“All the ‘-isms’ have failed us, in the sense of failing to lead to a society where true justice prevails, where a majority if not all people have enough to eat and adequate housing, are reasonably well-educated, are able to work and receive a decent salary to help them meet some personal aspirations in terms of goods and services that the means of production make freely and amply available, and generally have peaceful social relations…”
In 1949 The God That Failed was published. It was a collection of six essays with the testimonies of a number of famous ex-communists, who were writers and journalists who had become disillusioned with and abandoned communism. The six contributors were Louis Fischer, André Gide, Arthur Koestler, Ignazio Silone, Stephen Spender, and Richard Wright. Having ‘converted’ they then arrived at a ‘Kronstadt’ moment, described as ‘the moment at which some communists or fellow-travellers decide not just to leave the Communist Party but to oppose it as anti-communists.’ It was the redeemed (re)-convert matching the zeal of the convert.
The relationship between communism, socialism and marxism is covered briefly in the following two paragraphs.
“Marxism is based on a materialist understanding of societal development, taking as its starting point the necessary economic activities required by human society to provide for its material needs. The form of economic organization, or mode of production, is understood to be the basis from which the majority of other social phenomena – including social relations, political and legal systems, morality and ideology – arise (or at the least by which they are directly influenced). These social relations form the superstructure, for which the economic system forms the base. As the forces of production (most notably technology) improve, existing forms of social organization become inefficient and stifle further progress. These inefficiencies manifest themselves as social contradictions in the form of class struggle.
According to Marxist analysis, class conflict within capitalism arises due to intensifying contradictions between highly-productive mechanized and socialized production performed by the proletariat, and private ownership and private appropriation of the surplus product in the form of surplus value (profit) by a small minority of private owners called the bourgeoisie. As the contradiction becomes apparent to the proletariat, social unrest between the two antagonistic classes intensifies, culminating in a social revolution. The eventual long-term outcome of this revolution would be the establishment of socialism — a socioeconomic system based on cooperative ownership of the means of production, distribution based on one’s contribution, and production organized directly for use. Karl Marx hypothesized that, as the productive forces and technology continued to advance, socialism would eventually give way to a communist stage of social development. Communism would be a classless, stateless, humane society based on common ownership and the principle of ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’.
But we know what happened in practice: communism, thought of as capitalism’s opposite, only existed under authoritarian government and was the source of millions of human rights violations and deaths. It is now considered to be a twentieth century political experiment that officially ended with the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
If only that were the end of the story! But the ideal of classlessness and common ownership, a utopia, was too good to be true. However, the other utopia, capitalism, also blew in our face with the bursting on the world stage of the financial crisis in 2008, exposing the cupidity of capitalism, and the gross social inequalities that it leads to. It is no more humane than communism purported to be, and its wars have killed as many millions, with violence matching that of communism’s (and both rivalling religion’s murderous ferociousness) if we want to be true to history, not forgetting some major human rights violations too despite claims to innocence or virginity on that front. Fukuyama’s end of history was but another milestone in the continuation of the same history in another form.
All the ‘-isms’ have failed us, in the sense of failing to lead to a society where true justice prevails, where a majority if not all people have enough to eat and adequate housing, are reasonably well-educated, are able to work and receive a decent salary to help them meet some personal aspirations in terms of goods and services that the means of production make freely and amply available, and generally have peaceful social relations. Along with Marxism, communism, socialism, capitalism, there are also Stalinism, Leninism, nationalism, patriotism and a host of other such ‘-isms’ that have led us astray and not fulfilled their promises.
In fact as we now know, all political parties subscribe to the same ideology of capitalism mixed with socialism: market economy allied to welfare state. With, nevertheless, its cronyisms, the creamy layer of 1% – and thus the yawning haves/have-nots divide, the nearly two billion of the worlds’ population that still live below the poverty line, the hundreds of millions for whom basic healthcare, a regular supply of potable water and basic sanitation facilities are still in the realm of dreams.
In Mauritius too there is no ideological divide among the political parties, as two weeks ago the interviewee in the paper, Mr Jack Bizlall, pointed out. In this context and in light of the failure of the ‘God-isms’ above, the ten proposals he offers for consideration are a plausible alternative that deserve to be debated as part of the way forward. We hope that this will be done. Jack Bizlall’s proposals are reproduced hereunder, in their original French version:
“1) Adopter une Nouvelle Constitution, et
2) passer à la Deuxième Constitution;
3) offrir une maison à chaque famille qui n’en a pas et créer un National Housing Fund à cette intention;
4) appliquer un salaire social pour ceux qui travaillent et une allocation de subsistance à tous ceux qui ne travaillent pas ou qui ne trouvent pas de travail;
5) mettre l’économie au centre du social;
6) introduire un Ministère du Plan et arrêter la politique du laisser-faire anarchique et prédateur;
7) confier à l’Assemblée nationale la responsabilité d’enquêter sur tous ceux, individus et compagnies, qui d’une façon illicite, abusive ou prédatrice se sont enrichis. Sans la restitution de ce que les familles et les institutions ont accaparé au détriment de la population, aucun changement n’est possible;
8) appliquer des droits universels (avec le transport public gratuit) et l’accès aux services sociaux et engager les secteurs libérés dans la stabilisation de la société que nous voulons construire;
9) reconstruire notre judiciaire et reformuler nos lois pour que nous ayons de vrais organismes de contrôle qui soient vraiment performants, et
10) redéfinir le concept actuel de propriété pour changer profondément notre mode de production et nos rapports entre classes sociales.”
* Published in print edition on 14 September 2013