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Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 12

Socialism stands Betrayed — by Socialists!

Monday 10 March 2008, by T J S George

Who killed socialism? On history’s witness, we will have to admit that socialism was done in by socialists and in particular by those who set up communist states in different parts of the world.

All but one of the countries where communism tasted power have embraced capitalist means to develop themselves. The one was India. That’s why the debate triggered by Jyoti Basu should be welcomed as healthy. Socialism is not possible when we live in a capitalist system, he said. That’s no endorsement of capitalism, a highly exploitative system. Nevertheless, India’s tallest living Communist missed the point that socialism as envisaged by Marx was not given a chance even in a communist system.

In the Soviet Union, for example, Marxism was never put into practice at all. It was Leninism from the outset. In the name of adapting theory to practical politics, Lenin redefined Marxism and introduced whole new doctrines. Soviet commu-nism’s ideological plank became known as “Marxism-Leninism”.

In China it became “Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought”. The implication was clear: “Mao Zedong Thought” would be the final arbiter of socialism in China. That position died with Mao. The ultimate pragmatist Deng Xiaoping then brought in the concept of “socialism with a human face”. That was a significant phrase. It was the lack of a human face that made communism unappealing to the masses it was supposed to elevate to socialism. Both Stalin and Mao established the dictatorship of the individual, not of the proletariat. Mass executions of the time gave socialism an ugly face.

Nikita Khrushchev’s historic 20th Party Congress speech brought it all out.

Sensational though it was, Khrushchev’s speech as delivered was milder than his original draft. Under pressure from colleagues and old Stalinists like Molotov, Khrushchev acknowledged Stalin’s “great services to the party”. But in preliminary discussions and first drafts, Khrushchev had said: “Stalin destroyed the party. He was not a Marxist. He wiped out all that is sacred in a human being.” (This was revealed by Gorbachev in a note he wrote for The Guardian in 2007.)

NO ideology can ignore what is sacred in a human being, such as the desire for peace, a sense of security, the confidence that through work he can achieve a measure of prosperity for himself and his family. Communists in power ignored this. Consequently, they either collapsed or were forced to change.

The Indian Left must ask itself why it has not grown in 60 years. In fact it has lost ground even in West Bengal and Kerala. This in spite of unspeakable exploitation of the many by the few. While many luminaries of the Left have developed capitalist tastes in their personal life, the exploited masses are turning increasingly to movements like Naxalism and even religious fundamentalism.

The Left has betrayed socialism. Countries like Sweden and Switzerland are closer to socialism in terms of equality and fairness. India’s Left could not eliminate the rickshaw, that symbol of poverty and degradation, despite 30 years of continuous power in Bengal. Its failure has facilitated the evolution of a dangerous hybrid—a communal polity with a feudal heart.

What a pity!

(Courtesy: The New Sunday Express)

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