April 29, 2005

Once a Socialist

Once upon a time i was a socialist (this was during my engineering college days before i knew economics!). Now this is nothing unusual in Kerala (remember that Kerala had the first elected communist government in the WORLD!). Recently i wrote this mail to a group of my friends (who were part of the communist student organization in my college). Thought this might be interesting.
The mail was in response to the following question by a friend who is now happily settled in UK but was once a communist


What are your different views about Comrades working in MNC ...
Boorshwa Companies ?

Is that acceptable ? Please respond with justifications ..Why you
think Yes or No ?

and my long reply was this

Lemme introduce myself first!

i was in gec from 1997-2001, was referred to the
group by deepak george. i think i know most of the guys in the group
(except may be the youngest guys). anyway finished my engg went on to
do my mba in bangalore, worked with infosys for a time and then joined
my present company in chennai

anyway, have a big confession (and possibly a disqualification from
the group!) to make. while i had some socilalist beliefs and some
communist leanings, i was never a member of SFI per se . my sole
contribution to sfi was in organizing one "tech-impact". but then i
was in MH for most of my time and almost all sfi guys in my time were
my friends. and when i moved to bangalore i got to enjoy (for free!)
the company of lots of our earlier saghav's. so feel really connected
to the group.

First of all comments about moderation: moderation should be for
accepting new members (so that "burshaws" like me dont get in. i was
able to join the group without any moderator permission). But once a
member is in (after "saghavu" certification, if necessary) we dont
need any moderation. It just slows down the messages. may be once in a
while the moderators can have some purges (like the one that is
currently happening in the "mother" party) to weed out the
ideologically corrupted

and now to move to Deepak's "philosophical" question :)

The answer to me is quite clear: I was once a believer in the "great
idea of socialism". But pretty fast i grew out of it (even while i was
in engg college). So i no longer believe in the ideology (as in the
"large picture". i might still subscribe to smaller parts of it, but
then i also subscribe to parts of several other ideologies!). Believe
me guys, communism got its chance in the last centuary (and a big
chance at that!) but squandered it. Ok..i wont say sqandered coz after
several philosophical discussions i have come to the conclusion that
while communism appeals to the finer instincts of a man, capitalism
appeals to the baser (and more natural) instincts. so the decline of
communism was inevitable (i know i am talking with hindsight here..so
not much original analysis). However, socialism (distinct from
communism) might have a better chance (as long as its primary
objectives are "equality of opportunity" and a "social safety net")
because it is more adapted to human psyche

The problem with communism and other top-driven ideologies is that
they leave almost no leeway for innovation. and more than anything
else, it is through innovation that mankind has progressed. I will
give a very close example. In the late 80's and early 90's all the
unions (including non-communist ones, but driven by the communist
unions) was campaigning against computerisation of banks/psu's/and
govt departments, particularly in kerala. Doesnt that, in hindsight,
look like a pretty stupid idea?. They were agitating against
innovation and look where that finally got them?.

so what do i think about working in MNC's??. absolutely nothing!.
between whats the difference between MNC's and local companies?. The
motive of both are profit. do u think the poor man in India will
benefit more if ambani becomes richer than bill gates?. By saying
"yes" u r just allowing urself to be used by the indian businessmen
who want to retain the extra profit that they were earlier used to. I
get a real laugh today when i compare what indian communists and
indian "muthalali's" say about foreign companies!. Both say that these
foreign co's should not be allowed in (or if allowed in..tightly
regulated so that existing indian companies, which are not
competitive, can continue to make profits!). so who is using whom??.
And what about the indian communist leadership??. why do they visit
the US/western europe so much when they should be visiting Cuba or
North korea???. And do they stay in anything less than a star hotel
when they visit these places?. Oh yeah, and they support lallooo,
mulayam, amar singh with pleasure!. Did you hear that when tsunami
struck jyoi basu was on "cruise" to Phuket (that capital of "western
decadence") and that he felt the waves passing beneath his ship!. what
was he doing on a cruise to phuket?? i thought all these cruises are
for "muthalalis"! . I am not trashing the entire communist leadership.
I am not even trashing jyoti basu. dont know the guy well. but i am
just giving a recent example about a communist leader, which stayed in
my mind. there have been lots of good guys in the party and there are
still some of them. But thats true of almost any party. show me a
reasonably sized party and i will show some decent individuals in that
(including in BJP, a party whoose social policies i abhor). so then is
the communist party any different from other parties?

And what is so wrong with the word "profit". sure it appeals to the
baser instincts rather than to the more "ethical" instincts. But i
feel that Human nature is essentially selfish and "profit" appeals to
that instinct. u want to get paid for the additional value that u
create. Charity is fine, but then charity also appeals to the
"selfish" nature (u feel good after u contribute to charity..right?).
This is why the communist slogan "from each according to his
capability..to each according to his want" will not (and should not!)
work. all the people are not same. some are more intelligent,more hard
working and more willing to take risks. Why should they be paid less
than what they contribute?.

Oh yeah, and why is mnc's in manufacturing good but not so in
services??. this to me looks such a stupid comment (no offense to u
anoop.) that i wont even comment!

anyway i conclude my monologue (written during free time whle working
in an MNC and making use of their facilities!) by saying even guys who
really belived in communism shouldnt feel any guilty about working in
an MNC. if u r exploiting people, then so is any one working with an
indian company (private/public) or government. the people in the NGO
field might be different (but not always!!).

i dont know if this mail is gonna get me dismissed from the group but
it was nice to mail a lots of guys with whom i have lost touch over
the last few year.


ps: bernard shaw, the famed socialist and arch-enemy of status quo
once made this comment. i think its very relevant to the topic
"If you are not a communist at 20, you have no heart; if you are still
a communist at 30, you have no head."


An Ex Comrade said...

I have already admitted the fact that this is an interesting article...Btw..where is ur article on the new pope .? awaiting for that.

An Ex Comrade said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Arun said...

that was an interesting read.
does anybody other than those "communists in Kerala" believe that the "real communism",as written by Marx will work(though they claim to be non-dogmatic)??esp guys like M.N Vijayan and Berlin Kunjananthan Nair??
But I believe CPM is better than the other lot.atleast they have got really good inner-party-democracy and accountability,except that they must distance themselves from the trade-union people.
Nobody is born Greedy,Its the SYSTEM that makes one Greedy...I dont know its implications.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful article

Is work priced logically in the world

what r the criterias we use in pricing peoples work

A sweeper painter doctor and a businessman all contribute to the society

A businessman gains more in terms of money.

A businessman can live without painting but a painter cant live without money

therefore need for communism arises

but the solution does not lie in stopping globalization or forming unions

rather the solution lie in reducing the disparity in salaries

Anonymous said...

excellent article..guess even a communist will find reason in it..

Nariyal Chutney said...

Super Post :).

"The problem with communism and other top-driven ideologies is that
they leave almost no leeway for innovation".

You bet. Classical Marxism postulates that when an idea ( Karl Marx calls it thesis) clashes with an opposing ideal ( the anti-thesis) , what emerges is not the victory of one over the other , but a synthesis which combines the best of the both world views.This synthesis is the result of class struggles ; but over time , this becomes a new thesis , clashes again with the anti thesis to form new synthesis.This process carries itself till a perfect society , the so called Marxist - Utopia (George Orwell in the book 1984 ) , emerges . Left - Wing Scholars from the two monolithic red parties in India say that , India is far far away from this (supposedly) ideal state of existence and as a result the class struggle against the bourgeoisie have to carry on.For that they have to accept and embrace the changes which unfortunately they dont seem to . They have not only opposed computerisation as you have mentioned in your article but also with the same mentality have opposed the tractorisation of farms and even asked Microsoft to log out of Kerala recently.Human nature is essentially selfish and "profit" appeals to that instinct as you have mentioned and for them profit and more value creation come through attracting more people to their archaic ideologies . What a pity ?

P S: Quite a nice candid post by the way , why dont you send a copy to Comrade Achu ? :)

Jubin George said...

Came here from the chutney blog.

Let me cut and paste a passage from John Steinbeck's book called The Short reign of Pipin IV.

“Well, here’s the funny thing, sir. You take a big corporation in America, say like General Motors or Du Pont, or US Steel. The thing they’re most afraid of is socialism, and at the same time, they themselves are socialist states.”

The king sat bolt upright. “Please?” he said.

“Well, just look at it, sir. They’ve got medical care for employees, and their families and accident insurance and retirement pensions, paid vacations – even vacation places – and they’re beginning to get guaranteed pay over the year. The employees have representation in pretty nearly everything, even the color they paint their factories. As a matter of fact, they’ve got socialism that makes the USSR look silly. Our corporations make the US government seem like an absolute monarchy. Why, if the US government tried to do one-tenth of what General Motors does, General Motors would go into armed revolt. It’s what you might call a paradox, sir.”

“Can you explain why they do these things?”

“They don’t do it for kindness, sir. It’s just that some of them have found out they can produce and sell more goods that way. They used to fight the employees. That’s expensive. And sick workers a re expensive. Do you think my father likes to feed his chickens vitamins and cod-liver oil and minerals and keep them warm and dry and happy? Hell, no! They lay more eggs that way. But isn’t it strange, sir, that out of the most autocratic system in the world the only workable socialism seems to be growing?”