There are 2 types of visions that we can try to conjure. The first is based on our potential and limitations and is essentially subjective. The second is, using social tools of analysis, trying to visualise what the year 2000 will be like, and this becomes an objective exercise.
Before embarking on the latter, one realises one’s ignorance of facts, figures and empirical data. The objective exercise becomes subjective when one tries to conjure, to imagine, based on personal observations and impressions. Yet this has a value if one does not get dogmatically attached to these visions.
Though the foregoing smacks of a lack of commitment, a lack of seriousness, this is not so. I believe that all presentations, however scholarly delivered, are subject to these same limitations of subjective objectivism.
How we wish that this were not so! That we need not grope and experiment. That there were proven models we could follow, blueprints that we could fit into, and know with certainty that we were contributing to the building of a better place for us to live in. But this is not so. And so the path is torturous for those who dare to think, to wonder, and to visualise.
I choose to elaborate only one aspect of the year 2000 that frightens me. An aspect that concerns us, is about us. This does not in any way mean that I am not aware of or concerned about the very real danger of nuclear obliteration that we all live under, or that I am optimistic that somehow the balance between man and nature will be restored in spite of the senseless short term oriented plunder that is taking place today and is surely going to increase and intensify these coming years.
Without in any way under estimating the value of these very vital issues, this paper attempts to deal with the changed attitudes and thus the altered roles that we, the intellectual friends of the poor, could very well be playing in the next years; the dangers and pitfalls that lie ahead to corrupt our thinking and to deflect us from our cause and historic role. Therefore this paper must be taken as a warning, an appeal to my fellow social workers, wherever they may be, in whichever part of the country.
The economy of our country — the mother of all other formations, political, cultural, institutional — is moving ahead rapidly. All of a sudden, we see things that we did not before, just a few months back. Industrialisation has had a spur these past days and there is an anxious expectation in the countryside. Anxious because we do not know what to expect.
How will this sudden spurt in industrialisation effect the villages? Specially the small and poor peasantry? Or will it at all? Will it be the laborious path of first pauperisation, then polarisation and finally an overall increase in wages and conditions of living? Will we go through the abject misery that other rural populations have been through when their countries started getting industrialised? We cannot answer any of these questions with absolute certainty because of capitalism’s terrific absorption machinery — bourgeois democracy.
No stronger weapon has been perfected by any other social order to suppress the people and keep them in a state of economic, political, social and cultural subjugation with their consent. Hats off to capitalism for achieving the incredible — divorcing democracy from participation, from awareness, from thinking!
Will this “democracy” enter into the countryside killing the little rebellion, discontent and spirit of questioning that our small and poor peasantry have, albeit below the surface due to a severe state of alienation? It is tempting to say, No! That the misery and abject poverty which is definitely going to ensue these next few years will surely provoke the rural poor beyond the point of endurance; that they will revolt! Yet will they? Or will they endure the next decades like they have endured so many droughts, floods and famines?
And then again, even if they do revolt, to what avail will it be? Other than raising their consciousness? Because my vision does not perceive of them standing a chance. Earlier, more primitive state repression machinery armed with sophisticated weapons have succeeded in crushing their revolts. And now the state, even if disarmed, has to most powerful of all weapons — bourgeois democracy.
In the past few months we see very concerted and serious efforts made to create a powerful urban middle class with predominant middle class values. By increasing the ceiling on personal income tax, flooding the market with semi-luxury consumer goods and making them into basic necessities through well thought of advertisements and state encouragement. Materialistic pursuits, packaging of needs as well as need satisfiers into cans, cartridges and categories, writings on the walls into data to be fed in so that technical solutions could be found, and the shunting of the dissatisfied to the margins of society, to be dealt with by the newly created shrinks and therapists, are all going to kill a spiritual dimension that has thus far kept the country healthy, alive and morally sensitive to the real problems of her citizens.
This shallow middle class value seems to have infected the country’s leadership as well, as indicated by the decreasing importance being attached to ideology, philosophy and thinking, and the projection of national leadership as just an efficient, well equipped, fact finding and problem solving team! And this shallow middle class value is surely going to effect us also, corrupting and even eroding our thinking capacities and thereby our role as change agents.
Standing on a pavement in Hyderabad with my brother the other day, we were struck by the sheer hurry of everyone around us. We did not see leisure in even one single person in the 2 hours that we stood and watched. As if freedom from pressing business was a crime if indulged in any place or at any time other than the appointed! Will this society, we wondered, produce any thinkers?
In the decade to come, even the friends of the poor, in spite of all their sincerity, are going to desert them. They will blame it all on “their own fault” for not having availed so many “golden opportunities”, so many “fair deals” that competitive capitalism and individualistic free enterprise offered them. Gone will be that huge liberal crowd that has so steadfastly stood behind charity, solidarity and various development efforts so far. Because the blatant manifestations of feudal oppression will no longer be there. Only hunger, starvation and abject misery — supposedly due to laziness, lack of hard work and no Entrepreneurship.
All that those who do not believe this have to do is ask themselves: How many people in the west are really by poverty in their own countries? How many define poverty in the 1st World? How many know of it? And how many ponder as to the causes of this poverty? Surely the number is just a fraction of those who are moved by the plight of the poor in the 3rd World.
The answer for this is not hard to find. The truth is that capitalism kills concern for its victims. This is the role of bourgeois democracy.
Distortion of people’s philosophies and socio-economic sciences seems to be the main thrust of the intellectual lackeys of the bourgeoisie. A reading of any of their works leaves one with the impression that they are just answering points made by the poor and their intellectual supporters. Using the same phrases in a twisted and warped manner to deny truths that they know to be true.
For the basic undeniable truth is that it is only the ones right on top, controlling the body politic, along with their masters — the owners of capital -- who benefit from the organising and reorganising of class society. All adjustments and so called humanising efforts at liberalising class society must be seen in this light. They should not be misconstrued as indicators of change; of ushering in a better future, because such misconceived hope can anaesthetise us into a complacent waiting.
The basic tenets of capitalism never change. They remain the same. The liberalisation of society, the increasing concessions given to the working class and to the peasantry all fit into the schema of the quest for greater profits. These new signs of liberalisation should be thus interpreted and give no room for false hopes. For entertaining such hopes is a betrayal of the people.
My vision of 2000 is full of apprehensions and misgivings. The temptation for the bourgeois intelligentsia to fall into these traps of wrong and misleadingly hopeful signs of change will increase in the next decade. In this sense, I do believe that the come era is one of bourgeois misguidedness.
It is fashionable today to not talk Left; to search for solutions beyond the Left. This, I am convinced, is a great danger which will lead us to the betrayal of the working class, the small and poor peasantry. It is important for us to pursue theory. But this pursuit should not be a pure one. It should be conducted along with the masses, amidst them. Let us be Left enough to do that.
At the same time I am not against change. I do not pass a value judgement on either capitalistic development or on the year 2000! It would be silly for those committed to development to pass judgements or to take stubborn positions on economic trends and happenings.
For me the only option ahead is mass organisation work. Not only forums f theoreticians on behalf of the small and poor peasantry — though this is very vital and necessary — but also the creation of forums of the oppressed and exploited themselves organised to understand what is happening to them and why.
Only this consciousness of the people can penetrate the sham of bourgeois democracy and expose the while lies camouflaging all the intents and purposes of the ruling bourgeoisie.
I take the position that I will be with the small and peasants of Bagepalli and enter the year 2000 with them. I will try and make them understand what is happening, as much as possible. And I will be in a position to do so because, as a member of the bourgeois intelligentsia, I listen to them, to what they do not say, and rationalise it all using my tools of societal analysis.
The development of a people centrally implies the bettering of their material well being. All other facets of their spiritual existence are determined by this material status and so take a secondary position.
At the same time we find that it is deficiencies found in the spiritual existence of the poor people’s lives that perpetuate their underdevelopment and poverty. The culture of poverty manifested in tolerated indiscipline, fatalism, pursuance of short term goals, etc. operates to ensure the continuance of poverty and underdevelopment.
A seeming dilemma is caused as to where a development effort should focus its thrust on the material realm of the poor people’s lives or on the spiritual realm. Efforts are often made to materially develop the poor through economic inputs, but these fail. Equally sincere efforts made to raise the spiritual status of the poor from the existing subhuman levels also fail. Both fail because they fail to comprehend the dilemma and base their efforts on a total comprehension of the existence of the poor people in society.