A B Bardhan | September 5, 2013
Human life can be measured in terms of decades but the emergence of a new system, after demolishing the old system, should be measured in terms of centuries. As we get set to celebrate 66 years of India’s independence, the country is on the cusp of a revolution.
Imperialism has weakened (in the present century) compared to the 20th century but this imperialism has been more rapacious, more aggressive and has tried to intervene in all matters of life. But despite that, there have been talks of regime changes. The Indian youth today are witness to a change taking place in West Asia – and Egypt is just one example.
At the same time, they are also witness to the path of anti-imperialism taken in many Latin American countries. Once known as the backyard of American imperialism, most of these countries – and I don’t claim they are all socialist systems – have formed their own unique way of development, each suited to its own condition. During India’s freedom struggle, the youth of the country had a very clear goal: the struggle for freedom and against imperialism. That goal had been inspired by all the sacrifices made in the course of the freedom struggle. When we were young, the October Revolution in Russia and its efforts to build the socialist model of economic development acted as our inspiration. Similarly, Latin American countries and socialistic countries are exercising an influence among the youth today.
Despite the time gap of over six decades, 1947 still inspires our youth; it’s a reference point on how our heroes became martyrs. I see a revival of those moments – there are clubs coming up named after Bhagat Singh, and the youth of today are thinking in the same way as in the 1940s.
While 20th century ended in the monopoly of capitalism, with the emergence of many independent countries, this century will be a century that will herald a new future, ultimately leading to a new social system (based on equity). I must confess that I have a tremendous faith in the capacity and the potential of Indians, especially the youth. It is the people who make history, make revolutions, fight against imperialism and achieve independence. And these are the people who will come on their own and take up cudgels in the struggle now.
I think we can see a new India emerging by 2020 or 2030, and the young people will usher it in. Though many of us may not live to see it, I am excited by the prospect, by the churning. This new India will overcome the evils of poverty, diseases, illiteracy and the other ills plaguing our country. This new India will gradually remove the caste and class divisions, and a new economy will be built not on the idea of profit maximisation but on fulfilling the needs of the people.
Dynasty politics is one small aspect of all these other evils – I don’t give it much importance since it is but throwback to the old feudal order where the son inherited power from the father – and this type of politics will also be taken care of.
An alternative policy
What the neo-liberal economic system has done, and quite disastrously at that, is raise careerism and consumerism, especially among the young people. This has led to diversion of the economic goals from inclusive economic development models meant to give a better life to all sections of people in developing countries, including India. But as the primary goal shifted toward profit maximisation, it led to high prices, inflation, unemployment, lack of moral and ethical standards. This, in turn, encouraged greed rather than emphasising the needs of the people. It also led to rampant corruption.
With the growing crises, the youth is getting disillusioned, frustrated with the so-called model of growth and development. That is why I emphasise on an alternative policy. This disillusionment is primarily a result of the unfulfilled aspirations and expectations in the years since independence. In 1947, and the immediate years after it, people expected the independent India to be free of hunger, unemployment, injustice – a country India that will grow and develop by embracing everyone. Those expectations, however, have not been fulfilled, and for obvious reasons. Most leaders of the Congress, which assumed the reins from the transfer of power, came from the upper strata of society. Close to the bourgeois, they adopted the capitalist path of development.
While it created a lot of social and economic inequality, among many other problems, there was undoubtedly some good work also by the first few governments. For one, I would say we were able to make a very good constitution.
When building infrastructure and at the same time trying to overcome social and economic backwardness of the country, a legacy of over 200 years of colonial rules, the government led by Jawaharlal Nehru sought the help of other leading developed capitalist countries. But neither the United States nor Britain – the leading capitalist countries in the immediate post-World War II era, extended a helping hand. Instead, the former Soviet Union and other socialist countries came forward and helped India develop our public sector units. One of the first public sector companies was Bhilai Steel Mills, set up with full Soviet participation.
All key PSUs were set up in these initial years and became the foundation of our economy. And this economic policy formed the basis of our foreign policy, too, since the two are generally interlinked. So along with forming a close association with the then USSR and other Soviet bloc countries, India took the non-aligned route on the foreign policy side.
The neo-liberal era in capitalism, as also in India, started after the collapse of the Soviet Union. With the Indian economy linked to the global capitalist system, the country’s economy is in a crisis today, as the world economy stands severely battered.
But many new developments will take place in the next nine months [till the general elections]. I think the way India can be rescued from the present economic and political crises, and other existing tensions can be worked out inside the country itself. Lastly, I am hopeful that today’s youth will form a new India of tomorrow, and it is 1947 that will be the reference point.
(As told to Trithesh Nandan)
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