and larger nation-states using S&T. And, S&T liberated Man from crass capitalist existentialism and entitled him for a rich cultural life that spans three dimensions in time; the present, the past and the future. (2)
Einstein was greatly appreciative of the efficacy of S&T organizations of USSR, the first ever socialist state: Only Russia had an academy of sciences at the time of liberation from Czar: And then, the revolution encouraged every constituent identity, nationality, or republic of Soviet Union, big and small, to establish its own autonomous academy of sciences: These were then federated into the Soviet Academy of Sciences.
In a special commemorative volume to mark the golden jubilee of USSR, Vice President of the Soviet Academy of Sciences had observed, by way of introduction: “Within the life time of a single generation, the people of some republics underwent a transition from a feudal society based on archaic agricultural systems to a socialist economy with a highly developed industry and mechanized agriculture. Peoples that did not even have a written language before the October revolution now can boast of their own trained specialists. The children and grand children of peasants and nomads are designing and operating computers and other sophisticated equipment.”
The above introductory overview was then followed by detailed accounts of the concrete achievements of academies of individual republics; Byelorussia, Georgia, Ukraine, Moldavia, Latvia, Azerbaijan and others including the tiny Estonia by their respective academy presidents. (3)
This sort of federal or cooperative dispensation of republican academies of sciences continues to exist even today under the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), despite the dissolution of USSR: recent reports indicate that the glory of Soviet S&T is getting rapidly restored by the CIS collective: Einstein’s enthusiasm over the success of Soviet model organization of S&T is thus fully justified in the context of current realities.
S&T was the sole prerogative of the aristocracy during Tsarist days: Soon after the socialist revolution, special universities were opened for educating the proletarians and, associations of innovators and inventors were established in every production enterprise, cutting across class lines under the initiative of employees associations and local trade unions.
These models were later copied by the production enterprises in capitalist countries: Quality Circles (QC) of Japan as well as the Total Quality Movement (TQM) of Deming Institute of USA were inspired by these shop-floor experiences of socialist enterprises in Soviet Union. And later, after the Second World War grass-root level democracy or participative management systems as practiced in Soviet Union and East European countries had inspired a culture of industrial democracy in post-war Western Europe.
Achievements on the S&T front as well as the innovative management methods developed by the socialist enterprises had not only led to an all-round improvement in social productivity and quality of life, but also helped the practice of universal social security for the first time in human history.
Soviet Union and other Socialist countries had proved the feasibility and sustainability of socialist political economies in individual countries, and demonstrated their superiority over the crisis ridden political economies under the hegemony of finance capital. The massive vilification campaigns against the S&T institutions in the socialist countries and their organizing principles had nothing to do with truth and the ground realities that existed in former socialist countries.
As a matter of fact, these experiences were a source of inspiration not only for the newly liberated countries after the second world war like India and China, but even for the developed capitalist countries: National Science Fund (NSF) and related S&T policies of USA were fashioned after the S&T practices of USSR by Dr. Bush, the wartime S&T advisor of President Roosevelt. They were kept in cold storage for a couple of years, due to ideological and political differences within the US bureaucracy, until Sputnik made history in 1957 and sent shock-waves in US administration.
NSF continues to be the corner stone of S&T administration and management in USA, even today. Japan as well as all the other OECD countries had taken to massive public investments and state intervention in their S&T sectors as a matter of national policies, and it is generally accepted that market competition hardly produces any basic technologies: Even today, Bill Gates and his IT empire are products of monopoly capitalism, and not market competition as made out by market-ideologists (4). Prof Galbraith had formulated, long ago, his famous theory of convergence of capitalist and socialist systems of economic management on the strength of these facts.
But for the short periods of policy disruptions, triggered by the Cultural Revolution, China had stuck to the S&T policies developed as an integral part of its national liberation movement and guided by the principles of socialist development in the Soviet Union. Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), today, is ‘the linchpin of China’s drive to explore and harness high technology and the natural sciences for the benefit of China and the world’.
CAS has a comprehensive research and development network in the public domain, spread over a million establishments, including a merit-based system of higher education: It brings together scientists and engineers from the whole of China and around the world to address both theoretical and applied problems using world-class scientific and management approaches. The massive Chinese S&T of today is broad-based and has roots in all provinces and serves the regional and national economies right across the country. (5)
Marxist-Leninist understanding that, capitalism would be a failure in building up a global technological society, stands validated by historical experience: Numerous colonial wars and two world wars, inflicted on mankind in quick succession, as well as the extremely poor performance of the recently initiated WTO under IMF-IBRD regulation and operating independent of UN framework, are pointers to its abject failure in building up a sustainable political economy at the global level. (6)
Massive unemployment, deepening global recession, widespread failure and even collapse of nation states, violence, terrorism, dirty wars, sixty million refugees reminiscent of the Second World War and, gathering storms of yet another global war, are the balance sheet of two decades of global regulation exercised by WTO: Every leading capitalist country is in crisis: Era of unipolar world under the US hegemony has ended; EU and NATO are on a path of self-liquidation. Capitalism is failing to catch up with technological innovations for the first time in history and regulators find it impossible to catch up with the galloping corruption, and it is the end of capitalist globalization as we know it. (7)
The hypothesis that S&T is an exclusive product of market competition has been challenged and demolished long ago, not only by Marxists-Leninists but even by great scientists and technologists of our times. Nevertheless, the Perestroika-Glasnost movement triggered by the Russian intelligentsia under the leadership of Gorbachev & Co, supported by imperialists and global finance capital, and endorsed by the class of so-called knowledge workers across the continents, was based on this specious argument. (8)
True, Soviet Union, the first-ever socialist state was dissolved and the socialist camp disintegrated: But, that was not the end of history as shouted from house-tops by the reactionaries, all over the world: S&T infrastructures as well as the democratic institutions built under Soviet Socialism have by and large survived under the CIS dispensation.
China is rapidly developing its S&T capabilities. Situation is not very different with regard to the other members of the former CMEA, and OECD countries continue to be rich in S&T resources and S&T is moving forward with its own momentum, quite unmindful of market forces. As Professor Galbraith had pointed out in his famous book, The Affluent Society, mankind today has enough technological resources to sustain a humanity several times its present size. As the world socialist movement observes the centenary of Soviet revolution, the dreams of building a brave new world, based on a better and fuller use of these resources in full have returned, once again.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) using modern S&T tools under the auspicious of BRICS is seen as a small beginning in that direction. This new type of international cooperation, under Chinese initiative, is already challenging the mind-set of technological pessimism (9) across the globe, an inevitable byproduct of capitalist development. Several countries on the BRI route have joined this multilateral development projects which are expected to grow and expand further into a major development initiative under the UN System.
United Nations is a post-Marxian development and a totally new historical experience: But mankind has plenty of experience in promoting the concept of peaceful coexistence and mutual cooperation among nation-states, big and small. Einstein’s appeal of October 1947 to the UN General Assembly to democratize itself and play its destined role of Global Governance, and to ‘guarantee the security, tranquility and the welfare of all mankind’, is immensely relevant today. Despite the non-cooperation of USA and other developed countries that were keen to use the UN system for policing over the developing nations, institutions like UNIDO, UNDP, and others were set up under the initiatives of Non Aligned Movement (NAM) with the support of the then socialist block.
Che Guevara, in his speech of March 25, 1964, at the plenary session of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD ) had said, ‘this conference must establish in plain terms the agreement emanating from the conference to refrain from restricting trade in any manner, direct or indirect’: However, as pointed out by J. Backman in his paper, “Socialist Globalization against Capitalist Neocolonialism: The Economic Ideas behind the New International”, attempts by UNCTAD to create economic globalization faced by ‘continual US resistance, especially through the GATT, the World Bank, the IMF, and the US Government itself (Humanity- Spring 2015). And, as we know Cuba of Che Guevara was subjected to the worst kind of trade barriers by the USA, and WTO had hijacked the role assigned to UNCTAD which has turned a dead instrument within a short span of time.
And, all these add to the relevance of Chinese initiatives towards ‘UN playing a central role in global governance’: Such initiatives by China, the largest nation-state of our times, destined to be the largest national economy in the very near future, on the strength of its own technological prowess, following its own shade of socialism for the past seven decades (10), and presiding over BRICS and promoting novel international development paradigms with the support and involvement Russia, make immense sense towards the prospects of global governance as well as socialist globalization.
Samir Amin had recently (2014) attempted a fairly elaborate global assessment of “Popular Movements towards Socialism: Their Unity and Diversity” (11). He looked at the possible exit roots from globalization controlled by finance capital and rules out the possibility of a negotiated exit using UN framework. Next, the possibility of some member countries challenging the system is examined: In his view, China has this capability and potential but he is not sure about the prospects of State Capitalism of China transforming itself into State Socialism. With regard to Russia he is skeptical about the intentions of the present power-holders, despite their posing as serious challengers to Washington.
As he concludes this long essay, Amin speculates on the ‘strategies of international political (or even military) alliance that might force a withdrawal of the US project of military control, over the whole planet and then concludes: “It is not by chance that the BRICS, and behind them many counties of the South-some having entered the path of sovereign projects to various degrees and others still mired in the ruts of lumpen development – refusing to support US military adventures and dare to take initiatives contradicting Washington, like the use of Veto by Russia and China. It is necessary to go further in these directions, in a broader and more systematic approach.”
There are even more forceful compulsions for change that are technological: The rapidly increasing size and complexity of contemporary S&T as in the case of IT and space technologies, demands a global political economy that is qualitatively different from that of today. Many among the members of UNO continue to be grossly underdeveloped and some even primitive: However, the basic instincts that drive humanity towards larger and larger collectives cannot and will not stop with the formation of some two hundred largely autonomous nation states,
Humanity is on cross roads and in search of its own destiny: Its cultural and spiritual pursuits will continue, and a UNO with a far more efficient and harmonious political economy is likely to be its next halt, as divined by Albert Einstein seven decades ago!
EOD/24th October 2017
1. Information Technology and the Second Industrial Revolution: Synopsis of my talk on August 24th 1998 at the Rotary club Thiruvananthapuram-https://kvijaya40.wordpress.com/2017/10/24/information-technology-and-the-second-industrial-revolution-2/
2. United Nations-New relevance for the world body: My article in Frontline Nov 13 2013: http://www.frontline.in/world-affairs/newrelevance-of-the-word-body/article5338837.exe
3. See my book Perestroika Glasnost and Socialism Partridge 2014, P 96-99: can be downloaded from the Research Gate (RG) web site.
4. A B Nikolaev, R&D and Social Reproduction, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975
5. Chinese Academy of Sciences: http://english.cas.cn/
6. Paper on WTO by myself: https://kvijaya40.wordpress.com/2015/10/24/two-decades-of-wto-the-failure-to-deliver/
7. See the article: https://leftfootforward.org/2017/10/six-ways-the-uks-regulatory-system-is-a-protection-racket-for-the-elite/https://leftfootforward.org/2017/10/six-ways-the-uks-regulatory-system-is-a-protection-racket-for-the-elite/
8. My book, Perestroika Glasnost and Socialism, is a pioneering project on the subject, pages 3-45
9. Technological pessimism is the belief that advances in S&T do not lead to any improvement in human condition. Some social critics and environmentalists believe that economic practices of modern states over-stress planet’s ecological equilibrium.
10. China had claimed from the days of Mao that it was building Socialism with Chinese characteristics implying thereby that every country is free to follow its own brand of socialism based its historical or cultural experience. That was in perfect harmony with Vietnamese vision on socialism as well. Khrushchev had declared at that time that USSR was already building communism after successfully completing the socialist phase!
11. Monthly Review-Article by Samir Amin: http://monthlyreview.org/2014/06/01/popular-movements-toword-socilism/#top
REACTION STRIKES EUROPE
This eight part article was written in December 1989, about two years before the dismantling and final collapse of USSR. It was written at a time when the entire world was speculating on the prospects of Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost and pundits like Fukuyama were predicting “end of history”. Within a short span two decades history had asserted itself and world is celebrating, today, the centenary of the great Bolshevik revolution. It was the lead article of my book, Perestroika Glasnost and Socialism, by Partridge India (Sept 2013) and is republished here as a wordpress blog, to mark the historic occasion.
“A spectre is haunting Europe; the spectre of Communism. All the Powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this specter: Pope and Czar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police spies.” — These were the opening words of the Manifesto of the Communist Party, drawn up by a secret conclave of communists of a few European nationalities assembled in London in November 1847. The Manifesto concluded with the appeal: “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win: WORKING MEN OF ALL COUNTRIES UNITE!”
A series of uprisings by proletariat swept Europe in 1848 and 1849 and within twenty-five years of the first printing of the Manifesto there was the Paris Commune of 1871 when World’s first government of the dictatorship of the proletariat was established; but it lasted only seventy two days. Communists were hunted down; worker demonstrators were shot down as in Chicago on the 1st of May 1886 or arrested, imprisoned and tortured. Battles were fought at the plane of economic theories political ideas; capitalists the world over ridiculed Marxism as sheer nonsense or at the best as an utopia.
The numerous struggles and battles fought by the proletariat, throughout the world, were not in vain. Seventy years after the Manifesto, the first proletarian state was born in 1917, toward the end of first world war, imposed over the mankind by the bourgeoisie classes, the capitalists all over the world tried all means, both foul and fair, in order to sabotage the first proletarian state including direct intervention. Soviet Union not only survived all such intrigues but also proved the dictatorship of the proletariat to be a viable alternative political system superior even to the bourgeoisie system.
Faced with the challenge thrown up by working class the bourgeois experimented with and encouraged fascist dictatorships as in Germany, Italy and Spain, throwing to winds their democratic pretensions. The ultimate result was a ruinous Second World War in which several millions perished. Socialism became an even more attractive proposition to more and more nations whose people liberated themselves from the oppressive capitalist system using Marxism as a creative tool. The socialist camp with about one third of humanity and the non-aligned group of third world countries, with more than half of world population, who had liberated themselves from the colonial yokes and with strong anti-imperialist sentiments were a direct challenge to the global ambitions of imperialist countries. Development of the socialist economies during the post war years, in spite of the cold war conditions imposed by imperialists, was commendab1e. Share of the socialist block in world industrial production which was hardly 20 per cent in 1950 increased to 40 percent by 1983. And, the share of developed capitalist economies came down drastically during the same period.
All the above are historical facts which even the capitalist ideologues may not dispute. Capitalist classes of the world were mortally afraid of the spread of Marxian ideology. In their jargon, of course, the increasing popularity of socialistic ideas was the result of Soviet or Chinese, expansionism. Containing communism was the official policy of all capitalist states, especially those of the developed capitalist countries. Totality of the war machine including the latest attempted star-war program of the Reagan Government, the troops stationed on far off foreign soils, the huge espionage and propaganda network, subversion of Governments of third world countries, imposition of dictators over the unwilling peoples, economic and development policies dictated through institutions like World Bank and the IMF and the numerous other programs and policies were all pursued by the developed capitalist Governments, under the leadership of the United States of America with the single-mindedness of containing communism. Peter Drucker known as the grand old guru of corporate capitalism in the Western World, while discussing the prospects of corporate business for the nineties in a recent article in the Economist had commented with satisfaction: “The lodestar by which the free world has navigated since the late 1940s, the containment of Russia and of communism is becoming obsolescent, because of that policy’s very success.”(l).
Capitalist classes the world over; their theoreticians and propagandists see the recent developments in the socialist world as a great source of comfort and consolation. They feel that their efforts at containing of communism have at last succeeded after one and a half century and the specter that haunted Europe has been exorcised! They take legitimate pride in their success. Reaction has struck Europe and the working class movement all over the world is, at least for the moment, on the defensive. And this fact needs to be accepted with openness and candor.
Capitalists are at their best in marketing, not only of the goods they produce but also of ideas and ideologies. They know how best to utilize opportunities and reap maximum profits. There never were better times to market capitalist ideology. They sold tons and tons of the broken-down Berlin Wall in attractive packages at several hundred dollars a kilo. Every gram of that material, they count, will keep on reminding the people, generations after generations, of the brutal atrocities perpetrated by an inhuman and inefficient system called communism!
Edward Mortimer commentator of Financial Times London, speculating on the impact of the changes in the socialist countries on international relations of the nineties remarked: “Second half of this decade has seen a truly astonishing drama– the end of Communism as—we know–and perhaps even the end of “communism” as a name as any one will think worth using for a utopia that we know not yet…. Perhaps Russia would have progressed faster, economically and educationally if in 1917, had it adopted some other system; that we can never know for sure. Certainly few other systems could have exacted such a terrible price for what they did achieve. But this barbaric system was one that could be imposed on a backward, predominantly rural country, in conditions of international conflicts and then civil war. Even after 1945 the Soviet peoples were still helpless against it. But between 1945 and 1985 it did somehow produce a highly educated elite, comprising (it now seems) at least some millions of people, who took a minimum of civil and international peace for granted, and judged their own country by the highest international standards, not only of military technology but of civilization in the broader sense. They judged it, and found it wanting.” (2)
Perhaps, it was superficial to quote a Western Commentator on the “failure of Communism”. The views of a prominent member of the highly educated elite, referred to by Mortimer, Dr. Abalkin, Dy. Prime Minister of USSR and considered the economics guru of Gorbachev, could have served the purpose even better. He had been to Brussels recently for negotiating cooperation agreements with the European Community. In a press conference there he stated that ‘there were 40 million Soviet citizens (15 per cent of the population) who find themselves in due economic straits after having worked for all their lives’. According to Western press reports “he all but claimed developing country status for the Soviet Union!” (3). The Soviet Union which considerably outstrips the USA in the production of oil, gas, steel, fertilizers, machine tools, tractors, harvesters, wheat, milk, butter and other diary products, fish, textiles, shoes and several other commodities; a country which has many more doctors, hospital beds, scientists and scientific institutions, teachers and educational institutions than the USA, a country which is a world leader in space and military technology, and considered a superpower till yesterday to match the combined military might of all developed capitalist countries taken together, claims today only the status of a developing country!
What has gone wrong with the Dy. Prime Minister of the Soviet Union who is supposed to be a communist and a member of the highly educated elite class as maybe certified by Western Commentators? Apart from denigrating the achievements of the Soviet people over the past seven decades, he was expounding his wisdom on the recent history of mankind as well, in that press conference at Brussels. While discussing on colonialism he told the reporters: “Soviet Union has long argued that the poverty of developing countries are the direct result of colonialism. The idea that the prosperity of colonial powers rested on their exploitation of the colonies is too simplistic a view of history. Rather it was due to West’s organizational skills, especially as applied to production, a trained work force, respect for work and property and basically democratic values’ (3)
And, Dr. Abalkin ridiculed the argument that economic development of the third world countries is a major responsibility of the former colonial powers: Even a hard core imperialist would not dare, today, to air such views in public! Even the commentator of Financial Times who admired him and the elite class of the Soviet Union had lamented on the existing economic relationship between the developed and developing countries: “In a grotesque inversion of all rational economics, the poorer two thirds of the World has steadily reduced its living standards in order to transfer resources to the richer one third. It is perhaps surprising that we in the North while shedding crocodile tears over this phenomenon from time to time have bothered less and less about the third World’. (2) That, precisely, is the situation prevailing in the so called integrated interdependent world of today, as seen even by a bourgeoisie propagandist. But Dr. Abalkin and his ilk have a totally different interpretation of history. These are the very people who are now trying to rewrite the history of Soviet Union on the pretext that what exists today is a grossly distorted version, fabricated by Stalinists!
A good many of such statements made by responsible Soviet leaders like Dr. Abalkin contradicts not only Marxian understanding of history but even the contemporary perceptions of capitalist world. The demands to do away with central planning in Soviet economy, to dismantle the large complex organizations that were built over a period of time, and to leave everything to the market mechanism and competition are typical examples. Theories on price formation under market mechanism have practically nothing to do with the ground realities and this is a widely accepted position today even among capitalist economists. Formation of large conglomerates, business groups and multinational corporations in the capitalist world, is not even a recent phenomenon and they operate under shared monopoly conditions. Even the much trumpeted experiments of Thatcher with large scale privatization in the name of promoting competition and vigor in the British economy have already lost their charm.
In the meanwhile global corporations of the capitalist world seems to be moving more and more away from market competition to what they call as strategic alliance: ‘ Kenichi Ohame, the author of ‘The mind of the strategist’, in his Harvard Business Review article on ‘The global Logic of Strategic Alliance” argues that, in a changeable world of rapidly globalizing markets and industries, a world of converging consumer tastes, rapidly spreading technology, escalating fixed costs and growing protectionism, alliance is an essential tool for serving customers. According to him, globalization mandates alliance and makes them absolutely essential to strategy. According to Jet Magsaysay, the executive editor of World Executive’s Digest, as the business environment, both locally and internationally, becomes increasingly competitive; companies will have more reason and will find more ways to form strategic alliances. As that happens, strategic alliances will not only be a logical alternative but a key to survival in business. Management experts predict that in the not-too-distant future, alliances will be a necessity not only for individual companies but also for orderly development of entire industries and those companies in mature, slow-growth industries will increasingly look to strategic alliances for survival.” (4).
The Corporate business strategies likely to be followed by the West in the nineties are obvious from the above observations by the leading consultants of global corporations. The rapid development of cheap information processing and transmission capabilities thanks to the microelectronics revolution is being extensively made use of by corporate capitalism in order to simplify organizational methods and at the same time to strengthen their muscle power. To quote again Peter Drucker from his paper on corporate perspectives for the nineties: ‘Business will undergo more, and more radical, restructuring in the 1990s than at any time since the modern corporate organization first evolved in the 1920s. Only five years ago it was treated as sensational news when I pointed out that the information-based organization needs far fewer levels of management than the traditional command and control model. By now a great many, may be most, large American companies have cut management levels by one-third or more. But the restructuring of corporations, middle-sized ones as well as large ones, and, eventually, even smaller ones; has barely begun.” (1)
In fact at one point of time the Harvard Management experts were apprehensive that the Soviet Union’s enormous planning and organizational experience, if coupled with the new information technology, will be a formidable threat for the capitalist World. But present day Soviet economists, who are in power, are more keen to dismember and dismantle the large public sector organizations, in order to overcome the difficulties with the unwieldy command structures, rather than seeking technological solutions which are feasible and being implemented by corporate capitalism.
How could the elite classes and the intelligentsia of the Soviet Union who pose themselves as radicals and progressives and commended upon by many Western political analysts as the only hope for that country be so backward in their economic theories, political thinking and views on history? One need not even question the relevance of glasnost and perestroika in the present situation but, the lack of seriousness with which reform proposals are put up and debated today raises genuine doubts about the quality of the present leadership of Soviet party and government.
While reporting on the three day conference in November at Moscow, where Dr.Abalkin presented his long term perspectives for the restructuring of Soviet economy, Quentin Peel another Financial Times analyst quoted the words of a Soviet factory worker: “We began to go wrong in the Soviet Union with Khrushchev, when we started to introduce elements of capitalism into communism. The two systems cannot mix. We must go back to the 1950s.” (5) Peel’s assessment was that these words reflected the gut reaction of many in the audience. More than 700 economists, 500 factory and farm managers and selected members of the public, according to the analyst more than 1400 of the best brains in the Soviet Union, participated in this conference. The corner stone of the proposed reforms was fundamental changes in property relations. The program was rightly commented on by the analyst as a program for social democracy, and according to him the tenor of the debate was “powerful pressure from the conservatives (i.e. anti-reformists)’ Dr.Ed. Hewitt a leading US specialist on Soviet economy
reportedly commented after the first day of the debate: “Western economists know how to manage a market economy. They do not know how to create it from the scratch. That is what they are trying to do here”.
The claim that Western economists know how to manage a market economy may sound a little hollow, judging from the way they grapple with the never ending crisis in world capitalism. But Dr.Hewitt was outright honest when he stated that they will not be in a position to help Dr.Abalkin, and that his plans for building, in the Soviet Union, a market economy from the scratch were beyond their comprehension. The sophisticated reaction of this US expert is not much different in essence from the blunt words of the Soviet factory worker, “that capitalism and communism just cannot mix. But Dr.Abalkin who is described by Peel “as the first true member of the intelligentsia in the Government” as well as his colleagues have different views and they are pressurizing the Soviet people to accept their reform proposals.
There are any numbers of reports indicating that reforms aimed at fundamental changes in property relationships are being resented by the vast majority of Soviet people, not necessarily through the mass media but on the ground, whenever such reforms are implemented piecemeal on an experimental basis. Reform enthusiasts blame the workers for this, calling them lazy indifferent people, insensitive to the needs of society. The Supreme Soviet in its sitting in mid-December has, in the meanwhile, decided that the reforms on the lines of Dr.Abalkin’s proposals will be implemented only after three years, starting from 1993, as the second stage of an overall reform package placed before it by the Prime Minister Ryzhkov.
How is that Dr.Abalkin, the true representative of the intelligentsia in Soviet Government is in a position to push on with such reform plans, judged as basically unsound even by Western experts, in spite of the widespread reservations and resentment expressed by the Soviet people? The assessment of the Soviet factory worker that, ‘we began to go wrong in the Soviet Union with Khrushchev” provides once again a clue to the genesis and character of the present reform movement. Edward Mortimen the western commentator describes the rise in the role of the intelligentsia or the elite who is heading the perestroika movement in Soviet Union: “The elite gradually found its voice as the repression deployed to keep it in the line softened, from the extremes of barbarism under Stalin to the still disgusting but limited unpleasantness of Brezhnev. The foremost member and shining symbol of it was of course, Andrei Sakharov. A carrier like his would have been unthinkable in Stalin’s time”. (2)
Equating the rule of the dictatorship of the proletariat with barbarism is not a new interpretation from Western Commentators and it is as old as the October Revolution itself; there might have been excesses under Stalin not only against intellectuals but also against other human beings, typical of revolutionary situations. But to say that the intelligentsia could not find its voice due to Stalinist repression, no doubt is a gross exaggeration. Does it not imply that Stalin and the working class party built up a Soviet State to the status of a super power, single handed and without the help of the intelligentsia?
The truth is that the finest among the intelligentsia and the vast majority of the scientists, engineers, economists and planners, inspired by the visions of a new society cooperated with Stalin and the working class party to build up the first proletarian State under the most hostile circumstances of conspiracies and sabotages organized by world capitalism. It is true that a small minority of egoistic intellectuals represented by Trotsky and others were not permitted to dominate the party. Their views and alternatives regarding building up a new socialist economy were debated for several years within the party and ultimately rejected by the working class. These are all part of recorded history.
But the situation began to change since Khrushchev’s reforms when the CPSU started transforming itself from a working class party to a party of the whole peop1e. Material incentives were given undue importance and radical changes were introduced in the management of economy. True, the problems of managing and coordinating a rapidly diversifying Soviet economy was getting more and more complex. Discussing on the management problems of the Soviet economy Brezhnev had stated in his report to the 26th Congress of the CPSU in 1981: “Different variants and different schemes, as you know have been tried out. A great deal of diversified experience has been accumulated. The experience makes it clear that the quest, it seems, is towards greater independence of the amalgamations and enterprises and greater powers and responsibility of economic managers”.
Granting greater and greater independence and autonomy for the enterprises without the matching information feed back to central planning authorities was sure recipe for undermining the planning process. Enterprises and their managers were becoming more and more autonomous but less and less accountable. Economic managers were growing more and more powerful and independent, many of them becoming corrupt, some even millionaires and capable of buying up trade union and party functionaries. Checks and balances provided by working class democracy through the primary party bodies were getting weakened. Brezhnev lamented in his report to 26th Congress: “Primary Party organizations are vested with the right to control the work of managements. It is important that they exercise this right to a larger extent and in the best way possible. Whether it is a matter of personnel, the fulfillment of economic plans, or the improvement of people’s working and living conditions, the Party organizations should adopt a principled stand and not take their cue from the management when the latter is wrong. In short, they should firmly implement the Party line.”
A careful reading of the reports to successive congresses of CPSU by its general Secretaries will reveal this increasing weakness of the party organization at various levels to assert itself on questions of economic management. This has in turn led to the rule of bureaucrats and managers. A situation where economic enterprises were managed more like capitalist enterprises, offering material incentives to the workers with very little participation or control by the organized working class and the trade unions was emerging gradually but steadily.
Gorbachev in his report to the 27th Congress had stated: “In our country, the trade unions are the largest mass organization. On the whole, they do a lot to satisfy the requirements of factory and office workers and collective farmers, to promote emulation, tighten discipline and heighten labor productivity. Still trade union committees are in many cases lacking in militancy and resolve when it comes to defending the working people’s legitimate interests, ensuing labor protection and safety, and constructing and running health-building, sports and cultural facilities. Understandably such passivity suits those managers for whom production sometimes obscures the people. The trade unions, however, should always give priority to social policy objectives, to promoting the working people’s interests. Properly speaking, this is the basic purpose of their activity. The all union Central Council of Trade Unions and other trade union bodies enjoy extensive rights and control considerable funds, both the state’s and their own. It is up to them, therefore, to make extensive and confident use of them, instead of waiting for somebody else to fulfill the tasks they are charged with”
In order to strengthen the party and to enable it to play the due leadership role more effectively several steps were being taken. The decisions taken in this direction by the 25th Congress as well as the outcome of their implementation were reported by Brezhnev in his report to the 26th Congress: “In accordance with the instructions of the 25th Congress, many specialists working in the economy were assigned to party work. At present three out of every four secretaries of the Central Committees of the Communist Parties of the Union republics and of territorial and regional committees and two out of every three secretaries of city and district Party Committees have a technical, economic or agricultural education. This is gratifying. But it must be taken into account that a segment of the specialists who have come into the Party apparatus from industry do not have sufficient political experience and in some cases, bring economic management methods into Party organs.”
Brezhnev further criticized the lack of political training and experience of the comrades “appointed to party executive” work and emphasized the “need for their seasoning in the thick of working masses”. It is not possible to ascertain how and to what extent politicalisation and ideological training of the experts and managers assigned to party leading bodies as is visualized by Brezhnev in 1981 could be accomplished. In Gorbachev’s report to the next Congress in 1986 there is no specific mention in this regard. However he had more or less indicated the persistence of this shortcoming in the functioning of the party, as well as the Government.
Whether the specialists in the economy who were assigned to party work at the leading bodies of the party have adequate political and ideological background or not is no doubt a very important question. But the fact to be noted here is that the specialists and managers were being given a free hand in running economic enterprises in the name of autonomy and efficiency and at the same time they were being increasingly assigned key positions in the party, It is one thing to respect intellectuals and their knowledge and to provide them with the best of living conditions but, it is another thing to permit their hegemony over the party.
It was erroneous to believe that class contradictions had ceased to exist in the Soviet society and that the specialists and managers will not have their own class interests. The specialists, the managers and the academics or the intelligentsia as they are referred to generally in the Soviet Union have their common views and perceptions about life which are conditioned by objective realities, both internal and external to Soviet Society. They have their group interests and group aspirations which were sure to assert themselves on the society and the party as sectarian class interests, unless contained politically and ideologically. This basic Marxian understanding was overlooked when Khrushchev’s reforms gradually changed the CPSU from a working class party to a party of the whole Soviet people’.
Members of professional classes or the intelligentsia have been joining the CPSU in larger numbers; party members having post graduate or doctoral degrees increased by 14 times during the period l950 to 1983. Brezhnev in his report to the 26th Congress had noted with some satisfaction: “the influx of Soviet intelligentsia to the party continued during the reporting period”. The quota system for membership was abolished recently and reports for the period 1986- 88 indicate that more and more members of the intelligentsia have been joining the party ever since the current reforms started. However more than the absolute or relative strength of the intelligentsia in terms of numbers it is the preeminent position they have come to enjoy, not only in economic life but also in the political life of Soviet Union which has made the qualitative difference since Khrushchev’s reforms.
It is necessary to understand the perceptions, the aspirations and the social background of the intelligentsia as a class in order to appraise their role in present day Soviet society. They are the elite, the better educated and the chief custodians of knowledge and expertise generated over the years by Soviet Society. Under socialism, all assets, tangible or intangible, material or intellectual, created through the process of social production stand transferred to the society. But the perception of intelligentsia is that the wealth of expertise they possess were partly inherited and partly acquired by them in their individual, capacity. They consider these as their personal property. Under capitalist relations of production owner of any property physical or intellectual (the latter is getting more and more importance today in the capitalist world) are entitled for rent or royalty, which in essence means profits or a claim for a larger share in social production. There are no upper limits for incomes from property under capitalism but wage incomes are restricted through the mechanism of labor market and a minimum of unemployment. Unlike under socialism, where growth and development are based on social consensus, income differentials in favor of property owners are the motive force for economic growth under capitalism; higher the differential higher is the propensity for growth.
Intelligentsia of Soviet Union who consider themselves as the owners of substantial, intellectual property look at their counterparts in capitalist world—the corporate managers of industry and commerce or the top bureaucrats in Government and draw up comparisons that are quite unpleasant for themselves. Their counterparts in corporate capitalism possess vast expensive villas, frequent the most expensive of clubs, pick up choicest luxuries from exclusive shops, enjoy holidays on the best of beaches with the very best of company, have all the freedom, the freedom of the modern jet-set, and above all the freedom for lording over their fellow citizens with the right to ‘hire and fire’. After enjoying all the wonderful hospitalities offered by his counterparts in a capitalist country during a brief visit there, a Soviet manager as he returns home, looks at his own country as extremely backward, uncivilized and even barbarian and considers himself a “prisoner of working class democracy!’
Russian intelligentsia at the time of the October Revolution was a mixed lot. A small minority had allied itself with the working class, in overthrowing the autocracy of Czar. After the revolution, a large number immigrated to capitalist countries, declaring Bolshevism as a barbarian political ideology. Possibly a sizable minority stayed with the Bolsheviks, inspired by patriotism and idealism. But even they had a tough time in reconciling with the rigors of proletarian dictatorship. But it must be said to the credit of the Bolshevik party that the finest elements among the intelligentsia could be won over to the side of the revolution and they cooperated with the working class not only in building up the first socialist state, practically out of nowhere but also in the upbringing of a new generation of brain workers from the ranks of the working class. The Second World War generated intense patriotic sentiments, which continued unabated during the early periods of the cold war as well.
The absence of fear for tomorrow and the extensive of social security provided by the socialist system had created the best of conditions for the blooming of a creative intelligentsia in the Soviet Union. In fact Soviet society produced many more outstanding scientists, engineers, economists, artists and athletes than any of the capitalist countries including the USA. But international capitalism could offer them much higher prices than Soviet socialism. A few decades were long enough for the Soviet intelligentsia to distance itself from the idealism and patriotism of the proletarian revolution. Its perceptions and aspirations underwent a sea change; it began to see world capitalism as its natural ally and full of opportunities.
In the name of democratization and de-Stalinization the concepts of proletarian internationalism and proletarian dictatorship were abandoned. Independent political initiative of the working class which was the main-stay of the power structure in the Soviet Union got weakened by the over-emphasis on material incentives and autonomy for the economic managers. We have seen that even the management of the CPSU was being taken over by specialists and academics at various levels. Top leadership of the party being surrounded by the elite classes was getting more and more isolated from the working class and the people but, continued to exercise its power and authority drawing heavily on the capital of past glory and prestige of a revolutionary party.
Economic managers who were positioned as party functionaries paid obeisance to the top leadership and the political power structure started assuming a feudal character. No more was it necessary for them to win over the hearts and minds of the working people and democracy was the worst casualty. Brezhnev’s period was characterized as ‘the period of stagnation’ and by the time of 27th Congress the working class and the entire people were convinced that changes were inevitable.
Glasnost and Perestroika in their essence had meant correcting the earlier deviations by ensuring the broadest possible participation of the working people in the management of society. Documents of the 27th Congress as well as other official documents of the party regarding reforms had visualized the re-invigoration of the class and mass organizations as well as the primary party organizations on Leninist principles as the practical program for the deepening of democracy and for helping Perestroika. It was visualized that the initiative for the reforms will be taken by the party and implemented with the help of trade unions and other public organizations. But this did not happen.
The experience of two years of reform movement is summarized by Onikov, a CPSU central committee official, in an interview (6): “Democratization has brought all strata of Soviet society into motion, creating an atmosphere of activity, innovation and a drive for eliminating shortcomings. In the absence of democratic traditions and relevant experience these unquestionably sound manifestations of democracy have been spontaneous and unorganized. Far from all party organizations and Communists have been prepared to head and encourage this social breakthrough. When unsound tendencies appear, party members do not always notice them in time and cannot counter and neutralize them. This was alarmingly in evidence during events we are not accustomed to: meetings, strikes, riots, or demonstrations in different regions of the country. Rank and file Communists could not decide how to react to them. They remained passive as usual, waiting for instructions from above.”
Party apparatus was naturally handicapped to lead the reforms because the intelligentsia who were on the vanguard of the reform movement were also dominating the party leadership at various levels. They were already alienated from the masses as well as rank and file party workers and naturally they could not inspire the working class and their organizations. But the members of the intelligentsia who were holding leading positions within the party and the Soviet economy could easily rally themselves together and enlist the support of the non-party intellectuals and the anti-party elements in Soviet society, who were seeing the reforms as an opportunity to work towards their sectarian objectives. An informal pressure group led by the intelligentsia calling themselves ‘radicals’, having powerful influence over the party and the Government came into existence. The initiative for the reforms fell into the hands of this pressure group and every single reform measures suggested and discussed today in the Soviet Union are centered on the sectarian interests of the intelligentsia, who considers itself as the natural leaders of the Soviet society and the owners of its intellectual property.
The first and foremost step of this group was to hijack the media and use it extensively for ideological subversion about which Gorbachev himself had given a clear warning in his report to the 27th Congress: “ The insidiousness and unscrupulousness of bourgeois propagandists must be countered with a high standard of professionalism on the part of our ideological workers, by the morality and culture of socialist society, by the openness of information, and by the incisive and creative character of our propaganda. We must be on the offensive in exposing ideological subversion and in bringing home truthful information about the actual achievements of socialism about the socialist way of life.”
In their antisocialist and anti-Soviet propaganda, making full use the extensive Soviet mass media, the radicals have even outdone their counterparts in the imperialist world and the indications are that the Soviet people are fed up with this today. But, what is strange is that the perpetrators of this slanderous propaganda continue to hold key positions in Soviet party and Soviet Government in spite of the resentment expressed by the vast majority of Soviet people.
The radicals pose themselves as the champions of truth and democracy. But they have no qualms about spreading falsehood and even scandals. According to them, Stalin was the worst of all dictators, and in his time inner party democracy was unheard of. Brezhnev’s period is characterized only as ‘the period of stagnation’. The fact that democracy was at its worst during Brezhnev’s time and at its best during Stalin’s time when working class democracy was the guiding principle is often pushed under the carpet by the radicals but, is evident from an unintentional testimony by Onikov (6): “During the long period of stagnation, especially in its last years, its democratic value was reduced to naught, and turned into a hollow formality, the like of which was not even seen in Stalin’s time. By way of illustration let us take such a strong party organization as that of Moscow; up to 1940 there was not a single case at dozens of its conferences of a nominee for full or candidate membership of the regional or city party committee or the being elected unanimously. It was a common practice then, especially in the 1920s, that some of the candidates proposed were not elected. The first case when all candidates for full and candidate membership of the regional committee and the auditing commission were elected unanimously were recorded in 1974. Not a single candidate on the voting list was voted down in 1976 the same happened at the city party conference.”
It is necessary to remember that during Brezhnev’s time especially in his later years the specialists, the managers and the academics were holding the key positions in the party. Democracy and freedom professed by the radicals and practiced in the reform movement, today, in the Soviet Union are meant only for the intelligentsia, “the owners of intellectual property” and not for the working masses. This is even more evident from the proposals for economic reform drafted by Dr. Abalkin, referred to earlier. The corner stone of the reforms is changes in the property relations; or the freedom for different forms of property; public, cooperative and private to compete among themselves. When asked about the participation of working people in the management of the economy Dr. Abalkin had reacted: (3): “the toiling masses must be full masters of political and social life. The government’s task was to restore socialist content, give to all toilers a say in running the country. This was not a near term prospect but the final goal of perestroika”.
All talks of deepening of democracy on Leninist lines and such sentiments expressed in the revised party program of 1986 sound hollow in the context of the reform proposals put up by the Dy. Prime Minister of Soviet Union. The proposals visualize the creation of a labor market in socialist Soviet Union, denationalization of property and intensive development of foreign economic ties. It is clear that when hundreds of thousands of hectares of farm land are leased out to individuals or private enterprises, or public enterprises are handed over to Joint stock companies, or when new enterprises are set up With imperialist collaboration, it will be the members of the intelligentsia who will be managing them in the capacity of corporate managers or owning them, in the capacity of shareholders. In other words the Soviet Intelligentsia which consider themselves as the owners of intellectual property sees the current reforms as an opportunity for further tightening their strangle hold on the economy as a class, with the help as necessary from their foreign counterparts, the corporate managers of world capitalism. Their sectarian interests even compel them to shed all pretensions of patriotism, to depict the mighty Soviet Union as a ‘developing country’ and to play a subservient role to foreign monopoly capital and imperialism.
The blue print put up by the intelligentsia for the dismantling of the socialist system in Soviet Union has aggravated the nationality question within the Soviet Union. Though the Soviet intelligentsia across the nationalities is united, today, against the broad interests of the Soviet people, they are divided on ethnic lines. Disruption of ethnic harmony had started surfacing ever since the intelligentsia got an upper hand in the economic and political life of Soviet Union. Disruptive tendencies were somewhat dormant even in 1986 when Gorbachev assessed the situation in his report to the 27th Congress: “National oppression and inequality of all, types and forms have been done away with once and for all. The indissoluble friendship among nations and respect for national cultures and for the dignity of all peoples has been established, and has taken firm root in the minds of tens of millions of people. The Soviet people are a qualitatively new social and international community, cemented by the same economic interests, ideology and political goals”.
He warned about certain tendencies that have come up in recent times and emphasized the need to follow Lenin’s teachings: “Our Party’s tradition, traceable to Lenin of being particularly circumspect and tactful in all that concerns the nationalities policy and the interests of every nation or nationality, national feelings, calls at the same time for resolute struggle against national narrow mindedness and arrogance, nationalism and chauvinism, no matter what their guise may be “.
But the Perestroika as it unpackaged itself, intensely aggravated the nationality problem. Fears of the peoples of small nationalities and ethnic minorities about the re-emergence of ‘Russian imperial domination was quite genuine, in the context of reform proposals of the Abalkin type, and they rallied themselves behind the intelligentsia of the corresponding nationalities. The Soviet intelligentsia who had coined the concept of an ‘integrated interdependent world’ in order to morally justify their collaboration with the corporate managers of world capitalism find itself divided, today, on ethnic lines. When the capitalists of various nationalities of Western Europe, after prolonged squabbles and infighting among themselves, are succeeding in the creation of an integrated European Market the reform program of the Soviet intelligentsia is rapidly fragmenting the economy of Soviet Union.
The sectarian interests of the intelligentsia dominate every detail of the ideological package shaped up by the reformists or the radicals who are dishonest to the core. Their way of functioning is totally undemocratic as alleged by several of their own followers, their words and actions do not go together and every one of their theoretical formulations are aimed at politically browbeating the Soviet working class. They talk endlessly on Science and Technology and eulogize on the Scientific-Technological Revolution as if it is a post-Marxian phenomenon (meaning only we, the experts know it; you proletarians do not!). They endlessly sermonize on the fragile nature of environmental and ecological balance of the biosphere (you fools’ you are sure to break it and destroy it!) on the integrated interdependent world (ignorant proletarians, do not meddle with it!), and on the invincibility of an impersonal, omnipotent and mystical market mechanism (only we experts can manage it and not your politics!).
When they talk about freedom and human rights they are only asserting their own right to get a better price in the international market for the intellectual property or special skills they have come to possess while working for the Soviet society. They try to convince the people of Soviet Union that everything has gone wrong during past seven decades because of the politics of the working class and the early years of proletarian dictatorship. They try to depict Stalin as a barbarian and to resurrect Trotsky, whose perspectives for developing Soviet society were in tune with the sectarian aspirations of the intelligentsia of that period. Through every single instances of their words and deeds the ‘radicals’ betray their sectarian ambitions for establishing their hegemony over the working class of the Soviet Union.
Developments in the East European Socialist countries are, as in the past years, more or less in step with those in the Soviet Union, the first Socialist State. These small socialist states, the products of the Second World War, had set up their own economic and political systems after the Soviet Model. However, the possibility of ideology of an international working class movement being used as a cover for ‘Great Russian domination’ over the small socialist states was a widespread apprehension among the peoples of the newly formed socialist countries of Europe. Such fears were, in fact, continuously reinforced by constant imperialist propaganda. The earlier Hungarian and Polish resistance against socialist governments as well as the Yugoslavian defiance of Stalin was rooted on the fear of such “Russian domination”. The newly liberated countries and the national liberation movements of the non-European continents, especially those led by the working class as in China, Korea, Vietnam and Cuba had no such apprehensions and they had seen Soviet Union as a natural ally in their struggle against imperialism.
The economic and military alliance forged by the imperialist countries to contain communism and the so-called Russian expansionism was checkmated by a similar alliance of the European socialist countries led by the Soviet Union. The nonaligned movement of the third world countries was emerging itself as a third force championing the cause of a new world order with strong anti-imperialist sentiments and enjoying the sympathy and support of the socialist alliance. This was the international scenario that unfolded itself towards the final years of Stalin.
The reforms of Khrushchev had initiated a series of changes not only within the Soviet Union, as we have seen earlier, but also in international politics. Revisionist reform of Khrushchev could not get immediate acceptance within Soviet Union because of its long traditions of working class democracy: It suffered serious setbacks and ended up with the removal of Khrushchev himself from power. But the East European Socialist countries were a far more fertile soil for Khrushchev type reforms. Every one of these reforms, with the possible exemption of Albania, started rapidly traveling down the road of the new economic reforms. By 1967, the intelligentsia of Czechoslovakia had already hijacked the working class party and Government in that country and was about to establish their political hegemony over the people. Working class in that country which was supported by the new leadership of Soviet Union could reassert its leadership role once again in that country, at least temporarily.
Despite the change in leadership and removal of Khrushchev, the concept of transforming CPSIJ into a party of the whole people was getting concretized rapidly and as we have already seen, the hold of the intelligentsia over the economic enterprises, the administration and the party was getting more and more strengthened at the expense of working class democracy. The Soviet reform experiments were copied in other socialist countries as well, in varying degrees with the exception of, possibly, Cuba, Vietnam and Korea who were facing direct threats from imperialism. Even the international role of the Soviet Union was being perceived by the party leadership, dominated by the intelligentsia, more as that of a super power of paternal in character, which was distinctly different from the Stalinist traditions of equality and fraternity among nationalities. Thus the reform movement which started in the first socialist country spread to other countries as well, and ultimately led to the disruption of the international working class movement. Under the growing influence of the intelligentsia in party organization and leadership, communist parties all over the world with few exceptions started losing their international perspectives: Euro-communism was a conspicuous example of this trend.
The revolt against the intelligentsia in China in the early sixties, the reassertion of working class democracy which took the form of the “cultural revolution”, the withdrawal of Soviet technical assistance, the charges of social imperialism against Soviet Union and the eventual degeneration of the cultural revolution in to collaboration with the imperialists were all tremors that were triggered by the reform movement in Soviet Union, the first socialist state. The intelligentsia in the party succeeded once again to recapture its leading role in China and to strengthen itself as a class by making use of the economic reforms of the eighties and by exploiting the strong nationalist feelings of Chinese people. But its recent attempts to gain total hegemony over the Chinese people with the help of imperialism were halted at least temporarily.
In Poland as a result of the reformist policies the Communist Party got itself completely isolated from the people and almost the entire working class crossed over to the Solidarity. In Hungary the working class party transformed itself into a bourgeois party, changed not only its name but also that of the republic. One of the first measures adopted by the new Government in Hungary was to ban political activity on the shop floor of the enterprises, and now a new working class party is being organized by the Hungarian Communists. In Czechoslovakia, in Bulgaria and in East Germany with the intelligentsia occupying key positions in politics as well as administration, hijacking of the Communist Party leadership was an extremely simple affair. After capturing the mass media a few massive demonstrations were organized and the party leaderships in these countries changed hands without a whimper.
The working class who lost their organizations overnight was forced to be a mere onlooker when rapid changes were taking place in these countries. There was of course stiff resistance in Rumania but the dissenters had the support of not only the imperialist camp but also of the Soviet Union as well as other socialist neighbors, whose governments had by then changed their class character. The remnants of working class democracy still existing in spite of several years of reformist movement in the East European socialist countries was overcome with ease, at least temporarily, by the joint efforts; of the corporate managers of socialism in these countries and the Soviet Union with the active support of the imperialist powers. The increasing resistance from the working class in Soviet Union would have prompted the ‘radicals’ of that country to intervene in the East European countries without delay and to pull down the existing governments there. This was necessary for the radicals of the Soviet Union in order to consolidate their shaky position in their own country.
Bourgeoisie ideologues sum up the emerging international situation with obvious satisfaction: ‘corporate socialism’ and “corporate capitalism have confluenced to the pursuit of a ‘Common European Home’ and the specter of communism and class struggle were exorcised from Europe. “End of history” – that was how Francis Fukuyama, the deputy director of U.S. departments policy staff, titled his thesis on the developments in socialist countries. In his view, Marxian interpretation of history in terms of class struggles and conflicts, has become irrelevant and the present epoch represents the ultimate, the inevitable and irreversible victory of liberal capitalism over all other political ideologies including fascism and communism. According to him man’s ideological evolution has come to an end and hereafter, it will be only an endless pursuit of technology.
Fukuyama’s thesis published in last summer and sold out in matter of minutes had prophesied: “The passing of Marxism-Leninism first from China and then from the Soviet Union will mean its death as a living ideology of world historical significance. For while there may be some isolated true believers left in places like Managua, Pyongyang, or Cambridge, Massachusetts, the fact that there is not a single large state in which it is a going concern undermines completely its pretensions to being in the vanguard of human history.”
However just a few weeks after the Fukuyama’s prophesy came in print, events in China unfolded themselves in a totally unexpected manner. In spite of the massive propaganda buildup and active support from imperialist agencies for subversion, China’s political system survived. All sorts of postures from the high pedestals of morality and principles as well as economic sanctions were resorted to in order to pressurize Socialist China. But, on September 29th, celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Chinese revolution Jiang Zemin the new General Secretary of Chinese Communist party declared on unequivocal terms: ‘ Victory in this struggle has further proved that the Chinese people’s choice of the socialist road and the cause of socialist reform being carried out by them under the Leadership of the Chinese Communist Party have become the irreversible tide of history over the entire vast territory of China. No difficulties can stop, and no internal and external hostile forces can shake or alter, the advance and development of socialist China.”
The administration of USA had to send its former President Nixon to patch up with the Chinese people; all other imperialist countries had to follow the US example one by one. Fukuyama along with many other bourgeoisie ideologues’ dreams that with the death of Marxian ideology and the collapse of the socialist system, all the resistance against ‘common marketization of the world’ under the hegemony of the corporate managers of world capitalism could be easily overcome’. Of course they are not idle dreamers, Peter Drucker sums up the business strategy of the nineties for the global managers:(l): “Business tomorrow will follow two new rules, One: to move work to where the people are, rather than people to where the work is. Two: to farm out activities that does not offer opportunities for advancements into fairly senior management and professional positions (e.g. clerical work, maintenance, the ‘Back office’ in the brokerage house, the drafting room in the large architectural firm, the medical lab in the hospital) to an outside contractor. The corporation, in stock market jargon, will be unbundled.”
Unbundling of the activities of global corporations and subcontracting out across the globe and thereby maneuvering the global labor market in order to reduce labor costs will thus be a major strategy to be followed by corporate capitalism. Realignment among the global corporations through strategic alliances and avoiding competition in order to optimize profits and to ensure a proper mix of long term and short term profits are the other components, as we have seen earlier, of the broad business strategy to be followed by corporate capitalism during the nineties. Peter Drucker, quoting the findings of Prof. Michael C. Johnson of Harvard University, states that “large business houses, especially in the USA are rapidly going private’ and sum up the trend: “They (the global corporations) are putting themselves under the control of a small number of large share holders; and in such a way that their holders’ self interest lies in building “long-term value rather than reaping immediate stock exchange gains.”
All, these years the apologists of capitalism have been finding fault with Marx for his failure to see the possibility of democratic capitalism; that is corporate capitalism with extensively distributed shareholdings among the public, including workers. Corporate theoreticians are singing a different tune, now: “In order to ensure long term benefits for the society and to reduce costs, a global production system should be perfected with the help of strategic alliances of global corporations which should be owned and managed by a tiny but highly responsible group of shareholders and corporate managers!”
Whatever be the social benefits predicted by these theoreticians under the new dispensation, it is proof for the inevitability under capitalism of a small minority coming to own and control the means of production at a global level as predicted by Marx. Even when historical developments are vindicating Marx, bourgeoisie ideologues keep shouting from the housetops on the premature death of Marxism!
It is and it has been, all these years, a habit with bourgeoisie ideologues to declare Marxism as irrelevant and outdated. When the corporate managers of world capitalism are giving finishing touches to a global production system under their hegemony towards the end of the twentieth century their denunciation of Marxism of the nineteenth century as old and outdated may very well look justified. But some 150 years ago, the Communist Manifesto had observed: “The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication draws all, even the most barbarian nations to civilization. The cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction; to adopt the bourgeois mode of productions it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e. to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image1’.
A global production system under the hegemony of capitalists as visualized by Marx and Engeles had not come into vogue in 1827, when they drafted the Communist Manifesto. Even the bourgeois of Europe who were indulging in wars and destruction could not imagine that they were slowly but steadily working toward perfecting of a global production machine of massive proportions. In those days it was only a tendency which Marx and Engels took notice of and made their brilliant prediction of an emerging global bourgeoisie and as its antithesis an international working class.
The dreams of a global production system and highly diversified commodity and labor market at the global level but, integrated under the hegemony of a tiny group of shareholders and corporate managers in the developed capitalist countries are now slowly emerging toward the end of the twentieth century. According to the visions of the bourgeoisie the millions over millions of proletarians of different trades and vocations and of different nationalities who will be a mere appendage of the global production system will, be politically and spiritually satisfied with the magic band of “social democracy” controlled by a tiny minority of global property owners and operated through the mechanism of market, public legislation and routine administration of justice. Mortimer the Financial Times Analyst models up the attitude of the modern proletariat to such a global system in the backdrop of Soviet experience (2): “Communism was an attempt at an historical short cut, adopted by relatively small groups of intellectuals and class-conscious workers in countries in the early stages of industrialization. A fully-formed industrial working class tends to prefer some form of social democracy, while the atomized ‘Post-Fordist” workers of today when strictly industrial jobs require a high level of education and relatively unskilled jobs are to be found mainly in the service sector; may turn out not to be interested in socialism of any sort.”
In effect an Orwellian model of society wherein a small minority equipped with an all powerful modern mass media forces down its political hegemony over the “proles’ who are not concerned about politics is the bourgeois vision for the future of mankind. A sizeable minority among the managers, the academics and the intelligentsia in Soviet Union and other European Socialist countries may have their own dreams about playing an equal, but more likely a subsidiary role, in the global production system, now visualized by the corporate managers of world capitalism. But how far the working class of these countries, especially that of the Soviet Union, with its long traditions of proletarian democracy, will be prepared to compromise their freedom and political privileges for the sake of ‘Social. Democracy’ is something that history will reveal itself. But as we have seen earlier, indications are that there is strong resistance in Soviet Union from the working class against the content and the direction that Perestroika has assumed under the leadership of the radicals.
A recent opinion survey conducted by a Soviet Sociological Research Institute revealed that the vast majority of Muscovites, who had given Yeltsin a massive mandate to the Supreme Soviet, were opposed to the interpretations given by the radicals to Perestroika. They were against changes in property relations and large income inequalities, for social equity and justice, for strengthening of the socialist system within Soviet Union and for strengthening the economic ties with in the socialist world. The authors of this study, published in the Soviet periodical ‘Twentieth Century and Peace’ after seeing that hardly 17 per cent of the Muscovites had supported their interpretation of Perestroika had lamented; ‘ After all how many for genuine perestroika?”. The situation is rapidly changing in the Soviet Union and the working class has started asserting itself in order to defend the gains of socialism; even the attitudes and perceptions of the intelligentsia are slowly changing as was evident from the recent conference which discussed Dr.Abalkin’s proposals for economic reforms.
The reform movement which started long back in Poland and Hungary after having failed to bring in any major structural changes in the economy is now trying to take satisfaction by changing the name of republic or the party. Injecting “elements of capitalism into socialism” is proving itself to be an uphill task and also a messy one. It appears that the confusion and chaos created by the reforms could be resolved only by parceling out vast segments of their national economies and their taking over by foreign capitalist corporations. The possibility of such maneuvers and their success will be decided by the attitude and mood of the working class in these countries which though somewhat indifferent today under the conditions of ideological confusion created by the bourgeoisie and lack of organization, should not be taken for granted.
It is to be noted that even the attitude and perceptions of the working class in the imperialist countries under “social democracy” are rapidly changing today. Apart from the problems of persistent unemployment and deteriorating social welfare schemes, new types of threats and tensions are being created as the corporate managers of world capitalism are giving finishing touches to the global production system. Their plans for strategic alliances among global corporations are naturally aimed at the proletariats of different countries who could be easily browbeaten and played against each other by the global managers through the clever manipulations of a global labor market. Business activities of a global corporation could be ‘unbundled’ and palmed out to be sub-contracted across national boundaries to its own subsidiaries or to other global corporations in order to overcome labor resistance in a particular country or region.
A fragmented proletariat or “the atomized Post-Fordist workers” as referred to by the consultants of global business are proving to be more and more powerless today in the hands of a few corporate managers armed with an all powerful global information system. The possibilities for instant closures or retrenchments as well as instant switching of production activities across the globe to any or several locations without loss of business and profits are becoming a near term possibility with the rapid progress in data processing capabilities and expansion of global communication system. The global managers of USA are already resorting to such maneuvers in order to browbeat the American trade unions. The Vice President of the AFLCIO reacted with bitterness: “These Sons of the bitches’’ has to be taught a lesson through solidarity action by the international working class. The trade unions of USA as well as other imperialist countries are becoming increasingly conscious about the need for the international unity of working class.
Capitalist system can sustain itself and survive only if it keeps on expanding; stagnation means crisis and collapse. The worlds as we live have its limits, but because of its inner contradictions, capitalism is not able to reach anywhere near these limits. The only incentive for expansion of capitalist system is private profit or personal greed. The rich getting richer and poor getting poorer need not be in absolute terms but certainly in relative terms is an absolute law that governs capitalism.
The imperialist countries of today or the ‘North’ as they call themselves were the early starters on the capitalist path. The rich in the North has by now become fabulously rich and the working people there enjoy far better living conditions compared to their counterparts in the South i.e. the developing countries. The gap between the North and the South keep on widening day after day and this will be so, so long as relations between the two continue on capitalist lines. The North keeps on pushing the South into a deeper and deeper debt trap.
The North just cannot accept the South on equal terms. It means redeeming the South of its massive debts and the wealth amassed by the rich of the North. That is an instant recipe for crisis and collapse of the system. The South on its own cannot accept unequal terms. But the ruling classes of the South have compromised themselves to be junior partners of the rich monopolists of the North but, the revolt of its people is gaining strength day after day.
The imperialists would like to bulldoze their way and they had been doing it but, the socialist camp was a deterrent, all these years. With or without the support of the socialist camp the South will rally themselves around and resist such moves, the recent response to the Panama incident is only an indicator. Even if the North succeeds in bulldozing, that is no solution to the crisis in capitalism because it means getting back to the centuries old colonial regimes. North cannot extricate and isolate itself from the South because that will mean foregoing its claims on the debtors, crisis and collapse of the capitalist system, and tacit transition to planned economy, socialism or communism. That also means demise of the capitalist system even before it has reached the limits of the world that we live in.
There is no solution under the framework of capitalism for the problems faced by the ‘integrated interdependent world’ of today. Capitalism cannot further expand and come out of its crisis by continuing on the path of extensive growth as seen by the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Its days are numbered; the bourgeois and the global managers of corporate capitalism are on their last wicket.
Extensive growth of capitalism not being possible any more and blocked by the North-South polarization of the world, the bourgeoisie is now fine-tuning the global production machine under its hegemony for intensifying exploitation in order to avoid a crisis and collapse of the system. Smaller and smaller groups of shareholders owning bigger and bigger global corporations and strategic alliances among them in order to maneuver the international labor market are, as we have seen, the grand strategies now being finalized by the global managers of corporate capitalism. All such maneuvers by the rich in the North are intended for the intensive exploitation of the working class of the North and then the South as a whole but will help the imperialists and the monopolists only to delay their ultimate downfall.
The working class and the trade unions of USA and other imperialist countries are becoming increasingly aware of such maneuvers of global managers. The people of the South in general and the working class in particular are becoming increasingly conscious about the designs of the imperialists and the monopolists.
It is true, reaction has struck the Socialist Europe and the ruling elites there, are conspiring with the global managers of corporate capitalism to hijack their countries to the imperialist camp. But the working classes of these socialist countries will ultimately assert itself, throw out the reactionary elite classes from power and show them their place in history. How quickly and how thoroughly they will do this job entirely depend on the level of understanding and consciousness of the international movement of the working class.
“Working men of all countries unite!” The call of the communist manifesto is even more relevant today than it was someone and a half century ago.
References and Notes