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Utopia of Economic Planning

Whatever be the ideological biases, one must applaud heartily what Sumanta Banerjee wrote in his commentary ‘Thirty Years after the Emergency’ (August 4). He has been forthright in pointing out the dismal record in recent years of the Marxist regimes in West Bengal and Kerala. According to him, West Bengal earned “notoriety for appalling disregard of medical facilities in public hospitals and a shocking decline – both in terms of number of students (the rate of dropout at the primary and secondary stages being exceptionally high in the state) and the standard of teaching – in the field of education”. He castigates the communist regimes in both West Bengal and Kerala for the “rot set in of late”, though he finds some consolation in the fact that it is not as bad as Laloo Yadav’s scandals in Bihar. These stark observations are not new to Banerjee as he noted these ethical, economic and political lapses of the communists in his earlier article ‘Assembly Polls 2006: Elections, Jatra Style, in West Bengal’ (March 11, 2006).

He attributes these failures to the communist intellectuals “being bogged down in the economic technicalities of adjusting to the neoliberal growth model, and advising the left governments how to juggle between the compulsions of following that model and the need to minimise the extent of its adverse impact on the common people”. Banerjee should better specify his concept of “an alternative model of economic growth” and “a consistent and principled approach to economic planning” that would achieve the goals that the neoliberal economic policies, according to him, have failed to do. If he means communist planning strategy in its pristine purity, then he should turn his ears to what the foremost and the erudite communist historian Eric Hobsbawm told Jacque Attali, an international banker, in a debate. “...the end of official Marxism of the USSR has liberated Marx from the public identification with Leninism in theory, and with the Leninist regime in practice…the globalised capitalist world that emerged in the 1990s was in some ways uncannily like the world Marx predicted in 1848 in the Communist Manifesto… Paradoxically it was the capitalists who discovered Marx, more than others” (‘New Globalisation Guru’, New Statesman, March 13, 2006).

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