Socialism Is Necessary,
Socialism Is Possible,
Socialism Is Irresistible
(Based on remarks made at a seminar in Hyderabad on 6 January 2003. The subject of the seminar was “Socialism of the future/the future of socialism” and it was organised jointly by the All India Federation of Trade Unions, Centre for the Study of Developiong Societies and Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam)
Whether we discuss the future of socialism or socialism of the future, we now have more than eighty five years of experience with building socialism. From this vantage point of history we can survey the debris of what used to be the Soviet Union till recently, we can study the experiment that is going on in China and a number of other countries in an admittedly adverse environment. Naturally we have strong opinions as to what socialism should be like in different respects. The inadequacies and imperfections of past and present socialism prompt us to dream of a perfect socialism in future. We want socialism to be totally different from capitalism, we want it to look and feel totally different.
But we would do well to remember Marx’s caution that socialism can only be constructed in a historically given situation and emerging from the womb of capitalism, socialism cannot but carry all the birthmarks of capitalism. A lot of social, economic and cultural details that we often discuss, the high degree of decentralisation that we want to see in socialism, may well be perfectly compatible with the vision of communism. Indeed it is communism and not socialism which really constitutes the negation of capitalism.
It is communism which envisions a classless society in which the state can only wither away and decentralisation reign supreme, in which the differences between the city and the countryside disappear, labour finally overcomes its dehumanising and alienating capitalist context and mental and manual work finally loses all distinction to merge into an integrated, glorious and profoundly satisfying celebration of human creativity.
The whole concept of socialism arose on the basis of the realisation that the journey from capitalism to communism could only progress through a period of transition. This transition was theorised as socialism. So even in theory, socialism is a compromise, it is an approximation, it is quite imperfect. Quite early on in the battle for socialism, Marx and Engels realised the importance of making a clear distinction between utopian and scientific socialism. The word scientific is bound to raise many eyebrows in the present era when words like science and truth are viewed with considerable suspicion. But even after stressing all the differences between natural science that can be verified in a laboratory and social science that can never be as exact, it is important to separate myth from reality, fact from fiction, and grasp socialism as something real and practical as opposed to something that is only imaginary and absurdly romantic.
Making a distinction between utopian and scientific socialism was however not enough. It turned out that history had many more surprises in store and that the first break came in backward Russia and not in advanced Europe. It was nobody’s case that socialism could be better constructed in a single country and on a backward social, economic and political foundation, but that’s how it happened in history. As revolutionaries we can only make the most of a chance that comes our way in history. We must grab it with both hands for in history we do not have the luxury of rejecting a chance simply because it does not conform to the pre-determined parameters and standards of our theory.
The debate however still continues and the collapse of the Soviet experiment has only refuelled it. An eminent Marxist like Istvan Meszaros has predicted that the United States might well be the next land to turn socialist and that will really be socialism on a solid technological and political foundation. I wish history were to prove him true. A socialist US will surely be a stunning negation of US imperialism, the most barbaric imperialist power of the world ever since the Sun set on the British Empire and German fascism was overpowered in the Second World War.
But contrary to Meszaros’ belief, the countries that have turned towards socialism since the Russian Revolution of November 1917 have all been backward countries of the Third World. In other words, it is socialism which has had to take on the responsibility of freeing the world from feudal and pre-capitalist survivals while capitalism has continued to lay the scientific and technological foundation for its own eventual negation. The banner of socialism in the present day world really stands for extensive growth of productive forces while intensive growth is still happening within the contours of capitalism. It is probably this combination of extensive and intensive growth which will aggravate the inherent contradictions of the capitalist system and eventually push them up to and beyond a point when the capitalist integument is torn asunder and socialism starts cornering capitalism in its traditional strongholds.
As far as the ongoing battle for socialism is concerned, the overall scene today certainly looks far more encouraging than any period in recent past. During the later years of Soviet Union there was an atmosphere of complacency. The more the quality of socialism deteriorated inside the Soviet Union and worldwide Soviet socialism became synonymous with a never-ending and totally unmanageable arms race between two superpowers, the louder became the claims of developed socialism and even transition to communism. The Chinese experiment with socialism is at least not marked by such a crying contrast between theory and practice. Worldwide, the forces of socialism now have a much better understanding of the limitations of the earlier and ongoing experiments with socialist construction. The relentless development of science and technology and the concomitant growth of people’s consciousness are creating stronger possibilities of a more democratic and less bureaucratic socialist order. And now we have a powerful anti-globalisation anti-imperialist anti-war movement providing a vibrant and conducive international environment for the fight for socialism in any part of the world.
As revolutionary communists we can only feel more hopeful and confident. It is not our job to denounce or idealise the socialist attempts going on in other countries. Our job is to prepare for the victory of socialism in India and to make sure that when we get a chance we can prove it in practice that we have learned a lesson or two from the Soviet debacle or the protracted Chinese experiment with socialism.
Socialism is necessary. Socialism is possible. Socialism is irresistible.
Resurrect the Spirit of Telangana to Confront Globalisation on the Indian Soil …
(Address delivered by Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya to the political convention against globalisation organised by seven Left parties in Hyderabad on January 5, 2003)
We have assembled here to hold a political convention against globalisation. A little distance away from the venue of this convention, the first Asian Social Forum is being held on the Nizam College grounds. Does this corroborate the notion that social is social and political is political, and the twain shall never meet? For me, the answer is a big NO. I think more and more of us who are attending either this convention or the ASF or maybe both increasingly realise that the twain must meet. Political devoid of social is plain managerial – managing the crying contradictions of the society and the economy in a way that only reinforces the status quo. Similarly, social divorced from political is bound to remain rather ineffectual – for all its noble intentions sheer social activism can hardly scratch the surface of the existing reality.
The theme of our convention is “against globalisation”. I need not waste any time here discussing what globalisation is and why it should be opposed. Each one of us present here can explain the process and dynamics of globalisation from a number of angles. Each one of us is aware of its disastrous consequences for people who are at the receiving end of this skewed process that reinforces the unevenness of development and accentuates all kinds of disparities. Each one of us can therefore list any number of valid reasons as to why globalisation should be questioned and opposed.
I’ll address myself to the question of how we can put up a more effective resistance to globalisation. Ten years ago, in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, when we began to understand globalisation against the backdrop of IMF-inspired Structural Adjustment Programmes, the view of globalisation that was discussed most widely the world over was primarily economic. Globalisation was analysed primarily in terms of the IMF and the World Bank, and the giants called MNCs. The Dunkel Draft and the transformation of GATT into WTO gave us a new target. The Mexican meltdown and the subsequent Asian currency turmoil acquainted us with the unprecedented volume and volatility of finance capital. In the midst of globalised economic crisis and transnational offensive of big capital many argued that globalisation is weakening and disciplining nation-states, including the most powerful of all states, the United States of America.
But post September 11, we are now more aware than ever before how the talks of globalisation weakening the US – the seat of the most concentrated might of imperialism – have been nothing but wishful thinking. The speculative offensive of finance capital and American mega corporations is fully underwritten by the growing military muscle of Washington. Globalisation means imperialism and imperialism means war. The anti-globalisation campaign must therefore also grow into a powerful anti-imperialist anti-war movement. And this is precisely what is happening in more and more parts of the world. The anti-globalisation forces in India must also strengthen their voice against imperialism and war.
Pitted against the enormous might of the US imperialism and the mega corporations and huge institutions like IMF, WB and WTO, it is natural that we should also look for a powerful global rebuff. It is indeed quite heartening to note the global growth of solidarity and shared resistance. But it will be a folly to believe that globalisation can only be confronted on a global level. No globalisation is conceivable without the active connivance of sundry ‘local’ agents. In fact, it is these local agents who promote and sell globalisation whether by painting it in rosy colours or by invoking the TINA (there is no alternative) factor. Have we not seen successive central governments in India, from the days of Narsimha Rao and Manmohan Singh to the present period of Vajpayee and Jaswant Singh, surpass one another in pushing through pro-globalisation policies? Various state governments are also playing a similar role as active agents of globalisation. Some governments, and the one in Andhra is leading the pack, are doing it quite brazenly; others are doing it in a guarded manner behind some veil or the other. If the World Bank is too discredited, they say they are borrowing from the Asian Development Bank; if the dictates of the WTO cause uproar they present them as the prescription of a ‘hired’ international consultancy firm.
To confront globalisation effectively, we have to take all these local vehicles of globalisation to task. Effective resistance has to be built up here and now. This is precisely what is happening in Latin America. In Andhra too, this has been the logic of struggle. It is issues like cotton growers’ suicides, the visit of Bill Clinton and steep hike in power tariff that ignited powerful mass protests and the Left unity developing in the state is a product of this struggle. We cannot go to Washington to challenge the policies of IMF and World Bank, but we can surely convey a clear message to all our governments that if these policies are not changed, then we will go ahead and change the governments themselves.
We cannot fail to notice the fact that in India predatory globalisation and aggressive communalism have been working and growing in tandem. Cyberabad and Ahmedabad are two sides of the same coin. In fact, Gujarat itself is one of the most advanced laboratories of globalisation in India and now we have incontrovertible evidence to show that the genocide in Gujarat has been hate-funded by MNCs, imperialist lending agencies and the VHP’s own variety and network of globalisation.
Evidently, in India the opposition to globalisation must also go hand in hand with the opposition to the communal fascist offensive of the saffron brigade. But such a convergence is often lacking and we find a disjunction between the two lines of opposition. Globalisation is treated as an economic process and the task of opposing globalisation is often delegated to the trade unions. Comrade Yechuri has spoken about the duality displayed by the working people in opting for the red flag in economic struggles and choosing another flag in the arena of politics. This duality actually starts from above when opposition to aggressive communalism is taken as the sole defining principle of political mobilistaion and opposition to imperialist-globalisation is not stretched to its political conclusion. The result is an anti-communal alliance of various shades of pro-globalisation forces and the opposition to both communalism and globalisation gets diluted in the process. The answer lies in taking consistent opposition to both communalism and globalisation as the key-link in politics, as the irreducible basis of political mobilisation.
This is the basis on which we can have the broadest possible unity of the Left, a glimpse of which we are seeing in Andhra, on a nationwide scale. This is the basis on which we can redefine and strengthen the politics of a third front in the country and check the growing trend towards bipolarity. This is the lesson of our unity and struggle in Andhra.
Hyderabad today is one of the key laboratories of globalisation in India. The result of this globalisation can be best measured in terms of the growing phenomenon of peasants’ suicides in the state. Yesterday, it was the cotton-growers of Warangal, today it is the turn of the groundnut-growers of Anantapur. Time was when Telangana used to vibrate with a different political culture, when the name of Telangana used to evoke the images of a powerful mass revolutionary upsurge. Today once again we need to resurrect that glorious spirit to halt imperialist globalisation in its tracks and give a fitting rebuff to the fascist offensive of the communal forces.
Red Salute to the Immortal Martyrs of Telangana!
Strengthen the Fighting Unity of the Indian Left!
Intensify Global Resistance to Imperialist Globalisation!