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Is it an unassailable law that immersed in a bourgeois society, even communists will get infected by its values?

I don’t think so. I think that a Communist is a Communist because she or he can resist such infection. They have built in

for themselves sufficient immunity. The ruling communists in USSR and elsewhere, perhaps,

had lost this immunity and become infected with bourgeois greed.

 

 

The Rise and Fall of the Socialist World

By M.P. Parameswaran

 

It is an irony of history that working class revolutions took place, not in advanced industrialised countries like Germany or England as was conceived by Marx and Engels, but in backward agrarian countries like Russia and China, with poorly developed productive forces and only a nascent working class. There are people who argue that because of this very same reason, these revolutions were bound to collapse sooner or later. According to them, the roots of the twentieth century debacle of socialist experiments lie in their very origin itself: a premature revolution which ought not to have been carried out is bound to collapse. It is difficult to agree to this.

If this was true, the Russian revolution would not have survived the civil war as well as the imperialist encirclement. But it survived and grew from strength to strength. By the late fifties, within about four decades since revolution, it had already become one of the two super powers of the world. In many departments, especially in atomic and space technology, it had even overtaken USA. Its overall productive forces might not have been as advanced as that of contemporary USA, but certainly was more advanced than Germany or England of Marx’s time.

And Marx and Engels had thought that socialist revolution is round the corner in those countries. At the turn of the century, Lenin wrote his famous book "Imperialism: The Highest and Last Stage of Capitalism." According to him, the world was near maturity for a total revolution. The ‘general crises’ in capitalism had become already so acute that its collapse was imminent. But nothing of the sort ensued. A century later, it is still going strong. It is, in fact, socialism that collapsed. This needs to be explained. What is the strength of capitalism? Why has it not exhausted its potential? How long more it can grow? Will it have to be necessarily socialism that follows? Or could it be barbarism?

The routes of revolutions of the twentieth century were different in different countries. The establishment of socialism in Eastern Europe was indebted to the Soviet Army than to internal revolutionary forces. This may be the reason for the appearance of the phenomenon called Euro-Communism and post-modernism. In Cuba and Vietnam, it was a total battle for survival. And both defeated the strongest super-power in the world—the USA. China had a long agrarian march towards revolution and its commitment to peasants remained strong till Dengian reforms.

The Soviet Union disintegrated in an explosive manner. Generally, it is considered as a ‘Revolution from Above"—a revolution carried out by the leadership of the Communist Party. In our day-to-day parlance, it is called a ‘counter-revolution’. But there was practically nobody to ‘protect revolution’. Apparently, people too participated in it or at least did not resist it. The third generation after the Great October Revolution was a thoroughly disillusioned lot—or rather suffered from utter illusion, that capitalism can make things better. Was this a Gorbachevian counter-revolution? Perhaps not. It will be unscientific to think so.

Even as early as the sixties, symptoms of a possible decay were visible. Some of them have been pointed out in the previous chapter. Some of the observations made by the author while he was a doctoral scholar in Moscow from 1962 to 1965 are summarised below:

1. Ordinary people had distanced themselves from the CPSU(B), the distance was increasing; the feeling that Party officials were enjoying undeserving benefits was becoming widespread.

2. Establishments were becoming centres of corruption, nepotism and despotism—not much different from those in India then and now. Daniel Granin, a popular author published a novel called Iskaateli (The Researchers) in 1959. The theme of this novel was the plight of an honest researcher in such an institution.

3. Marxist philosophy was a compulsory subject for all university students. They found it only as a subject to get through in the examination with the necessary minimum marks. Seldom did they strive to excel in it. Never did they find in it a world view to guide their own life.

4. The red-tape in government offices had become proverbially ‘redder and longer’—even worse than in India.

5. Neither the people in general nor the working class in particular had any interest in managing the affairs of the society. They left it all to the Party and politicians.

6. Already black market in dollar had become widely prevalent. One could get 3 to 4 roubles a dollar in place of the official exchange rate 0.9 rouble a dollar.

7. People were enamoured with ‘foreign goods’ in general and American goods in particular. They were ready to stand in queue for any number of hours for this.

8. An ordinary citizen had to stand in queue several times a day for various services—whether it was the eating place or the shopping place. Service facilities were few and queues long. A substantial part of their life was spent in queues. Nobody liked it.

9. Just as they had caught up with and surpassed the USA in nuclear and space technology, they wanted to outstrip it in the production and consumption of all commodities—whether they had any welfare value or not.

Those days, the above- mentioned issues did not affect the ordinary people seriously except creating some minor inconveniences. Compared to India or the USA of that period, USSR definitely was a paradise. Their achievements were astounding

1. Right to work, to education, to health care—all were fundamental. There was nobody unemployed.

2. Poverty had been eradicated.

3. Everybody had neat and comfortable, if not large, dwelling places.

4. Education up to 14 years of age was free and compulsory. Children were accorded ‘princely’ treatment.

5. One could easily describe the then Soviet Union as a ‘paradise on earth’.

6. No price would have been too much to pay to build such a paradise in India. However, they had a different concept of paradise. Their concept of communism was apparently one of unlimited consumption. The category ‘need’ was an extended one, that ‘greed’ is simply a need which cannot be satisfied today, but can be tomorrow. Yes, their concept of paradise was very much like the heaven of the Hindu Indra, a place where people eat, drink and enjoy women, doing no work. The USA was, in their eyes, closer to heaven than their own country. They strived to be like the USA. And by end of eighties, they became even worse.

Looking back, one can discern three important reasons for this:  

a) Economic centralization.

b) Political centralization.

c) Distorted view of progress.

In international publications, socialist countries are referred to as ‘centrally planned economies.’ This is in tune with the Communist Manifesto. It states:

The proletariat will use its political supremacy, to wrest by degrees, all capital from the bourgeois, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible . . .  centralisation of credit in the hands of the State by means of a national bank with state capital and exclusive monopoly . . .  centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.

Centralisation was a major principle with Communists. But, just as ‘dictatorship’ of the proletariat was conceived, in reality, as wider democracy, it can be argued that centralization in the hands of a proletarian State is in fact the most extensive form of decentralization. But both proved to be not true. Just as there is no dictatorial road to democracy, centralisation is no method for increased participation and democracy. There had been no individual capitalist who could exploit the workers by virtue of the ownership of the means of production. But ultimately, by the late eighties and early nineties, Party managers had become the virtual owners of enterprises. Capitalism was reestablished.

Is State ownership the only form of ‘social’ ownership of the means of production? How do workers effectively control production in such enterprises? In fact, in the then USSR, there was no way at all. They became more and more alienated. The larger an enterprise is, the more severe was this alienation, in spite of all subjective desires to be otherwise.

On the occasion of the 175th birth anniversary of Karl Marx, an "International Conference of Communist Parties" was held at Calcutta. In a paper presented there, Maria De Los Angeles Gracia, Politburo Member of the Cuban Party, stated:

. . . this raises a compulsory question: why did socialism collapse in these countries?

In Eastern Europe and the USSR, the objective contradictions inherent to the socialist development intertwined with factors alien to the very nature of socialism, circumstantial elements alien to socialism, brought about a specific political and economic model that began distancing itself from the socialism conceived by Marx, Engels and Lenin . . .

Among these direct causes (for the collapse) the denial of the democratic essence of socialism is highlighted ... it was impossible to promote real democratic relations in a situation in which there was a power monopoly without real participation of the masses..

This brought about the alienation of the masses from the Party, the usurpation of the legitimate power of the working class, the omnipotence of the ruling class and the corruption that prevented the masses from having the leading role in society.

Maria De Gracia was quite frank.

So was the CPI(M). In its 1992 "Resolution on Certain Ideological Issues," it stated:

Another major distortion that needs to be noted concern the fact that the dictatorship of the proletariat is the dictatorship of the class as a whole, i.e., the overwhelming majority. Often in practice, as has been revealed in the recent developments, this dictatorship of the class was replaced by that of the vanguard, the Party, and more often than not, by the leadership of the Party (Para 5.3.9).

Unfortunately, in the name of centralism, inner party democracy can become a casualty, leading to growth of bureaucratism, which is the very antithesis of democracy. Tendencies alien to socialism, such as corruption and nepotism, surfaced. An example of this was the institutionalization of privileges to large sections of the leadership of CPSU and other ruling Communist Parties. . . . (8)

Yes, quite frank. But one has to ask the question: Is that criticism applicable to the present Communist Parties of China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba? Is it applicable to parties which are not ruling? How much of this disease has infected the Indian Communist Parties? Communists are characterised by theoretical clarity, organizational ability and ethical tenacity. We have read stories about great Communists in books like Sundaraya’s Telangana Struggle, Niranjana’s Chira Smarana, Kunhambu’s Kayyur Comrades, in classics like Nikolai Ostrovsky’s How the Steel was Tempered  or Alexei Tolstoy’s ‘Travel to Calvery’ or Boris Polevoy’s ‘Story of a Real Man’.

Is it an unassailable law that immersed in a bourgeois society, even communists will get infected by its values? I don’t think so. I think that a Communist is a Communist because she or he can resist such infection. They have built in for themselves sufficient immunity. The ruling communists in USSR and elsewhere, perhaps, had lost this immunity and become infected with bourgeois greed. The Communist Parties in these countries were still relatively big, but organizationally weak (no democracy, no resistance power) and having only very few communists – a communist party led by non-communists.

This may sound to be exaggerated to a level of absurdity. But perhaps not. It may be nearer to truth than what one may imagine. The end result: a people which had relative stability and security, which had more than what others could aspire, who lived in a relative paradise, suddenly lost everything. A counter- revolution took away everything. No social security, no job, no food . . .

What about China? After the debacle of ‘Cultural Revolution’ and getting rid of the ‘Gang of Four,’ China, in 1978, chartered a new course of development under the  leadership of Deng Xiao Ping. The emphasis on agriculture, peasantry and re-distributive justice was replaced by one of rapid development of productive forces and industries—a path of soft socialism. Soon, especially after the landmark period of 1990-1991, it chartered a far more ‘bold’ course, called ‘market socialism’. While we were on a visit as part of an education delegation to Beijing, the hosts were trying to explain to us, "we are capitalists in economy and socialists in politics."

On being confronted with the question, "won’t economy ultimately transform politics too?" he exclaimed: "Am I hearing the voice of old Communism"? The decisive role of economics was ‘old communism’. However, for more than a decade, China remained as a world wonder, with a two-digit economic growth. And where is it now? Beijing, Shanghai, Canton, Kumming . . . citadels of wealth, competing with New York, London or Paris. The number of five-star hotels have increased a hundred fold. So have the number of billionnaires and millionnairs. The Casinos, gambling dens and underworld in these cities are on par with those in any capitalist city. The gap between rich and the poor has been increasing by leaps and bounds. Villages are becoming pauperized. Peasants are selling off cultivation rights.

Capitalist farmers are on the increase. Village poor are migrating into cities in millions. There, they live in ghettos, as construction workers. By the early nineties, grand slogans like "It is a virtue to become rich" were being raised openly. Corporations were named as Grow Rich Corporation, Rich More Corporation, etc. The town and village enterprises which had helped strengthen the village economy were in doldrums. Now, employment, food, health care, education—nothing is anymore a fundamental right. They are to be paid for.

A large section of the poor cannot avail health care services or even send their children to school. As the GNP of China been surges forward, as it creates millionaires, social security is going backward. Initially, there was even a fall-back in life expectation and infant mortality. Communist officials believe that this is a passing phase, but they don’t have anything to offer to improve the situation of the poor, to reduce the rich-poor gap. The Party no longer claims that China is a socialist country. Socialism, they say, is a distant goal. How long it will take to reach there—one cannot say. Maybe 20 years, maybe be 50 or 100 years. A new ruling class has emerged. They come from the party leadership, high level bureaucracy and high-ranking army personnel. They control the new private enterprises. Though still weakly, within the party, people have started questioning, enquiring alternative paths.

Cuba and Vietnam. Communists all over the world get thrilled at the very thought of them. Both have resisted successfully the mighty America. The entire economic base of these countries, the soil, the forests, the water sources, was destroyed many times over by the Americans. It was with great courage that they rebuilt their economy. However, today even they are in danger. Vietnam has already taken the stand that ‘There Is No Alternative’. Having defeated America in military warfare, Vietnam is now capitulating to the economic strength of the USA. Apparently only Cuba is still trying to restructure itself under new conditions without sacrificing equity and people’s power.

The experience of the last one century can be summarised as below:

Socialism is not round the corner. There is a long way to go. There will be ups and downs, bends and turns, mounts and pits on the road. One has to hold the steering

Wheel—the theoretical and ideological perspectives—firmly and not press the accelerator unduly hard. It is also clear that democracy cannot be established through dictatorship, that there is no democracy without participation.

"Source: Geocities. Another World Is Possible—Thoughts about a Fourth World, Chapter 2

posted 27 November 2011

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Fourth World Essays

Afro-America & The Fourth World 

The Black Middle Class & a Political Party of the Poor  (essay)

Dark Child of the Fourth World  

The Fourth World and the Marxists

The Fourth World: In the Belly of the Beast

New Orleans: The American Nightmare

On the Fourth World: Black Power, Black Panthers, and White Allies

Why I Support the Latino Demonstrators

 

Other Fourth World Essays

African America A Fourth World  (Waldron H. Giles)

Dark Child of the Fourth World Reaches Out   (Dennis Leroy Moore)

Fourth World Introduction (M.P. Parameswaran)

 Fourth World: Marxist, Gandhian, Environmentalist  (M.P. Parameswaran)

The Fourth World Multiculturalism (Rose Ure Mezu)

Fourth World Programme M.P. Parameswaran)

Neo-Liberalism Dictatorship of the Market  M.P. Parameswaran)

The Rise and Fall of the Socialist World  M.P. Parameswaran)

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Related files:  Fourth World Introduction  Fourth World: Marxist, Gandhian, Environmentalist  Neo-Liberalism Dictatorship of the Market  Fourth World Programme