ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Socialism's Reinventive Capacity

I should thank Deena Khatkhate (August 25) for taking note of my articles, and damning me with faint praise! For the sake of argument, let me agree for the moment that the efficient capitalists, more than the inept communists, have presently succeeded in living up to the predictions made by Marx in 1848. This however does not logically lead to the conclusion that “there is no alternative to liberal economic policies and some variants thereof” (pray, what variants – the neoliberal ones?). The failure of the socialist systems (both the Soviet and the Chinese variants) does not invalidate the need for planning a society based on equitable distribution of resources and income, equal opportunities and social justice for all – which the liberal economic policies have failed to deliver so far. Whether one calls it socialism or “mere utopia”, such a model of egalitarianism which adjusts production to the needs of the community, is surely more desirable than the islands of outrageous private wealth which have thrived under liberal economic policies, and stick out like sore thumbs from the sea of public squalor and poverty in our country today. It is necessary, however, to establish this ideal of socialism as a moral concept, taking it beyond the limited objective of establishing a socialist state based on pure centralisation of political and economic power (as happened in the Soviet Union and China). In other words, the concept of equitable distribution of wealth and social justice for all, through democratic participation, should be universally recognised as a fundamental ethical principle, to be put on the same level as certain well-established normative humanitarian values like truth and honesty, sense of right and wrong, so that it becomes a part of the individual’s civilised upbringing.

Coming to Khatkhate’s request to me to specify my concept of “an alternative model of economic growth”, I should leave that task to economists and political scientists, who are better equipped than me to shape its specific contours in collaboration with grassroots activists who are engaged in daily struggles for a better future. I am only trying to convey the widely perceptible sense of public dissatisfaction with the present order and their desperate cry for an alternative model. As an ever-questioning communist, following Marx’s favourite motto De omnibus dubitandum (doubt everything), I have never worshipped “idols” (whether Joan Robinson or other intellectuals who have been quoted in the letter) beseeching them to grant us ready-made models. Instead of returning to Gandhism as a political solution, as some among the septuagenarians of my generation tend to do, I am only trying to look forward – refusing to accept the neoliberal status quo under the TINA (There Is No Alternative) syndrome, and moving beyond the constrictive Stalinist and Maoist models of socialist reconstruction.

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