Conceptualization of the Term
the term development having many synonyms such as growth, evolution, expansion, enlargement, spread, progress, maturing, event, outcome, occurrence, phenomenon, happening, improvement and so on with shifting nuances depending on the contexts in which it is used came in to frequent use in political discussion with the origin and development of capitalism since the mid- eighteenth century. Originally meant as the natural progression from a previous, simpler, or embryonic stage to a later, more complex, or adult stage, the term was used to denote “advancement through progressive stages” since the 1830s and finally it was in 1902 that the term development assumed the concrete meaning “state of economic advancement” (http://dictionary.reference.com/cite.html). Thus, in mainstream discussions today, the term development generally connotes economic growth or the quantitative expansion of goods and services, or wealth of society often measured in terms of Gross Domestic Product/Gross National Income (GDP/GNP) or per capita income.
From this perspective, a lower GDP or per capita income conventionally denotes economic backwardness or underdevelopment manifested in deprivation, degradation and poverty. On the contrary, decrease in human/maternal/infant mortality, high doctor-patient ratio, high life expectancy and adult literacy rate among others are generally upheld as general indicators of development. Development theorists have recently put forward ‘human development’ and ‘sustainable development’ as broader terms that incorporate all aspects of individuals’ and society’s well-being, from health status to economic and political freedom, and in recent years, the notions of equity, empowerment and environmental sustainability are also added. The notion that increase in a nation’s total wealth as measured through GDP reduces poverty and other social problems is countered by well-meaning people citing historical examples where economic growth was not followed by progress in human development but was achieved at the cost of greater inequality, higher unemployment, cultural degradation, weakened democracy, loss of identity, overconsumption of natural resources and environmental catastrophe. Linking economic, social, cultural, political and environmental dimensions of development, they have argued that the present development model with its one-dimensional ideology of modernization has become unsustainable. Thus obsession with development or “development mania” or what Deng Xiaoping said on “development as the absolute principle” while elucidating his pragmatic philosophy that “the cat that can catch mice is a good cat no matter what colour it is” (“Why China Has Opened Its Door?”, Bangkok Post, February 10, 1980), has been regularly inflicting heavy damages upon human beings and natural environment.
Marx and Engels on Development
Academic circles often deal with mainstream development paradigm as not only capitalist but also supposedly-Marxist. As a matter of fact, vehement attacks from postmodernists and anti-Marxists on the alleged “materialistic determinism”, “technological optimism”, belief in the “abundance of natural resources”, etc., of Marxism have even prompted several “neo-Marxists” to try for what is often called a “greening of Marxism” (or “greening of capitalism” as attempted by liberal scholars and NGO theorists). To an extent, both the mechanical and anarchic trends associated with the International Communist Movement (ICM) are responsible for this malicious campaign based on misconception. Of course, by the time of Marx, following Industrial Revolution, capitalism in England had become the dominant mode of production together with the creation of the industrial proletariat. Capital accumulation then took on its definitive form and became the basic law that governed society. Compared with previous social formations, the capitalist form of accumulation was ‘constructive’ as it enabled a prodigious and continuous acceleration in the productivity of social labour. Thus, while being the most powerful and best known critic of capitalism and free market, Marx himself acknowledged bourgeoisie’s efforts to constantly transform the instruments of production for accomplishing the marvels of productivity. During its short mature period, capitalism fulfilled undeniable progressive functions. Together with an increase in material production, it created a new political and cultural consciousness. As a new stage of human history, capitalism thus brought about a dynamic economic arrangement on the one hand, and revolutionary social, political, cultural transformation on the other. It shook the old aristocratic/feudal/archaic systems to its foundations and created a new culture that put its mark on every facet of human thought and behaviour. No doubt, nineteenth century was the triumphant age of this capitalist revolution.
However, while acknowledging its historically constructive role in comparison with previous “modes”, Marx was unequivocal in pinpointing the destructive aspect of capitalism. Marx observed that capital accumulation destroys the two bases of social wealth by undermining “the original sources of all wealth—the soil and the worker” (Capital, Vol. I), or both nature and the human beings. Explaining human beings themselves a part of nature and describing the labour and production process as part of the “universal metabolic process” (Capital, Vol. I), Marx called for the overthrow of capitalism that simultaneously plunders labour and nature for the rational regulation of the metabolism between humanity and nature. According to Marx, no one owned the earth; they held it only in usufruct as “good heads of the household,” and were meant to pass it on in improved condition to future generations (Vol. 3). Implicit in this was a materialist conception of nature upheld by Marx along with the materialist conception of history that he enunciated. Making a fundamental departure from the bourgeois approach of synonymously using or equating “productivity” with “profitability”, Marx envisioned how socialism was more “productive” in the absence of the profit system. That is, unlike the post-Marxist and postmodern prognoses which, though from apparently differing persuasions put both Marxist and “capitalist modernization” (often defined as the impact on human life of scientific rationality and its technological achievements) paradigms of development together in one basket, the Marxist approach to development from the very beginning has been at various with that of the bourgeoisie. Socialism was conceived by Marx as a superior “mode of production” on account of its capability not only of accelerating development of the forces of production and of associating them with an “equitable” distribution of income but also of achieving a higher stage in the development of human civilization together with the abolition of capital’s stranglehold over nature.
In the Critique of Gotha Program, which both the so called Marxists as well as critics of Marxism have relatively ignored, this Marxist approach to development has been beautifully elucidated. Without elaborating much, suffice it here to quote Lenin, who after reading the Critique Gotha Program said:
“The great significance of Marx’s explanation is, that here too, he consistently applies materialist dialectics, the theory of development, and regards communism as something which develops out of capitalism. Instead of scholastically invented, ‘concocted’ definitions and fruitless disputes over words (What is socialism? What is communism?), Marx gives analysis of what might be called the stages of the economic maturity of communism.”(Collected Works, Volume 25, p. 471)
The basic characteristic of socialism and communism in Marx’s projection is its overcoming of capitalism’s social separation (alienation) of the producers from necessary conditions of production. It requires a complete de-commodification of both labour power and nature along with the advent of a new set of ‘communal property rights’. Production is planned and carried out by the producers and communities without the class-based intermediaries of wage-labour, market, and state. Thus according to Marx, the primary means and end of production is free human development.
To be precise, Marx’s fundamental discovery of surplus value as emanating from the exploitation of social labour by capital and his agenda of “changing the world” through “class struggle” or through the required social and political action are inseparably connected with a perception on development which is different from the capitalist paradigm rooted in the plunder of labour and nature. However, from a scientific perspective, Marx’s critique of capitalism put forward in Capital and other works has its historical limitation and therefore not exhaustive. For instance, at the end of the nineteenth century itself, the “destructive” dimensions of capital accumulation began to supersede its “progressive” or “constructive” dimension. These new developments associated with the transformation of capitalism into imperialism and capital’s global expansion in close alliance with imperialist colonial policy called for new theoretical and political interventions. The integration of the amassing of super-profits from internationalization of capital with the entire process of surplus value extraction and its distribution under imperialism required concrete formulations. During the imperialist epoch, capital accumulation’s destructiveness is more manifested in the material, ecological and cultural dispossession of the dominated peoples of the oppressed nations. Though Marx could foresee this unfolding reality as exemplified in his criticism of the allegiance of the English working class towards the colonial exploitation of Ireland by Great Britain, the then historical context necessitated Marx’s attention to analyze the “primitive accumulation” of capital in the main.
In the meanwhile, Engels had been working on his manuscripts on Dialectics of Nature during the 1870s which he could complete in 1883. In that he meticulously unravelled the interrelationship among science, nature, society and development from a dialectical-historical perspective. But the same could be collected, edited and published in a rudimentary form only in 1927, three years after the death of Lenin, by Riazanov who got the manuscript from Einstein, while a satisfactory version came out only in 1935. In the preface to Dialectics of Nature JBS Haldane wrote: “It was a great misfortune, not only for Marxism, but for all branches of natural science, that Bernstein, into whose hands the manuscript came when Engels died in 1895, did not publish it. In 1924 he submitted it (or part of it) to Einstein…”
In the Dialectics of Nature, Engels opined: “Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human conquest over nature. For each such conquest takes its revenge on us. Each of them, it is true, has in the first place the consequences on which we counted, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel out the first. The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor, and elsewhere, destroyed the forests to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that they were laying the basis for the present devastated condition of these countries, by removing along with the forests the collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture. When, on the southern slopes of the mountains, the Italians of the Alps used up the pine forests so carefully cherished on the northern slopes, they had no inkling that by doing so they were cutting at the roots of the dairy industry in their region; they had still less inkling that they were thereby depriving their mountain springs of water for the greater part of the year, with the effect that these would be able to pour still more furious flood torrents on the plains during the rainy seasons. Those who spread the potato in Europe were not aware that they were at the same time spreading the disease of scrofula. Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature – but that we, with flesh, blood, and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other beings of being able to know and correctly apply its laws. And, in fact, with every day that passes we are learning to understand these laws more correctly, and getting to know both the more immediate and the more remote consequences of our interference with the traditional course of nature. In particular, after the mighty advances of natural science in the present century, we are more and more getting to know, and hence to control, even the more remote natural consequences at least of our more ordinary productive activities. But the more this happens, the more will men not only feel, but also know, their unity with nature, and thus the more impossible will become the senseless and anti-natural idea of a contradiction between mind and matter, man and nature…
“But if it has already required the labour of thousands of years for us to learn to some extent to calculate the more remote natural consequences of our actions aiming at production, it has been still more difficult in regard to the more remote social consequences of these actions. We mentioned the potato and the resulting spread of scrofula. But what is scrofula in comparison with the effect on the living conditions of the masses of the people in whole countries resulting from the workers being reduced to a potato diet, or in comparison with the famine which overtook Ireland in 1847 in consequence of the potato disease, and which put under the earth a million Irishmen, nourished solely or almost exclusively on potatoes, and forced the emigration overseas of two million more? When the Arabs learned to distil alcohol, it never entered their heads that by so doing they were creating one of the chief weapons for the annihilation of the original inhabitants of the still undiscovered American continent. And when afterwards Columbus discovered America, he did not know that by doing so he was giving new life to slavery, which in Europe had long ago been done away with, and laying the basis for the Negro slave traffic. The men who in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries laboured to create the steam engine had no idea that they were preparing the instrument which more than any other was to revolutionize social conditions throughout the world. Especially in Europe, by concentrating wealth in the hands of a minority, the huge majority being rendered property-less, this instrument was destined at first to give social and political domination to the bourgeoisie, and then, however, to give rise to a class struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat, which can end only in the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the abolition of all class contradictions. But even in this sphere, by long and often cruel experience and by collecting and analyzing the historical material, we are gradually learning to get a clear view of the indirect, more remote, social effects of our productive activity, and so the possibility is afforded us of mastering and controlling these effects as well. To carry out this control requires something more than mere knowledge. It requires a complete revolution in our hitherto existing mode of production, and with it of our whole contemporary social order. All hitherto existing modes of production have aimed merely at achieving the most immediately and directly useful effect of labour. The further consequences, which only appear later on and become effective through gradual repetition and accumulation, were totally neglected. Primitive communal ownership of land corresponded, on the one hand, to a level of development of human beings in which their horizon was restricted in general to what lay immediately at hand, and presupposed, on the other hand, a certain surplus of available land, allowing a certain latitude for correcting any possible bad results of this primitive forest type of economy. When this surplus land was exhausted, communal ownership also declined. All higher forms of production, however, proceeded in their development to the division of the population into different classes and thereby to the contradiction of ruling and oppressed classes. But thanks to this, the interest of the ruling class became the driving factor of production, in so far as the latter was not restricted to the barest means of subsistence of the oppressed people. This has been carried through most completely in the capitalist mode of production prevailing today in Western Europe” (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1883/don/ch09.htm)
It is a sad historical fact that in contradistinction to mechanical materialism of “vulgar Marxists”, this Marxist approach to the whole course of social development properly linking economy and ecology so beautifully elucidated by Engels at a time when the environmental crisis was not a topic discussion as it is today, remained unknown for almost half-a-century since its drafting by him. While industrial capitalism was flourishing in Europe, Engels identified how capital accumulation as a system based on profit and greed, from the very beginning, was inseparable from plunder of nature and ecological destruction. That is why in his Dialectics of Nature he had pointed out how under capitalism the contradiction between people and nature becomes antagonistic. The problem of environmental pollution created by Industrial Revolution and plunder of the natural and mineral resources of colonies which formed part of the ‘primitive accumulation’ of capital had also wrought havoc in several parts of the world. The colonization process that strengthened along with the emergence of finance capital by the turn of the twentieth century caused irreparable damages to environment in the process of installing factories, plantations, mines without any concern for environment and ecology. The ruthless destruction of tropical rain forests in Africa, Asia and Latin America which are crucial in maintaining earth’s ecological balance and biological diversity, by imperialist colonial plunderers is an example. Engels in the Dialectics of Nature could predict these developments which were in store for the future. Several of Engels’ observations on physical sciences also were correct. Here it would be apt again to quote Haldane: “Had Engels’ method of thinking been more familiar, the transformations of our ideas on physics which have occurred during the last thirty years would have been smoother. Had his remarks on Darwinism been generally known, I for one would have been saved a certain amount of muddled thinking. I therefore welcome wholeheartedly the publication of an English translation of Dialectics of Nature, and hope that future generations of scientists will find that it helps them to elasticity of thought.” This logic of Haldane is equally applicable to the realm of evolving a Marxist approach to development too, as Engels’ revealing conclusions, which no environmentalist at that time could even think, would have immensely contributed for enriching the formulation of an alternative development paradigm during the initial years of Soviet Union led by Lenin.
Of course, in continuation of Marx’s method, by analyzing the qualitative essence of the passage from industrial (competitive) capitalism to finance (monopoly) capitalism, Lenin identified that by becoming parasitic, capitalism had ceased to be a progressive stage in history and that it was now “putrefied” and had become decadent. Unravelling the laws of motion of finance capital, he developed the theory and practice of revolution in the “weak link” or periphery (e.g. Russia) of the imperialist system and through the Colonial Thesis later conceived of the transfer of the revolution to the oppressed East, thereby fusing together the anti-imperialist/national liberation struggles of the “ underdeveloped periphery” with the struggle for socialism in the “ developed centre” leading to the further development of the slogan “Workers of all countries, unite!” to “Workers of all countries, oppressed peoples, unite!” And the practical application of this found its expression in China where by evolving the theory and practice of People’s Democratic Revolution according to the concrete conditions there, Mao Zedong further developed Marxism-Leninism. While this epoch-making process was going on, the “labour aristocracy” and “radical intellectuals” (with reference to whom Perry Anderson later coined the phrase “Western Marxism”) who also benefitted from imperialist super-profits, after renouncing the task of revolutionary social change committed themselves to mere academic Marxism devoid of any political impact such that Paris Commune of 1871 was turned out to be not only the first but also the last socialist revolution taken place in a country that was part of the “capitalist centre”. In course of time, intellectuals (such as Antonio Negri) of Western radical schools also abandoned even political terms such as “imperialism” and “people” from their “discourses” and replaced them with de-ideological and apolitical terminologies like “empire” and “multitude”.
Development and erstwhile Socialist Countries
Obviously, as “Euro-centric”, “Western Marxism” refused to go into the crucial question of imperialist super-accumulation and the logic of finance capital including its decisive stranglehold over production and hegemony over the entire political, social, cultural, and ideological spheres of life, the life-and-death struggle against all-embracing imperialist world system including the task of formulating a development path as opposed to capitalism was left to erstwhile socialist countries, especially Soviet Union and China in the main.
The peculiar situation including its backward economic condition in Soviet Union following October Revolution is already a much discussed topic. Marx’s thrust in Capital was on unravelling of the laws of motion of capitalism, and it was mainly in the Critique of Gotha Program that, as Lenin said, he put forward some hints on the economic situation of a future socialist society. In general, socialism was envisioned as a society that comes out of the womb of mature capitalism in which the necessary conditions for the transformation to a higher social order that bears the birthmarks of capitalism were already laid, and the proletariat was expected to overcome the “narrow bourgeois horizon” and move to the next stage based on the principle of work according to one’s capacity and reward according to one’s need. While smashing the “weakest link” and breaking the predominantly agrarian Russia away from the imperial chain, the expectation of the Bolsheviks led by Lenin was a chain of simultaneous revolutions in industrial capitalist countries of Europe. But nothing happened in that way. In such a situation, while academic Marxists and “socialist economists” like Oskar Lange and Ludwig von Mises predicted “hopeless chaos” and even doom—emanating from peasant unrest, undisciplined labour force, inexperienced management, destruction of the old production organization before developing new, minority position of Bolsheviks in the Soviets and having no influence over the vast territories of Soviet Union outside Moscow, etc.— it was left to the genius of Lenin and the Bolsheviks to shoulder the gigantic task of designing a development paradigm for Soviet Union maintaining the necessary link between socialism and capitalism as a transitional scheme together with ensuring victory of the Red Army over US-led imperialist encirclement and putting down the internal enemies. In retrospect, it may be stated that this policy including planning that eliminated market anarchy continued by Stalin transformed a backward economy into an industrial society in the absence of bourgeois property relations completely repudiating the foundations of bourgeois economic theory that development is impossible without the institutions of private property and profit motive. Thus between 1929 and 1955, industrial production in Soviet Union grew more than twenty fold while during the same period imperialist countries found it impossible even to double their industrial production, which on an average even halved during the Depression years. It was this economic and industrial base that also made possible Soviet Union’s survival and resistance against Hitler’s fascist aggression in 1941.
This does not mean that Soviet Union was oblivious of the environmental questions. As an example, nationalization of land enabled Soviet Union to assign large tracts of protected area called zapovednik (meaning nature sanctuary) which was kept “forever wild” as the highest degree of environmental protection and for incorporation of historical, cultural, archaeological, and natural heritages, and also as important sites for historical research and education. The recognition of zapovedniks was put on a firm legal footing by a measure “On the Protection of Nature Monuments, Gardens and Parks”, signed into law by Lenin in 1921. By the time of its collapse in the late 1980s, Soviet Union had 101 zapovedniks covering about 330,000 square kilometres or about 1.4 percent of the country’s total area (“Current Zapovedniks of the Russian Federation”, Russian Nature Press Information Bureau).
Meanwhile, emphasis on Lenin’s view that ‘Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country’ is a simplification as his intention in the specific context of inner party debates then was to pinpoint the importance of planning and scientific approach for transforming backward Russia in to a progressive society. At the same time, till his death, both under “War Communism” and NEP Lenin stressed that it was necessary to understand the forces and laws of nature, because any desire for the increase of productive forces and the growth of socialism had to take place by obeying those laws and acting in tune with them. He was therefore fully interested in cooperating with scientists as scientists, regardless of their political positions. The level of ecological conservation achieved through healthy debates among Soviets, Party, scientists and environmental activists that continued throughout the “industrialization debate” of the 1920s was well in advance of anything that existed in the capitalist countries and being ahead if its counterparts, and it was Soviet Union that led the world in environmental protection until1930s. The deviations from Marxist perspectives on biology and ecology leading to a defeat of “socialist conservationism” started in the 1930s when erroneous view stressing that scientific theory had little use if it did not enhance economic competitiveness with the West came to prominence led by Prezent, Lysenko and others with the proclamation of dialectical materialism as super science over particular sciences (www.climateandcapitalism.com).
But by the 1930s, however, a one-sidedness in the whole development orientation began to emerge and catching up with the West, especially USA became the favourite theme. From this period onwards the presence of American experts as well as American engineering firms could be seen in Soviet infrastructure development. Even the influence of bureaucratic/bourgeois methods of organizing industrial production and work places such as Taylorism and Fordism could be identified in the implementation of Five Year Plans. Stalin said: “American efficiency is that indomitable force which neither knows nor recognizes obstacles; which continues on a task once started until it is finished, even if it is a minor task; and without which serious constructive work is inconceivable…The combination of the Russian revolutionary sweep with American efficiency is the essence of Leninism” (Quoted in Thomas P Hughes, American Genesis: A Century of Invention and Technological Enthusiasm 1870-1970, University of Chicago Press, 2004). Fascination for the ‘the development of productive forces’ and the obsession with ‘economic growth’ measured in the same GDP yardstick as used in capitalism gradually got official recognition. Though the term “Soviets”, the embodiment of fighting people’s political power as Lenin conceived it, continued to be in use, for all practical purposes, powers began to be centralized in bureaucrats and technocrats. The basic tenets of socialist planning and development such as unity between workers and peasants, balance between “capital goods” and consumer goods industries, industry and agriculture, balanced regional development, ecological balance, etc. which had been catchwords even during the turbulent years of civil war and external aggression when Bolsheviks were a minority experienced a tragic reversal.
Mao Zedong and Socialist Orientation to Development
From the very beginning Mao was very sceptical of the one dimensional ideology of economic development including idea of “catching up with the West” that got official recognition in Soviet Union and in East European countries. Despite achieving GDP growth rates several times higher than that of capitalist powers, among other things, Soviet Union experienced prolonged failure to reach the highest pre-October Revolution level in grain output and suffered grave difficulties arising from glaring disequilibrium between the development of heavy industry and that of light industry. It was in this context that speaking at the Enlarged Meeting of the Polit Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party on April 25, 1956 bearing in mind the lessons drawn from Soviet Union, Mao had identified a number of problems concerning socialist construction and socialist transformation which later published as “On The Ten Major Relationships” such as: 1. the relationship between heavy industry on the one hand and light industry and agriculture on the other; 2. the relationship between industry in the coastal regions and industry in the interior; 3. the relationship between economic construction and defence construction; 4. the relationship between the state, the units of production and the producers; 5 The relationship between the central and local authorities; 6. the relationship between the Han nationality and the minority nationalities; 7. the relationship between party and non-party; 8. the relationship between revolution and counter-revolution; 9. the relationship between right and wrong; and 10.the relationship between China and other countries. (Selected Works of Mao Zedong, Volume V, pp 284-307)
Much before the formulation of these principles, immediately after the Revolution in 1949, at the Third Plenary Session of the Seventh Central Committee of the Party in 1950, to avoid a repetition of the mistakes in Soviet Union, Mao had raised the question of streamlining state apparatus and reducing military and administrative expenditures as fundamental pre-requisites for achieving a “better financial and economic situation.” The Central Committee had also taken a decision to reduce the outlay for military and administrative expenditures in state budget from 30 percent in the First Five Year Plan to 20 percent in the Second Five Year Plan. Mao was very critical of the manner in which peasants were “squeezed” in Soviet Union for capital accumulation and even questioned the system of taking too much away from peasants through “obligatory sales” at reduced prices. Mao sarcastically said: “You want the hen to lay more eggs and yet you don’t feed it, you want the horse to run fast and yet you don’t let it graze. What kind of logic is that”! And regarding decentralization of power and the devolution of it to people at the local level, Mao added: “We must not follow the example of the Soviet Union in concentrating everything in the hands of the central authorities, shackling the local authorities and denying them the right to independent action.”
In the same vein, Mao appealed to the Party and the people to pursue a dialectical approach to foreign relations. While insisting the need to “firmly reject and criticize all the decadent bourgeois systems, ideologies and ways of life of foreign countries”, he also upheld the need for “learning the advanced sciences and technologies of capitalist countries and whatever is scientific in the management of their enterprises”, and also called for translating research papers from English, French, German, Japanese, etc. into Chinese and vice versa. Mao opined: “Neither the indiscriminate rejection of everything foreign, whether scientific, technological or cultural , nor the indiscriminate imitation of everything foreign… has anything in common with the Marxist attitude, and neither in any way benefit our cause.”
More strikingly, it was in his long speech on The Ten Major Relationships that Mao made an evaluation of Stalin. He said: In the Soviet Union, those who once extolled Stalin to the skies have now in one swoop consigned him to purgatory…It is the opinion of the Central Committee that Stalin’s mistakes amounted to only 30 percent of the whole and his achievements to 70 percent, and that all things considered Stalin was nonetheless a great Marxist.” Mao made this assessment even while acknowledging Stalin directly doing “a number of wrong things in connection with China.” Appealing for a study of all that is universally true linking it with concrete reality, Mao concluded: “It would lead to a mess if every single sentence, even of Marx’s, were followed. Our theory is an integration of the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of the Chinese revolution.” (On The Ten Major Relationships)
A reading of On the Ten Major Relationships provides, albeit in a rudimentary form, a view on development that was profoundly revolutionary, scientific, realistic and lucid. It is capable of generating insights for effectively challenging the mainstream conceptualization of development, making it possible to deduce effective strategies for successive advances along the long road of transition to socialism. However, despite this farsightedness and precaution taken by Mao including the launching of the historic Cultural Revolution to ward off a repetition of capitalist restoration in China, Deng, who became the supreme leader in China after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, with his pragmatic “cat theory” unleashed a strategy of “four modernizations” in agriculture, industry, defence, and science and technology completely repudiating the socialist development orientation laid down by Mao. The so called “market socialism” of Deng initiated a rigorous dismantling of the self-reliant commune system, the iron rice bowl of socialism that ensured food, housing, health, education and employment for all, and abolished the erstwhile principle of walking on two legs, bringing forward all the evils of “uneven development” associated with capitalism and market-led growth. With the capitalist restoration, GDP growth became the accepted indicator of development, and as everybody knows, in terms of GDP ranking, crisis-ridden China is the second largest imperialist power today. The “economic growth mania” and the “modernistic”, “technologically determinist” way of thinking that engulfed the Chinese ruling system have today driven that country to an unprecedented social and ecological catastrophe too. Mechanical materialist emphasis on productive forces and uni-linear approach to realize capitalist industrialism or modernization first and dealing with social and ecological issues later have pervaded the entire policy documents of China. As Li Xuan, an official Chinese policy analyst recently put: “Economic construction precedes environmental protection.”
Neo-colonialism and Bourgeois Initiatives
Parallel to the rise and fall of the socialist development initiatives briefly outlined above, in the context of the transition from colonialism to neo-colonialism, imperialism led by USA took concerted efforts to use development itself as an ideological weapon to hoodwink world people on the one hand, and to win over a section of the intelligentsia together with keeping the comprador ruling classes in neo-colonial countries on the side of global reaction. Starting from the period of Truman who initiated ‘the grand idea of development’, the fear of socialist advancement and radicalization of national liberation movements in Afro-Asian Latin American countries prompted US imperialism, the supreme arbiter of neo-colonial world order then, to profess itself as the champion of “development” of the “underdeveloped” world. By the time of “decolonization”, a whole set of “modernization theorists”, Keynesian economists, policy experts and think tanks who were integrally associated with American social science institutions, US State Department and Bretton Woods organizations had propounded a ‘universal theory of development’ applicable to the whole world irrespective of the historical trajectories of countries. The basic contours or the philosophy and ideology of this development paradigm were later summarized by Galbraith, the well known American bourgeois economist as “the faithful imitation of the developed” by the underdeveloped.
A typical example of this ‘universal development paradigm’ was that of W.W. Rostow, a leading policy analyst of both US State Department and World Bank who presented a general theory of “five stages” through which all societies irrespective of their historical, social, and cultural differences had to pass. To counterpoise his theory as an alternative to Marx’s analysis, Rostow even gave the title, The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-communist Manifesto, to his book in which he had outlined five essential stages through which an underdeveloped country had to traverse such as: a) primitive society, b) laying preconditions for development, c) take off, d) maturity and e) high mass consumption. Obviously, without going in to the details of this prognosis, it must be stated that the political intention of this linear theory of development that simply compared the contemporary situation in ‘underdeveloped’ countries to the pre-capitalist situation in present day imperialist countries was to camouflage the centuries of colonial and post-war neo-colonial plunder that lay behind “underdevelopment”. The proponents of this thesis that became the official international development paradigm also advised comprador regimes in Afro-Asian-Latin American countries to open up their economies to the unfettered flows of foreign capital along with various “aid” programs to overcome the ‘successive’ stages of growth presented in this scheme. In brief, this development paradigm which formed the basis of the “Development Economics” framed by the World Bank and the “Development Decades” coined by the UN had been an integral part of international Keynesianism at least until the 1970s. At the political level, this super-imposed development agenda found its expression in the Bandung Project under the umbrella of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Collapse of Keynesian Illusions and Postmodern Prognoses on Development
The ideological-political setbacks suffered by the ICM and its inability to further develop the Marxist approach to development according to concrete conditions based on an objective evaluation of the erstwhile socialist experience on the one hand, and ever-mounting economic, social, cultural and ecological crises imposed on womankind by the neo-colonial order of imperialism on the other, have given rise to a wide range of streams of thought on development having differing ideological persuasions. The 1970s that can be considered a watershed provided the background for this. The unprecedented imperialist crisis of the 1970s and the advent of stagflation led to the collapse of post-war “development optimism” and the abandonment of international Keynesianism and welfare state. Along with that, the idea of universalisation of development that flourished under the Development Decades of UN also came to a halt. The universally accepted central role of the Keynesian welfare state in all post-war bourgeois development theories and policies, an idea which was exported from the western industrialized world to neo-colonial countries was suddenly gave way to “development pessimism”. Concerted efforts were made by imperialist think tanks, “development theorists” and Bretton Woods twins to replace all erstwhile conceptualization on welfare and development with Thatcherism and Reaganomics and turn post-war “Development Economics” on its head completely abandoning the project of “Development Decades” altogether. To be very precise, this called for a New Right redefinition of development setting aside all post-war faith in the “reformist” welfare state being cherished not only by bourgeois ideologues but also by “disillusioned Marxists”. Its outcome has been a transition from Keynesianism to neo-liberalism comprising a restructuring of the mode of accumulation and further internationalization of capital primarily through financial speculation rather than production and the complete abandonment of the ‘development project’ so assiduously built up by imperialism over the years as an integral component of both Cold War and international Keynesianism.
The sudden impact of this twist in policy from Keynesianism to neo-liberalism has been the transformation of erstwhile Development Decade into “Lost Decade” (or what is called the transition from “development optimism” to “development pessimism” by academic theorists ) as far as neo-colonial countries are concerned. (Susan George has given a vivid picture of this situation in A Fate Worse than Debt). The Brandt Commission appointed by the UN and sponsored by the World Bank to recommend an alternative development agenda has nothing to offer except the suggestion of a process of “trickle down” from the “developed North” to “the underdeveloped South”. On the other hand, the World Bank whose purpose of incarnation was “development” itself along with international funding agencies and international development organizations and a whole network of action groups, civil society organizations and NGOs that suddenly sprouted during the neoliberal period started to deal in “good governance”, “participatory democracy”, “participatory development”, etc. instead of parroting the erstwhile mainstream development jargons such as “state-led development”, “welfare state”, etc. as the whole project of “development” itself was replaced by what is called “post-development”. Some have even suggested a “de-development” process to erase the remnants of welfare state. Instead of nation-centred and state-led production, right wing “discourses” began to espouse “leaner models of welfare” using minimal state resources and pleaded for improving competitiveness of countries in global market through corporate tax reduction, increased rate of return on capital, reduced labour costs and liberal environmental regulations.
Of course, related to the central theme of this paper, has been a fundamental restructuring of the mode of capitalist industrial and business organization that took place during the contemporary period will be in order here, especially to comprehend the complex linkages behind the conceptual shift towards the neoliberal development paradigm. It is often said that the basis of Keynesian welfare state had been “Fordism” as typified by centralized and standardized mass production techniques based upon high division of labour, hierarchical factory discipline, centralized and collective wage bargaining and nationwide forms of welfare. With the crisis of the 1970s, MNCs gave up this Fordist method of factory organization and resorted to post-Fordist approaches for regulating production as manifested in a multi-stage decomposition of production, high variety of products, market diversification, autonomous profit centres, network systems, outsourcing, casualisation of labour, divided workforce, localized bargaining and so on. The most striking feature of post-Fordism has been what is called “flexible specialization” of workers taking advantage of the new developments in production and processing technologies making it possible to regiment and regulate workers relatively easy and to use even unskilled labourers who could easily be trained to perform otherwise complex operations. Together with these, the emergence of new technologies relating to transportation, communication and information and data processing that rendered location of production increasingly less dependent on geographical distances enabled international capital to launch the “global assembly line” and visualize a “new international division of labour” turning neo-colonial countries like India in to a cheap labour destination for “low-end jobs” on the one hand and dumping ground for hazardous toxic wastes on the other. No doubt, these post-Fordist developments have also encouraged academic theorists to point out capitalism’s transformation into a “post-industrial” society. Whatever are the interpretations, there is truth in the argument that in the context of the ideological-political setbacks suffered by the Left, these developments among other things have enabled imperialism to reorganize itself through redesigning the mode of accumulation after the severe shocks it suffered from stagflation in the seventies. As already noted, this is the context that gave rise to several postmodern and post-Marxist conceptualizations on development.
Of course, inseparable from the imperialist crisis of the 1970s has been mounting ecological crisis that challenged the “business-as-usual” approach upheld by imperialist centres compelling them to take up the environmental question also. It was in this context that, as the outcome of a project funded by the Volkswagen Foundation of Germany with intellectual inputs from MIT of USA and commissioned by the Club of Rome, The Limits to Growth was brought out in 1972 as the outcome of a computer simulation of exponential industrialization and population growth with finite resource supplies (www.clubofrome.org). Exposing the inherent contradiction between the “exponential” growth in five variables such as world population, industrialization, pollution, food production and resources depletion on the one hand, and the linear growth in the ability of technology to increase resources on the other, the study put definite limits on the mainstream model of universal development based on GDP growth. This was followed by the UN Conference on Human Environment in Stockholm in the same year, which was the prelude to a series of UN initiatives on the issue since then. As a corollary of the ever-growing ecological consciousness at a global level, there has been a spurt in the activities of international NGOs specializing in environmental questions with the catchword, ‘sustainable development’ while keeping silence on the non-sustainable resource appropriation by finance capital and the neo-colonial political and economic relations behind it. The first official proposal for sustainable development appeared in the release of the report entitled “Our Common Future” by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) set up by UN General Assembly in mid-eighties popularly known as the Brundtland Report (1987) which pleaded for a “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” However, the more appealing definition on the concept is that given by United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in 1994: “Sustainable development is development that not only generates economic growth but distributes its benefits equitably, that regenerates the environment rather than destroying it; that empowers people rather than marginalizing them. It is development that gives priority to the poor, enlarging their choices and opportunities and providing for their participation in decisions that affect their lives. It is development that is pro-people, pro-nature, pro job and pro women.” (Human Development Report, 1994)
And it has been in continuation of this initiative that since the 1990s, the UNDP started to popularize the flagship concept Human Development through its annual publication, the Human Development Report in which the major focus is on the preparation of Human Development Index (HDI) for the countries of the world. Coordinated efforts by both the World Bank and the UNDP in closely knitting together the former’s idea on “good governance and participatory development” with the latter’s formulation on “sustainable development” have contributed much in popularizing the concept of Human Development as an adjunct of corporate development necessitating the incorporation of “corporate social responsibility” as an item in company balance sheets. No doubt, the UNDP’s “pro-poor” posture and its advocacy on sustainable development that keep silence on the neo-colonial structures which facilitate the non-viable and non-sustainable pattern of ‘development’ and resource use by corporate capital have immensely helped international capital and funding agencies to impart a ‘human face’ to neo-colonial plunder. The UNDP’s sustainable development initiatives have also become a rallying point for several postmodern and post-Marxist and “post-colonial” development alternatives led by civil society groups, NGOs and recently by the World Social Forum.
Ironically enough, the very same centres that conceptualize ‘sustainable development’ in a populist way themselves are ardent proponents of “economic liberalism” (neo-liberalism today) and free market ideology. In this manner, the whole issue of ecology and environment which is inseparably linked up with the operation of finance capital and profit accumulation under neo-liberalism today is being depoliticized in the interests of ruling classes. In spite of the voluminous reports printed out by UN, international funding agencies and NGOs, none of them goes into the crucial questions of corporate plunder of world’s resources and nature, imposition of imperialist dictated policies on neo-colonial countries and the transplantation of ecologically harmful and toxic industries including the dumping of obsolete nuclear plants on them. Even after the beginning of concerted international efforts for controlling “global warming” through targeted reductions in “green house gas emissions” in the Rio Summit, through Kyoto Protocol, etc. in the 1990s, the UN and its specialized agencies could do nothing except reducing the whole issue to questions of “emission management”, “carbon trading”, distribution of carbon budgets and so on.
Meanwhile, global NGO network like the WSF in recent years has also added to the discussion on an alternative development paradigm through its attractive catchword “Another World”. In consonance with “neo-Marxian” ideologues like Antonio Negri (an aspect already noted), the hallmark of WSF’s postmodern development alternative has been its reluctance to use the terminology imperialism as defined by Lenin. Accordingly, imperialism according to postmodernists is a “discourse of power over the third world” and at the most it refers to the “developed countries’ involvement in the developing world.” Negation of the Marxist conception of class, private property, wage and state and the use of non-Marxist concepts of exploitation and oppression by postmodern development “discourses” ignore historical dynamics and operations of international finance capital behind backwardness of countries. Ignoring the material foundations including the class basis of injustice and oppression and simply reorienting to the “cultural logic” of capitalism, the “deconstruction” or neutralization of class politics unleashed by postmodern alternatives, in brief, aim at a depoliticizing and diverting of the working class away from anti-imperialist struggles. In fact, this “overemphasis” on culture, as the renowned Marxist scholar on culture Terry Eagleton has rightly put, arises from the “postmodern suspicions” on organized class politics. He said: “Culture is on any estimate important in a neo-colonial world; but it is hardly what is finally decisive. It is not in the end questions of languages, skin colour or identity, but of commodity prices, raw materials, labour markets, military alliances and political forces, which shape the relations between rich and poor nations.”
Another variant of the postmodern development discourse is a critique of development itself as “Western” and a loss of faith in the paradigm of ‘development’ as such. Characterizing the entire categories associated with modernity such as enlightenment, ideals of secularism, and democracy as a “ baggage” and science as “reductionist”, the protagonists of this view call for a “de-development” or abandonment of development altogether. Instead of development’s alleged affinity or “nostalgia for the categories of modernity”, they suggest religion, ethnicity, caste and other pre-modern and pre-capitalist “identities” as the “preferred cohesion of the oppressed” against the injustices of the modern world. Some have even suggested an “alternative development paradigm based on indigenous systems”. A classic illustration today is the Hindu supremacist attempts in India to “rediscover” and counterpoise India’s cultural traditions and caste values as a superior alternative to modernity. At a global too, this postmodern romanticizing of the orient or “non-European cultures” in the guise of resisting Euro-centrism and glorification of past identities by “subaltern theorists” have given rise to several religious revivalist, chauvinistic, xenophobic and autarkic reactionary trends which, in the name of fighting the evils of capitalism, want to turn back the clock of history by counterpoising “internationalism” with “localism”.
Here it should unequivocally be stated that the problems of development including the crucial issue of sustainability that we discuss are related to modern era developments. Respect for past achievements is needed. But conceptualization of a sustainable, people-oriented development paradigm in terms of mystification of unverifiable age-old faith or divine truth is obviously in the interest of reactionary, vested interests. Noted scientist Dhirendra Sharma said: “It is a defeatist view to argue that ancient civilization was far superior, or that Indian culture offered better social order, or that our ancestors knew better water-management, or that the traditional agriculture was sustainable, or that the native people’s scientific knowledge was far more advanced than the modern Science and Technology. The view that women, black and the disadvantaged have equal rights in the civil society is admittedly the modern scientific principle which is not recognized in any Holy Book of the past.”(Cultural [Mis]use of Science)
The imperialist crisis of the 1970s and the ideological-political setbacks suffered by the ICM, as already mentioned, among other things have also led to the emergence of Dependency Theory, a supposedly-Marxist interpretation of development and underdevelopment led by neo-Marxian scholars. At the academic level, it challenged and inflicted severe blows to the neoclassical and modernization theories formulated by imperialist think-tanks. However, rather than orienting the analysis of development in proper link with the Leninist class approach to finance capital and imperialism, the dependency theorists, especially Andre Gunder Frank, the most well known among them have rooted in the “thesis on secular deterioration in terms of trade” codified by the famous UN economists such as Raul Prebisch and Hans Singer associated with the Economic Commission for Latin America. As a body of social science theory predicated on the notion that resources flow from the “satellites” or “periphery” of poor and “underdeveloped states” to the “centre” or “metropolitan” wealthy states, enriching the latter at the expense of the former, the dependency theory, albeit with variations, visualize imperialist exploitation mainly at the realm of exchange relations between developed and developing countries. Some among them like Wallerstein have approached the issue of underdevelopment and imperialist exploitation from a “world system perspective”, conceptualizing imperialism as part of a general and gradual extension of capital investment from the “centre” of the industrial countries to the overseas “peripheries”, though authors like Amin in their later writings have tried for a “comprehensive” analysis rather than a purely economic perspective.
From a Marxist perspective, the progressive content of dependency theory lies in its vehement attack on the very foundations of the “modernization theory” of development proposed by imperialist think tanks, especially American social science research institutions. As already referred, the prognosis of the modernization theory among other things held that all societies progress through similar stages of development, that today’s ‘underdeveloped’ areas thus are in a similar situation to that of today’s developed areas of sometime in the past and that therefore the task in helping the underdeveloped areas out of poverty is to accelerate them along this supposed ‘common path of development’, by various means such as foreign capital investment, technology transfers, and closer integration into the world market. The central contention of dependency theory is diametrically opposed to this view and argues that the impoverishment and backwardness of poor countries are the direct outcome of their integration into the “world system.” According to most studies of the dependency school that have come out on countries of Latin America, accumulation in the imperialist countries is directly related to impoverishment and deprivation in the dependent countries. For instance, in the words of Frank, the representative of this School, “underdevelopment as we know it today, and economic development as well, are the simultaneous and related products of the development on a world-wide scale and over a history of more than four centuries at least of a single, integrated economic system: capitalism.” According to him, “underdevelopment is not due to the survival of archaic institutions and the existence of capital shortage in regions that have remained isolated from the stream of world history. On the contrary, underdevelopment was and still is generated by the very same historical process which also generated economic development: the development of capitalism itself.”
Regarding how exactly the accumulation process takes place in the “metropoles” at the cost of “satellites”, the dependency theorists have put forward the “mechanism of unequal exchange of equal values” between “metropoles and satellites”. According to Arrighi and Amin, “transfers of value”, from “underdeveloped” to the “developed” constitute the “essence of the problem of accumulation on a world scale.” This unequal exchange is mainly due to the unequal wage levels between metropoles and satellites. While high wage in developed countries overvalue their products, the low wage in underdeveloped countries undervalue their products, which through exchange lead to capital accumulation in the former and economic drain and “de-capitalization” of the latter. Most of the “satellites”, as the ECLA thesis has shown, being mono-production primary exporters, the prices of their products are also deteriorating in the long run. Thus, there is a constant drain of surplus from the satellites to the metropolitan centres leading to ‘accumulation and development’ of the developed countries and ‘development of underdevelopment’ of the under-developed areas. Of course, different writers of the dependency school have substantially enriched the discussion by elaborating their arguments. In relation to the unequal exchange, Amin, for example, is very critical of the export orientation of backward economies resulting in what he calls an “extraversion” or “disarticulation” in the economy. According to him, all economic activities including agriculture, industry, infrastructure and tertiary sectors are oriented towards the export sector. “It is the distortion toward export activities that constitutes the main reason” for the economic backwardness of poor countries. In sum, the economic surplus generated in backward countries, according to dependency theorists, is used for development in advanced countries.
The positive aspect of the dependency theory is its success in exposing the modernization theory which suggests that the only way of attaining development is through the means adopted by contemporary “developed countries”. However, the blaming of the “underdevelopment” of the neo-colonial countries on their contact with Europe and America is not at all reasonable. At the same time, the attempts to incorporate dependency theory into the core of Marxists analysis are met with difficulties. It is too simplistic and one-sided in its emphasis. Its main thrust is on the “invisible” transfer of value from “periphery” to centre through trade, the logical anti-dote of which is “ bourgeois economic nationalism” or autarky rather than socialism. By placing ‘exchange’ on the highest pedestal, the whole system embracing exchange as well as production which are at the basis of backwardness is totally ignored. Secondly and more importantly, in the name of a “world system perspective” or “integrated world capitalist system” the dependency theorists have ignored the domestic class relations in development and underdevelopment as well as the differing relations that various sections of the bourgeoisie in ‘dependent’ countries have with imperialist finance capital. The stratification or differentiation in the ranks of the bourgeoisie which Lenin’s Colonial Thesis and later in the conceptualization on the People’s Democratic Revolution was quite irrelevant for dependency theorists for whom the bourgeoisie as a whole are integrated into the world capitalist system. In other words, the contradiction between comprador, bureaucratic land lord classes on the one hand and national bourgeoisie classes on the other, which is related to the strategy and tactics of anti-imperialist democratic revolution plays no role in the dependency approach. In this respect, dependency theorists are criticized for their over emphasis on “external determinism” and negation of internal dynamics of neo-colonial countries.
However, the most important drawback of dependency theory is its antipathy towards the Leninist position on imperialism. The characteristic feature of imperialism, according to Lenin, is finance capital the export of which, replacing or relegating the export of goods to the background has resulted in a parasitic and most oppressive exploitation of the whole world by the most powerful capitalist states. Lenin’s characterization of imperialism as militaristic, parasitic, decadent and oppressive are all integrally linked with the subordination of every realm of social life to the diktats of finance capital. Lenin’s prediction that the front of capitalism will be pierced where the chain of imperialism is the weakest is also based on the analysis of the international operations of finance capital including his thesis on the uneven development of capitalism. To reiterate, the core of Lenin’s theory of imperialism which has contributed for the development and enrichment of Marxist analysis of capitalist development is the theorization on the evolution of finance capital as the most valid category as well as its inseparable link with the internationalization of capital. All these crucial issues are either insignificant or missing in the dependency theory. Further, a major part of Lenin’s polemics against Kautsky was mainly on account of the latter’s incorrect understanding of imperialism as a mere policy of capitalism. That is, in his approach to imperialism, rather than referring to the whole capitalist system, Kautsky was dealing with the international aspects of capitalism. His approach, as Lenin said, was a vulgar conceptualization of Marxist theory as it conceived imperialism in a narrow sense of economic relationship between capitalist and backward countries. On the other hand, Lenin, for whom imperialism is finance capital in search of profits in other capitalist countries and in colonies, was concerned with the whole process of capital accumulation on a global scale. Taking this polemics between Lenin and Kautsky into consideration, we are constrained to characterize the ’dependency theory’ as a post-war reincarnation of the Kautskian approach. The vulgar conceptualization of neo-colonialism “as economic imperialism” also belongs to dependency theory, as it, on account of its Kautskian orientation could not comprehend the Leninist stress on the inter-dependence, interaction and inter penetration of the economic, political, military, and cultural aspects of imperialism. This may not be an exaggeration since in his later years Frank, the leading theoretician of the dependency school himself was in the company of Soviet revisionists, the true inheritors of Kautsky’s legacy. This ideological bankruptcy also prompted both Frank and Wallerstein to be admirers of NGOs and NSMs along with their postmodern non-class alternatives as codified in such initiatives as World Social Forum including similar de-ideologization and de-politicization on development at a global level.
Towards a People’s Development Paradigm
A brief knowledge regarding the diverse trends and persuasions on development paradigm which have evolved over a long span of history having varying ideological-political dimensions as mentioned above will be helpful for evolving a Marxist class perspective on development according to concrete conditions today. Obviously, the concept of development cannot be discussed in the abstract and should be approached in a broad historical perspective tracing its origins at least from the advent of modernity to the present rather than in an ahistorical manner. The whole idea of development needs to be approached in the concrete historical, ideological, political, economic, cultural and ecological context. For instance, unlike in the past, today ecology has come to the centre-stage of development such that “a harmonious co-evolution of nature and society” has become the indispensable component of the struggle for building an egalitarian social order and the move towards socialism. The dominant reasoning including the “trickle down” approach that demands a catching up with the so called developed countries at any cost upheld by adherents of both neo-liberalism and “mechanical materialism” is engaged in an outright denial of both people’s participation in development and environmental sustainability. We cannot subscribe to the mechanical view that people wait until the development of the productive forces have finally created the conditions of a necessary passage to the long road to socialism. We cannot deny people — including the workers, peasants and all the toiling classes and oppressed peoples — the immediate and rightful benefits from each stage and at all levels of development. At the same time, we cannot go after “anti-development” and unscientific “small is beautiful” and “go back to nature” schools of thought and similar other formulations espoused by a whole set of NGOs and “de-development” proponents for whom development itself is an “unmitigated catastrophe”.
We are not living in the abstract or in a “shapeless world” as argued by postmodernism (which has become the ideology of neo-liberalism today). In our attempt to evolve a class approach (i.e., from the standpoint of the vast majority of the exploited and the oppressed by capital) in transforming capitalist development into people’s development as integrally linked up with the transformation of bourgeois democracy into people’s democracy, the starting point should be the writings of Marxist teachers from Marx to Mao on the subject and the concrete historical experiences of erstwhile socialist countries which bear enduring prospects for the advancement towards socialism. Contrary to the mainstream/dominant capitalist development paradigm where ruthless plunder of people and nature (capital accumulation) was acknowledged as the driving force behind development, in spite of historical limitations, as we have noted in the foregoing analysis, people had been the prime mover and focus of development in socialist countries such as Soviet Union and China till their deviation from the class perspective to bureaucratization and ‘catching up with the West’.
In capitalism, democracy for the people is considered as a barrier for capital accumulation or development and therefore bourgeois ideologues advocate curtailment of democracy as a necessary sacrifice for development. The only aberration for this in the entire history capitalist development had been the less than half-a-century between the Depression of the 1930s and Stagflation of the 1970s when challenged by the advancement or the presence of socialism and radicalization of national liberation movements at a global level compelled imperialism to concede a “welfare state” and a façade of democracy consisting of certain democratic rights to the people. On the other hand, class-based people’s participation or people’s democracy is indispensable for development in socialist transformation as revealed by the slogan ‘power to the Soviets and Communes’ put forward by Lenin and Mao. In the ultimate analysis, genuine people’s development is integrally linked up with people’s political power at all levels of government and democracy at all levels of decision-making as necessitated by the historical contexts, concrete social and cultural specificities and environmental conditions of nations. It is also inseparable from the transformation to a higher, progressive mode of production in harmony with nature including appropriate changes in social, cultural and gender relations necessitating a paradigm shift in development itself. It is also absurd even to think on a “development consensus” where both the interests of corporate capitalists and that of the broad masses of working people are simultaneously resolved as one is the antithesis of the other.
Today, at a time when the rightwing forces are on the offensive and revolutionary dreams are on the defensive, the conceptualization of a class-based perspective on development together with its necessary ideological-political dimensions is of paramount importance as a strategic tool for organizing the broad masses working and oppressed people in anti-imperialist movements against the global operations of corporate capital. Unlike industrial capitalism of yesteryears, today when internationalization of finance capital has reached its farthest limits, in the prolonged and unchartered road to a people-oriented development, democracy and socialism, a reconfiguration and reorienting of the micro and macro, or local, national and international aspects of development from the class perspective are indispensable. That is, conceptualization of a people’s development paradigm should not obscure our grasping of the dynamics of class relations behind the plunder of people and nature by capital. At the same time, development should constantly nourish human beings in their natural conditions yielding greater democracy at all levels of decision-making. Such a development paradigm shall be ‘worthy of our human nature’ as Marx put it. It is just as what Einstein said more than six decades back:
“I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate (the) grave evils (of capitalism), namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow-men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.” (Albert Einstein, Why Socialism?, 1949)
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PJ James is politbureau member of CPI(ML) Red Star