Via my colleague Peter Tobin, an explication of Indian socialism. I told him that commenters were saying that India had already tried socialism and it had failed, so Maoism was doomed from the start and had already been tried anyway. I doubted this and asked him for an explication of Indian socialism, how it differed from Maoism and why it failed, particularly even in a socialist sense.
Peter is very smart, and he’s also a very good writer.
Regarding the notion about India having already tried socialism – it depends on what you call ‘socialism.’
Congress India was a progressive nationalist party which had an, admittedly, sizable socialist faction. During the twenties and thirties it became dominant and at Independence could claim the adherence of the two leading figures in CI, Nehru and Menon.
Their socialism, however, was that of the Second International, which from the beginning of the 20th century became an openly reformist option, which accepted the constitutional niceties of bourgeois democracy.
It specifically rejected the path of Communist revolution in favour of Fabian strategy, which envisaged socialism coming through an evolutionary process, in which the free market dissolved before the logic of more intense collective measures brought about by the tendencies of all markets to monopolize and all industrial processes to become more collective.
This process would be aided by socialist/social democratic parties enacting progressive legislation through a parliamentary system, in which it would compete in the ‘market place of democracy’ with openly bourgeois parties.
The parties who successfully operated within these parameters were initially the Scandinavian countries before the second world war and fairly spectacularly by the post-war Labour party in Britain, which nationalized the commanding heights of the economy, rail, steel, coal, etc and initiated the Welfare State. Other European countries, to a greater or lesser degree, followed this path, among whom the most outstanding was West Germany.
These developments were made possible by Marshall Aid, granted by America, as a means of competing with the Soviet bloc at on level and containing it at another, (Viz Harriman, Kennan).
It is also a hard fact that large sections of the economy were left in private hands, and the principle of the mixed economy was accepted, with the proviso – and certainty – that they would inevitably wither (see above).
The SI came from Marxism (especially that of the German Social Democrats) but it abandoned Marx’s revolutionary side (vide; Kautsky) because it claimed that socialism was economically determined, as against Lenin and the Third International who argued for revolutionary political intervention and the involvement of the masses, under the leadership of a vanguard Communist party.
The progressive left of Congress India emerged under the influence of, and eventually joined, the SI. Mao, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh, etc. followed the path of Lenin and the TI.
It is true that Congress India did try to follow a Western type of parliamentary democratic socialism in the post-Independence spirit of optimism, and a diluted form of socialism was promoted which stressed economic planning and welfare. There were also state investments where there were no private interests. There was a State Commission in 1950 which saw the first 5 year plan launched in 1951, which while nationalizing some of new, but still insignificant, modern industrial sectors, e.g, steel, mainly concentrated on raising agricultural output.
Initially there were some good GDP growth rates, but there was almost complete failure to provide decent, comprehensive welfare and to alleviate the plight of the overwhelming rural majority. But this socialism was a half dead thing in a half dead world because in did not involve a land to the tiller or cooperative element, leaving the landlords and the zamindars in ownership and control.
Crucially, while the Ambedkar Constitution outlawed casteism in theory, in practice it remained a decisive social and cultural force. How can expect to build socialism without the involvement, based on equality, of the broad masses?
Capitalist, Brahminical corruption remained and grew in strength, and with India’s humiliating defeat by the Chinese in 1962, Nehru’s attempt to, as he said in 1955 to establish “a socialist pattern of society,” was effectively over and India started the march towards Anglo-Saxon style capitalism.
The Chinese Communist Party did not fuck around; they seized all the commanding heights of the economy, especially agriculture, freed the peasants from the grip of the landlords and began their long march based upon collectivization, mass participation and cultural revolution. Ultimately, wherever they are at the moment, it was much more successful than the feeble Indian attempt.
It is Mao’s type of socialism that the Indian masses need, not Nehru’s (who was only picked by Gandhi to divert radicalism from Communism). That is what the comrades in the CPI (Maoist) are fighting for.
Please point to these people that therefore, socialism is not homogeneous, but takes different forms given different objective historical and ideological conditions. Also there are some who wave the red flag in order to oppose it.
India tried a form of democratic socialism that has since failed in the developed countries to a greater or lesser extent, as most of these SI parties are now more or less on board with the neoliberal form of free market capitalism that has dominated the last thirty years.
India gained its Independence in heroic circumstances and after bitter struggle, but it did not follow through with a thoroughgoing revolution that emancipated and unlocked the creativity and potential of its peoples.
But it is never too late, so let the corrupt, gangster, Brahminical, comprador class tremble. There is a broom moving that will sweep them in to the dustbin of history. They know this and that is why they have launched Operation Green Hunt, with American and Israeli aid – and generally replaced the ‘world’s biggest democracy’ with the world biggest fascist state.