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Parrot-cry for socialism

 

Issue

When the Constitution was framed in 1950, the words, “Socialism” or “Socialist democracy” were not included in it. Question arises – Why? The word “Socialist” as qualifying the Republic was added in 1975, through 42nd Amendment Act by Indira Gandhi’s government, giving it almost the highest place in the name of equality and Remove PovertyProgram. Since then 35 years have passed. It would be worthwhile to assess, how much has been achieved after the change – if not much, then why?

India’s tryst with Socialism

 It is said that, “An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not of an idea, whose time has come”, and “Today’s theory and socio-political structures could be tomorrow’s big mistakes”. Both these, sayings fit well with India’s experiment with the ideology of “Socialism”.

After the World War-II, socialism was the wave that swept the entire world. War made almost democratic government to play the role of a guardian, as far as its economy was concerned.

Objectives of Socialism

The principle of “Laissez faire” was the guiding principle of governance during the 19th century. USA became world’s largest economy having highest per capita income rate. Many European States emerged as great imperial powers. After World War I, it turned many countries to totalitarian regimes. World War-I was the turning point. The first one to opt for totalitarian regime was Soviet Russia. Italy became a fascist nation and Nazism grew in Germany.

By the time, World War-II was over, socialism was the wave, that swept the entire world. War made every democratic government to play the role of a guardian, as far as its economy was concerned. At that time, it was not only a political or economic ideology, but also a radical philosophical alternative, which assured to create a new integrated, caste-less, classless egalitarian society, free of discrimination and inequality.

Socialism was supposed to destroy all inequalities of race, sex, power, position or wealth and to distribute equitably social, material and political resources of the nation. Socialism meant to place in full or in parts means of production and distribution under State’s ownership or control, as against private ownership and free enterprise. It believed in planned development for removing poverty and leading the nation to prosperity. In socialist countries, Government assumes the responsibility of protecting its citizens from the shocks of every day life from womb to tomb..

After Independence in 1947,

As was the trend, in 1947, Socialism and Socialist democracyhave been the buzz words. India could not remain immune from its influence. Many of its political leaders were greatly influenced by the principle of socialism.

Many leaders of free India, under the leadership of Pundit Nehru were very much in favour of pursuing policies based on social justice. According to them, in order to achieve a just and equitable socio-economic order and to remove poverty before long, bending towards socialism is necessary.

However, at that time itself, visionary and able statesman like Sardar Patel lashed out against those, who believed that there could be no justice, unless its economy was based on social economy. Or that freedom was meaningless without economic equality and social justice. He was sure, what the country needs is not “Parrot cry of socialism”, but unity and strength.

Unity and strength not “Parrot cry of socialism

Sardar Patel considered socialist propositions purely theoretical and academic, far away from reality. He said, Unlike many, who indulge in ‘Parrot cry of socialism’, I have no property of my own. Before you talk of socialism, you must ask yourself, how much wealth you have created by your labour. If you have created nothing, the parrot would have flown, and the cage would be empty. By experience, I am convinced that what is necessary for us is to learn how to produce more wealth and thereafter, think what to do with it.”

Sardar Patel asked the people to realize why England took a very long time to become socialist and why America made no mention of it even now.

Gandhiji appreciated socialist leaders desire to bring about equality of living standard in society. But advised them first to come together, think what was in the best interest of the country and set people on to constructive work. He told Manu Gandhi on 15th April 1947, Socialism is a term of modern age, but the concept of socialism is not new. Lord Krishna preaches the same doctrine in Gita. One needs to have in one’s possession, only what one requires. It means that all men are created by God and therefore, entitled to an equal share of food, clothing and housing. He said, Socialism will not come by occupying positions of power and by delivering speeches from the platform.

Giving practical advice to do selfless service to the people and to ensure the straightest and quickest way to achieve a socialist order, Gandhiji said, If you wish to establish socialism, there is only one way, in which it can be done. Go and live among the poor in villages, live as they live, be one with village people, work for eight hours daily, use only village made goods and articles even in your personal lives, remove illiteracy among village people. Gandhiji also upbraided the Communist party workers for, Instead of having faith in India and drawing inspiration from its unrivalled culture, you wish to introduce Russian civilization here, as if Russia was your motherland.

Constitution of India and Socialism

In 1950, when the Constitution was framed, the words, Socialism or Socialist democracy were not included in it in order to keep a balance between the views of towering personalities like Gandhi, Nehru and Patel. The Constitution of India only mentioned To secure to all its citizen economic justice and equality of status and opportunity.

The influence of the socialistic principles is visible in the Constitutional directivesi to the Government to:

Provide adequate means of livelihood to all its citizens,

Distribute material resources for common good

Avoid concentration of wealth and means of production in the hands of a few,

Right to work,

Equal pay for equal work, to both men and women,

Living wages for all workers, protection of workers especially children,

Humane conditions of work, and

Provide for right to education and public assistance.

“Democratic socialism” under Pt. Nehru

It was after the death of Sardar Patel that Congress Government bent heavily towards socialist policies. It declared its goal in the form of “Socialistic pattern of society” and subsequently “Democratic socialism” under Nehru’s leadership. Pandit Nehru was convinced, “Political democracy should inevitably lead up to economic democracy. Even in the countries, which are supposed to be highly capitalist, the tendency to economic democracy is obvious. The tendency in other words, is towards some form of socialism.” Many policies to build required infra-structure for the development of the nation and welfare schemes and subsidies were declared for the poor.

Creation of Public Sector

Along with the socialist influence, Pt Nehru favoured the creation of public sector. It was a historical need at that time to speed up nation’s development. Private enterprises neither had the resources, nor the skill, nor inclination to invest heavily in infra-structure, where returns come much later and a huge amount of money locked up without immediate gains. The Government alone had the resources and will to build an infrastructure for development through planned schemes. All industries of basic and strategic importance and those in nature of public utility services were reserved by the Government for the public sector.

Jai Prakash Narayan, a staunch supporter of socialism, criticized Pandit Nehru’s concept of mixed economy and said, “You are trying to ride two horses, which may be possible in circus, but not in historical evolution. You want to go towards Socialism, but you want Capitalists to help in that. You want to build Socialism with the help of Capitalism. You are bound to fail in that”. Nehru’s concept of mixed economy, in which central planning lived within a kind of free market ex-skeleton, later on developed all the weaknesses of socialism and capitalism, with none of the advantages of either. Under the mixed economy, the authorities, who had the power to give permits and licenses, .the businessmen and the industrialist, flourished.

Planned economy

Many plans were developed under planned schemes to transform the backward society into a society of equals in a short time. The original inspiration for planned economy came from the Soviet Union.

Under Indira Gandhi

The word “Socialist” as qualifying the Republic was added in 1975, through 42nd Amendment Act by Indira Gandhi’s government, giving it almost the highest place in the name of equality and “Remove Poverty”.

Politicians defined and interpreted it in their on own way, which created confusion amongst people and divided the people. A large number of politicians are not much interested in tackling the key issues like population explosion, terrorism, unemployment, inflation, jobs especially in present spectrum of slowing economy, law and order, development of educational systems, development of infrastructure for the convenience of public at large. Their main interest lies in creating vote banks.

Parties use it to woo different sections of society like Dalits, tribals, minorities, backward castes, youths, salaried employees in government or public sectors etc.

Under the leadership of Mrs. Gandhi socialistic plans and policies were followed in such a way, that it had done more damage than good. It created a closed, centralized and unproductive system, which suppressed growth. In the name of Welfare State, the Government acquired extraordinary powers to exercise arbitrary control over massive resources. It centralized the planning, controls and ownership, which led those in authority to abuse of power and “Grab more power” attitude.

On the whole, it created a closed, centralized and unproductive system, which suppressed growth of the nation as a whole.

Success of socialist policies in solving nation’s problems

The policy, in real-life situations had done more damage than good. It developed tentacles of corruption, scams, scandals and callousness in almost every sphere.

Arbitrary State Control

The Government acquired extraordinary powers to exercise arbitrary control over massive resources. It created a domineering State controlling the smallest detail of the economic and social life of the people. It closed its economy to the world, nationalized industries and services, initiated rigid controls on the private sector and created monopolies in the public sector.

An unfettered market system led to grave economic inequalities, which got transformed into political inequalities. It developed tentacles of inefficiency and red-tape-ism, corruption, scams, scandals and callousness in almost every sphere. It created the politics of appeasement and vote banks, destroyed the work culture, and encouraged separatism everywhere in the society.

Demoralizing effect on people, made them pigmies

In the name of socialism, it created a domineering State controlling the smallest detail of the economic and social life of the people. People were made pigmies. Though in theory, sovereignty rests in the people of the nation, they find themselves absolutely helpless. They have been enslaved by politicians, planners and bureaucrats. It did not wipe out poverty, nor created an effective distributive system, nor equality, but it had led almost to the loss of economic liberty. It jammed the wheels of morality and conscience. The excessive control made people gradually loose their motivation for hard work.

Divided people into uncompromising compartments

Politicians define and interpret it in their on own way to create confusion amongst people and divide them into uncompromising compartments. Parties use it to woo different sections of society like Dalits, tribals, minorities, backward castes, youths, salaried employees in government or public sectors etc.

Effect on politicians

Some people regard it as one of the most misused terms in present-day political circles. It created the politics of appeasement and vote banks, destroyed the work culture, and encouraged separatism everywhere in the society. It jammed the wheels of morality and conscience.

A large number of politicians are not so much interested in tackling the key issues like population explosion, terrorism, unemployment, inflation, jobs especially in present spectrum of slowing economy, law and order, development of educational systems, development of infrastructure for the convenience of public at large as in creating vote banks.

In short

In short, the nation had made six specific mistakes: –

 Ø It adopted an inward looking, import substituting path, rather than an outward looking, export promoting route, thus denying itself the chance to share the world’s prosperity of the 70s and 80s,

Ø It set up a massive, inefficient and monopolistic public sector, to which it denied the autonomy of working,

Ø It over-regulated private enterprise, thus diminished competition in home market,

Ø It discouraged foreign capital and denied itself the benefit of technology and world class market,

Ø It pampered organized labor responsible for lowest productivity of labor and capital, and

Ø It ignored primary education at the cost of higher education

Opinion of Intelligentsia

In retrospect people realized that a major portion of such policies was proved to be the examples of bookish socialism and had little relation to the burning problems of the country. By 1990, India also realized like many other countries – what it was practicing so far was a phony, fake and tainted social justice.

It was realized, though late, that Democratic socialism itself is a contradiction in terms, as a socialist society or a planned economy cannot be democratic. The experience on this front indicated that probably the objective of social justice was unrealistic. The uneven distribution of economic power and benefits through manipulations of polity had created major distortions and problems for the smooth administration / governance.

Milovan Djilas, a Yugoslavian revolutionary and writer, who predicted the fall of communism and fought both Tito and Stalin, concluded on the basis of his experience, The suppression of classes would be the first step towards the extinction of society… There can be no society without classes. The problem is how to create a balance between the classes, to prevent some from getting rich at the expense of others and to prevent the oppression of one class by another. It must be recognized, however, that it will never be possible to establish an ideal equilibrium among different social classes…The future ideology of the reformist left must not become a barrier to the achievements of capitalism such as efficiency and the profitability of business. The central problem is, how to distribute wealth without disrupting economic activity, while at the same time building a society based on human solidarity…. This idealism should not be confused with the chimera of establishing a society with rigid and permanent forms – I believe the more varied a society is, the better and more creative it will be. There will always be injustice and inequality in the world, which will be the task of the social democrats to combat.

Mr. Paul Johnson, a historian of 20th century says, The more the State grows and impedes the free exercise of market forces, the more the quality of information deteriorates, more likely decisions based on such them would be wrong. A Polish communist Government planner says, In this crazy system, we do not know, the true cost of anything. We do not know which factories are efficient and which are hopeless. So we are continually reinforcing failure and punishing success.

Mr. Subramanyam says, The hypocrisy of socialism developed along with centralization of authority, denigration of democratic institutions and strangulation of Panchayat Raj institutions as part of one integrated political process in the country. J Krishnamurthy said, Working for social welfare is to fill water into a pail that has holes. The more water is poured in it, the more it pours out and the pail remains empty.

The experiences on Socialism along with principle of secularism, equality etc are not very encouraging. Probably the objective of social justice to some extent is unrealistic.

The problem of socialism is of performance, not of faith, and the price paid by the nation for this faith has been efficiency and its future prosperity.

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January 4, 2011 - Posted by | Social and political values and systems |

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