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‘Nehruvian socialism’, a recipe copied from an imploded state?

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Left-liberal historians who came to dominate the writing of history in India credited all that was positive in the post-independent India to Jawaharlal Nehru and his dynasty. Anything negative was attributed to Hindu fatalism. This was part of a larger scheme of things that fabricated the idea of a ‘composite culture’. The fabrication appealed to the rulers and naturally planted the left-liberal historians in their good books. It might be a question of intellectual integrity but it definitely got them positions and power. Knowing which side of the bread is buttered, does help!

It was a left-liberal economist Raj Krishna, who coined the term, ‘Hindu rate of growth’. If he had a modicum of honesty he would have termed it ‘Nehruvian rate of growth’. For if on the credit side, India’s social welfare programmes were attributed to ‘Nehruvian socialism’, why not the tardy rate of growth on the debit side. But then Raj Krishna would not have received any plaudits for doing so. On the other hand he would have been consigned to the outer darkness like many right wing intellectuals. However, ‘Nehruvian socialism’ is not a theory originally propounded by Nehru. His was like the 201st adaptation of ‘Yaadon Ki Baraat’, which was made and remade with tweaked variations, many times, in several Indian languages. Nehru copied the soviet system of economic governance, complete with the ‘Planning Commission’, which he transplanted as an extra-constitutional body in the Indian system of economic governance. As might be expected Raj Krishna was appointed a member of it!

IMPLOSION OF A SOCIALIST SOCIETY

Social science theories can seldom be realised in practice. That is why, the phrase, ‘social science’ is perhaps an oxymoron. The first society that experimented with ‘all-are-equal socialism had to use guns, secret police and slave labour camps to make its citizens accept, well, the concept of ‘all-are-equal socialism’! In Parkinson’s pithy phrase, socialism was ‘kindly coercion’! ‘They are not capable of saving themselves; therefore they must be taught!’ appeared to be the motto of the ruling class. Yes, even in the all-are-equal socialist society there is such a thing as a ruling class! Therefore it would be naïve to believe that all members of the all-are-equal socialist society lived the same lives. The privileges enjoyed by the citizens varied with their rank in the hierarchy. (Some animals are more equal than others!) Seventy years after it adopted ‘kindly coercion’ as the guiding maxim of governance, the nation imploded into fifteen fragments.

FAILED PROPHET OF SOCIALISM

The original author of the all-are-equal socialism was an intellectual without a country. Expelled from France, Germany, Belgium and Austria he finally made England his home. Once in England however, he preferred to live and work among German exiles till his death. He neither had an opportunity nor did he bother to interact with the English proletariat for which his heart bled and for whose welfare, he wrote lengthy tomes. (There was no Commintern in his time.) His failure in life was ruinous for his family. His children either died of starvation or committed suicide. His earnings did not go even half way to feeding his family. He had to depend on others for doles. By now you would have guessed you are reading a concise biography of the great Marx himself.

At the time he wrote his thesis, there was no large scale industry in France or Germany where Marx’s proletarian revolution was supposed to begin. Even in England it was still in its infancy. By the time Marx finished his Das Capital Vol. I in 1867, it was already outdated by nearly twenty years as he was writing about a society of the early forties. Marx predicted his revolution would entail in the proletariat usurping power and ultimately the state withering away. In fact there would be no need for a state and all its attendant organs. In his utopian society the guiding maxim was, ‘from each according to his ability to each according to his need’. If anyone wrote such a thesis today, the commentariat would have dismissed it as some kind of schoolboy fantasy. Although he called for abolition of all institutions, he did not bother to tell us what would take their place. Communism would replace capitalism which in Marx’s view, failed because of its internal contradictions. What would happen if communism failed? Would dictatorship replace it? This was what indeed had happened in the Soviet Union which was the first state to experiment with ‘all-are-equal socialism’.

Marx’s thesis was not an easy read even in its original German. An English translation of the first volume of Das Capital was published in 1887 and the other two volumes in 1907. Many who studied in England in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century were enamoured by Marx’s thinking. Nehru and others of his time were among them.

Nehru, chosen by Mohandas Gandhi over other claimants to leadership to lead Independent India took the nation on a course, which would doom a state (the Soviet Union), based on an economic philosophy propounded by a man who led his family to ruin. An interesting (if ironic) aspect about the history of Marx’s philosophy was that the English polity did not allow its leaders to fully implement it there.

Under the label of ‘Nehruvian socialism’ (C. Rajagopalachari derisively called it the ‘licence-permit raj’), we have copied all the undesirable aspects of Soviet governance including special privileges for the vlasti (Russian for ‘fat cats’). The Planning Commission which Nehru created to superintend the implementation of the five year plans, also copied from the Soviet Union, duplicates the functions of the finance ministry or reduces the role of the Finance Minister to that of a news reader. He reads the union budget every year in parliament!

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