New Face of Socialism
Felix Padel, email@example.com, Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 12:23 PM
An excellent essay here by Sunil bhai, one of the most outspoken & articulate of India's grassroots activists, with the Samajvadi Jan Parishad [socialist people's forum], a political party whose integrity is respected across the political spectrum
Afloo ji, thanks for sharing this analysis of Sunil. I especially liked the second part of the analysis, where he draws conclusions and ideas for where to go next. I think that in general there is a crisis of ideas on what was traditionally called the "left" and thus, a serious attempt to go beyond the defensive/apologetic ideas that are usually paraded as "alternatives" is welcome.
I have a number of points regarding this article:
(1) Article uses phrases like "Capitalism versus socialism", end of communism, "communist-socialist experiments", which created a question in my mind, is Sunil considering socialism and communism, variations on same time, almost same and with neglible differences? Considering the positions of Lohia, JP and many others, how does this work out? If there are differences what are those? Is it time to go beyond words like "socialism" and "communism" to look at something new that explains better the final conclusions Sunil makes?
(2) The comments linking rise in hunger and malnutrition to capitalism sound a little too convenient. Probably they equally link or have greater links to dictators or other regimes? I would also like some other examples, where "socialism" experiments have led to better societies. The article gives some examples of Cuba and Latin America, but having been to some of them and appreciating what Cuba can achieve in terms of health, I feel such examples gloss over so many other negative aspects, including police control, lack of freedom, lack of expression, lack of choice, etc. Since Sunil clearly indicates preference for democratic society, isn't there some kind of contradiction between the aspirations of small industries, power in local communities, etc. and reality of controlling the society to achieve this?
To imagine that the alternate model can come by free choice of people because of change of mentality, isn't that day-dreaming? Or do we need higher goals, knowing they are not practical?
Countries like Reunion vote that they will prefer to continue as a colony of France rather than be independent. Everybody says the over-consumption life style is bad, but people who have the courage to actually refuse such a life style can be counted. The problem is also that not just rulers but all those "poor" as well, given a chance, would prefer to get better and more comfortable lives.
(3) For better or worse, globalization is part of our lives. Sunil tackles mainly economic globalization, but what about the rest of globalization - culture, society, internet .. and if the dream of "small and local is beautiful" can be realized in some communities, what kind of relationship are they going to have with rest of India and rest of the world? Technology that suits local needs, does not destroy environment and does not require resources, would that only mean going to bullock carts or it would also mean solar powered carts or something else that has still to be invented?
I am sorry for these long comments. It only means that the article did stimulate me into lot of reflections and most of the time, the present political thoughts fails to do that! :-)
Polly Dritsas <firstname.lastname@example.org>to email@example.com
date Fri, Sep 3, 2010 at 10:35 PM
My friend Mr. Dipak Dholakia sent me your article on socialism in the new century. I read it with great interest and want to congratulate you for your work. My English is not good enough to elaborate and I only wish to say that I appreciate the quality of your analysis as well as the new perspectives you propose in reference to what is happening in Latin America but without losing track of the particularities of Indian society. May we speak of "Gandhian socialism"? I wonder what you think of Gandhi's concept of trusteeship as a way to integrate wealth into a socialist economy and allow the rich to take an active part in society instead of having them flee away to some capitalist friendly haven. May I have your permission to translate the article in French for my friends?
Dolly Daftary <firstname.lastname@example.org>to Sunil SJP <email@example.com>
date Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 3:47 AM
Just saw Ashish Kothari's email to you and felt I must give a response, though belated, to your wonderful piece posted on Kafila.
I think so many of your suggestions are concrete that they do give us a way to move forward.
Two or three things- I didn't understand why you said so vehemently that Dalits and women would never agree to a strategy of ruralization. From working with women in tribal eastern Gujarat, I know that urban lifestyle, forced migration, the pollution of cities and their excess is as abhorrent to women as men. Rural women want local prosperity for themselves as much as men do. If women's opposition stems from deep rural gender inequality, I think we need to see this as a challenge for the social transformation (not only economic transformation) of rural areas- and this includes supporting women's leadership in panchayats and women's land rights (for both of which there are formal provisions, and some heartening grassroots actions by groups like the Mahila Swaraj Abhiyan and Anandi in Gujarat.) In other words, both women and Dalits need to be seen as (and made) allies rather than foes. Secondly, Dalit opposition should not be seen as a deterrant either but like th eowmn's question, as a challenge for the social transformation of caste relations in rural areas, which are oppressive for Dalits, even in relatively 'egalitarian' tribal areas. No one should have to live under such a radical form of exclusion and humiliation. Rural industrialization could play a big role in changing Dalits' status, but only if we ensure that the landless (largely Dalit) who work in factories get property rights (shares) in those factories. They must have ownership of the means of produciton like everyone else.
Finally, I like your idea about rural production units but was curious about what kind of an ecological vision we had there- still production-and-consumption centric.
Your article showed you've been thinking about this question for many many years and it was one of the most comprehensive things I have come across in a long time, so thank you for it. There was much in it that was new and so apt for our times. Let's continue the dialogue.
My best to you, your family and SJP.
Ashish Kothari <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Apologies for the late response. Your article is perceptive and important. I largely agree with your prescriptions for an alternative to today's capitalism/state socialism/'development' paths, which are ecologically and socially destructive. Interestingly, a colleague Aseem Shrivastava and I have just submitted a manuscript of a book critiquing globalisation in India, and positing an alternative we call "Radical Ecological Democracy", which has many many elements similar to the ones you point out for a new socialism (I've been hesitant to attach it to any 'ism' as I think all such ideologies have a tendency to get institutionalised, rigid, and self-defeating....but the basic ideas are v. similar). I am attaching a very early and brief article written last year, which was the starting point of the chapters written for the book (which should be out mid-2011).
I'd be happy to continue this dialogue...am also cc'ing Aseem.
Apt 5 Shree Datta Krupa
908 Deccan Gymkhana
Date: Fri, 3 Sep 2010 23:59:10 +0530
Subject: Re: FW: Socialism of the new century
Surendra Mohan email@example.com
Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 10:03 PM
Dear Sunil Bhai,
It is an excellent article, anysing past experience, discussing recent new trends and focussing on the essentils which would be the basis for building socialism in the 21st. Century. Hearty congratulations.
As Editor of the Janata, I express my gratitude to you for sending the aricle to Janata.
arun tripathi <firstname.lastname@example.org>
date Thu, Sep 16, 2010 at 6:42 PM
Your article is excellent, specially the last leg titled as new face of socialism. You have described about the strucure of future indian village. that is fine but seeing the enormous tensions in village on caste and class basis there should be a new movement either to transform the old village or set up new villages. villages of new centuary needs more detailed discussion and elaboration. please guide us in this uncharteted territory. thanks and regards.
Arun K tripathi
Uday Prakash <email@example.com>
अत्यंत प्रिय अफ़लातून जी,
सुनील जी का लेख कल सुबह कई बार पढ़ गया। रुक रुक कर। सचमुच बहुत अच्छा, व्यवस्थित तरीके से लिखा गया, हमारी अपनी चिंताओं को आज के संकटों और संदर्भों में समझने ही नहीं, उनका समाधान या विकल्प तलाशने की बहुत संलग्न ईमानदारी के साथ लिखा गया महत्वपूर्ण आलेख है। शायद हममें से बहुत से लोग लगभग इन्हीं निष्कर्षों तक पहुंचते लगते हैं। उन तक मेरी बधाई पंहुचाएं। यह पत्र मैं आपको ही लिख रहा हूं क्योंकि आपसे ही मेरा संवाद और अदेखा ही सही एक लगाव-सा बन गया है। लेकिन एक प्रश्न आज दो दिन के बाद मेरे मन में उठ रहा है कि क्यों मुझे ऐसा लग रहा है कि जब हम आज के चोअम्स्की, माइकेल अलबर्ट, स्व. हार्वर्ड जिन, ज़ाइज़ेक, स्व. रामचंद्र गांधी, हेनरी ज़ेरो या ऐसे बहुत से बौद्धिकों-समाचिंतकों को पढ्ते हैं, या पहले के गांधी, हक्सले, आइंस्टीन, ताल्सताय जैसों को पढ़ते हैं तो लगता है जैसे वे 'राजनीति' से अलग, उसकी निर्धारित सीमाओं को पार करते हुए, किसी एक अपरिलक्षित मानवीय-नागरिक-सामाजिक वैकल्पिक व्यवस्था की खोज़ में हैं। बहुत पहले, १९८२-८३ में मैंने रोम्यां रोलां की भारत पर लिखी डायरी के अनुवाद पर काम किया था। आप तो जानते हैं कि वे टैगोर और गांधी जी दोनों के प्रशंसक थे बाद में टैगोर के आलोचक भी हुए। उनकी चिंताएं भी किसी 'राजनीतिक-बौद्धिक' या 'राजनीति-कर्मी' की चिंताएं नहीं थीं। वे अंग्रेज़ों की औपनिवेशिक गुलामी से मुक्ति के बाद, गांधी जैसे 'सामाजिक-विचारकों' की अगुआई में पूरब के इस देश से कुछ उसी तरह की नयी सामाजिक-व्यवस्था के सूर्योदय की प्रतीक्षा कर रहे थे, जो अब तक के इतिहास में सिर्फ़ एक 'राजनीतिक' ही नहीं, एक सभ्यतामूलक परिवर्तन (civilizational turning point) सिद्ध हो, जैसा फ़्रांस की राज्यक्रांति के बाद 'लोकतंत्र' का जन्म था। उस समय लोकतंत्र और इससे जुड़ी राजनीति अब तक की मानव-समाज-व्यवस्था में सिर्फ़ ऐतिहासिक ही नहीं, एक सभ्यता-मूलक मूलगामी बदलाव के कारक थे।
जाने मुझे क्यों लगता है कि पिछली सदियों के बहुत से विचारकों और राजनीतिक-सामाजिक व्यक्तित्वों को १९८०-९० के दशकों के बाद, तीसरी प्रविधि के युग में प्रवेश के बाद, हम सबको, (भले ही हमारे पास उतना बड़ा इतिहास न हो, लेकिन हमारे अनुभव तो हैं, जो निश्चित ही आज के समय के हैं) थोड़ी 'सापेक्ष्य' तटस्थता और खुलेपन के साथ देखना होगा। और इसमें मार्क्स और गांधी ही नहीं, उनके परवर्ती व्यक्तित्व भी शामिल है।
मेरा कहने का संक्षिप्त और सरलीकृत आशय यही है कि सुनील जी जैसे सामाजिक-बौद्धिक, समाजकर्मी, जिनके पास इतनी गहरी समझ, संवेदना, दृष्टि और सबसे ऊपर स्पृहणीय ईमानदारी है, उन्हें अब तक की 'राजनीति' द्वारा परिसीमित, निर्दिष्ट और सत्ता-संकुचित सीमा-रेखा का अतिक्रमण करना चाहिए। वे एक अप्रतिम व्यक्ति हैं और आज ही मैंने कोलकाता के एक मित्र से उनके इसी आलेख का ज़िक्र किया है, हेनरी ज़ेरो और उनके आलेखों की लगभग समान 'चिंताओं' के बारे मेम बताया है और उनसे वह आलेख पढ़ कर उन्हें दिसंबर में आयोजित होने वाले किसी कार्यक्रम में आमंत्रित करने का आग्रह किया है। इसे अधिक से अधिक लोगों तक पहुंचना चाहिए, ऐसा मुझे लगता है।
आपका आस-पास होना अच्छा लगता है। मुहे भी आप अपने आस-पास ही मानें।
|Prempal Sharma <firstname.lastname@example.org>to Sunil SJP <email@example.com> |
date Mon, Aug 30, 2010 at 12:09 PM
|Dear Sunil ji,|
Accha lekh hai. Kuch batein jaise Labour Aristocracy............. Bahut acche hain.
No doubt, your suggestion that there is no alternative but to struggle to transform the village society is the right solution but how to achieve it ?
What will be model for effective implementation ?
Let us hope your ideas are implemented in new century.
Rajinder Chaudhary <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sun, Sep 12, 2010 at 8:32 AM
Dear Sunil Bhai,
I have read your piece on socialism of new century with interest. I almost fully share your vision of what new society shall look like. However, I have some queries about the earlier, analytical part. I understand that your vision of future has space for elements of Social Democracy, welfare state and mixed economy. After all economy is going to be a mixed one though off course it will not be just a repeat of mixed economy that we have seen. Similarly, society ensuring that basic needs of all are met is not very different from welfare state. So, rather than rejecting all these categories, may be we can say that we will have elements of these systems with significant differences as well.
Another aspect, I missed was that you have not sought to define socialism though the term has been repeatedly used.
While I intuitively share ‘broadly non-violent’ bit, could you please elaborate on it.
Would you rule out private medical practitioners by definition or focus on extensive provision of state provided health services and regulation of private sector?
You refer to labour aristocracy. Do you believe that regulation of conditions of service conditions of school or for that matter University teachers is not required? Or that unionized industrial workers have got wages which is over and above value created by them? While I fully agree with you about wide gap between formal and informal sector wages and working conditions but from this one can not conclude that provision of regulated working hours or maternity leave etc is unwarranted. Unions may have often protected unproductive workers or made unreasonable demands, but to reduce labour movement to this may be going to another extreme. Please do throw more light on this issue.
Lastly, I for one have argued against possibility of abolition of classes as such at least in foreseeable future or that social structure that we seek to create can not be a hierarchy/class less society. You are silent about it.. May be that is the right thing to do. But by the way, what do you think about it?
On the whole, as I said at the outset, I almost fully share your vision.
With warm regards,
Professor, Department of Economics,
M. D. University, Rohtak (Haryana) 124001
From: thambisetty ramakrishna <email@example.com>
Date: Fri, Oct 1, 2010 at 8:56 PM
Subject: Re: Socialism of the New Century
To: Ravela Somayya <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dear Sri Somayya garu
Thankyou for forwarding the thought provoking article
My comments are as follows :
Towards the end of the article, I see the author veering round the
ancient cocept of "JANAPADAS" ( sort of local republics such as
Lichchavi, Vaishali and Varanashi)
They are supposed to have flourished well, and I dream of " returning
' to them !
However I dread the prospect of not having a strong enough " CENTRAL
"command/ authority which can protect the country ( if any country can
, for that matter! ) against the staggeringly superior tecnology which
goes into making the destructive weapons which are in the posseession
of the capitalist countries ( or must I say country?)
My own , call it, conjecture if you wish, is that while the local
"republics" ( JANAPADAS) flourished based on the decentralized
decision making which was vested in the people, and also based on the
" DHARMIC" ( call it righteousness if you wish ) principles of caring
and sharing, I am afraid India slowly but surely fell an easy prey to
the organized gangs with weaponry , due partly because of the lack of
such authority as was exerted by the emperor Asoka, for example. I am
no votary of monarchy, my concern merely is :
Small is beautiful, no doubt, but what about the security in this
complex world ?
Can we start with reforms in the UN and make it a democratic gaurdian
of the entire world?
And enable the peoples, the world over to organize their own economy
and the necessary political systems with out fear of interference?
I think in the fast changing scenario, of security concerns, we need
to have a "TOP DOWN APPROACH " .
How do we proceed?
I was happy to see the reference to Prof. Sachchidananda Sinha.
Is he the same who was elected as the first and interim president of
our constituent assembly, as proposed by Acharya J B Kripalani ?
I would like to know more about him.
Professor T Ramakrishna
Head, Dept of Biotechnology and Bioinformatics
Kuppam, Chittoor Dt, A P, India
Vipen Mahajan email@example.com
Fri, Aug 27, 2010 at 6:53 AM
I am not an economist, nor a politician or an academic. However the future interests me. We are heading for BIG changes. Significant "progress" or shall we say innovation has been made during the industrial era, or, as I prefer Industrial wave, thanks to Alvin Toffler, three wave theory. This century we see the evolution of the Third, or Knowledge/Information wave. Each wave has its own "eco-system", societies, structures, laws etc. (Refer to Toffler's Future Shock, Third Wave, Power Shift, and his recent book (2005 era), Revolutionary Wealth). The notable thing about the Third Wave is that the driving force behind it is Knowledge, or Information. While earlier Waves drivers, force, capital, land etc were limited, and could onl be enjoyed/used by one person, and hence most attempts were made to optimise/rationalise their distribution or usage, so effectively economics became the science of shortages or scarcity. Now, if I have a certain knowledge, I am "rich" in the Third Wave context, if I share my knowledge with anyone else, my Knowledge does not depreciate, or diminish in any way. So Knowledge is not a scarce commodity like money, force, land etc which are owned or consumed by one person at a time only, and if consumed cannot be used by another, thereby creating shortages. (I am NOT a writer etc, for a better and more comprehensive explanation pl. read Third Wave).
Also the industrial wave, changed the First (agricultural wave's), production systems, which were prosumer (Toffler speak= producer + consumer) based and separated the producer from the consumer. Industrialization and cheap, fossil/oil based energy, spurred by mass production economies, gave a tremendous flip to productivity and the standard of living shot up. So an average American (and fast catching up Chinese or an Indian) could live the lifestyle even better than that of Emperor Akbar To integrate them you introduce trade. However this has come at a BIG cost, to the planet, global warming, extinction of species, forests cover etc. In fact it has changed the basis of human existence, which had evolved in the First wave, and associated social structure, beliefs, culture religion thoughts etc. To gain the "benefits" of Industrialization you had to go in for the factory production system. This meant a total overhaul of the earlier First wave eco-system. Now that was painful and disruptive to say the least. So when the colonies, which were in the First Wave, were "liberated", they all, including India rushed into industrialization, with disastrous social and civilizational effects, which we can see all around the developing countries, and the tug of war between developed and developing countries, in WTO, trade, global warming, raw materials, oil etc.
Today, with Knowledge the production systems have changed significantly. Technology allows you to de-massify production. To produce electricity economically you do not need a capital intensive, 5000 MW super thermal, coal based power generating system, located in Jharkand, or wherever, linked by miles of transmission lines (with their attended losses, and thefts), to supply electricity to say Delhi, as well as the villages, their pump sets etc. Instead you can have smaller, home or village level and capacity power generation, which can be affordably built by the people with local capital and effort.This creates the prosumer. It empowers him. Shall we say it is a much more powerful innovation than Gandhi ji's charkha. Today, with Open Source software, Creative Commons writing and ideas, and Open Source Ecology, these technologies/knowledge are available freely to anyone who can access the Internet. With Cloud computing, even a monk, sitting in a remote corner, in the Himalayas, or a villager in any part of the globe, has access to this Knowledge. If he has a good idea, say a Google, or a Facebook's, Zuckerberg (spelling??), can with outsourced application/sw development, create a new wprld changing business, in a few years. So innovation etc is not limited to big, capital intensive MNCs etc. It is essentially new knowledge, ideas etc. So you can have Gandhi jis "villages" which will not only be self contained, and sustainable, like the villages of the First wave, but also have a very high standard of living./lifestyle.
Unlike the West, or more recently, China, which has successfully embarked on massive industrialization, I feel that we , in India should adopt the Third Wave model, skip the Industrial phase (70% of India still lives in the villages), and NOT have to undergo the gut wrenching trauma of change, because the Third Wave production systems can be sustainable, and NOT need to uproot all the people from the villages, into urban centers for mass production, followed by an elaborate, and energy intensive, global distribution system and trade.
In my own small way, I am working on sustainable, hi-tech villages, for India, which can have a high standard of living, with "modern" amenities, abundant "free" energy, from the sun, IT enabled information economies, so we move information, and not goods, and can work literally from home. The infra structure and social civilizational disruption of this leap frog from First to Third Waves will be far easier,, less disruptive, and painful for our country men. We could transition in a few decades. BTW, for an industrial economy, to transition from the Second Wave, to an Knowledge economy of the Third Wave will be MUCH more difficult and disruptive, than for a First Wave to the Third Wave.
Can our ""planners', policy makers and dream merchants/emperors, who have given New Delhi the on coming Common Wealth games, or all the sleaze of the mining barons, stop and re-think ? I think that is where India's Power Shift will start. It already has probably started, Vedanta, Naxalism , J&K etc ?
I am an Engineer, who went into Information technology, Management Consulting and developing "Software Factories". I have returned, after learning more about Industrialization where else, but the USA. I think India has a better chance into the 21st century. See link for more:
Note:-- Shri P. Vishwambharan commented on this essay in an article published in ‘Janata’ weekly.