number 16, July 1995
"PURE GREEN, AND NO RED"
AND THE PEASANT IN THE UNDER-DEVELOPED WORLD
SCOPE OF THIS ARTICLE
1. VANDANA SHIVA: GANDHI REINCARNATED
A) PHILOSOPHICAL BASE
B) THE POLITICAL ECOLOGY OF SHIVA
i) SOME GENERAL
ii) HUMANITY AND
NATURE; SCIENCE AND DEAD WHITE MALES
iii) THE REAL HISTORY
OF INDIAN VILLAGES
iv) A BOUNTIFUL NATURE
v) IS THERE ACTUALLY
AN ECOLOGICAL CRISIS?
a) DENYING POLLUTION: THE WARSAW PACT COUNTRIES
b) THE SECOND DANGER : ENVIRONMENTAL CATASTROPHISM
c) POPULATION, THE REVEREND MALTHUS AND CAIRO HOT AIR
III) CONCLUSIONS : SHIVA'S GANDHIAN
GAIL OMVEDT AND DEVELOPMENT
I) PHILOSOPHICAL BASE
ii) IMPOVERISHED MARXISM "UNDER VALUES"
IN SUMMARY, OMVEDT'S ATTACKS ARE :
II) CRITICAL COMMENTS UPON OMVEDT
& Peasant Parties Of India
C) THE ROLE AND
NEED FOR HEAVY INDUSTRY
AND BUKHARIN. SLURS on USSR.
ii) PROLETARIAT AND
iii) TROTSKY &
PREOBRAZHENSKY URGE CRUSH PEASANTS.
iv) BUKHARIN &
KULAKS "ENRICH YOURSELVES"
v) STALIN SUPPORTED
vi) VIEWS OF MODERN
ECONOMISTS ON HEAVY INDUSTRY
ANALYSIS INSUFFICIENT" SAYS OMVEDT.
viii) OMVEDT CHARGES
A BASE "BIAS"
CHARGES ON COMMODITY PRODUCTION
x) OMVEDT & "PRIMITIVE
xi) OMVEDT'S CHARGES
ON HUMANS AND NATURE
CONCLUSIONS : ONLY ONE PATH TO LIBERATION
SOVIET RUSSIA AND ECOLOGY : POST WAR AGRICULTURE AND THE
STALIN PLAN TO TRANSFORM NATURE
i) GEOGRAPHY OF USSR AND MONOCULTURE (map only in hard copy)
ii) AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTIVITY
iii) PLAN TO TRANSFORM NATURE, & WILLIAMS.
iv) KHRUSHCHEV:STALIN DESTROYED AGRICULTURE
Seeing clear cut
forests on the British Columbia mountains, people experience desecreation,
and a disgust at the lumber industry's drive for profit. Some Green activists
are driven to oppose industrialisation and development. They believe development
and "Marxists" abuse the peasantry. But Marxist-Leninists argue that turning
history back is impossible. They embrace development in order to liberate
society from mind and back breaking work; and to develop ALL human faculties.
Development includes industrialisation, which Green activists criticise;
instead prescribing a "Green" path for colonial countries, or "SUSTAINABLE
Some Greens dwell
in, and try to resurrect a Utopian past. This backward gaze arose in attacks
on agri-business, lumber and heavy industry. But capitalist environmental
spoilage is a "normal", though offensive, part of capitalist development.
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels saw this destruction; but
also saw the simultaneous creation of the class bringing socialism:
"We may add at this point that all historical
antagonism between exploiting and exploited, ruling and oppressed class
to this very day find their explanation in this same relatively underdeveloped
productivity of human labour. So long as the really working population
were so much occupied with their necessary labour that they had not time
left for looking after the common affairs of society - the direction of
labour, affairs of state, legal matters, art, science etc. -so long was
it necessary that there should constantly exist a special class, freed
from actual labour, to manage these affairs; and this class never failed,
for its own advantage to impose a greater and greater burden of labour
on the working masses. Only the immense increase of the productive forces
attained by modern industry has made it possible to distribute labour among
all members of society without exception, and thereby to limit the labour-time
of each individual member to such an extent that all have enough free time
left to take part in the general - both theoretical and practical -affairs
of society. It is only now, therefore that every ruling class and
exploiting class has become superfluous and indeed a hinderance to social
development, and it is only now too, that it will be inexorably abolished."
Frederick Engels "Anti-Duhring", Moscow,1977,
Two Indian activists
Vandana Shiva (a Green) and Gail Omvedt (a peasant activist) are
in the fore of farmers and peasant movements, described loosely as "eco
feminist". Shiva decries "Dead White Men"'s patriarchy,
and Omvedt says Marxism has "failed". Why should Marxist-Leninists devote
time to these "bourgeois" authors?
The Greens helped
organise mass rallies (3-400,000) in New Delhi, against foreign agri-business.
Indian "Greens" command attention. But they are prey to romantic anti-modernisms,
that appeal to many. This mystic, religious appeal has drawn Western alienated
youth, since the days of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834). Vandana
Shiva insists that peasant movements be based upon Satyghara and Gandhism;
and ancient planting methods. Omvedt proclaims industrialisation is passe;
and that Marxists suck peasant blood. These are old debates; they took
place in the USSR.
Did the former USSR
and the Warsaw Pact countries abuse ecology? In the post-Stalin years -
Yes! Chernobyl chilled us, reinforcing a backward looking Utopianism. Abuses
in the ex-Warsaw Pact, supposedly show Socialism itself is anti-ecological.
This is false. Firstly, of the Warsaw Pact only the Soviet Union established
socialism. Secondly, during Stalin's era, ecology policy was sound
and based on nature. The historian of Soviet science, Loren Graham agrees:
"There was also a pioneering movement
in the history of Soviet conservation theory and community ecology. The
historian who has uncovered this fascinating episode.. is Douglas R. Weiner,
who points out:
'Through the early 1930's the Soviet
Union was on the cutting edge of conservation theory and practice', Russians
were among the pioneers in individualistic theory of plant distribution
(L.G.Ramenskii), and ecological energetics (V.V.Stanchnskii)."
Graham L.R. "Science in Russian and
the Soviet Union", Camb Univ Press 1993. p.243.
must extract the progressive core and discard the romantic utopianism of
the Greens. Otherwise another generation of activists is lost. Here we
critique Vandana Shiva and Gail Omvedt; dealing with the role of heavy
industry, and technology, and the leading role of the working class. We
reject charges that "industrialisation" per se - irrespective of the social
system - is inevitably associated with ecological abuse. We show the Liberman
capitalist "reforms" under Brezhnev leading to ecological abuse
in the former Soviet Union. Finally, we examine charges, that Stalin destroyed
the agricultural ecology of the Soviet Union.
Shiva has received
great critical acclaim and veneration, even winning the "Alternative Nobel
Prize". What does she say?
Perhaps Shiva herself
would say, that her central theme, is that it is primarily women who can
overcome a "Reductionist view of the 'passivity of the earth'". This links
with her overall view that, a reductionist science and biology was
established by classical "white patriarchal" thinkers like Francis
de Verulam Bacon (1561-1626). Apparently, this white reductionist science
was aimed at, and resulted in, a conscious act of domination over nature.
This "separated" parts of nature from herself. Marxist-Leninists use the
term "alienation", and we believe this is what she means.
base then, runs from the creation of a conscious reductionism that "masters"
science; then overturns a Previous Harmony between all parts of
nature, including ourselves. This results in a profound alienation. This
alienation originates in white dominated patriarchy.
Here we deal only briefly,
with "feminism" and women versus men. But we will quote Shiva extensively
on this. She cites Evelyn Fox Keller:
"Science had been produced by a particular
sub-set of the human race, that is, almost entirely by white middle class
males. For the founding fathers of modern science, the reliance of the
language of gender was explicit; they sought a philosophy that deserved
to be called 'masculine', that could be distinguished from its ineffective
predecessors by its 'virile' powers, its capacity to bind nature to mans'
service and make her his slave."
Cited in Shiva Vandana "Staying Alive",
Zed Press, London, 1989.
Referenced hereafter as Shiva 2;
p. 15; Quoting From Evelyn Fox Keller :"Reflections on Gender and Science",
New Haven Yale University Press,1985, p.7.
Shiva and other eco-feminists
(Carolyn Merchant, Evelyn Fox Keller etc) all object to Baconian
science. These objections begins with Bacon's terminology (Nature - she;
Science - He):
"In Tempores Partus Masculus or the
Masculine Birth of Time..
Bacon promised to create 'a blessed
race of heroes and supermen' who would dominate both nature and society..
Modern science was a consciously gendered patriarchal activity."
Shiva 2. p.16-17.
"The rise of mechanical philosophy with
the emergence of the scientific revolution was based on the destruction
of concepts of self-regenerative selforganising nature which sustained
all life. For Bacon.. nature was no longer "Mother "Nature, but a female
nature, conquered by an aggressive masculine mind."
Shiva V; "The Seed and the Earth: Biotechnology
and the colonisation of Regeneration." In : "Close to Home Women reconnect
ecology health and Development Worldwide." Ed. By Vandana Shiva. Philadelphia,
New Society Publ, 1994.
Referenced also as Shiva 3; p.130.
But the objections
that are raised, go beyond mere terminology. They relate to the scientific
"According to Bacon:
'the nature of things betrays itself
more readily under the vexations of art than in its natural freedom.'
The discipline of scientific knowledge
and the mechanical inventions it leads to, do not:
'merely exert a gentle guidance over
nature's course; they have the power to conquer and subdue her, to shake
to her foundations."
J.Spedding ed: The Works of Francis
Bacon Stuttgart, Verlag Press, 1963, Vol V, p.506. Cited By Shiva 2. p.16.
The notions of a
controlled experiment are repugnant to Shiva:
"The controlled experiment and the laboratory
are a central element of the methodology of reductionist science. The object
of study is arbitrarily isolated from its natural surroundings, from its
relationship with other objects and the observer(s). The context (the value
framework) so provided determines what properties are perceived, and leads
to a particular set of beliefs. The Baconian programme of domination over
nature was centrally based on the controlled experiment which was formulated
and conceived in the language of rape, torture and the inquisition. The
controlled experiment was therefore a political choice, aimed at control
of nature and exclusion of other ways of knowing."
Shiva 2; Ibid; p.29.
For the eco-feminists
this Baconian vision renders Mother Nature into powerlessness; into becoming
the passive recipient of whatever male society wanted to do to her. This
rendering "removed all restraint", and the scientific revolution "functioned
as cultural sanctions for the denudation of nature" (Shiva 2. p.17). Shiva
sees this as part of the capitalist exploitation of the world, and the
expropriation of "original inhabitants" - whether the Maori in New Zealand,
the North American Indian, or the Indian sub-continental peasant:
"The patriarchal construct of the passivity
of the earth and the consequent creation of the colonial category of land
as terra nullius, served two purposes : it denied the existence and prior
rights of original inhabitants and negated the regenerative capacity and
life processes of the earth."
Shiva 3; p.130.
Moreover, for Shiva,
Reductionist Biology assisted the displacement of women (It is true
that Shiva acknowledges that ALL peasants and tribals may also be displaced,
even if they are not women - See Shiva 2, p.2) from "productive activity".
Even more sinister, this "patriarchal biology and science" is linked to
the need to "develop" and obtain "surplus":
"As Maria Mies has pointed out
this concept of surplus has a patriarchal bias, because from the point
of view of nature and women, it is not based on material surplus produced
over and above the requirements of the community : it is stolen and appropriated
through violent modes from nature (who needs a share of her produce to
reproduce herself) and from women (who need a share of nature's produce
to produce sustenance and ensure survival)."
Shiva 2, Ibid, p. 4-5.
ULTIMATELY THE SOURCE OF ALL EVIL
IS A PROFOUND REDUCTIONISM, THAT SEPARATES, AND SPLITS ALL "ONE" - APART
"The source of patriarchal power over
women and nature lies in separation and fragmentation. Nature is separated
from and subjugated to culture; mind is separated from and elevated above
matter; female is separated from male and identified with nature and matter.
The domination over women and nature is one outcome, the disruption of
cycles of regeneration is another; disease and ecological destruction arise
from this interruption of the cycles of renewal of life and health. The
crisis of health and ecology suggest that the assumption of man's ability
to totally engineer the world including seeds and women's bodies is in
question. Nature is not the essentialised passive construct that patriarchy
assumes it to be. Ecology forces us to recognise the disharmonies and harmonies
in our interactions with nature. Understanding and sensing connection as
and relationships is the ecological imperative.. But stating a partnership
with nature in the politics of regeneration, women are simultaneously reclaiming
their own and nature's activity and creativity. There is nothing essentialist
about this politics because it is, in fact based on denying the patriarchal
definition of passivity as the essence of women and nature."
p.141-142. Shiva 3. Ibid.
There is a truth
in the unity of nature. But rarely has a hymn to this truth been recited
in such mystical tones. For Shiva, a re-uniting principle is the influence
of ancient views (ie pre-modern scientific renaissance). Shiva joyfully
enters Indian cosmology. One can paraphrase this as a sort of spiritual
plea to "Let us get back to basics."
"From the point of view Indian cosmology..
the world is produced and renewed by the dialectical play of creation and
destruction, cohesion and disintegration. The tension between the opposites
from which motion and movement arises is depicted as the first appearance
of dynamic energy (Shakti). All existence arises from this primordial
energy which is the substance of everything pervading everything. The manifestation
of their power is energy is called Nature (Prakriti). Nature, both
animate and inanimate is thus an expression of Shakti, the feminine and
creative principle of the cosmos; in conjunction with the masculine principle
(Purusha), Prakriti creates the world. Nature as Prakriti is inherently
active a powerful productive force in the dialectic of the creation renewal
and sustenance of all life. In Kulacudamim Nigama Prakriti says:
'There is none but Myself,
Who is the Mother to create.'"
Shiva 2. p.38.
Armed with this newly
energised, swirling demoness of Shakti, from this underlying and complex
philosophical base, Shiva strikes out with her more direct ecological arguments.
THIS IS SHIVA'S PHILOSOPHY. WHERE
DOES IT LEAD HER ?
identifies a "FATAL FLAW" in previous thought. This is that "scarcity"
is a fundamental underpinning to the current ecological crisis. This error
assumes that nature is the source of economic scarcity. Resulting social
tensions are usually seen, says Shiva, as a necessary and inevitable violent
struggle over scarce resources. A further consequence implicates all development
as necessarily bad. Because, in order to generate "material abundance":
"Development then becomes a strategy
to 'combat scarcity and dominate nature' to generate material abundance.'"
Shiva, V; "The Violence of the Green
Revolution. Third World Agriculture Ecology and Politics"; (The Other India
Press, Mapusa 403 507 Goa India. ISBN 81-85569-04-5); Referenced hereafter
as Shiva 1; p.14.
Against this "fatal
flaw", Shiva proposes that Nature is generally munificent and abundant
in her provision for humanity. But.. humanity messes up this Ideal relationship.
Shiva asserts that both "the left and the right" share this 'view of scarcity
and of violence'. This facilitated "development", which was inherently
bad; as the entire political spectrum was in agreement:
"The Green Revolution was prescribed
as a techno-political strategy that would create abundance in agricultural
societies and reduce the threat of communist insurgency and agrarian conflict.
The British-American sponsored Colombo Plan of 1952 was the explicit
articulation of the development philosophy which saw the peasantry as incipient
revolutionaries, who if squeezed too hard, could be rallied against the
political and economically powerful groups. Rural development in general
and the Green Revolution in particular, assisted by foreign capital and
planned by foreign experts, were prescribed as means of stabilising the
rural areas politically which would 'defuse the most explosive grievances
of the more important elements in the countryside."
Shiva One. p.14.
attacks the "Green Revolution". Loosely defined, this is the technical
change associated with "new seeds" (really highly selected seeds originally
from the Third World) that are "High Yield Varieties". This technology
was pioneered by a USA scientist, Norman Borlaug. Neither Shiva
nor other writers comment on the underlying bias to traditional Western
genetics. This understands, that environmental changes count for little
to explain nature, the genes explain all.
Shiva shows that
the Borlaug missions, were stimulated by fear of impoverished Third World
peasant insurrections and communism. The Green Revolution also fostered
dependency of underdeveloped countries on the West. Borlaug was awarded
the Nobel Prize. Shiva shows the Green Revolution impoverishes the seed
and bio-diversity available to Indian peasants. Further, the Green Revolution
seeds demand lots of fertiliser and water; therefore the actual real yield
is low; and water resources become a serious concern. In contrast, if traditional
practices are compared, new "Green Technology" seeds are worse; with a
lower bio-availability of useful natural fertiliser.
attacks the social results of the Green Revolution. She shares ground with
many other critics. The Green Revolution was driven by the desire of the
social elites to make profit. Whatever profits were made in the countryside,
this accentuates the class divisions of the countryside. As a consequence
the peasantry is even worse off, rather than better.
attacks the fostered dependency upon the West. The "new", "foreign" seeds
and technology are patented and available only under license. "Foreign"
seeds have often originally been taken from peasants who for aeons have
used them, and now are sold back to them as a "new patented product". New
patent laws (foisted by Arthur Dunkel, of The General
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade [GATT]) allow foreign "ownership" of
seeds originally from the fields of the peasants themselves. Foreign companies
then link these seeds to further profiteering. Seeds are engineered to
be resistant to various herbicides and chemicals. This creates a costly
package. This now becomes a single, essential, more costly package, containing
both seed and chemicals for the new genes:
"Biotechnology has become an instrument
for dispossessing the farmer of seed, as a means of production. The relocation
of seed production from the farm to the corporate lab relocates power and
value between the North and the South; ad between corporations and farmers.
It is estimated that the elimination of home grown seed would dramatically
increase the farmer's dependence on biotech industries by about $6 billion
Shiva 1, p.245.
believes that the social upheaval in the Indian Punjab is directly
due to the Green Revolution. Obviously, this is a gross over-simplification
of a national struggle taking place in a multi-national state. But thankfully
- she explicitly disclaims views of religion as the root of Punjabi turmoils.
She also provides data showing that the process of big farmer swallowing
up the little farmers is an ongoing dynamic in the Punjabi countryside.
This drives social unrest and tensions. But, she believes it is the sole
reason for the eruption of struggles in Punjab.
What are Shiva's
to development, revolve around a pre-industrial, native technology.
She embraces Mohandas
K. Gandhi :
"Like Gandhi challenged the processes
of colonisation linked with the first industrial revolution with the spinning
wheel, peasants and Third World Groups challenge the recolonisation associated
with the biotechnology revolution with their indigenous seeds."
Shiva 1, p.16.
"If there has not been a liberation
from colonisation, how can there be a recolonisation?!"
But, the main point,
is that she wishes a Gandhian view of life:
"Mahatma Gandhi said, "there is enough
in the world for everyone's need, but not for some people's greed".
Shiva 2, p.6.
"Why must India become industrial in
the Western sense?' Gandhi has asked.
'What is good for one nation situated
in one condition is not necessarily good for another differently situated.
One man's food is often another man's poison.. Mechanisation is good when
hands are too few or the work to be accomplished. It is an evil where there
are more hands than required for the work as is the case in India."
Shiva 1,p 239.
Shiva describes Gandhi's
search for "regeneration of livelihoods" in India; how he resurrected the
hand mill known in India as the CHARKHA. This thriving industry
was devastated by the power mills of Lancashire as Marx described. Gandhi
in 1917 had to search in India for even one Charkha, which had already
been put away by its owners as useless. Shiva does not inform us how many
she finds now in India. The Charkha became Gandhi's sybmol, and for Shiva
it epitomises the dilemma:
"The spinning wheel symbolised a technology
that conserves resources, people's livelihood and peoples' control over
their livelihoods. In contrast to the imperialism of the British textile
industry, the "Charkha" was de-centered and labour regenerating, not labour
displacing. It needed peoples' hand and minds, instead of treating them
as surplus, or as mere inputs into an industrial process. This critical
mixture.. were essential to undo the waste of centralisation, livelihood
destruction, resource depletion and creation of economic and political
dependence that had been engendered by the industrialisation associated
Shiva 1. p.239-240.
She invokes various
movements as models, which she traces to Gandhi. For instance she traces
"The Chipko Movement", of the people of Garwhal Himalayas in India
to Mira Behn, a disciple of Gandhi who moved to the Himalayas in
the 40's. Mira Behn trained a man, Sunderlal Bahuguna who married
Bimla Behn (another disciple of Gandhi). The "problem" of a male
intermediary is taken care of however. In Shiva's account, only when Bahuguna
"learnt to listen to the quiet voices of women" was he able to "articulate
the feminine ecological principles of Chipko." (Shiva 2. p.68-77). Others
would contest her Gandhian biased view.
The Chipko movement
did mobilise people against the logging and commercial exploitation of
the hill forests of Uttar Pradesh. Similar movements advocated re-forestation
with diverse, native species (mango, tamarind, jackfruit and bonge) rather
than the imported monoculture of eucalyptus. Courting arrest, people (mainly
women) uprooted eucalyptus seedlings, replacing them by native species.
(Shiva 2, p.77-80). Even she sees that other movements were spontaneous,
and not so driven by some form of Gandhian wisdom. Amongst those, many
are centred upon the protection of COMMONS LAND. "Commons" are lands
historically designated for use by the whole population, this land is being
steadily privatised and usurped (Shiva 2 p.83-95). Commons Land is very
"It is evident that till the end of
the last century and in all historical periods before that, at least 80%
of India's natural resources were common property, with only 20% being
privately utilised.. This extensive common property has provided the resource
base for a non-cash, non market economy. A whole range of necessary resources
has been freely available to the people, Thus commonly available wood,
shrubs and cowdung have been utilised for cooking and heating; mud, bamboo,
and palm leaves for housing wild grass and shrubs as animal fodder, and
a variety of fruits and vegetables as food."
Chattrapati Singh, Common Property and
Common Poverty" Delhi, Oxford Publishing 1985. p.2. Cited Shiva 2. p. 83
The usurpation of
this land is resisted by such peasant movements as the "Mannu Rashana
Koota" or "Movement for Saving The Soil". These are largely
is a complex eclectic mixture. But Marxist-Leninists are immediately attracted
to parts - such as her assault on foreign imperialist big corporations.
It is quite true that imperialism distorted social reality in the countryside
of the developing world, as she says. She describes very well the chain
of dependent command they have built : from seed originally stolen for
the peasant, through to its' genetic engineering, and dependence on the
companies' own chemical products, through the international legal charades
of absurd patent laws. All this is spot on.
But what solutions
does she offer? And in rejecting this "imperialist" usurpation of rural
life, why throw out the technological development baby with the bathwater
of the ownership of that technology ? Does Shiva really not have a refrigerator
in her household ? What are the deeper links of imperialism with the possibility
of change in India ? Where does native, or national capital fit in ? And
even more important and fundamental for Shiva, is her mystical view of
ever bountiful Nature viable ? Why should one accept the feminine 'Prakriti';
any more than the masculine 'Jehovah' ?
QUESTIONS SHE CANNOT ANSWER.
THERE ARE TWO MAIN ASPECTS OF HER WORK
THAT ARE POSITIVE
Firstly: She shows how intelligently the Indian peasant has dealt with
her/his lot. Shiva is part of a real grass roots movement. These spontaneous
movements have stood up to and defied exploitation (eg the usurpation of
common land) testifiying to the militancy of the Indian peasant and poor.
In Shiva 2, there are numerous references to the ingenuity and resourcefulness
of the forest and lowland peasantry - both men and women - though she refers
only really to women. This led shrewd observers to note that the peasant
farming had stood the test of time:
"Sir Arthur Howard, the father
of modern sustainable farming wrote in his classic "An Agricultural Testament",
London, 1940), that:
"In the agriculture of Asia we find
ourselves confronted with a system of peasant farming which, in essentials
soon became stabilised. What is happening today in the small fields of
India and China took place many centuries ago. The agricultural practices
of the Orient have passed the supreme test they are almost as permanent
as those of the primeval forest of the prairie or of the ocean."
Cited In Shiva 1. p. 25.
agree that workers and peasants are undervalued, for their brains and common
sense, as well as for their labour, by their class enemy. W.David Hopper
lived for 15 months in Senapur village (North India) concluding:
"That given the absence of investment
resources, agricultural technology in the village was at or near the optimum.
'An observer in Senapur cannot help
but be impressed with the way the village uses its' physical resources.
The age old techniques have been refined and sharpened by countless years
of experience, and each generation seems to have had its experimenters
who added a bit here and changed a practice there, and thus improved the
Cited In Galbraith, J.K. "The Nature
of Mass Poverty", London, 1980, p.51.
FOR LIBERALS, THIS INTELLIGENT LOW TECHNOLOGY APPLICATION IS SIMPLY DUE
TO AN "ABSENCE OF INVESTMENT RESOURCES".
BUT WHAT IS AN "ABSCENCE OF INVESTMENT RESOURCES" BUT BOURGEOIS CONTROL
WOULD THE PEASANT IF OFFERED SENSIBLE INVESTMENT RESOURCES REFUSE THEM?
SHIVA ARGUES "OUT WITH DEVELOPMENT!"
WE ARGUE: "OUT WITH SUCH NAIVETE!"
It condemns the peasantry
to stay within their nexus indefinitely; and it has no historical basis
either for Indian history, or Western history. For one small instance,
how can we take seriously the forthright assertions of Shiva that:
"While traditional systems did in rare
cases lead to material transformation of the environment that led to ecological
disasters, in most cases ethno-sciences have proved to be adequate in maintaining
societies and nature."
Shiva 2, p. 33.
What about the ecological
impacts of the first faltering steps towards agricultural innovation? One
"Dead White Male"- Frederick Engels - thought that the deserts of
the Middle East were due to cultivation and de-forestation. Also were people
ever hungry before "Devlopemnt"? Shiva perhaps thinks famines did NOT
occur BEFORE British imperialism, during the "Harmonious relationship"
between Prakriti and Purusha?
was wreaked by "primitive" people. Though pre-industrial, they did create
ecological havoc. For instance the native Rock Cree of the North American
boreal forest. Believing in regeneration after death, they indiscriminately
killed all species of animals to extremes, deluded that reincarnation would
increase availability.(Lewis M.W."Green Delusions"; Durham NC;1992; p.63).
The Second major Positive aspect of Shiva, is that she details the
limits of the Green Revolution well, and its bad effects on the water reserves
in India, eg. the Punjab. She demonstrates that "High Yield Variety" seeds
are only so (ie. "high yielding") under "Ideal" conditions - and not in
conditions of the field. This is very valuable. Even better, she notes
the additional, indirect, non-calorific values, in the non-grain component
of seeds that have been traditionally used. These include the use of the
straw for fodder and for organic fertiliser:
"Under the Green Revolution multiple
uses of plant biomass seem to have been consciously sacrificed for a single
use, through non-sustainable consumption of fertiliser and water. The increase
in marketable output of grain has been achieved at the cost of a decrease
of biomass for animals and soils and the decrease of ecosystem productivity
due to over use of resources (including water-ed). The increase in production
of grain for the market was achieved by reducing the bio-mass for internal
use on the farm."
p. 74. Shiva 1.
All this, exposes
how the multi-national corporations and big farmers gain from the enhanced
technology of monoculture. Monoculture is driven by the market and the
intensifying search for profit. But, although Shiva sees the root cause
(imperialism and market driven production), she cannot link it historically,
nor pose adequate solutions.
THESE SOLUTIONS WOULD SEEM OBVIOUS:
1. EXPROPRIATE FOREIGN CAPITAL, AND
DRIVE OUT IMPERIALISM.
2. TAKE OVER THE PRIVATE FORCES THAT
PUSH A MARKET ECONOMY.
BUT THIS REQUIRES A TWO STAGE REVOLUTION:
This would move from
the national democratic revolution through to the socialist revolution.
It needs differentiation of the peasant strata (Big, middle and poor) with
appropriate tactics to each strata. It requires recognising the ever increasing
proletariat as the leading force in this revolution. It requires ownership
of the means of production by the workers and peasants; and a planned economy
based not on profit but need. Shiva does not even see these steps.
comments in fact are often faint echoes of clearer liberal activists. For
instance, one louder and clearer voice is that of SUSAN GEORGE ("How
the Other Half Dies - The Real Reason for World Hunger"; Harmondsworth,
1985). Both George and Shiva are non-Marxist activists in Third World agriculture,
and have a natural overlap. Shiva's substantive points : the role of foreign
(especially USA) imperialism in developing the Green revolution; the fact
that agribusiness and the local rich elites profit from it; the dependency
on chemical fertilisers and pesticides; the lack of increase in ploughed
and farmed acreage due to the Green Revolution; the effects on the diets
of the indigenous peoples of a shift to wheat and rice monoculture; the
social impacts of the Green revolution in the third World etc. have all
been already made by George. The themes are already long exposed.
Even a cherished
center of the Shiva story - "The Loss of Bio-diversity"
is an old theme. Susan George cites INGRID PALMER's 5 year research
into the Green Revolution :
"Many local varieties of food crops
are in danger of becoming extinct so that certain genetic characteristics
could be forever lost. Parts of the Near East are being described as genetic
p.121, George Ibid.
This is not an originality
contest. But it is of interest, that Shiva is awarded the "Alternative"
Nobel Prize, and the other is awarded book contracts. That George is more
sharply focused on a central question : "Who controls power?" provides
an explanation. Shiva's thrust is veiled by a constant yearning for what,
in fact never even was in real existence - AN EASTERN IDYLL.
ULTIMATELY, GEORGE STANDS TALLER
GEORGE DOES NOT LOCATE THE PROBLEM
IN A MYTHICAL PERNICIOUS DEVELOPMENT, BUT INSTEAD IN POWER RELATIONS;
SHE SEES THE WORLD AS IT IS:
"Put a leash on your corporations, your
foundations, your universities and your banks. So much for utopia. Life
is not like that, neither are the multinational corporations, neither are
states. Their methods may change; their basic goals will not."
p.271. George S. Ibid.
Far from arguing
against technology, George argues for more research and more technology,
into innovations such as single cell protein (micro-organism such as yeast)
fodder for animals (Ibid p.273). George correctly sees that the problem
is NOT technology - it is WHO CONTROLS TECHNOLOGY FOR
WHAT. Marxist-Leninists phrase this as : "Under capitalism the motive
force for production is profit !" George makes a concrete real and political
analysis; and urges her readers in an engaging final chapter to join the
mass struggle and get involved. Whether Shiva really sees the role of capitalism
is unclear. Shiva's enemy is "development", meaning "Westernisation". Her
battle cry is "Back to the village and ancient way of doing things!" Instead
of "New Seeds and Monoculture", she shouts "Use the traditional 5 grain
and 10 grain methods". Her essential view is : "Stop the world now, let
us go back to the ancient ways." Shiva does not even see, that this violates
her own cherished ancient philosophy, where it is at its most dialectic.
She stops the dialectic cold - to impose a mythical previous ideal.
THE WORLD NOW, LET US GO BACK TO THE ANCIENT WAYS."
THIS AT CORE,
IS HER CENTRAL PARADIGM; AND FROM IT FLOW ALL HER SUBSIDIARY FLAWS.
This violates even Shiva's own cherished ancient philosophy at its most
dialectical. She stops the dialectic cold - to impose a mythical previous
Another fatal flaw
is her view of the human relationship to nature. From a warp of "anti-development"
and a weft of a prescription for a Gandhian based change, Shiva weaves
an entire reactionary fabric, shrouding her progressive views. Her whole
anti-technology bias makes Shiva into a modern day LUDDITE (the
spontaneous peasant movement that destroyed machines, in a vain attempt
to industrialisation in Britain).
Marx and Engels anticipated
much of the positive part of Shiva.
"Utopian" approach fails.
HUMANITY AND NATURE; SCIENCE AND DEAD WHITE MALES
Shiva cannot understand the history of civilisation, and its development.
Develop it did, though. Shiva dislikes the philosophy of 'violence of the
struggle against nature'. In contrast, Marx saw the relationship between
Nature and humans as a dialectical process, as it existed - where humans
exert their will. [Footnote: Digressing for a moment. Both
Marx & Engels fully understood that the development of class society,
developed simultaneously with female subjugation. Engels acknowledged Charles
Fourier (1772-1837, a Socialist Utopian) who pointed out that socialists
must help women to liberate themsleves. But Marx & Engels did use the
masculine gender in their writings to refer to all men & women. We
do not adjust their terminology, in the following quotes].
REVERTING TO MARX'S VIEW OF RELATIONS
BETWEEN NATURE AND HUMANS:
"Labour is in the first place a process
in which both man and Nature participate, and in which man of his own accord
starts, regulates and controls the material reactions between himself and
Nature.. He opposed himself to Nature as one of her own forces, setting
in motion arms and legs, head and hands, the natural forces of his body
in order to appropriate Nature's production in a form adapted to his own
wants. By thus acting on the external world and changing it, he at the
same time changes his own nature. He develops his slumbering powers and
compels them to act in obedience to his sway."
Karl Marx Capital Vol 1, 1974; p.173-4.
and "prettifies" Nature. She obfuscates the contradiction between human
activity (clearing land) and an unspoiled Nature. This is misguided.
Marx and Engels recognise
this central fact of human life, and its ecological consequences :
"Let us not however, flatter ourselves
overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory
nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory it is true in the first place
brings about the result we expected, but in the second and third places
has quite different unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the
first. The people who in Mesopotamia Greece, Asia Minor and elsewhere destroyed
the forests to obtain cultivable lands by removing along with forest the
collecting centers and reservoirs of moisture they were laying the basis
for the present forlorn state of these countries. When the Italians of
the Alps used up the pine forests on the Southern slopes, so carefully
cherished on the Northern slopes they had no inkling that by doing so they
were cutting at the very roots of the dairy industry in their region; they
had still less inkling that they were depriving their mountain springs
of water for the greater part of the year, and making it possible for them
to pour still more furious torrents on the plains during the rainy seasons.
Those who spread the potato in Europe were not ware that with these farinaceous
tubers that they were at the same time spreading scrofula. Thus at every
step we are reminded that we be 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 we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to
learn its laws and apply them correctly."
Engels, Frederick. "Part Played By Labour
In Transition from Ape to Man, Contained In Engels "Dialectics of Nature",
Moscow, 2nd Edition, 5th printing 1972. p.181.
This supremely dialectical,
modern and ecologically minded passage was written in June 1876. Presumably
Shiva does not agree about the destruction of forests in Mesopotamia. An
example closer to her home, also could show the myth of a "Harmonious world".
The Indian ancient book of "The Mahabharata", has an incident showing
the impact of pastoral life on food gatherers. Clearing the land by fire
(Agni) resulted in vast ecological devastation:
"The burning of
the Khandava forest.. Khrishna and Arjuna are at picnic in the great forest
which lies on the bank of the Yamuna, where the city of Delhi stands today.
A poor Brahman appears begging for alms. On being granted his desire, the
Brahman reveals himself as Agni, the fire god. He then asks that his hunger
be satisfied by the burning of the Khandava Forest, along with every creature
in it. Khrishna and Arjuna agree to this, whereupon Agni gives them a fire
chariot, and bows and arrows to perform this task. The forest is set on
fire and Khrishna and Arjuna patrol its perimeter driving back all the
creatures who attempt escape. This includes nagas (cobras) -probably the
appellation for the food-gathering tribes which venerated snakes. Arjuna
evidently wants to clear the Khandava forest to provide land for the agricultural
pastoral clan and to build their capital city Indraprashtha."
M.Gadgil and R.Guha;
"This Fissured Land-An Ecological History of India";Berkeley;1992; p.79.
To revert to "Dead
White Men"; Shiva appears not to know the names Marx or Engels. She knows
dialectics only from the dialectical part of primitive Indian philosophy.
Of course, it would be dangerous for her to acknowledge two of the prime
exponents of dialectics. Marx and Engels thought that life was (in brutally
short language) - an exertion of the human will against nature. An exertion,
driven by constant increase in technology to increase productivity.
Actually, the eco-feminists
do not even acknowledge that the first fundamental critique of Bacon and
reductionist science was offered by a "Dead, White Male". Let us listen
to "Dead Voices". First, Engels paints a dialectical nature:
"When we consider and reflect upon nature
at large or the history of mankind, or our own intellectual activity at
first we see the picture of an endless entanglement of relations and reactions
(permutations and combinations) in which nothing remains what, where and
as it was, but everything changes comes into being and passes away.. This
primitive naive but intrinsically correct conception of the world is that
of ancient Greek philosophy and was first clearly described by Heraclitus:
everything is and is not, for everything is fluid, is constantly changing
constantly coming into being and passing away."
Engels "Introduction to Anti-Duhring",
Moscow 1977. p.30.
Not Ancient Indian
philosophy, but Ancient Greek philosophy. Indeed, these views can be traced
in other civilizations. They reflect the universality of the development
of history and civilization. Returning to our "Dead White Male", Engels
now states the limitations of the Greeks. Why they could not transcend
this correct - but naive dialectic view :
"But this conception
correctly as it expresses the general character of the picture of appearances
as a whole, does not suffice to explain the details of which this picture
is made up, and so long as we do not understand these we have not a clear
understanding of the whole picture. In order to understand these details
we must detach them from their natural historical connection and examine
each one separately, its nature, special causes, effects, etc. this is
primarily the task of natural science and historical research : branches
of science which the Greeks of classical times, on very good grounds, relegated
to a subordinate position because they had first of all to collect materials
for these sciences to work upon."
Engels Ibid, p.30.
Unlike Shiva, Engels
knows that to study science you have to first "detach" topics. Shiva herself
must know this, she was previously an atomic physicist! Even, her writing
shows the analytical approach of one familiar with the need to describe
first by detaching. Why then her fulminations and invectives against the
"controlled experiment"? The pharmaceutical industry, against which Shiva
correctly heavily inveighs, depends for medical profits, on a lack of correctly
"controlled experiments". Yet Shiva sees "controlled experiments", as alienating!
To proceed. Engels
was a co-founder of dialectical materialist revolutionary socialism. Therefore
it is un-surprising to find that he does know the inherent limitations
of this "detaching" approach:
"The foundations of the exact natural
sciences were first worked out by the Greeks of the Alexandrian period,
and later on in the Middle Ages by the Arabs. Real natural sciences dates
from the second half of the 15th Century.. The analysis of nature into
its individual parts, the grouping of the different natural processes and
objects in definite classes, the study of the internal anatomy of organic
bodies in their manifold forms-these were the fundamental conditions of
the gigantic strides in our knowledge of nature that have been made during
the last 400 years. But this method of work has also left us with as legacy
the habit of observing natural objects and processes in isolation, apart
from their natural connection with the vast whole; of observing them in
repose, not in motion; as constants, not as essentially variables; in their
death, not in their life."
Engels Ibid, p.31.
IT APPEARS THAT A "DEAD WHITE MALE",
BRINGS US TO FRANCIS BACON HIMSELF:
"And when this way of looking at things
was transferred by Bacon and Locke from natural science to philosophy,
it begot the narrow metaphysical mode of thought peculiar to the last century.
To the metaphysician, things and their mental reflexes ideas, are isolated,
are to be considered one after the other and apart from each other, are
subjects of investigation fixed, rigid, given once and for all. He thinks
in absolute irreconcilable antitheses.. For him a thing either exists or
does not exist; a thing cannot at the same time be itself and something
else. Positive and negative absolutely exclude one another; cause and effect
stand in a rigid antithesis one to the other. At first this mode of thinking
seems to us very luminous, because it is that of so called common sense...
Only sound common sense.. has very wonderful adventures directly he ventures
out into the wide world of research. And the metaphysical mode of thought
justifiable and necessary as it is in a number of domains whose extent
varies according to the nature of the particular object of investigation,
sooner or later reaches a limit, beyond which it becomes one-sided, restricted,
abstract, lost in insoluble contradictions." Engels Ibid, p. 31-2.
NOW IS THIS NOT A MORE CLEAR AND BALANCED
APPROACH, THAN THAT OF SHIVA AND MERCHANT?
LET US LEAVE THE "AIRY WORLD" OF PHILOSOPHY.
WHAT IS THIS VILLAGE, ENDURING PAST
THAT SHIVA VAINLY, WISHES THE PEOPLE OF INDIA TO RETURN TO?
iii) THE REAL
HISTORY OF INDIAN VILLAGES
"At last when least expected by friends
Grandly and silently the people rose!
None gave the word ! - they came,
By full maturity of ripened thought.
Truth sought expression : - There
the masses stood,
In living characters of flesh and
Then erst was shown how Vain embattled
Whene'er the People will - and will
"The Revolt of Hindostan", by Ernest
Chartist leader and poet on the First
Indian War of Independence 1857.
Shiva tries to "obstruct"
the inevitable. At least Canute when commanding the waves of the ocean
back, knew he could not. Canute only wished to expose sycophants who claimed
he could. To see the village as it really was, like Shiva, we also hark
back. But we will hark back to another critic of Indian development -another
"Dead White Male", Karl Marx. Marx had no illusions about village culture
in India. For Marx the "bitterness" felt upon seeing the "crumbling of
an ancient world", was tempered. How? By seeing that the British brutality
in its wake created a future.
Marx thought himself
a failure as a poet; yet Marx loved poetry still. He cited JOHANNE WOLFGANG
GOETHE, to illustrate how the past should be viewed. Romantics have
never learnt this lesson, that one should not forget previous brutality
"Sollte diese Qual uns quälen,
Da sie unsre Lust vermehrt;
Hat nicht Myriaden Seelen,
Timur's Herrschaft aufgezehrt?"
"Should this torture then torment us,
Since it brings us greater pleasure?
Were not through the rule of Timur,
Souls devoured without measure?"
Goethe, "Westöstlicher Diwan".
Cited,"The British Rule in India":
"Marx and Engels On Britain." Moscow; 1971; p.168.
though still feelingly, Marx takes us through to this conclusion, by stripping
bare the reality that the ancient Hindoos (sic) created:
"I share not the opinion of those who
believe in a golden age of Hindostan, without recurring however like Sir
Charles Wood, of the confirmation of my view to the authority of Khuli-Khan.
But take for example the times of Aurung-Zebe; or the epoch when the Moghul
appeared in the North; and the Portuguese in the South; or the age of Mohameddan
invasion, and of the Heptarchy Southern India; or if you will go still
back more to the antiquity than the mythological chronology of the Brahmin
himself, who places the commencement of Indian misery in an epoch even
more remote than the Christian creation of the world".
Marx: 'The British Rule In India',Ibid.
Not to be misunderstood,
Marx attacks British colonial viciousness:
"There cannot remain any doubt but that
the misery inflicted by the British on Hindostan is of an essentially different
and infinitely more intense kind than all Hindostan had to suffer before..
All the civil wars, invasions revolutions, conquests famines strangely
complex, rapid and destructive as the successive action in Hindostan may
appear, did not go deeper than its surface. England has broken down the
entire framework of Indian society, without any symptom of reconstitution
yet appearing. This loss of the old world, with no gain of the new one,
imparts a particular kind of melancholy to the recent misery of the Hindoo,
and separates Hindostan ruled by Britain from all its ancient traditions
and from the whole of its past history." Marx, Ibid, p.67-8.
Marx lays out the
mechanisms that underlay the "Hindoo" Indian state, those that codify the
stultified oppression. In doing so, he describes the Oriental Despotic
"There have been in Asia generally from
time immemorial but three departments of Government; that of Finance, or
the plunder of the Interior; that of War, or the plunder of the exterior;
and finally, the Department of Public Works. Climate and territorial conditions
especially the vast tracts of desert, extending from the Sahara, through
Arabia, Persia, India and Tartary, to the most elevated Asiatic highlands,
constituted artificial irrigation by canals and waterworks the basis of
Oriental agriculture. As in Egypt and India, inundations are used for fertilising
the soil of Mesopotamia, Persia etc; advantage is taken of a high level
for feeding irrigative canals. This prime necessity of an economical and
common use of water, which in the Occident drove private enterprise to
voluntary association as in Flanders and Italy, necessitated in the Orient
where civilisation was too low and the territorial extent too vast to call
into life voluntary association, the interference of the centralising power
of the Government. Hence and economical function devolved upon all Asiatic
Governments, the function of providing Public works. this artificial fertilisation
of the soil, dependent upon a Central Government, and immediately decaying
with the neglect of irrigation and drainage, explains the otherwise strange
fact that we now find whole territories barren and deserted that were once
brilliantly cultivated, as Palmyra, Petra, the ruins in Yemen, and large
provinces of Egypt, Persia, and Hindostan; it also explains how a single
war of devastation has been able to depopulate a country for centuries
and to strip it bare of all its civilisation."
Marx, Ibid, p.168.
had seen many waves of invaders. But with the British invasion, a qualitatively
new phenomenon came. This was the destruction of the indigenous industrial
base represented by the Indian hand-loom industry:
"Now while the British in East India
accepted from their (Mughal) predecessors the department of finance and
war, they have neglected entirely that of public works. Hence the deterioration
of an agriculture which is not capable of being conducted on the British
principle of free competition of laissez-faire and laissez-aller. But in
Asiatic countries we are quite accustomed to see agriculture deteriorating
under one government and reviving again under some other government. There
the harvest correspond to good or bad government, as they change in Europe
with good or bad seasons. Thus the oppression and neglect of agriculture
as it is, could not be looked upon as the final blow dealt to Indian society
by the British intruder, had it not been attended by a circumstance of
quite different importance, a novelty in the annals of the whole Asian
world.. The handloom and the spinning wheel producing their regular myriads
of spinners and weavers, were the pivots of that society.. It was the British
intruder who broke up the Indian hand-loom and destroyed the spinning-wheel..
British steam and science uprooted, over the whole surface of Hindostan,
the union between agriculture and manufacturing industry.. England it is
true in causing a social revolution in Hindostan was actuated only by the
vilest interests, and was stupid in her manner of enforcing them. But that
is not the question. The question is can mankind fulfil her destiny without
a fundamental revolution in the social state of Asia ? If not, whatever
may have been the crimes of England, she was the unconscious tool of history
in bringing about that revolution."
Marx, Ibid, p.169-172.
Marx cited a graphic
depiction of the restrictive, rigid, mind numbing narrowness of life in
these villages, in an "old official report of the House Of Commons On Indian
"A village, geographically considered
is a tract of country comprising some hundred or thousand acres of arable
and waste lands; politically viewed it resembles a corporation or township.
Its proper establishment of officers and servants consists of:
The pottail or head inhabitant.. the
superintendent settles the disputes of the inhabitants attends to the police,
and performs the duty of collecting the revenue.. The kurnum keeps the
accounts of the cultivation and registers everything to do with it. The
tallier and the totie, the duty of the former of which consists in gaining
information of crimes and offence, and in escorting and protecting peoples
travelling from one village to another; the province of the latter being
more immediately confined to the village.. guarding the crops and assisting
in measuring them. The boundaryman who preserves the limits of the village,
The Superintendent of Tanks and Watercourses distributes the water for
the purposes of agriculture. The Brahmin who performs the village worship.
The schoolmaster who is seen teaching the children in a village to read
and write in the sand. The calender-Brahmin, or village etc.. Under this
simple form of municipal government the inhabitants of the country have
lived from time immemorial. The boundaries of the villages have been but
seldom altered, and though the villages themselves have been sometimes
injured and even desolated by war, famine or disease, the same name, the
same limits, the same interests, and even the same families, have continued
for ages, The inhabitants gave themselves no trouble about the breaking
up and divisions of kingdoms; while the village remains entire, they care
not to what power it is transferred, or to what sovereign it devolves;
its internal economy remains unchanged."
Cited by Marx, In Ibid, p.170-71.
This view of an unchanging
Indian interior, is challenged. Some see this as diminishing the peasant.
David Ludden says:
"Peasants in this logic appear to be
social actors who resemble billiard balls.. (whose) changes are produced
by external shocks."
David Ludden: "Peasant History in South
India", Oxford University Press New Delhi, 1989, p.4.
Yet Ludden himself,
confesses that, when British imperialism entered the scene amazing and
dramatic things happened on an unprecedented scale:
"The ideological structure remained
intact.. new techniques had come into being in Tirunelveli for centuries,
with serious repercussions, but the arrival of the Industrial Revolution
after 1840 wrought unprecedented changes in the context of peasant life..
New World crops.. guns and military techniques.. paper and ink.. imported
English organizational skills and the English language itself.. key imports
included hardware-railways and telegraph lines, and materials for modern
seaports and dams.. ideas about efficient bureaucratic management."
Ludden, Ibid, p.115-116.
Ludden and recent
history-revisionists, provide new "microcosm" data; unavailable to Marx.
This is of interest. But it certainly does not challenge Marx's main conclusions.
The major qualitative rupture with the past, came with imperialism. Many
sources parallel Marx's condemnation of ancient Indian village life. Such
as the tragic song of Sundari Malua. This narrative poem was written
by the poetess Chandrabati (ca 1550-1600). It tells how a beautiful
woman - Sundari Malua - married to Binod, is harassed by the local qazi
(magistrate) and diwan (local lord). They and the priests, throw the family
into penury and seize their land. Sunadari is driven to spend some nights
in the Diwan's hauli. Even though she is rescued and the family escape,
the elders refuse to allow her to live in the village as she is defiled:
"A village elder decreed: "taking this
Will cost us rank and caste. For three
She lived between Muslim walls. The
shame of it
Would shatter a tiger! Who can save
Caught in the wild beast's claws? We
Nothing once chastity and caste are
Have we not turned away other weeping
Women who have came back in shame from
Contained In : "Women Writing in India. 600 BC to the present. Volume I:
600 BC to the early 20th Century." Ed Susie Taharu & K.Lalita, Delhi,1993.
Marx hated what was
happening to the peasantry, but yet he saw the kernel of change carried
by the unconscious tools of history, the British and their railroads:
"Sickening as it must be to human feelings
to witness these myriads of industrious patriarchal and inoffensive social
organisations disorganised and dissolved into their units, thrown into
a sea of woes and their individual members losing at the same time their
ancient form of civilisation and their hereditary means of subsistence,
we must not forget that these idyllic village communities, inoffensive
though they may appear, had always been the solid foundation of Oriental
despotism, that they restrained the human mind within the smallest possible
compass, making it the unresisting tool of superstition, enslaving it beneath
traditional rules, depriving it of all grandeur and historical energies.
We must not forget the barbarian egotism which concentrating on some miserable
patch of land had quietly witnessed the ruin of empires, the perpetuation
of unspeakable cruelties, the massacre of the population of large towns,
with no other consideration bestowed upon them than on natural events,
itself the helpless prey of any aggressor who deigned to notice it at all.
We must not forget that it is a undignified, stagnant, and vegetative life,
that this passive sort of existence evoked one the other are in contradistinction
wild, aimless unbounded forces of destruction and rendered murder itself
a religious rite in Hindostan. We must not forget that the little communities
were contaminated by distinctions of caste and by slavery, that they subjected
man to external circumstances instead of elevating man to be the sovereign
of circumstances, that they transformed a self-developing social state
into a never changing natural destiny, and thus brought about a brutalising
worship of nature, exhibiting its degradation in the fact that Man the
sovereign of nature fell down on his knees in adoration of Hanuman the
monkey, and Sabbala the cow."
Karl Marx. Ibid. p.171-172.
by Vandana Shiva's thoughts only lead to a stale recitation of "The Past".
This past is gone.
What history books
does Shiva read? She asserts that nature and humans live in a harmony,
only rocked by technology. But this is a fantastic unreality. The nexus
between Nature and man is not easy. Humans are distinguished from other
animals, because of their ability to labour with the elements of Nature:
"In short the animal merely uses its
environment, and brings about changes in it simply by its presence; man
by his changes makes it serve his ends, masters it. This is the final essential
distinction between man and other animals, and once again it is labour
that brings about this distinction."
F.Engels, "Part Played by Labour in
Transition From Ape to Man", In Dialectics of Nature, Ibid. p.179-80.
Shiva sees only a
bucolic past. But, did famines only occur, when the British imperialists
came to the Indian sub-continent ? Even many Marxists claim that famine
only began with the advent of the British into India. Thus Rajani Palme
Dutt in his "India Today", which influenced countless Marxist inspired
"Tavernier in his account of
his journey in 17th century India remarks that:
'Even in the smallest villages rice,
flour, butter, milk, beans, and other vegetables, sugar and other sweetmeats
can be procured in abundance'."
Tavernier : "Travels In India," Oxford
U.P. 1925 Edition p.238 Vol 1. Cited by Dutt, Rajani Palme. "India Today",
Second Indian edition, 1992 reprint. Calcutta, p.22.
Despite Dutt, Tavernier
and Shiva; famines DID occur before the British came. Kachhawaha
lists various Rajasthani sayings that poignantly record the times of Bhook-
of famine :
"Clouds flying in the morning and cold
winds blowing in the evening says Dank, O Bhaddli! are the sure signs of
"Flying clouds seen in the morning very
hot in the mid-day. Night cloudless with shining stars, its time to leave
the native place, viz these are the sure signs of famine.
"If there be a substantive tithi during
the dark half of sawan, women somewhere in the country mother will have
to sell their children to get food, so sever will be the famine."
O.P. Kachhawaha : "Famines In Rajasthan,"
Research Publishers Jodhpur, 1992. p. 20-21.
As Kachhawaha points
"We find references to severe and prolonged
drought during the Ramayans (Epic) period also. Famines may be classified
according to their intensity:
Annakal (grain famine), Jalakal (Scarcity
of water), Trikinal (scarcity of fodder) and Trikal (scarcity of grain
water and fodder.) Rajasthan had been subjected to famine from the earliest
times of which we have any record. In Marwar people generally expected
one lean year in every three an one famine year in every eight... the couplet
'My (i.e. Famine - Ed) feet remain in
Pungal (Bikaner), my head in Kotada (Marwar), and my belly in Bikaner.
And some times I (Famine) can be found in Jodhpur but Jaisalmer is my permanent
Ibid, p. 24.
Of course the historical
record before the British came, is not quite so good as after, but some
information is clear:
"Of the famines which occurred prior
to 1812 there is a dearth of historical facts save tradition. Colonel Todd
mentions one that occurred in the 11th century as having lasted for 12
Marwar faced famine between the years
1309-1313 AD. due to the failure of rains during the reign of Rao Rajpal.
Government grain depots were opened for this subjects. The famine of 1570
AD affected Nagaur. At that time, the Mughal Emperor Akbar ordered the
digging of the 'Kukar Talao' at Nagaur for the relief of the people. The
contemporary historian Badaoni "with his own eyes witnessed the fact that
men and women were driven by hunger to eat human flesh... The famine of
1747 AD was so severe that Umed Singh the Maharana of Udaipur decided to
vacate his city and go to the bank of the Dhebar Lake and live there. He
was driven to sell his best elephant to meet his wants..the severe famine
of 1783 is remembered as 'Chalisa', it occurred in the greater part of
Upper India. Bikaner was one of the worst affected. It caused misery and
distress to thousands of people. There was a severe and wide spread famine
on 1796 AD called the 'trepanya' famine."
The Battle of
Plassey was won in 1757 by Robert Clive [later Lord Clive of
India]. Clive defeated the Indian Mutiny rebels led by Siraj-Ud-Dawlah,
and became the effective ruler of Bengal, sealing British rule over India.
in his addresses to the Royal Society of London, itemised all recorded
World famines he could track down in 1879, before and after British rule,
and Indian famines were prominent in both periods (See: "The Famines of
The World -Past and Present." London, 1879. Republished Burt Franklin,
New York, 1970).
R.P.Dutt was correct
in that the British exacerbated the famines by deliberate neglect of the
irrigation. This was a central concern of pre-British agriculture and formed
the backbone of the system known as Oriental Despotism (See above).
This system is contested. But all scholars agree that irrigation was and
is a major concern in Indian agriculture.
The British let all the:
"Hindu or Mussalman Government constructed
roads, tanks and canals fall into dilapidation, and now the want of the
means of irrigation causes famines" said G.Thompson, in 1838 in
"India and the Colonies".
Cited Palme Dutt, Ibid, p.213.
Very trenchantly, Sir Arthur Cotton
"Public works have been most entirely
neglected throughout India.. The motto has been:'Do nothing, have nothing
done, let nobody do anything. Bear any loss, let the people die of famine,
let hundreds of lakhs (An Indian unit of money-ed) be lost in Revenue for
want of water, or roads, rather than do anything."
Lt Col Sir Arthur Cotton "Public Works
In India" 1854, p.272. Cited by Palme Dutt, Ibid,p.213.
It is also perfectly
true as cited by Palme Dutt (Ibid, p. 21) that:
"The most arresting fact about India
is that the soil is rich and her people poor."
M.L.Darling, "The Punjab Peasant in
Prosperity and Debt," 1925, p.73.
This buttresses Walford's
point that the causes of famine could be divided into natural causes (rain,
drought, fire, locusts etc) and "artificial" (Government legislation, poor
agricultural habits, speculation, transport deficiencies etc). In the India
of today, there can be little doubt that the main causes of hunger and
poverty are not "natural", but totally "artificial". But poverty and hunger
is a "natural" consequence of the capitalist system. But this unequivocal
diagnosis is not made by Shiva anywhere. Without a correct diagnosis, who
can have confidence in her prescriptions?
The question is,
to which mythical past will Shiva return?
(V) IS THERE ACTUALLY AN ECOLOGICAL CRISIS? TWO DANGERS.
We have thus far avoided a serious question,
is there really an environmental crisis? In answering Marxist-Leninists
should avoid two primary dangers.
It should be openly
acknowledged that the environment is a genuine, major concern. Revisionists
deny pollution in the Warsaw Pact countries. But Marxist-Leninists agree
that capitalism is the pursuit of profit. When revisionist states restored
the profit motive, this led to profit and thus pollution. This happened
in the former Soviet Union.
was a problem after the E.G.Liberman "economic reforms", introduced
by Leonid Brezhnev; General Secretary of the Communist Party of
the Soviet Union (CPSU) from 1964. Stalin resisted similar "reforms" promoted
by Nikolai Voznosensky in 1948 (See Alliance 9). After Stalin's
death, the "reforms" - in reality the destruction of socialist planning
and centralised control of production - were enacted. Under Liberman, Centralised
planning was destroyed and replaced by "guidelines":
"Control figures will be drawn up..
in a generalised value form, to be given to sectors of the economy. In
the same form these control figures will be handed down to the enterprises
not as precise directives, but rather as guidelines for drawing up their
E.G.Liberman :"Plan, Direct Ties and
Profitability In Pravda, November 21st, 1965 in "The Soviet Economic Reform:
Main Features and Aims", Moscow 1967; p.51; Cited "The Restoration
of Capitalism in the Soviet Union", by W.B.Bland, Wembley UK, 1980,
ISBN 0 86237 000 0. p.10.
were sham, expressing "aims". In reality :
"These enterprises now draw up their
production plans themselves."
V.Sokolov, M.Nazarv and N.Kozlov: "The
Firm and the Customer, In "Ekonomischeskaya Gazeta", 16th January 1965,
In : M.E.Sharpe (ed) "Planning Profit and Incentives in the USSR", Volume
2, New York; 1966; Cited by Bland Ibid, p.11.
the profit motive for production, disguised under a veil of so-called
"socialist profit"; E.G.Liberman
: "The Plan, Direct Ties and Profitability", in Pravda November 21st, 1965.
In M.E.Sharpe op cit; p.179. Cited by Bland W.B.Ibid p.140.
differed from "capitalist profit" (Bland Ibid p. 140). It supposedly differed,
"Under socialism profit.. (which is
formed directly from the difference between the price and cost of production)
- is distributed in the interests of the people".
L.Gatovsky "The Role of Profit In a
Socialist Economy", In "Kommunist" No. 18, 1962, In M.E.Sharpe op cit Vol
1, p.98. Cited Bland, p.148-9.
This is indeed profit, as Marx had said:
"Surplus value is the difference between
the value of the product and the value of the elements consumed in the
formation of that product."
Capital Vol 1, London, 1974, p.201.
But this was not
"socialist profit"; despite claims made, the "profit" was not distributed
amongst the people. The new capitalists got their profit, disguised
as called "bonuses".
"Economic stimulii.. already exist in
the form of bonuses. Therefore bonuses and other incentives should be strictly
dependent on the size of the profit derived."
V.Belkin& I.Berman :"The Independence
of The Enterprise and Economic Stimuli" In Izvestia, Dec 4th, 1964, In
:M.E.Sharpe op cit, Cited Bland Ibid, p.153.
Well now, to whom does the bonus
go and who decides ?
For the managers
bonus was decided by the state:
"Bonuses to directors of enterprises,
their assistants, chief engineers, heads of planning departments, chief
bookkeepers and heads of technical control departments are approved by
the chief executive of the higher agency."
Y.L.Manevich "Wages systems "In the
"Soviet Planned Economy," Moscow, 1974, p.253. Cited Bland, Ibid, p.154.
The managers decide
how much the worker get. But how much money ended up where ? What was the
final split of the bonus? W.B.Bland, made the following calculations
based on data in: Droginchinsky N.Y. "The Economic Reform in Action", In
"Soviet Problems"; Moscow; 1972 p.194:
"It follows that 1% of the personnel
received 20.5% of the monthly "bonuses" paid out of the material incentive
fund if they were in the management and 0.2% if they were workers. Thus
on the average each member of the management received more than 102 times
the monthly "bonus" received by each worker. However the material incentive
fund was not the only source of the "bonuses" paid by an enterprise. In
a majority of enterprises these constitute only a minority of the "bonuses"
W.B.Bland, Ibid, p.157-8.
THE STATE CALLS ITSELF THE IMPORTANT QUESTION IS: "IS
A SURPLUS BEING MADE, AND WHO GETS THE SURPLUS?"
PROCESS DESCRIBED FOR THE USSR IS EXTRACTION OF PROFIT.
THERE IS PROFIT, THERE'S MUCK.
paid lip service to principles of harmony between humans and the environment:
"Contemporary harmony between man and
nature is only possible under socialism and communism."
(K.Ananichev: Environmental international
Aspects"; Moscow; 1976; p.30; cited Bland; Chapter 23 Ibid).
But pollution occurred
in the USSR - after socialism was destroyed. Under the Liberman "economic
reforms," each enterprise had to maximise profits and minimise production
costs. This aim frequently conflicted with the social need to minimise
pollution. USSR economists admitted:
of pollution control programmes leads to the worsening of the cost-accounting
performance of enterprises."
K.Gofman : Problems of optimisation of the Planning and Control of the
environment", in "Voprosy ekonomic" No.10, 1972 In "Problems of Economics"
Vol 15, no 12, April 1973; p.46;cited Bland; Chapter 23 Ibid).
As a result the environmental
pollution in the Soviet union reached dangerous levels, just as in orthodox
and Lovozersky ore-dressing combines of the USSR Ministry of Non-Ferrous
Metallurgy have not yet taken the necessary measures to bring a complete
halt to contamination of the rivers and lakes on the Kola Peninsula.. a
number of enterprises belonging to the ministry of the Chemical Industry..
are polluting the air. Many cement plants are operating with a low degree
of purification of exhaust gases. The construction of purification facilities
at the Selenginsky and other pulp and paper industries is unsatisfactory.
Individual enterprises of the ministries of oil refining and of the petrochemical
industry, of power engineering and electrification, of the building industries,
of the food, meat and dairy industry are also polluting the air and water.
In a number of major cities the contamination of the air by automotive
transport has increased.. The law calling for the re-cultivation of disturbed
land is not always observed in the prospecting and extracting of minerals
and in urban, industrial and transport construction."
Multiply Natural wealth:, in "Planovoe khoziaistvo". No.6, 1973, in "Problems
of Economics", Vol 16, no 11, March 1974; p.32-33;cited Bland; Chapter
"In the Soviet
union and other socialist countries .. there are violations of technology..
and as a result unpurified gases are discharged into the atmosphere, unpurified
waters are discharged into rivers and basins, there is soil erosion etc."
G.Khromushin :"problems of Ecology" in "Voprosy ekonomiki" No 8, 1973,
In : Problems of Economics", Vol 16,No 11; Mar 1974; p.53-54;cited Bland;
Chapter 23 Ibid).
"For all the variety
of causes behind the deterioration of the environment in the USA and the
USSR, both these countries are now faced with the practical need to check
this process.. The harm caused to bodies of water by effluent from pulp-to-paper,
chemical fibre and other factories is well-known. Every day they discard
thousands of tons of polluted water into rivers, lakes and seas. The damage
caused by these effluent is incalculable."
p. 118, 123; cited Bland; Chapter 23.
supported in words, the reduction of pollution. The practice was quite
different. Environmentalists agree that one of the chief causes of atmospheric
pollution is motor transport. They also agreed, that any difficulty in
producing a clean motor vehicle was economic, not technical :
of motor transport has come up against a number of 'dead-ends'. One of
them is the air pollution with the noxious gases of internal combustion..
The chief sources of air pollution today are the power industry and motor
transport.. Of course it is possible in principle to develop a motor vehicle
which does not emit poisonous or harmful exhaust fumes. This would be very
p.97, 120. Cited Bland; Chapter 23.
proposed that the number of cars be reduced. But because the car sector
was "so important to the Soviet capitalist economy, this never occurred"
(From Bland, ibid, Chapter 23, p 185-189).
Capitalism of any stripe, brings pollution of all sorts, including
that of the environment.
b) THE SECOND DANGER : ENVIRONMENTAL CATASTROPHISM
danger over emphasises and exaggerates hazards to the environment,
a "crying wolf" tendency. This blunts recognition of real problems. The
morass of claim and counter-claims have been examined by; for instance,
Ronald Bailey whose "Eco-Scam" exposes Doom sayers (St Martin's
Press, New York, 1993. ISBN 0-312-10971-7). These include well known ecological
warriors such as Paul Erlich, David Foreman, and Carl Sagan. These
warriors "trim their sails", when their dire predictions of apocalypse
turn out to be false. He refutes:
1. An alleged "permanence"
of ecological devastations. (eg.The Exxon Valdez oil leak in Alaska; the
Kuwait Gulf War oil fires [Bailey, Ibid, p.117]). The predicted time scale
for natural (ie performed by Nature herself) environmental clean up was
far longer than reality.
2. Exaggerated fears about
the ozone hole and global warming. Data suggests that global ozone has
increased (p.132-133 Bailey Ibid), not decreased. Secondly, even scientists
who predicted "an Atlantic ecosystem collapse" due to phytoplankton overgrowth,
from ozone depletion, have now retracted (Ibid, p.130). Thirdly, measures
of trapped carbon dioxide in ice cores, used to estimate the rise in temperatures;
are unreliable (Ibid, p.150-1). Predicted global warming did not occur.
3. Unrealistic fears of
bio-technology. Concerns raised by the National Academy of Sciences
Recombinant DNA Committee led to a research moratorium. But many co-signatories
retracted. Publicity went to their warning, but not to their later recantation.
Shiva cites only the original warning ("Monoculture of the Mind", Zed Books,
London, 1993. p.98-99). An original co-signatory, Nobelist James Watson,
"Scientifically I was a nut.. there
was no evidence at all that the recombinant DNA poses the slightest danger."
Bailey, Ibid, p.94.
A special aspect
of this second 'hyped' danger is population.
c) ON POPULATION,
THE REVEREND MALTHUS AND CAIRO HOT AIR
Fears of over-population
are especially potent. Charles Darwin (1809-82) absorbed the Victorian
idea of individual bitter struggle for existence. This came from Reverend
Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834). Darwin recounted a revelatory experience
upon reading Malthus, as he "suddenly saw how nature struggled". Malthus,
an economist working for the British East India Company, had a bleak message:
"More mouths, more poor, more demands
for welfare - a vicious circle."
Adrian Desmond & James Moore. "The
Life of a Tormented Evolutionist." New York, 1991. p.153.
This was buttressed
by claims that the resources of food and environment could only arithmetically
increase, whilst the population could increase by a geometric progression.
Thus poverty was a natural law, and nothing could be done to alleviate
its root cause. Malthusianism became a great ideological spur for the new
Workhouses; called Bastilles by their inhabitants - the poorest of the
working class. The New Poor Law workhouses, were predicated on the principle
that the poor had to be "deterred" from "shying away" from work. Malthus
provided a potent justification for poverty. The argument was shored up
by the calculation that:
"With the brakes
off humanity could double in a mere 25 years. But it did not double; if
it did the planet would be overrun. The struggle for resources slowed growth
and a horrifying catalogue of death, disease, wars and famine checked the
population. Darwin saw that an identical struggle took place throughout
nature, and he realised that it could lead into a truly creative force."
Desmond and Moore,
Ibid, p. 264-65.
"Circumvented death by deportation and
shuffled the poor out of the country.. where the increase of the British
race.. and of their extension over the world, and.. the vigour of the race
itself will be more promoted by this colonising system."
Ibid, p. 266.
The general increase
in poverty stimulated the poor people to better themselves. This was "Natural
Selection" aiding the "Survival of the Fittest" :
"If no man could
hope to rise or fear to fall in society; if industry did not bring its
own reward, and indolence its punishment; we could not hope to see that
animated activity in bettering our own condition which now forms the master-spring
of public prosperity."
on Population", 1954, II p.254. Cited by Harold Perkin, "The origins of
Modern English Society" London, 1969, p. 85.
Malthus was hated
in his own time, by the best of the working class. Thomas
Hood (1799-1852) had this to say:
"Oh Mr. Malthus I agree
In everything I read with thee!
The world's too full, there is no doubt,
And wants a deal of thinning out..
And yet some Wrongheads
With thick not long heads,
Capital punishment to abolish;
And in the face of censuses such vast ones
New hospitals contrive,
For keeping life alive,
Laying first stones, the dolts! instead of last ones!..
Why should we let precautions so absorb us,]
Or trouble shipping with a quarantine-
When if I understand the thing you mean,
We ought to IMPORT the Cholera Morbus!"
"Ode to Mr. Malthus"; in "The poetical Works of Thomas Hood,"; Chandos
Classics, nd; London, p.457-459.
Malthus and Neo-Malthusianism
have always served ruling class ideology. Reincarnations of these
views (eg.Paul Ehrlich ("The Population Bomb", New York, 1968) periodically
fuel concern. Gurus at the Cairo Population Conference, in September
1994 (sponsored by the World Bank and supposed "Development" agencies of
the United Nations) offer panaceas to the Under-Developed World : cut consumption,
have fewer children, in order to "Save the World".
It is not difficult
to disprove Malthus. The rapid increase in the world's population since
Malthus, with a general increase in well being proves him wrong. Not that
poverty world wide, is no longer a problem. But it is not one that socialist
society could not alleviate. This is ignored by Neo-Malthusians. Malthusian
views are still a challenge. They are used to justify poverty in the under-developed
world, and in the West. But Birth Control programs, fail to remove poverty.
These failures displays the blinkers that Malthusianism has to social,
political, and economical class issues that transcend "biology".
in "The Myth of Population Control", (New York, 1972) exposes many of these
present day neo-Malthusian blinkers. It emerges that of the many expensive
programs for birth control up to 1972; that there were, only 3 programs
with any scientific controls. This control should be a non-treated
population. Then if birth rates show changes for any other reason at
all, including chance, one can know what effect the program itself had.
Without controls, it is impossible to know whether the treatment itself
The three World Health
Programmes (W.H.O.) were Kyong in South Korea, Singur in West Bengal and
Khanna in North India. In Kyong - the 'exerimental' area where birth control
was promoted vigorusly - the decline in births, as a rate of per 1000 of
population, was equivalent or faster in the controls. The differences between
year one and year two, were not "statistically significant".
(From Mamdani, Ibid, p.15-29).
were seen in Singhur. In Khanna, there was indeed a decline in birth
rates (From 40/1000 in 1957 to 35/1000 in 1968). BUT this difference
was NOT accounted for by contraception, but by an increase in the
age of marriage from 17.5 years in 1956 to 20 years in 1969. (Mamdani,
Ibid, p. 28). The W.H.O. strategy did not work. Why not? The peasants wanted
a large family for hard class facts. The need for most labour was most
acute in the poorest families :
"Every family knows
that the cost of having each child declines the more children he has. The
benefits on the other hand increase. Gurdev Singh (Of Manpur Village, Khanna)
hoped for.. many grandsons so they could accumulate enough savings for
land.. A saying among the Jats (A caste of peasant farmers) goes :
"A Forest is not made of one tree,
A Jat is not made of one son."
Cited, Ibid, p.135.
The poorest needed
the most to have numbers of people for physical strength for emergencies
and class fights:
"In these villages we have faction (ie.caste)
fights and you win fights not with contraceptives but with men, said Jat
Puran Singh of Manpur Village Khanna."
These realities are
a matter of blithe indifference to the modern day Malthusians who met in
Cairo in 1994. Their solution to poverty is a simplistic biological reductionism.
Data on child mortality
from Zurbrigg shows the inhumanity of World Agencies in their approach
(Sheila Zurbrigg: "Rakku's Story : Structures of Ill Health and
Source of Change"; Bangalore; 1984). Zurbrigg shows that Indian child mortality
remains very high in rural as compared to the urban areas (136 versus 70
per 1000 live births). Foreign relief agencies assume the poor are ignorant
about nutrition; or that they are reluctant to accept modern medicine;
or that they have too many children. Zurbrigg rightly points out three
in India do not die from lack of one particular nutrient, but rather from
insufficient food generally. Though consisting mainly of simple porridge
of coarse cereals, children; diets are usually adequate in protein content.
Rather they are grossly deficient in overall calories, that is in the quantity
Zurbrigg p. 67,
On the Second
wrong assumption, Zurbrigg notes that when you don't have money you
use what you can. Modern Western medicine is expensive. Homeopathic native
medicine is considerably cheaper (Zurbrigg p.69).
On the Third
wrong assumption, she corroborates Mamdani:
"It has been estimated
that an Indian couple must have an average of 6.3 children in order to
have a 95% certainty that one son will survive until the father is 65 years
Zurbrigg p. 73.
also notes the motivation to focus on Population. Imperialist nations
need to stabilise their semi-colonies. The intent of population control
and poverty relief was revealed by a candid USAID Deputy-Director:
"In an official
document entitled : "Winning the Cold War : The US Ideological Offensive",
the Deputy -Director of USAID had clearly stated those objectives :
"Our basic broadest
goals is a long range political one, It is not development for the sake
of sheer development.. An important objective is to open up the maximum
opportunity for domestic private initiative and to ensure that, foreign
private investment particularly from the USA is welcomed and well fixed..
The problems is to evaluate the manner in which the programme can make
the greatest contribution to the totality of the US interests."
Zurbrigg, p. 216,
Citing S.George: "How the other Half Dies. The Real Reason for World Hunger."
Harmondsworth, 1976, p. 70.
Poverty and unemployment
are social, and not biological issues. Marx pointed out the value of a
standing army of unemployed to drive down labour costs :
population, therefore produces along with the accumulation of capital produced
by it, the means by which it itself is made relatively superfluous and
is turned into a relative surplus population, and it does this to an always
increasing extent. This is a law of population peculiar to the capitalist
mode of production; and in fact every special historic mode of production
has its own special laws of population, historically valid within its own
limits alone. An abstract law of population exists for plants and animals
only, and only in so far as man has not interfered with them."
Karl Marx, Capital
Vol 1. Moscow, p. 591.
This underlies unemployment
and associated poverty. The "Cairo Conference on Over-Population"
(September 1994),cannot acknowledge these truths. Engels points out that
Malthus followed Thomas Hobbes (English philosopher 1568-1679); who proclaimed
"Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes" ("A war of all against all"). Malthus
derived inspiration from this, in turn leading Darwin to his "struggle
for existence". The argument originated in philosophy, was then applied
to society, transferred to biology, and then applied back to society :
what was stressed.. was the harmonious cooperative working of organic nature..
Hardly was Darwin recognised, before these same people saw nothing but
struggle. Both views are justified within narrow limits, but both are equally
onesided and prejudiced.. The whole Darwinian theory of the struggle
for existence is simply the transference from society to organic nature
of Hobbes' theory of "bellum contra omnes" and of the bourgeois economic
theory of competition, as well as the Malthusian theory of population.
When once this feat has been accomplished (the unquestionable justification
for which, especially as regards the Malthusian theory, is still very questionable),
it is very easy to transfer these theories back again from natural history
to the history of society, and altogether too naive to maintain that thereby
these assertions have been proved as eternal laws of nature".
The "shell game"
of arguing from society back to nature back to society - still goes on
under the label SOCIOBIOLOGY. Engels explains the more complex reality
of nature. To accurately depict nature, "prejudiced and one sided" views
should be avoided. On one biased side "An All Harmonious Nature", and on
the other " An All Struggling Nature" :
"Both views are
justified within a narrow limit but both are equally one sided and prejudiced.
The interactions of bodies in non-living nature includes both harmony and
collisions, that of living bodies conscious and unconscious co-operation
as well as conscious and unconscious struggle. Hence even in regard to
nature, it is not permissible one sidedly to inscribe only "struggle" on
one's banners. But it is absolutely childish to sum up the whole manifold
wealth of historical evolution and complexity in the meagre and one sided
phrase: 'Struggle for existence'. That says less than nothing."
Nature", Engels Ibid. p.307.
: SHIVA'S GANDHIAN SOLUTION
We have not given
a systematic analysis of Gandhism. Elsewhere, we detail Gandhi's role as
a comprador support of British imperialism ("The role of the national bourgeoisie
in the colonial type countries. What is the class content of the Indian
state?" Alliance Number 5). Certainly Time Incorporated has not
yet approached Alliance for distribution rights. Other sources though,
also show a similar picture.
If more "reputable"
source be required by Shiva, we refer Shiva to Dhanagare D.N. ("Peasant
Movements In India 1920-1950", Oxford UP, Delhi, 1983). Dhanagare details
how the famous Bardoli agitations , led by Gandhi, in reality benefited
the rich peasantry. Dhanagare shows how Gandhi at key movements
in the anti-British struggles sabotaged the mass struggles. Moreover a
significant Indian activist, Mabendra Nath Roy (1887-1954, consulted
by Jawaharlal Nehru no less); also dealt in detail with Gandhism.
M.N. Roy, concurred with Dhanagare in this assessment of Gandhi (See Professor
Sibnarayan Ray Editors :"The Selected Works of M.N.Roy" New Delhi, 1993,
Oxford University Press 3 volumes).
The fundamental flaws
(at least three!) that we have tried to address in Shiva's views, lead
inexorably to a host of other problems. For instance, her naive and ill
thought out assertion that the problems of the Punjab today are due entirely
to the Green Revolution and the loss of traditional farming practices.
The realities of the
multi-national question in India and the warped development of Punjab under
a state dominated by one nation-the Gujerati-Marwari power brokers - is
obviously news to Shiva. Moreover Shiva's explanation ignores power struggles
going on between New Delhi and yet other States - Kashmir, the North East,
Tamil Nadu and Kerala. ("The role of the national bourgeoisie in the colonial
type countries. What is the class content of the Indian state?" Alliance
No possibility of a
plea of ignorance on these issues exists. Many bourgeois academics and
journalists (See for example, Akbar M.J. "The Seige Within. Challenges
to a Nation's Unity, Harmondsworth, 1985; Vanaik A. "The Painful Transition
- bourgeois Democracy In India." London, 1990, etc) note these issues.
Finally, Gandhism is
certainly no effective solution to the concerns of India's population,
nor for India's ecology. WE ARE COMPELLED TO SAY, THAT SHIVA HAS ONLY
A BACKWARD GAZE. BY SO DOING, SHE ONLY CAN PRESCRIBE CHANGES BASED ON WHAT
SHOULD BE DONE. THIS IS RADICALLY DIFFERENT FROM WHAT CAN AND WILL BE DONE.
WHAT ARE THE POLITICAL
IMPLICATIONS OF THIS?
The reformist movements
centred on the environment must be supported. They act as restraints upon
the capitalist class in its naked drive for profit. They are broad fronts.
However, activists should not see these movements as a "be all and end
all". Marxist-Leninists waste their time in these organisations, unless
they explain their limitations.
"I fell in love with a factory maid,
And if I could but her favours win,
I'd stand beside her and weave by steam.
How can you marry a factory maid,
When you could have girls fine and fair,
I don't care if she's a factory maid,
If I had her, we'd keep our shuttles in play.
Where are all the young girls gone?
They've gone to factory to weave by steam."
"Factory Maid;" English Traditional song, lamenting the passing
of the artisan hand weaver.
MARXIST-LENINISTS RECOGNISE THAT, NO FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE IN CAPITALIST SOCIETY
CAN BE EFFECTED BY THE GREEN MOVEMENTS ALONE.
"GREENING" BY THE LARGE CORPORATIONS WHICH DOMINATE OUR LIVES WILL BE PAID
FOR BY COSTS SENT ON TO US, THE CONSUMER- WORKER.
EFFECT FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE REQUIRES A MUCH DEEPER CHANGE. THIS CAN ONLY
EFFECTED BY A REVOLUTIONARY CHANGE. -THIS CAN ONLY BE DONE IN THE PRESENCE
OF A MARXIST-LENINIST PARTY, WHICH REMAINS OUR CENTRAL TASK.
2. GAIL OMVEDT AND DEVELOPMENT
The song depicts the
contempt of the artisans for the grimy future of the factory; while showing
that it was inevitable. Omvedt like Shiva is no Marxist, she is another
backward looking Utopian. She asserts that Marxist class analysis cannot
explain the world. Her attack sounds only one note - the poverty and narrowness
of Marxism. We synopsise her view from recent works.
If Shiva is a reincarnated
Gandhi, what of Omvedt? Perhaps she can be thought of as a modern Bukharin
with a 'dewy view' of all things peasant, distrusting industrialisation.
Omvedt attacks the
"Third World Theorists" - Andre Gunder Frank, Harry Magdoff and
Samir Amin; correctly she identifies them as departing from Marxism-Leninism.
We cannot examine these writers further here. Omvedt ascribes to them a
"Dependency theory was itself a distortion
of Marxism fitting the needs of the rising third world elite of the post-war
Economic & Political Weekly, (Hereafter
E&PW) Volume XXIX No.4; p.169-176; This reference is also referred
to in text as Omvedt 1.
Omvedt now paints
an "Old and New "Paradigm".
The Old Paradigm
"Developments means a rise in living
standards based on the transition from an agricultural to an industrial
society in which the main owners of industry are either the national capitalists
or a national state, and in which a country is capable of providing most
of the capitals equipment, consumer goods and raw materials in needs out
of its own rescues, manufactured or produced by its own farmers and workers..
This means that the backward, mainly agricultural excolonies and dominated
countries require strong state initiative and a break from (delinking,
barring from entry etc) imperialism or advanced capitalist countries..
State intervention should focus on blinding a industrial base and educated
technological scientific manpower; agriculture is in this process an object.
Thus industrialism delinking, statism and a treatment of the agricultural
sector as primarily a surplus for use by the state in promoting industrialisation
are central aspects of this model."
E&PW; Ibid; Omvedt 1; p. 169
In contrast to this
"out-moded" view, Omvedt's favoured New Paradigm notes that :
"The crucial transition of our times
is from an ecologically destructive and economically centralised industrial
system based on non-renewable fossil fuel energy resources to an ecologically
sustainable one based on renewable energy sources (wind solar biomass)
in which agriculture and agro-industries play a central role if not leading
Ibid; Omvedt 1; E&PW p.169.
DOES THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THESE TWO PARADIGMS REALLY COME DOWN TO IN
OMVEDT'S VISION OF HER BELOVED NEW PARADIGM CONTENDS THAT:
is central to capital accumulation (the basis of production) is not so
much steel and machinery as information and communications technologies."
Ibid; Omvedt 1; , E&PW p.169.
IN HER CONCLUSIONS OMVEDT SUMMARISES HER MAIN
CONCERNS WITH THE DEPENDENCY THEORISTS.
THESE ARE :
"Looking back, it seems that there were
two major flaws in 'dependency theory'. One was the neglect of the processes
of exploitation and capital accumulation underlying relations between producers
especially peasants and the state (both within nations and the international
level). The other is the assumption of the necessarily leading role of
heavy industry and the backwardness of agriculture, in regard to the potential
contribution to national economic development, linkage to the 'state of
the art' technological advance, and the potential creativity and socially
'valuable' nature of the production relations fostered in the sector."
Omvedt, Economic & Political Weekly,
(Hereafter E&PW) Volume XXIX No.4; p.169.
In her New Paradigm,
Omvedt identifies a strand of what she terms "neo-liberal
economics"; though it is unclear what Omvedt thinks of the
"The new paradigm.. reverses the values
of the old. This reversal.. is in terms of claims about production relations
and exchange.. Whereas dependency theory argued that the market is the
source of exploitation, and the state can show the way to national independence;
while integration into the world economy increases backwardness, neo-liberalism
argues that the market and globalisation are the ways to liberation and
development while the state constitutes slavery."
Ibid; Omvedt 1; E&PW, Ibid, p.169.
ALLIANCE, IT APPEARS THAT OMVEDT IS SYMPATHETIC TO "NEO-LIBERALISM".
THE NEW PARADIGM, SHE BELIEVES, TRANSCENDS EVEN "NEO-LIBERAL ECONOMICS",
"Goes beyond it.. to bring out entirely
new aspects, looking at how the production system itself relates to nature
(in more traditional Marxist terminology, how the 'relations of productions'
are connected with the 'forces of production')."
E&PW, Ibid; Omvedt 1; p.169.
promotes the Green movement.
She is though, well aware that some positions within the Green movement
are ill thought-out. Not wishing to appear naive, Omvedt steers a middle
path. But in doing so, she accepts an ill-defined amalgam of both Green
and pro-developers. She at least acknowledges "Green extremism" as "romantic":
"The Green movement has critiqued both market and state as well
as the choice between national autarchy and linkage to the world market.
The extreme romantic and sometimes apocalyptic forms of environmentalism
reject both market and state for a return to a tribal utopia with traditional
ways of relating to the earth; the more scientific 'sustainable development'
forms seek a cautious usage of both. But both trends see capitalism and
statism as inimical."
Omvedt, Ibid, E&PW, p.169.
She ends with an
alternative 'sustainable development'. This simply embraces the limited
visions of modern day reformers of Capital. They are epitomised by such
"enlightened ones", as the BRUNDTLAND COMMISSION
of.. ..The UNITED NATIONS ! It is these august bodies that preach
"SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT", of Omvedt's future:
Above all Omvedt argues against a:
"This sustainable development approach
is seen in the Brundtland Commission, the South Commission and is expressed
in the recent Human Development Report that:
"The central fallacy in the old ideological
debate was that the state and the market are necessarily separate and even
antagonistic - and that one is benevolent, and the other not. In practice
both state and market are often dominated by the same power structures.
This suggests a more pragmatic third option: both state and market should
be guided by the people."
United Nations Development Programme
Human Development Report 1993, Oxford U. Press, Delhi,1993, p. 52-53.";
Cited Ibid; Omvedt 1; E&PW.
exemplified.. by Soviet industrialisation..(where) development is equivalent
to "industrialisation". that is the growth of heavy large-scale industries
producing steel and machinery and using primarily non-renewable fossil
Omvedt, Gail: "Reinventing
Revolution - New Social Movements & The Socialist Tradition in India";
New York; 1993; Hereafter referred to as Omvedt 3; p.29.
ii) OMVEDT: "IMPOVERISHED
MARXISM "UNDER VALUES" THE NON-PROLETARIAT" -(low caste, women, environmental
movement, and Peasantry).
Omvedt finds that
Marxism is far too narrowly concerned with the proletariat. First she asserts
the political and theoretical weakness of Marxism:
It is difficult to tell whether Omvedt is anti-
Marxism as opposed to being "antimechanical Marxism". But it rapidly
becomes clearer that she believes Marxism itself is philosophically constrained
- Marxism is simply not enough:
"Marxism as theory
and ideology came into India and existed for 50 years (with the solitary
exception of D.D.Kosambi) in
a fairly mechanical and vulgarized form, with its firm assertion that social
systems are and relations are historical .. material, and characterised
by conflict, contradiction and exploitation, its disadvantage was that
it took the overriding reality of 'class' and 'class struggle' so strongly
as to assert the fundamental irrelevance of every other sociological category..
this Marxist mechanical materialism not only succeeded in becoming the
primary ideology guiding the.. working class and peasant movements.. but
also over the anti-caste movement."
Omvedt, Gail: "Dalits
& The Democratic Revolution - Dr Ambedkar & The Dalit Movement
in Colonial India"; New Delhi; 1994; Hereafter referred to as Omvedt
has been called the historical materialism of the proletariat, what is
needed today is a historical materialism of not only industrial factory
workers, but also of peasants, women, tribals, dalits (ie. The previously
so called Untouchable, or Harijan caste in India - ed) and
low castes, and oppressed nationalities. It can no longer be assumed that
a theory that (apparently) serves the needs of the industrial working
class is adequate for the liberatory struggles of the whole society. An
analysis of capitalism will be insufficient, even erroneous, if it does
not move out of the sphere of commodity production and exchange in which
value is defined in terms of abstract labour time and capital accumulation
is defined through the appropriation of surplus value only."
Omvedt 3, p.xvi.
Omvedt argues that
Marxism is inadequate politically, and it cannot explain economic history.
Why? Because Marxism ignores the economics of any "surplus value extraction"
that transcend ownership rights; and it ignores the exploitation of nature:
"The basic problem
for Marxist analysis today is not so much that features other than 'class'
(such as 'caste', 'gender', 'community', or 'race') are appearing as important
social realities. If we limit ourselves to recognising this we continue
to fall into the trap of identifying these other realities as fundamentally
'non-economic'. Rather it can be seen in the non-coincidence of the narrow
and broad meanings of class. That is 'class' defined in terms of private
property (ownership versus non-ownership of the means of production) does
not explain some very important processes of exploitation or the appropriation
of surplus labour. As some owners are exploited (eg small peasants); some
non-owners exploit (eg controllers of state property in societies described
as 'socialist'; lords and upper castes in certain feudal societies). Proletarian
husbands may benefit from the exploitation of their wives' unpaid labour.
Moreover many ecologists would even argue that nature itself can be 'exploited'
in the double sense that resources incorporated from nature into the accumulation
cycle increase the accumulation of capital and that this has a destructive
effect on the ecologies of regions that provide such resources.."
Omvedt 2; p.54-55.
Omvedt explains that
the first step in exploitation was to breach a subsistence economy; thereafter
consumption relations became key to understanding exploitation; Marx had
not understood that (apparently!):
"The major theoretical
point of Maria Mies and others
of the 'German school of ecofeminists'..
(is) the role of violence and force in exploitation and the primary accumulation
being that of the forcible extraction of surplus from subsistence producers.
Even beyond this it can be argued that the primary relations of production
are those between producers and consumers; early non-exploitative societies
are 'subsistence societies' in which production is for self-consumption,
gradually extended through kin and other social networks to mediated exchange;
and only with the breaking of these direct links and the establishment
of an alienation between consumer and non-producer do exploitative 'relations
of production' between owners/non-owners, producers/looters, etc even begin.
One of Marx's fundamental errors was from this point of view, to treat
consumption as simply passive, a reflection of production.. Capitalism
as a system is not simply based upon the extraction of surplus value through
wage labour; it rests fundamentally not so much on wage labour as on the
commodity from in which the direct links between producer and consumer
are broken and the extraction of surplus from the direct producer in the
form of the commodity (paid through wages or prices or not paid at all)
forms - the basis of capital accumulation."
Omvedt 2, p.56-57.
Because of their
philosophical stance, Marxists incorrectly "foresaw" the
"proletarianisation" of the peasantry, under Nehru's Government:
considered to be fundamentally backward and peasants by nature of their
rootage in the soil, primitive; development meant not only removing people
from agriculture but extracting them from far-flung villages to the 'modern'
collective life of the neighbourhoods and factories of the cites. In both
industry and agriculture, advanced production was thought to be the large
scale centrally organised production in which thousands of labourers worked
collectively.. But statistics do not show an increase in landlessness."
Omvedt 3, p.20,
Are these true
deficiencies of Marxist analysis?
If so, they are serious.
These charges are examined below. To continue with Omvedt's assault. Her
second spearhead arises from these theoretical faults- the
historical results of these (apparent!) theoretical deficiencies.
Omvedt enumerates battles that Marxism allegedly ignores:
in India are not the explosions of the "class struggle" of traditional
Marxism but rather have been revolving around.. issues - of caste, gender,
community and ethnicity". Omvedt 3; p.xii.
Marxists ignore these,
Omvedt says, because "traditional Marxism" is un-interested in peasants
except to extort revenue. Development even in the USSR entailed:
"The material basis
for development was the extraction of surplus from the peasantry and from
the fields, forests and mines that dotted the country, from the natural
resources of the land. In the original European development of capitalism
"primitive accumulation" had been largely from colonies and conquered or
looted third-world territories. European agriculture was transformed to
the extent of forcing out enough of its producers to provide the labour
in the new countries, and only Rosa Luxembourg
was left to argue that an "ongoing primitive accumulation", or the continued
exploitation of "non-capitalist" sources was necessary for the very survival
of capitalism. The Bolsheviks catapulted into power in still agriculturally
based and very backward society without colonies, seized consciously on
their own peasantry as the source of "primitive socialist accumulation"-
not only because growing factories needs the surpluses but because the
'small commodity producing' peasantry itself was (in spite of the official
rhetoric of the 'worker-peasant alliance') seen as the antithesis of and
even antagonism of the factory proletariat, needing not only "leadership"
but control. The forcing of peasants into collective farms took place in
particularly brutal fashion in Stalin's Russia; in Mao's China and elsewhere
the process was much less murderous, but there also first the revolution
and then collectivisation allowed both control over the peasantry and the
extractions of agricultural surpluses."
Omvedt 3, p.30.
Omvedt now asserts
the identity of interest between the "Indian elite" and Bolsheviks
in the development of India:
"Like the Bolsheviks, the Indian elite argued that the resistance
came from rural vested interests who oppressed the rural poor, from the
village "dominant castes", the "kulaks" the landlords. But the basic assumption
was the same : that surplus had to be extracted from the peasantry and
centralised in the hands of the bureaucracy for investment in industry
and agriculture. The peasantry was tradition bound, caste-ridden primordial
force that had to be controlled, If collective farms were not possible,
then other means could be sought-the price system, state control of trade
Omvedt 3, p.30.
This is a rather
large set of "sins" for "guilty Marxists" to expiate. Some of these "sins"
are a sleight of hand (Asserting "All Marxists said.."; "All Communists
said and did.." etc). Some "sins" relate to Omvedt's poor history knowledge.
(Did Omvedt learn history, only from Congress Bapus and bourgeois schools?)
Some "sins" reflect Omvedt's misunderstanding or poor knowledge of some
serious Marxist-Leninist theory.
TO SUMMARISE OMVEDT'S ATTACKS
1. Heavy industrialisation is passe, and is at the root of much
2. It is, not Heavy Industry (Department I industry); but the
information and communications technologies that are now central to capital
3. The peasantry has a central economic role; which is denied.
4. "Marxists" neglect "processes of exploitation and capital
accumulation underlying relations between producers especially peasants
and the state".
5. No contradiction exists between "market" and "state".
6. Marxist views that class is "fundamental" are incorrect.
7. "Communists" over-emphasise the proletariat and neglect the
8. That the peasantry is only a source of revenue to "Marxists".
9. In India the Communist Party of India had identical aims
to that of the "Indian elite". 10. Indian "Marxists" ignore many
present struggles in India.
MAIN POINT IS THAT MARX AND MARXISTS CONSIDER THE PEASANTRY AS UNIMPORTANT
- AS JUST A MILCH COW; THAT THE PROLETARIAN COMMUNISTS HAVE NOT ENTERED
INTO PARTENRSHIP WITH THE PEASANTRY;
AT HEART, OMVEDT LIKE SHIVA, WISHES TO TURN THE CLOCK BACK.
FURTHER MORE, OMVEDT GLORIFIES THE PEASANTRY.
BUT AS MARX SAID IN CAPITAL PART VIII :
"The English student of history.. always finds this peasantry turning
up again although in diminished numbers, and always under worse conditions."
From Selected Works, Moscow 1985, Vol.2, p.131.
Students and activists
in Indian history find the same!
comment to ask is: "Who can have any confidence in the UN?"
The UN is the Public Relations wing of the General Staff of the world's
imperialist forces! Can that seriously be disproved? It is somewhat bewildering
then, to see activists who model strategies for India, upon recommendations
from Commissions of the United Nations ! It is naive in the extreme, to
expect the UN to materially change the balance of forces between the colonial
and semi-colonial world and the imperialist world.
The second obvious point is that Omvedt ignores historical differences
between various self-styled "Marxists" and "Communists". To a member of
the United Nations, this may be a matter of supreme unimportance. But we
object. It may be tedious to recount these differences but they are critical.
third initial point is that Omvedt is unaware of key historical
facts. That is that revisionism, as a movement consciously disrupted the
international communist workers and peasants movements; that the Communist
International set out to exclude J.V.Stalin from leadership of the Comintern;
and having done so it then destroyed the Workers and Peasants Parties of
India. This is detailed in Alliance Issue 5 (See: http://ml-review.ca/aml/AllianceIssues/All-5table.htm
). Here we set out only enough details to rebut Omvedt's central
point here: that the "Communists" did not try to
forge links with the peasantry.
B) HISTORICAL INACCURACIES.
In general, Omvedt's
history is shallow. We only touch on a few key issues, to expose how little
thought she gives to history. She merely parrots history sold in the market
Omvedt repeats bourgeois
and revisionist histories, equating Stalin with the Comintern (ECCI). Alliance
and the Communist League (UK) have shown this is untenable (See
Alliance 5 http://ml-review.ca/aml/AllianceIssues/All-5table.htm
. In fact Stalin was removed from control of the ECCI in 1926-8,
by hidden revisionists led by Otto Kussinin, who then destroyed the Workers
and Peasants Parties (WPP). The WPP advocated by J.V.Stalin and M.N.Roy,
proved very successful in mass mobilisations across India. The revisionist
united front of the ECCI leadership and Communist Party Great Britain (CPGB),
destroyed the WPP. Contrary to Omvedt's imaginative histories Stalin advocated
that workers of the then embryonic CPI should unite with non-proletarians
"The victory of
the revolution cannot be achieved unless this bloc is smashed, but in order
to smash this bloc, fire must be concentrated on the compromising national
bourgeoisie, its treachery exposed, the toiling masses freed from its influence,
and the conditions necessary for the hegemony of the proletariat systematically
prepared. In other words, in colonies like India it is a matter of preparing
the proletariat for the role of leader of the liberation movement, step
by step dislodging the bourgeoisie and its mouthpieces from this honourable
post. The task is to create an anti-imperialist bloc and to ensure the
hegemony of the proletariat in this bloc. This bloc can assume although
it need not always necessarily do so, the form of a single WORKERS AND
PEASANTS PARTY (WPP), formally bound by a single platform. In such
centuries the independence of the Communist Party must be, the chief slogan
of the advanced communist elements, for the hegemony of the proletariat
can be prepared and brought about by the Communist party. But the communist
party can and must enter into an open bloc with the revolutionary part
of the bourgeoisie in order, after isolating the compromising national
bourgeoisie, to lead the vast masses of the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie
in the struggle against imperialism."
Tasks of the University of Peoples of the East." May 18. 1925. Reprinted
San Francisco, 1975 in : J.V.Stalin. Marxism and the National Colonial
Stalin only extended Lenin's line into the Workers and Peasants Party policy:
should and will support bourgeois liberation movements in the colonial
countries.. when these movements are really revolutionary."
Lenin, Report of
the Commission on the national and Colonial Question, "Selected Works",
Vol 10, London, 1946, p.241.
But the Sixth
Congress of the ECCI, became dominated by hidden revisionists after
the defeat of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC). They disrupted the struggle
by foisting an Ultra-Left line on the CPI. The Chinese worker and peasant
massacres committed by the Kuomintang bourgoieie was the responsibility
of the CPC. The CPC repeatedly rejected Stalin and M.N.Roy's advice : to
escalate the class struggle, and not to kow-tow to the bourgeois nationalists.
However, the ECCI used the Chinese debacle as a pretext to remove Stalin.
The 6th ECCI Congress now adopted an anti-WPP line. The first Workers and
Peasants Party had been formed in Bengal on 1st November 1925. WPP formed
in other parts of India as well. The WPP's aimed to achieve complete
independence by widening the anti-imperialist struggle. (See Bairathi S:
"Communism and Nationalism in India." Delhi, 1987. p. 95-96).
and Stalin, had long advocated massive wide non Communsit
broad mass Worker and Peasant parties (WPP). Roy, promoted joint activity
with progressive elements. Therefore, British imperialism repeatedly tried
to rupture Roy's ties with militant elements. The WPP led major struggles.
During 1927-8, a great strike wave began, ignited by the Simon
Commission. The WPP called the Indian
National Congress (INC) to boycott the Simon Commission,
and to mobilise for full independence. The revisionist Communist Party
Of India (CPI), is also uninterested in revealing revisionism. Even
the CPI concedes the success of WPP pressure. ("Guidelines History of CPI",
In April 1928 a six
month long strike in Bombay led by Communist WPP leaders (Bombay) led to
formation of the Girni Kamgar (Mill Workers)
Union (GKU); in Calcutta large strikes of jute and railway
workers were led by the WPP (Bengal):
"The workers came to recognise the red flag as the symbol of
their class solidarity.. with the socialist Soviet Union.. The strike upsurge..
can be seen from the following official STRIKE
NO. OF MAN-DAYS LOST
This strike upsurge and the mass activities
were, led by the WPP which the Communists had set up."
CPI: Ibid p.19.
reports confirmed this picture:
"By the end of 1928.. there was hardly
a single public utility service or industry which had not been affected,
in whole or in part by the wave of Communism which swept the country during
Government of India; Home Department:
"India Communism"; Simla 1935; p126.
These broad, legal
mass workers and peasants parties (WPP) under Communist leadership, advocated
by Stalin, were clearly successful; enabling Communists to lead masses
of workers and peasants in militant struggle.
BUT THE COMINTERN 6TH CONGRESS, LED
BY OTTO KUUSINEN DESTROYED ALL THIS. IN HIS REPORT KUUSINEN ATTACKED THE
THIS ATTACK ON THE WORKERS AND PEASANTS PARTIES (WPP) MATCHED
TROTSKY'S ATTACK OF JUNE 1928 SUBMITTED
TO THE CONGRESS:
"For a time some comrades considered
the advisability of 'labour and peasant parties'.. It is now clearer than
before that this form is not to be recommended, especially in colonial
and semi-colonial countries. It would be an easy matter for the labour
and peasant parties to transform themselves into petty bourgeois parties,
to get away from the Communists, thereby failing to help them to come into
contact with the masses."
O.Kuusinen, Report on the Revolutionary
Movement in The Colonies and Semi-Colonies, 6th Congress, CI In : "International
Press Correspondence", Volume 8, No. 70; October 4th, 1928, 1230-1.
THE NOW REVISONIST LED ECCI CALLED FOR THE DISSOLUTION
OF THE WPP. THE ECCI COLONIAL THESES SAID:
"The cardinal question for us here as
everywhere and always, is the question of the communist party, its complete
independence, its irreconcilable class character. The greatest danger on
this path is the organisation of so-called "Workers and Peasants Parties"
in the countries of the Orient..
Stalin advanced the formula of the "two-class
Workers' and Peasants' Parties" for the Eastern countries.. it is a question
here of an absolutely new, entirely false and thoroughly anti-Marxist formulation
of the fundamental question of the party and of its relation to its own
class and other classes.. Without a relentless condemnation of the very
idea of workers and peasants parties for the East, there is not and cannot
be a programme for the Comintern."
L.Trotsky : "Summary and Perspectives
of the Chinese Revolution" In :"Third International after Lenin", London;
1974; p.162-3, 171.
"Special Worker and peasants parties,
no matter how revolutionary they may be, can be all too easily transformed
into ordinary petty-bourgeois parties. Therefore organisation of such parties
In J.Degras (Ed). "The Communist International:1919-1943:Documents",
Volume 2; London; 1971; p.526-48.
DESPITE THE OPPOSITION
OF THE WPP THEMSELVES, THE ECCI WON:
"By the 10th Plenum
(Comintern) 1929.. all opposition to the Leftist line of the 6th Congress
was submerged and the Comintern plunged forward on its ultra-leftist course..
Kussinen was the spokesman for India..In his report he said:
'Our greatest weakness
there is the fact that we have not established ourselves as a Communist
Party, A good many Indian Communists have worked in the ranks of the "Workers
And Peasants Party"(WPP). We have advised them to endeavour to induce
these Parties to reorganise themselves, to assume another form, in keeping
with the principles of Leninism."
Windmiller, M. "Communism in India." Berkeley, 1960. p.139.
At this 10th Plenum
of the ECCI, held in Moscow from July 3rd to 19th 1929, Roy was formally
expelled from the CI. Otto Kuusinen cited amongst other matters, Roy's
objection to the ECCI line against the formation of an alliance within
the INC between the CPI and the Independence League; and against the WPP.
TURN OF THE REVISONIST COMINTERN, TOOK A DEVASTATING TOLL ON THE CPI AND
ITS MASS LINKS, THE WPP.
Having gainged control
of the ECCI, revisionism needed to stamp its mark at a more local level.
"Independetly minded" Communists like Roy were leading the CPI correctly.
This was inconvenient for the ECCI. The CPI was therefore "minded" by "Reliable
Foreign Big Brothers". The First Big Brother was the revisionist Communist
Party of Great Britain (CPGB).
Folowing the previous
incorrect Ultra-left turn, the CPGB now inflicted an ultra-right turn.
This came to a head during the final thores of the Second World War, and
the liberation struggle in India. Nehru negotiated with British imperialism
for the notorious partition of the Indian sub-continent. This perpetuated
the divide and rule policy of Britain, and allowed the British imperialists,
to seemingly withdraw, in a situation where they could continue to exercise
their dominance on two weakened and warring states. The classic neo-colonial
strategy had perpetuated the divide and rule policy of Britain. The CPGB
under R.P.Dutt forced a right revisionist line, and forced the CPI to swallow
In the face of opportunist right revisionism, a
left wing reaction broke out. With no Marxist-Leninist leadership however,
it was prone to the Left wing adventurism of the RANADIVE
FACTION. This was ill-judged given the lack of preparation
of the CPI after years of right stultification. Even more complicatedly,
the Telangana branch of the Party came under the control of the revisionist
Communist Party of China (CPC).
Admittedly all this is complex. No one said that
serious history is easy, but you may ignore history only at your peril.
Omvedt's serious errors, stem from a superficial "rose-coloured" view of
"any" peasant struggle. In this laudable aim, she overlooks certain inconveniences.
For example, the Telangagna revolt of 1946-50 did
establish "GRAM RAJ", or SOVIET POWER in
nearly 4,000 villages. But she implies that Hyderabad should have been
led to secession by the CPI. But the army of the central Indian state could
not be resisted then. But there was no overall climate for revolution,
far from it. The brilliant Soviet observer, DYAKOV,
wrote "That the situation was far from being revolutionary." (Overstreet
& Windmiller, Ibid, p.281).
Illustrating her willingness to accept anything labelled
"peasant" as good, she even ignores the class facts of the Telangana Revolt
itself. Omvedt slights "left scholars", who criticise the revolt as "rich
peasant" dominated (See Omvedt 3, p.23-24). BUT Telangana
specifically exempted the rich peasantry from any local CPI attack. This
rightist class collaboration, by the local ANDHRA
FACTION OF THE CPI, was in fact, inconsistent with the then
Ultra-Left CPI! It was a line that came from the Mao led revisionist Communist
Party of China:
"To ally with any capitalists or landowner was intolerable of course
for B.T.Ranadive, secretary for the CPI.. With their leadership
in the wealthy Kamma landowning caste, the Andhra Communists had
good reason to espouse the Maoist line in India. The Andhra Communists
had established ground rules at the start for the Telengana insurrection
in 1948 which assured most of their Kamma brethren went unscathed.
So long as the middling rich farmers who make up the bulk of the caste
stayed above the battle, they were classified in Communist strategy as
neutralized. This (was an) outright deviation from the Ranadive line, which
saw all landowners as equally villainous.. Ranadive attacked the Andhra
Secretariat, publicly charged that in Andhra Communist ranks:
"It is the rural intellectuals, sons of rich peasants and middle peasants
that preponderate in important positions. The party politically based itself
on the vacillating politics of the middle peasants and allowed itself to
be influenced by rich peasant ideology'" Harrison, S: "India the most dangerous
decades." Princeton, 1960. p.162.
IN CONCLUSION, OMVEDT'S BIASED HISTORY OF THE INDIAN REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT
IGNORES REAL DYNAMICS.
"The Andhra Communists had made no secret of their "Rich peasant" policy
within the party. They explicitly declared themselves on this point in
a 1948 program report.. which stressed 2 major tactical rules of thumb:
"1. In delta areas the pressure of population would be heavy and as
such slogans should be raised for the distribution of lands belonging to
rich ryots among the poor peasants and labourers.
2. Propaganda should be carried out to convince the ryots about the
just demands of the workers, and we should also effect compromises with
those of the ryots who would follow with us. Assurance should also be given
that we should not touch the lands of rich ryots."
Ranadive also singled out for special attack another statement of this
position in a 1948 Andhra statement discussing tactics towards Government
rice procurement for rationing:
"In the matter of procurement of paddy the Secretariat believes that
it is possible to neutralize the rich peasants as the government plan goes
against the rich peasantry also. Though the rich peasantry as class is
not standing firmly in the fight, it is parting with paddy with dissatisfaction."
Let us dispose of
a further charge - that the "Marxist left" ignored in India the emergence
and development of struggles such as the Jharkhanad, the adivasas, the
Who does she here
label as the "Marxists"?
Why, no other than
the revisionist CPI and the CPM.
These parties are
part of the state power apparatus, being in Governments and heading some
State Governments. How can they possibly wish to disrupt that state power?
The CPM and its West Bengal leader Jyoti Basu,
is hailed by the Financial Times (UK) as a great place to invest and a
stable society! What can one hope for from a party with Jyoti Basu as a
prominent leader? Only opportunists do not unhesitatingly call these parties
revisionist. Omvedt's charge here is toothless. Even worse actually.
IT IS DANGEROUS AS SHE EQUATES "MARXISM" WITH PROVEN REVISIONISTS.
CONTINUES TO FOSTER ILLUSIONS ABOUT THESE PARTIES.
In passing we note
that she is much more "gentle" in reproaches against the CPI(ML)). Doubtless
this is as the CPI(ML), of pro-Maoist stripe has been heavily involved
in the countryside. The nature of their involvement in the countryside
(Left adventurism, individual assassination, under-estimation of the role
of the proletariat etc) was however anti-Marxist Leninist. Historically
it led to a physical decimation of the best of a generation of activists.
We cannot dwell on this history here.
As to her "New Paradigm", perhaps
the most obvious error is the sweeping dismissal of the heavy industry.
c) THE ROLE AND NEED FOR HEAVY INDUSTRY
i) OMVEDT AND
BUKHARIN. HISTORICAL SLURS AGAINST THE USSR.
know there is a basic difference between two types of industry. The split
is between Heavy (Marx's Department A) and Light (Marx's Department
B). This, split, is an important consideration for the development
of a country's industrial and economic independence.
Most authors follow Marx in recongising
that development requires the necessary underpinnings of Heavy Industry.
According to Omvedt,
this is not so. But how exactly does Omvedt imagine that "New Paradigm"
computer chips are made? Perhaps no heavy industry has been involved in
the making of chips? Are they made in someone's back yard smelter perhaps?
Besides what exactly are chips made for? Are computer chips, we wonder,
purely to help when making hotel reservations, or to book theatre tickets?
Of course not. They
have further extended and revolutionised the role of heavy industry. Their
advent actually makes the control of heavy industry even more - not
less -critical in development. Omvedt's argument is not a new one.
It is dressed up in the modern garb of electronics.
A STRATEGY, OMVEDT'S PROPOSAL RESEMBLES THAT OF NIKOLAI BUKHARIN IN THE
Bukharin argued that
the economic measures of J.V.Stalin were:
"A disastrous going
over to the Trotskyist positions." An industrialisation based on the "impoverishment
of the country, the degradation of agriculture, and the squandering of
and the Bolshevik Revolution : Political Biography 1888-1938", Oxford,
-A BRIEF RECAP
OF THIS SOVIET PERIOD SHOWS THAT MANY OF OMVEDT'S "MARXIST" SHIBBOLETHS
ARE ACTUALLY TRUE.
- BUT THEY WERE
APPARITIONS OF STALIN AS SHE THINKS.
-MANY OF HER
"MARXIST" FEARS WERE PUT INTO WORDS AND DEEDS BY THE TROTSKYITES.
- THE MARXIST-LENINISTS,
LED BY STALIN FOUGHT AGAINST THEM.
ALLIANCE OF PROLETARIAT AND PEASANT - THE SMYTCHKA.
Lenin's policy was
to support the alliance of the proletariat, with the peasantry [in especial
the poor section], which took the name the SMYTCHKA. As Stalin points
out this confronted the most serious problem for the proletariat :
"Important problem of the proletarian revolution is the question
of how the urban and rural masse of the labouring petty bourgeoisie are
to be won over to the cause of the proletariat. In the struggle for power
which side are the masses of the town and the rural workers going to espouse?
Are they going to rally to the bourgeoisie or to the proletariat?"
J.V.Stalin :"October Revolution and the Tactics of The Russian Communists";
in "Leninism"; New York; 1928; p.184.
Lenin proposed that
this "important question" would be solved by a special form of alliance:
of the proletariat is a special sort of class alliance between the proletariat
(the vanguard of the workers) and the numerous non-proletarian strata of
those who labour (petty bourgeoisie, small employers, peasants, intelligentsia,
and so forth) or the majority of these; it is an alliance whose objects
are the complete overthrow of capitalism, the crushing once for all of
the resistance of the bourgeoisie in its attempts at the restoration of
the old social order, and the definitive inauguration and consolidation
Cited by J.V.Stalin
In "October Revolution and Tactic of Russian Communists"; Ibid; p.185.
This meant identifying
strata of peasantry. The Bolsheviks then allied with the
most revolutionary sections. Actually, the Bolsheviks pursued a policy
towards the peasants that empowered peasant desires. For instance, in the
debates on the NATIONALISATION OF LAND, Lenin showed how well he
had understood the peasant needs. The Bolsheviks pushed for the nationalisation
of all state land, yet the Mensheviks tried to obstruct this, arguing that
"Peasant would never understand the transfer of peasant land
to anyone but themselves.." But, replies Lenin:
"In both the First and the Second Dumas, the peasants put themselves
forward the Trudovik "Bill of the 104". The Bill called for the
nationalisation of the land. The peasants said that the entire land would
become the property of the state.. the peasants say that the tangle of
old agrarian life can only be unravelled by nationalisations.. The party
of the proletariat demands the nationalisation of all the land in the country."
V.I.Lenin: "Report on the Agrarian Situation" April 28 7th All Russia
Conference of the RSDLP(B). "Selected Works"; Volume 2; Moscow, 1977, p.99.
This is nothing more
than what Marx and Engels had advocated:
"Leaving aside the so-called Rights
of Property, I assert that the economical development of society, the increase
and concentrations of people, the very circumstances that compel the capitalist
farmer to apply to agriculture collective and organised labour, and to
have recourse to machinery and similar contrivances, will more and more
render the nationalisation of land a 'social Necessity,' against which
no amount of talk about the 'right' of property can be of no avail. The
imperative wants of society will and must be satisfied, changes dictated
by social necessity will work their own way and sooner or later adopt legislation
to their interests.
What we require is
a daily increasing production and its exigencies cannot be met by allowing
a few individuals to regulate according to their whims and private interests,
or to ignorantly exhaust the power of the soil. All modern methods, such
as irrigation, drainage, steam ploughing, chemical treatment and so forth
ought to be applied to agriculture at large. But the scientific knowledge
we possess, and the technical means of agriculture we command, such as
machinery etc. can never be successfully applied but by cultivating the
land on a large scale.
If cultivation on
large scale proves (even under its present capitalist form, that degrades
the cultivator himself to a mere beast of burden) so superior from an economical
point of view, to small and piecemeal husbandry, would it not give an increased
impulse to production if applied on national dimensions?
The ever growing
wants of the people on the one side, the ever-increasing price of agricultural
produce on the other, afford the irrefutable evidence that the nationalisation
of land has become a social necessity."
Karl Marx, "The Nationalisation of The
Land" In Selected Works Marx and Engels; Volume 2; Moscow; publ. 1872.
Omvedt is upset that Marxists believe
that the peasant is a "reactionary force".
It is true that Marxists
think that land holding introduces a different mentality. Marx considered
that land ownership did indeed was part of a "reactionary" mentality; one
that tried to obstruct moving forward to the new world. If that new world
is based on a socialist view, land nationalisation is a prerequisite. What
is controversial about that? Now there is no socialist country in the world.
There is also now, no country where land nationalisation exists! Did Marx
think that private property in land prevented a social awareness? Certainly
so - Marx viewed France as a country where land nationalisation was unlikely,
because of the small scale abundance of peasant holdings:
"France.. with its peasant proprietorship
it is further off the nationalisation of land than England with its landlordism.
In France it is true, the soil is accessible to all who can buy it, but
this very facility has brought about a division into small plots cultivated
by men with small means and mainly relying upon the land by exertions of
themselves and their families. This form of landed property and the piecemeal
cultivation it necessitates, while excluding all appliances of modern agricultural
improvements, converts the tiller himself into the most decided enemy to
social progress and above all the nationalisation of the land. Enchained
to the soil upon which he has to spend all his vital energies in order
to get a relatively small return, having to give away the greater part
of his produce to the state, in the form of taxes, to the law tribe in
the for of judiciary costs, and to the usurer in the form of interest,
utterly ignorant of the social movements outside his petty field of employment;
still he clings with fanatic fondness to his bit of land and his merely
nominal proprietorship in the same. In this way, the French peasant has
been thrown into the most fatal antagonism to the industrial working class.
being then the greatest obstacle to the nationalisation of land, France
in its present state is certainly not the place where we must look to for
a solution of this great problem."
Karl Marx In "The Nationalisation of
the Land", In Volume 2 Selected works, Ibid, p. 289.
BUT DOES THIS MEAN AN IRRECONCILABLE RIFT BETWEEN PEASANT AND PROLETARIAT?
out Marx's formulations into the practice of the first socialist revolution,
Lenin showed this rift was not irreconcilable.
In "Resolution on the Land Questions", Lenin showed in what
way Land Reforms could work. This should tell Omvedt why the pusillanimous
so-called "Land Reforms" of the bourgeois governments following Nehru have
not produced a state of harmony in the Indian countryside.
WHAT IS THE ESSENCE OF LAND REFORM ACCORDING
"(5) The party advises
the peasant to take the land in an organised way..
(6) Agrarian reforms
by and large can be successful and durable only provided the whole state
is democratised ie. provided on the one hand that the police, the standing
army, and the privileged bureaucracy are abolished and provided on the
other, there exists a system of broad local self-government completely
free from supervision and tutelage from above". "Resolution on the agrarian
Situation", Vol.2; Ibid; p.103.
Clearly these requirements
were not present in India. The so called "Land Reforms" of Nehru were bound
to be mere words. Later, Lenin again showed how carefully he had understood
the land hunger of the Small peasant, when the Decree on Land exempted
the small peasantry, but not the large and middle landowners, from expropriation:
"1. Landed proprietorship
is abolished without any compensation.
2. The landed estates
as also all crown, monastery, and Church lands with all their livestock
implements buildings and everything pertaining thereto shall be placed
at the disposal of the volsot land committees and the uyezd Soviets of
Peasants Deputies pending the convocation of the Constituent Assembly".
5.The land of ordinary
peasants and ordinary Cossacks shall not be confiscated".
Decree On Land;
Second All- Russian Congress of Soviets, 26.10.1917. In "Report on Land";
"Selected Works" Ibid Vol 2; p.425.
ARE SORRY TO BE BLUNT TO OMVEDT. BUT A PEASANT, IS NOT SIMPLY ANY
To be clear: not
every peasant is like any other "peasant". Lenin's attitude was to distinguish
the peasants into groups, whether in the stages of seizing stae pwoer,
or of consolidating state power. The tactics were:
THE RICH FROM THE POOR PEASANT.
NEUTRALISE the MIDDLE PEASANT;
OR PULL THE MIDDLE PEASANT TO SOCIALISM.
to the middle peasant was a very realistic one. Yet Omvedt cannot abide
the thought of distinguishing between layers of peasantry. She is worried
that 'Marxists' in state power would inevitably crush the peaasant. But
who advocated this? And who resisted this?
Trotsky had long
been contemptuous of the peasantry. Indeed this was a key component of
his book "Permanent Revolution". After the death of Lenin in 1923,
and during the last years of the New Economic Policy (NEP) the future path
of Soviet Russia was under debate. After the temporary retreat of the New
Economic Policy, an intense struggle ensued over whether, when and how
to embark upon industrialisation. The TROTSKYITES, became allied
with Preobrazhensky. He advocated "pumping the peasantry". In fact
at the Communist Academy, which took
up several pseudo-Left positions (see Alliance 7) Preobrazhensky put it
very bluntly :
"Socialism in the
existing state of Russia was concerned with the sources and methods of
what he termed "primitive socialist accumulation".. the growth of State
industry depended upon the accumulation of cash in the hands of the State;
and apart from loans from abroad, the only two sources from which such
accumulation could be derived were the surplus production of State industry
itself.. and what it could derive from the "exploitation of small-scale
private economy.. the latter .. he gave the name of primitive socialist
accumulation. This he defined as "the accumulation in the hands of the
State of material meas obtained chiefly from sources lying outside the
State economic system..In a backward agrarian country this accumulation
is bound to play a very great role.. These outside spheres of economy he
termed "colonies"; and the necessary economic basis of the transition period
was a relation of "exploitation" between the "metropolis " of State industry,
its productivity and the possibility of living on its own surplus, until
finally petty private economy was crushed and engulfed in the socialist
economy, as the rise of capitalism had crushed out the peasant and the
small craftsman and turned them into proletarians..the methods of this
accumulation were two in number. The "colonial" areas might be subjected
to direct taxation.. Second and more important was the method of market
exchange between State industry and the "colonies". Though the monopoly
position of state industry on the market and by measures of "Socialist
Protectionism", the rate of interchange could be turned to the advantage
of the former.. it involved "exploitation" of the "colonies" by the State."
"Soviet Economic Development Since 1917"; London, 1972; p.184-5.
Here then, is Omvedt's
"Marxist" who sees the peasantry as a tool to be extorted ! But then as
we said above there are Marxists, and then there are Marxists! This was
not the line of Marxist-Leninists like Stalin. This line was soundly rejected
by the 13 th Party Conference and subsequently too. Allied to Preobrazhensky
was Trotsky, Ossinsky, Radek and Zinoviev and Kamenev.
In contrast to Trotsky,
Bukharin went the other way! One could say that he did an Omvedt turn!
He wished to aid the peasantry to retreat into a capitalist mode of existence.
In effect he aided the richer sections of the peasantry. Bukharin argued
that the USSR could develop its ability to fulfil the needs of the population,
through consumer products. Already in 1925 Stalin had asserted the principle
of industrialisation to be critical. But even more so, Stalin emphasised
"At the 14 th Congress
in December 1925, the general report on economic policy and industrialisation..
presented by Stalin.. placed primary emphasis on heavy industry. The resolution
adopted by 59 votes against 65 with 41 abstentions, enunciated as the leading
principle governing economic construction "that the Soviet Union be converted
from ac country which imports machines to a country which produces machines,
in order that by this means the Soviet Union in the midst of capitalist
encirclement would not become an economic appendage of the capitalist world
economy, but an independent economic unit which is building Socialism."
Dobbs; Ibid; p.192.
At the same time,
there was debate on whether to stimulate the peasantry and agriculture
by means of:
which must have priority even if this should result in giving rein to the
revival of petty capitalism in the countryside. From time to time between
the 'scissors' crisis and the end of 1925, a policy of so-called "goods
intervention" had been canvassed: A large scale import of consumers' goods
from abroad to supplement the deficient supplies that home industry was
able to furnish and by placing them on village markets in particular to
coax more product from the peasantry and thereby increase the trade between
village and town.. this proposal was included in the policy advanced by
supporters of Trotsky : eg.. Ossinksy in 1923, and again by Smilga
in 1925. Its advocacy was particulary associated with.. Sokolnikov..
who undoubtedly represented at that time the Right tendency although he
later joined forces with the Zinoviev-Kamenev-Trotsky bloc. At the
14 th Congress he advocated that the programme of industrialisation should
give priority to the expansion of light industry.. Another spokesman of
this view was Shanin.. who argued priority must be given to.. agriculture
since Russian industry could only expand on the basis of imported equipment
and this import of machinery would only become possible on the basis of
an enlarged surplus of agricultural produce for export."
Dobb Ibid, p.200-201.
At this time Bukharin
issued the call to the kulak to "Enrich Yourself". Dobb, Ibid, p.202.
Under the pressure
of a general Bolshevik outrage, Bukharin retracted. But he continued to
advocate "proceeding at a slowly"; or:
haste to round up the seething unorganised industry under the socialist
In "Building Socialism",
Cited by Dobb, Ibid, p.202.
By 1928 - Bukharin
and Shanin representing the Right tendency became more open in their opposition,
as the pace of industrialisation was increasing; and now pressure on the
kulak increased. Shanin charged that industrialisation was taking place
on the basis of "inflationary financing". Bukharin in "Observations of
an Economist ", written in 1928 attacked the increased tempo under a cover:
"Under the guise
of an attack upon the "SUPER-INDUSTRIALISATION" proposals of Trotsky,
Bukharin proceeded to show that the real cause of present difficulties
was that the industrial construction was increasing too fast for the conditions
of agricultural production.. as witnessed by the fact that foodstuffs,
consumption goods, and building materials were all alike in deficit supply,
compared to the demand."
Dobbs, Ibid, p.204.
In talking of a crisis
Bukharin alleged that:
"The high rate
of investment itself created "A record demand for industrial goods"; which
industry was unable to satisfy : "Industry in its development encounters
the limits of this development". "The failure of industry to satisfy the
demand of the village"; was not evidence of a too slow rate of development
of industry. Quite the contrary was true: "Whilst industry develops at
tremendous pace, whilst the population increases rapidly and the needs
of this population increase steadily, the amount of grain remains unaltered";
and any "Further acceleration of the speed of development of industry depends
to a considerable extent on agricultural raw material production and agricultural
export", and any further capital investment "Must be effected with due
consideration for all those factors which guarantee a 'more or less crisis-free
development and better coordination". Any overstraining of capital expenditure
will lead in time to the stoppage of enterprises already begun; it will
react unfavourably on other branches in every direction, and it will finally
retard the speed of development.. our bow is at a very high tension. To
increase this tension still further and to increase the 'goods famine'
still more, is impossible.. The acuteness of the goods shortage must certainly
be alleviated.. The first steps in this direction must be made."
Cited Dobbs, Ibid,
This was a direct
attack on the 15 th Congress Resolution which had said there were two problems
that needed to be circumvented:
"It is incorrect
to take as a starting point the demand for a maximum pumping over of means
from the sphere of agriculture into the sphere of industry; for this demand
would mean a political rupture with the peasantry as well as an undermining
of the home market, and undermining of export and an upsetting of the equilibrium
of the whole economic system.. It would be incorrect to renounce altogether
the use of means drawn from agriculture for the furtherance of industry..
since at the present time this would mean a retardation of the speed of
development to the detriment of the industrialisation of the country."
Dobbs, Ibid, p.204-5.
In opposition to
Bukharin, Stalin pointed out the essential need to develop heavy industry.
Only this would increase the overall capacity of the USSR productive base
in order to be able to meet the ends of the population. Stalin argued that:
"We must maintain
the present rate of development of industry; we must at the first opportunity
speed it up in order to pour goods into the rural areas and obtain more
grain from them, to supply agriculture, and primarily the collective farms
and state farms, with machines, so as to industrialise agriculture and
to increase the proportion of its output for the market.
Should we perhaps, for the sake of greater "caution", retard the development
of heavy industry so as to make light industry, which produces chiefly
for the peasant market, the basis of our industry? Not under any circumstances!
That would be.. suicidal; it would mean abandoning the slogan of industrialising
our country, it would mean transforming our country into an appendage of
the world capitalist system of economy."
Stalin J.V.S. 28
May, 1928. "Speech to the Institute of Red Professors, On the Grain Front",
'Works', Vol 11, Moscow 1954, p.98.
IS THAT THIS LED STALIN TO SQUEEZE TO PEASANT
v) STALIN SUPPORTED THE PEASANTRY
As opposed to Omvedt's
allegations, parroted from the bourgeoisie, collectivisation was not a
vicious attack on the peasantry. Here Omvedt agrees with Nikita
Khrushchev, a braggart who destroyed the socialist state of
the USSR. Khrushchev alleged that Stalin destroyed the peasantry and the
peasant led a miserable life under Stalin. As to Collectivisation, Alliance
has dealt with allegations of forcible collectivisation etc; in Alliance
10; (See article by JP). In this essay we concentrate on later
data concerning peasant life under Stalin.
that Stalin placed the peasant and agriculture in backward conditions.
This allegation could not be more misplaced. Stalin himself attacked backwardness
in agriculture saying:
IN REALITY AMOUNTS SPENT ON AGRICULTURE ROSE TILL
"It would hamper the continued growth
of the productive forces of our country more and more as time goes on."
Cited by Durgin, Jr F.A.; "The relationship
of Stalin's death to the economic change of the post-Stalin era"; In Stuart
R.C. "The Soviet Rurla Economy"; 1984; New Jersey; p.138.
"The trend toward an increasing share
of investment clearly began a decade prior to Stalin's death.. The rate
of increase in agriculture's share slowed abruptly and came to a halt in
the years following his death."
Durgin; Ibid; p.125.
to heavy industry at an earlier epoch in Soviet USSR is discussed above.
Similar considerations applied following the Second World War. Stalin's
resisted further expenditure on light industry, because of the needs of
heavy industry; precisely in order to improve the well being of
the people. Stalin makes this clear in his last work, written to rebut
Khrushchev's revisionist friend Voznosensksy:
"Insuring the maximum satisfaction of
the continual growing material and cultural needs of society - that is
the goal of socialist production: a continuing growth and development of
socialist industry on the basis of an even higher technology that is the
means for its attainment." J.V.Stalin "Economic problems of Socialism in
the USSR" p.78 Cited Durgin Ibid, p.121.
As Durgin states
"This postulate.. is one that the current
generation for US economists has come to recognise.. in the new "supply
Durgin, Ibid, p. 121.
Durgin also points
out the FALL IN LIVING STANDARDS THAT TOOK PLACE AFTER Stalin's
death. This can be seen from the share of Gross National Product going
"One of the most salient and overlooked
features of the post-Stalin era has been the ever decreasing share of GNP
going to consumption and the ever increasing share going to investment..
consumption's share fell from 62.4% of the total in 1950 under Stalin to
some 56.5% in 1974 under Brezhnev. Investments' share during the same period
doubled, rising form 14.8% of the total to 28.4%. The "imbalance".. of
the Stalin years seems not to have improved, but rather in a certain sense
F.A.Durgin Jr; p.119.
"All of the Stalin 5-Year Plans called
for significant increases in consumption. While consumption's share of
the national income during the First 5 year Plan was to fall from 77.4
to 66.4%, in absolute terms it was to increase by some 75%. The Second
Plan called for a 133% increase in the output of consumer goods and a two
fold increase in the urban workers consumption of food and manufactured
products.. The priority that Stalin gave to consumption in the post war
period.. was also high."
Durgin, Ibid. p.121-122.
- STALIN USED THE PEASANTRY AS A
MILCH COW FOR RESOURCES, AND
- THAT STALIN DEPRESSED THEIR STANDARD
vi) VIEWS OF
SOME MODERN ECONOMISTS ON HEAVY INDUSTRY
Not only Marxist-Leninists
believe in the primacy of heavy industry. Many non-Marxist economists agree
that an accent on heavy industry is even more critical nowadays, to ensure
some independence for the smaller and colonial type countries. Thus the
economic and technological historian Nathan Rosenberg
sector of the economy stands out in its role as a source of new technology
appropriate to a country's factor endowment and its ability to facilitate
the adaptation to changing output: The capital goods sector.
[i.e. Heavy industry - Ed] This sector - apart from construction - is usually
underdeveloped in primary producing countries and its underdeveloped state
would appear to constitute a handicap of enormous proportions. It is probable
that one of the most important factors contributing to the viability and
flexibility of industrial economies is the existence of a well-developed
capital goods sector possessing the technical knowledge, skills, and facilities
for producing machinery to accommodate the changing requirements of productive
activity plus the ability and the incentive for raising machinery production
itself-thereby reducing its cost and encouraging its further adoption,
industrial societies throughout the role of their highly developed capital
goods producing industries have in effect internalised int their industrial
structure a technological capacity which undertakes technological change
and adaptation almost as a matter of course and routine." Rosenberg N;
"Perspectives On Technology"; 1976, Cambridge. p.99.
In fact there has
been a steady trend to the increasing predominance of heavy industry, world
"Around the middle
of the last century agriculture accounted for one-half or more of total
output in the countries not considered developed, and industry for around
onefifth. One hundred years later these shares were practically reverse.
Similarly consumer goods accounted for two-thirds or more of total industrial
output, and producer goods for one-third or less. One hundred years alter
these share were also reversed. Such a reversal in these two components
means that the rates of growth over time of industry in total economy and
of producer goods within industry were higher one and half to two times
or even more than in agriculture and consumer goods respectively."
and S.Jacobsson : "Capital Goods Production in the Third World. An Economic
Study of Technology Acquisition", New York, 1983. p.xi-xii.
out, that over the post-Second World War years, those who propounded an
accent on heavy industry were "castigated" - as "socialist"; whilst
those that favoured light industry were labelled as "consumerist- OR-being
for the people". These labels are shibboliths, in being put into this false
"The universal prevalence of faster
growth of capital goods rather than of consumer goods had little to do
with any ideological predilections, It follows from four interrelated common-sense
Chudnovsky, Ibid, p.xiii.
From here, Chudnovsky
et al, enumerate four common sense causes, that, favour the historical
trend of increasing weight of heavy industry. The First is :
requires an increasing division of labour which in turn calls for a larger
production of goods forming part of the process of manufacturing and not
directly destined for consumption. Only the end products are consumed but
not the intermediates ones." Chudnovsky, Ibid, p.xiii.
"Every newly industrialising
country was generally more dependent on the imports of capital goods than
of consumer goods.. the process of import substitution in the countries
would soon embrace the production of capital goods."
Thirdly and more
proceeds there is generally a decline in the share of consumer expenditures
and a rise in the share of capital formation. It follows therefore that
the supply of producer goods would have to grow faster than that of consumer
goods, unless the relative prices of capital goods were to rise higher".
where there is shortage of foreign exchange.. the domestic output of capital
goods would be called for to meet the increasing requirements of capital
goods". Chudnovsky, Ibid, p.xiii.
How Omvedt can argue
against this? She does not try. She first asserts and then shifts ground.
The assertion is that industrialisation is passe. Then she shifts
ground to say that in any case it is "information technology" that is now
key. No economic data anywhere can support this assertion. To the contrary.
As far as the electronic industry, this only accentuates the importance
of heavy industry. This can be seen in the rapidity with which it has taken
over in the Western imperialist countries:
"The first result of the new electronic industry has been the
introduction of new activities within the engineering industries which
are no collectively referred to as the electronics sector.. telecommunications,
industrial control and instrumentation, office machinery, consumer electronics
and the electronics comments accounted for roughly 10% of the gross output
of the engineering sector of such developed countries as the USA, Japan,
And Sweden in 1977. Secondly an increasing number of capitalist goods are
now equipped with electronic devices; this particularly true of control
instruments were electrical mechanical control is replaced by electronic
control. For example, over 50% of the lathes produced in the leading Western
industrialised countries were equipped with computer control in 1980. ..
in Sweden in 1981 36% of all firms in the engineering industry (excluding
electronics and metal products branches) included electronic devices in
Chudnovsky et al; Ibid; p.22.
The growth of the
micro-electronic industry has led to an increasing dominance of multinational
corporations based in the capitals goods industries (Department I) imperialist
"It is common for between 20-25% (in
terms of value) of the investment in machine tools to be made in lathes.
The sue of computer numerically controlled (CNC) lathes in the total production
of lathes grew from about 28% in 1975 to more than 50% by the beginning
of the 1980's.. While the share of CNC lathes in the total investment in
lathes was usually around 20% in the mid-1970's, this share had reached
50% by 1951, Sweden .. 78%. CNC lathes were also being diffused in Newly
Industrialised Countries (NIC's - ed ie the semicolonial world) albeit
more slowly. For example the share of CNC lathes in the total investment
in lathes increased from about 7% in 1978 to around 20% in 1981 in the
case of Taiwan.. the market from conventional lathes has shrunk not only
in relative but also in absolute terms.. conventional lathes may be divided
into .. automatic lathes and engine lathes. Automatic lathes are generally
complex.. engine lathes are simplest.. CNC lathes have not replaced automatic
lathes to the same extent as engine lathes.. it is only in the sub-market
of engine lathes that the developing countries have gained a significant
share of the market of a developed country.. it is strategically important
for the NIC's to enter into the production of CNC lathes." Chudnovsky;
of imperialism be broken. This can only be done with national liberation
struggles, that pass immediately onto socialist revolutions. All this entails
a definite utilisation of heavy industry to attain porductive capacity.
Omvedt will not and cannot accept this.
Omvedt laid a number of charges against
the Dead White Male who wrote "Capital". Well no one is perfect. But, Omvedt
finds several imperfections. Lest we forget her theoretical threads we
briefly recap her assertions (See p.46-50 for quotes):
i) Marxist analysis emphasises class.
But there is a "non-coincidence of the narrow and broad meanings of class..
ownership versus nonownership of the means of production does not
explain exploitation.. some owners are exploited & some non-owners
ii) Value is defined only by "abstract
labour time" and "capital accumulation is defined only through the appropriation
of surplus value only."
iii) "The major theoretical point of Maria
Mies is the role of violence and force in exploitation and the primary
iv) The "primary relations of production
are those between producers and consumers; early non-exploitative societies
are 'subsistence societies' in which production is for self-consumption,
gradually extended through kin and other social networks to mediated exchange".
v) "Only with breaking of direct links"
and an "alienation between consumer and nonproducer do exploitative
'relations of production' between owners/non-owners, producers/looters,
vi) "One of Marx's fundamental errors
was treating consumption as simply passive, a reflection of production".
vii) "Capitalism as a system rests fundamentally
not on wage labour as on the commodity form in which the direct links between
producer and consumer are broken'" ;
viii) "The extraction of surplus from
the direct producer in the form of the commodity forms - the basis of capital
ix) "Nature itself is exploited'; which
Marx denies somehow.
THESE BOIL DOWN TO FOUR CORE CHARGES. THESE ARE:
-Class is not the be all and end all;
ie. that Marxists see economic relations explaining everything and that
this is not correct;
-Primitive accumulation occurs by force
in a way that Mies needed to teach Marx;
- Marx does not understand the centrality
of commodity production and the many means by which surplus labour can
be extracted; and;
- that Marx did not understand that
man exploited nature.
CHARGES A BASE "BIAS"
This alleges that
Marx and Engels, explained everything by the a mould of Base economy; and
that "Class is ALL". Almost anything inexplicable was explained by a secondary
and hermetically sealed "superstructure". Omvedt feels that Marxists have
not adequately explained the caste system in India, and this reflects the
tendency to say all comes from an economic base.
But nothing could
be farther from the truth. It is certainly true that others may apply such
a pre-ordained moulding. But it was Marx we believe who said somewhere,
"Save me from Marxists"; and Engels points out:
"Marx and I are
ourselves to blame for the fact that the younger people sometimes place
more stress on the economic side than is due to it. We had to emphasise
the main principle vis-a-vis our adversaries, who denied it and we had
not always the time or the place or the opportunity to give their due to
the other factors involved in the interaction."
Letter to Joseph
Bloch September 21-2, 1890". In Marx and Engels "Pre Capitalist Socio-Economic
Formations"; Moscow; 1979; p.524.
Omvedt excuses the
leader of the Untouchables, Ambedkar,
his support for British imperialism for a period; arguing that he and the
Dalits had "too many enemies to fight"! Doubtless she might then find the
charity to excuse Marx and Engels in laying emphasis on the main determinant,
whilst they established a new science of society.
How did Engels himself,
see interaction of superstructure and base?
"According to the materialist conception of history, the ultimately
determining factor in history is the production and reproduction of
real life. Neither Marx nor I have ever asserted more than this. Hence
if somebody twists this into saying that the economic factor is the only
determining one, he transformed that proposition into a meaningless,
abstract, absurd phrase. The economic situation is the basis, but the various
elements of the superstructure - political forms of eh class struggle and
its results, such as constitution established by the victorious class after
a successful battle, etc, juridical forms, and especially the reflections
of the all these real struggles in the brains of the participants, political,
legal, philosophical theories, religious views and their further development
into system of dogmata-also exercise their influence upon the courses of
the historical struggle and in many cases determine their form in
particular. There is an interaction of all these elements in which amid
all the endless host of accidents (that is of things and events whose inter-connection
is so remote and impossible of proof that we can regard it as non-existent
and neglect it), the economic movement is bound to assert itself."
Frederick Engels :" Engels Letter to Bloch Ibid p.522.
Engels gives an example
how a mechanical insistence upon economic determinacy will lead to obvious
"We make our history
ourselves, but in the first place under very definite antecedents and conditions,
Among these the economic one are ultimately decisive. But the political
ones etc; and indeed even the traditions which haunt human minds also play
a part, but not the decisive one.. It is hardly possible without making
oneself ridiculous, to explain in terms of economics the existence of every
small state in Germany past and present, or the origin of the High German
consistent shift, which divides the geographic partition formed by the
mountain partition formed by the mountain ranges from the Sudentenes to
the Taunus, into a regular fissure running across Germany".
Engels; Ibid; p.523.
Moreover, there are
a myriad of factors that individualise final results, as opposed to classes
alone. Each individual then plays a role in the "parallelogram of forces",
that ends up in any result:
"In the second
place however history proceeds in such a way that the final result always
arises from conflicts between many individual wills and every one of them
is in turn made into what it is by a host of particular conditions of life.
Thus there are innumerable intersecting forces, an infinite series of parallelograms
of forces which give rise to one resultant-the historical event." Ibid,
In another letter,
to W.Borgius Engels explains:
philosophical, religious, literary artistic etc; development is based on
economic development. But all these react upon one another and also upon
the economic basis. One must not think that the economic situation is cause
and solely active, whereas everything else is only [passive effect. On
the contrary interaction takes place on the basis of economic necessity,
which ultimately always asserts itself. The state for instance exercise
an influence by protective tariffs, free trade, good or bad fiscal system.."
to W.Borgius; January 25th; 1894: In Marx and Engels, "Pre Capitalist Socio-Economic
Formation; Ibid; p.540.
None of this of course
takes away from the MAIN THING- that is undoubtedly class and economics.
That is of discomfort
to Omvedt? So be it.
It appears that Marx
needed lessons on commodity production. We argued against Shiva's mythical
bucolic past. But to be sure, a radically different world for peasants
did exist, with a common ownership. This past was based on a harsh struggle
against Nature, contrary to the dreams of Omvedt and Shiva. But it existed
- as a primitive form of communism:
"In reality the
communal ownership of the land is an institution which is to be found among
all Indo-Germanic peoples on a low level of development, from India to
Ireland.. In India.. the communally owned land is cultivated by the peasant
in common and the product then divided in some parts."
F.Engels; "On Social
Relations In Russia"; In "Selected Works Marx and Engels"; Vol 2; Moscow;
How did Marx and
Engels see the fall of humanity from the grace of a primitive communism?
Undoubtedly, by the erosion of the former nexus of human relations by commodity
"The German Mark
organisations, the Celtic Clans or the Indian and other communities with
primitive communist features. In the course of time and under the influence
of production and exchange of commodities between families and individuals,
which surrounded and developed inside of them, and which gradually permeated
them, they all came to shed their communistic character, falling apart
into communities of landowners independent of each other."
word to:"On Social Relations In Russia"; In Marx and Engels, Vol 2; Ibid;
In fact Money
itself only emerged, after the perceived need for exchange appeared. In
other words, the need was felt, for an equivalence marker between different
commodities. actually, the money economy already arrived long before capitalism.
This money economy, even under pre-capitalist society began to erode the
well being of the peasantry:
"When taxes are due to fall, the usurer,
the kulak- frequently a rich peasant of the same village community - comes
along and offers his ready cash. The peasant must have the money at all
costs and is obliged to accept the conditions of the usurer without demur.
But this only gets him into a tighter fix and he needs more and more ready
cash. At harvest time the grain dealer arrives; the need for money forces
the peasant to sell a part of the grain which he and his family require
for their own subsistence. The grain dealer spreads false rumours which
lowers prices, pays a low price and often even part of this in all sorts
of high priced goods.. It is quite obvious that the great corn exports
of Russia are based firstly on the starvation of the peasant population."
F.Engels : "On Social Relations In Russia".
In Selected Works, Vol 2, Ibid, p.398.
Marx recognised that
the tempo of changes in commodity production differed in different social
formations, but wherever it took place, it was corrosive:
"In the ancient
Asiatic and other ancient modes of production, we find that the conversion
of products into commodities, and therefore the conversion of men into
producers of commodities holds a subordinate place, which however increases
in importance as the primitive communities approach nearer and nearer to
their dissolution. Trading nations properly so called, exist in the ancient
world only in its interstices, like the gods of Epicurus in the Intermundia
or like Jews in the pores of Polish society. Those ancient social organisms
of production are, as compared with bourgeois society, extremely simple
and transparent. But they are founded on the immature development of man
individually, who has not yet severed the umbilical cord that unites him
with his fellowmen in a primitive tribal community, or upon direct relations
Marx, K. "Commodities";
Part I; Chapter I; "Capital"; Vol 1; Moscow; 1954; p.79.
In many places Marx
describes the enormous transforming properties of money in relation to
commodity relations. He quotes the blistering words of Shakespeare's King
Timon, to illustrate how money changes the world:
"Just as every
qualitative difference between commodities is extinguished in money, so
money, on its side, like the radical leveller that it is does away with
Thus much of this
will make black white; foul fair;
Wrong right; base
noble; old young; coward valiant;
. What this you
gods? Why this
Will lug your priests
and servants from your sides.
Pluck stout men's
pillows from below their heads;
This yellow slave
Will knit and break
religions; bless the accurs'd;
Make the hoar leprosy
ador'd; place thieves,
And give them title,
knee and approbation,
With senators on
the bench; this is it,
That makes the
wappen'd widow wed again:
. Come damned earth,
Thou common whore
Vol 1; Moscow; 1954; "Money or the Circulation of Commodities"; Part I;
Chapter III; p.132.
The corrosive properties
of commodity production and money were obviously appreciated by Marx, who
highlighted the views of prior bourgeois economy.
What is now left
of Omvedt's portentous charge that:
"Only with the breaking of direct links
and the establishment of an alienation between consumer and non-producer
do exploitative 'relations of production' between owners/non-owners, producers/looters,
etc even begin. One of Marx's fundamental errors was from this point of
view, to treat consumption as simply passive, a reflection of production."
We have established
that Marx and Engels fully understood the erosive properties of commodity
and money circulation. What of this "passive" view of Marx on the
relation of commodity/consumption to production? Well again Omvedt should
give a reference. All we find speaks to a much different, and dialectical
"Production produces consumption:
(1) By creating the material for consumption;
(2) By determining the mode of consumption;
(3) By creating in the consumer a need for the products which it first
posits as objects.
It therefore produces the object of consumption, the mode of consumption
and the urge to consume it. Similarly consumption produces the predisposition
of the producer by soliciting him as a purpose-determining need. The identity
of consumption and production thus appears three-fold:
(1)Direct Identity: production is consumption; consumption is production.
Consumptive production. Productive consumption..
(2) Each appears as a means of the other, is mediated by it; this is
expressed as their mutual dependence; a movement through which they are
brought into mutual relation and appear to be indispensable with each other,
but nevertheless remain external to each other. Production creates the
material as the external object for consumption, consumption creates the
need as the internal object, the purpose of production. No consumption
without production, no production without consumption...
(3) Production is not only directly consumption, and consumption directly
production; nor is production only a means of consumption and consumption
the purpose of production, in the sense that each provides the other with
its object, with production supplying the external object of consumption,
and consumption the notional object of production. Each of them is not
only directly the other, nor does it merely mediate the other, but each
of the two, by the fact of its taking place, creates the other, creates
itself as the other. It is only consumption that consummates the act of
production, since consumption completes the production as a product by
dissolving it, by consuming its independent material form. Moreover, by
the need for repetition consumption raises the abilities evolved during
the first act of production to a skill. Consumption is therefore the concluding
act which not only turns the product into a product, but also turns the
producer into a producer. Production on the other hand, produces consumption
by creating the definitive mode of consumption, and also by creating the
incentive to consumption."
Marx K; "Introduction to The Economic Manuscripts of 1857-1861; 'The
Grundrisse'; Vol 28 "Collected Works"; Moscow; 1986; p.30.
What else has Omvedt not read, but
simply heard about through the grapevine about "Marx's Errors?"
x) OMVEDT"S CHARGE
CONCERNING "PRIMITIVE ACCUMULATION"
For Omvedt, Marx
"apparently" did not understand primitive accumulation. Apparently the
world had to wait Maria Mies' "discovery" of the "violence underlying
Any cursory flip
through Marx will reveal that this is simply absurd. Marx unleashes invective
against the forcible impoverishment of the peasantry:
"As soon as the
question of property crops up.. In actual history it is notorious that
conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder briefly force, play the great part.
In the tender annals of Political Economy the idyllic reigns from time
immemorial. Right and "labour" were from all time the sole means of enrichment,
the present year of course always excepted. As a matter of fact, the methods
of primitive accumulation are anything but idyllic."
Marx, K; "Capital"'The
So Called Primitive Accumulation'"; Part VIII; Chapter XXVI; Volume I;
Moscow; 1954; p.714.
Has Omvedt not read
Marx's praise of Thomas More's (16th
Century) "sheep" eating passages? These describe how the Enclosures took
over peasant property to make room for the new wool industry. Or his fulminations
against the Duchess of Sutherland who in the 19th Cnetury drove herHighlanddcottagerss
out for her sheep ? But by now, we should not be surprised if Omvedt has
not read these. Let her pass the following snippets to her grapevine:
"In the history of primitive accumulation,
all revolutions are epoch-making that act as levers for the capitalist
class in course of formation; but above all those moment when great masses
of men are suddenly and forcibly torn from the means of subsistence and
hurled as free and "unattached" proletarians on eh labour market. The expropriation
of the peasant from the soil is the basis of the whole process..
says: 'Inclosures at that time (1489) began to be more frequent, whereby
arable land was turned into pasture; an tenancies for years, lives and
at will.. were turned into desmenes. This bred a decay of people...
In his "Utopia", Thomas
More says that in "England your shape that were wont to be so
meke and tame and so small eaters, now, as I heare saye, become so great
devourers and so wylde that they eate up, and swallow downe the very men
The cry of the people and the legislation
directed, for 150 years after Henry VII., against the expropriation of
the small farmers and peasants were alike fruitless..
The last process of the wholesale expropriation
of the agricultural population form the soil is finally the so called clearing
of estates ie. the sweeping men off them..
of Sutherland.. resolved to .. turn the whole country, whose
population had already been by earlier processes of the like kind, reduced
to 15,000 into a sheep walk. From 1814-1820 these 15,000 inhabitants, about
3,000 families were systematically burned and rooted out. All their villages
were destroyed and burnt, all their field turned into pasturage. British
soldiers enforced this eviction and came to blows with the inhabitants.
On old woman was burned to death in the flames of the hut, which she refused
to leave. Thus this fine old lady expropriates 794,000 acres of land that
had from time immemorial belonged to the clan, She assigned to the expelled
inhabitants about 6,000 acres on the sea shore- 2 acres per family.. they
became amphibious and lived, half on and half on war, and withal only half
Marx K; "Expropriation of Agricultural
Population"; Part VIII Chapter XXVII In "Capital" Vol I; Ibid; p.716; 719;
720; 728; 730.
The rapid and vicious
industrialisation that formed the Industrial Revolution
in the colonised world now, is a process mirrored now in the "First World".
Just as in the earlier industrialisation in the West, technology is the
driving force. Technological developments made possible the wool trade
and the explosion in the profitability of the business of keeping sheep.
So too did technological improvements make possible the growth of the proletariat
that worked in a factory.
alone and finally supplies in machinery the lasting basis of capitalistic
agriculture, expropriates radically the enormous majority of the agriculture
population and completes the separation between agriculture and rural domestic
industry - whose roots -spinning and weaving - it tears up. It also therefore
for the first time, conquers for industrial capital the entire home market."
Chapter XXX. "Reaction of the Agricultural Revolution", In "Capital" Vol
1; Ibid; p.748-9.
Is this process occurring in India?
Do any progressive notions underlie
In both Shiva and
Omvedt, this might lie in empowering the peasantry to allow them to stay
as a peasantry. But can the peasantry decide their future so easily, by
a "free" choice? Shiva offers a sterile up dated Gandhism. Omvedt, instead
serves the tender mercies of the Brundlandt Commission. Meanwhile the reality
is the unstoppable pauperisation -about which we protest.
But Engels points out, it leads to the social revolution:
"Marx sharply stresses the bad sides
of capitalist production but with equal emphasis clearly proves that this
social form was necessary to develop the productive forces of society to
a level which will make possible an equal development worthy of human beings
for all members of society. All earlier forms of society were too
poor for this. Capitalist production is the first to create the wealthy
and the productive forces necessary for this, but at the same time it creates
in the numerous and oppressed workers the social class which is compelled
more and more to take possession of this wealth and these productive forces
in order to utilise them for the whole of society - instead of their being
utilised as they are today for a monopolist class." Frederick Engels: Upon
"Marx's Capital". 1867, In Selected Works, Volume 2, p.152.
Gail Omvedt denies
that this process is occurring to the population of India. She wishes
to deny Marxist theory on empirical grounds. If she is right then Lenin's
statement below would not apply in India:
"The fact that the yield on.. the capitalistically cultivated
landlords' is higher than on the peasant lands reveals the technical progress
of capitalism in agriculture. This progress is due to the transition from
the labour rent system to the wage labour system.. The landlords and the
wealthy peasants are transformed into employers of labour."
Lenin "The Agrarian Question In Russia"; in 'Selected Works' Vol 1'
London; 1944; p.187.
As stated above,
Lenin saw the "peasantry" as composed of several parts, an exploited part
and a small exploiters part:
"One of the main features of the rich peasant is that they hire
farmhands and day labourers. Like the landlords the rich represents also
live by the labour of the other.. It is clear that in the great fight between
the propertied class and the propertyless, .. the rich peasants will take
the side of the property-owners against the working class."
V.I.Lenin:"To the Rural Poor"; Selected Works' Volume 2; London; 1944;
PAUPERISATION IN INDIA TODAY
- BUT TO OMVEDT, "A PEASANT IS ALWAYS A PEASANT".
AGAIN: IS THIS PROCESS THAT MARX, ENGELS AND LENIN DESCRIBED IN OTHER PARTS
OF THE WORLD OCCURRING IN INDIA?
IT WOULD APPEAR THAT IT IS.
The Government of India itself gives corroborating
concentration is occurring. According to official figures the class of
landlords and rich peasants holding 15 acres or more of land; holds more
than 50% of the total land, although consisting only 7% of the rural population.(P.S.Appu:
Ceilings on Agricultural; Holdings', Government of India; 1971;p.38.)
Secondly, the bourgeoisie are assisting
this trend. The concentration of landholding has increased since the 'so-called
of landholding and other assets in the hands of a tiny minority of landlords
and rich farmers and a corresponding pauperisation and proletarianisation
at the bottom has emerged as distinct trends after Independence".
Path of Development'; Bombay; 1984;p.15.
state has directed its' policies, to a considerable extent to the benefit
of the rich peasantry:
"A disproportionately large share of the benefits accruing from
the heavy investments made by society during the last two decades in irrigation,
rural electrification, community development, road building, agricultural
extension etc; has gone to the rich farmers, Those with more land have
derived a larger share of the increased prosperity. This progress has also
led to a greater concentration of wealth in the hands of the rural elites...
The Cooperative Societies, controlled as they are in most parts of the
country by the rich framers, seldom cater to the needs of the weaker section
of the population. The benefits of community development programmes, as
of all other development efforts in general have accrued to the richer
sections of society,, leaving the poor untouched."
P.S.Appu: Ibid; p.37; 39.
"Since independence considerable public investments have been made in
irrigation, rural electrification, community development, road building,
agricultural extension etc; .. The benefits of these public investment
have been largely accrued to the bigger landowners, who are not required
to pay any betterment levy to even reasonable irrigation rates. The benefits
of the recent breakthrough in agricultural production based on the adoption
of modern technology have also gone mainly to the well-to-do farers, On
of the spectacular results has been a widening of disparities in health
and income in rural areas".
Planning Commission: 'Report of the Task Force on Agrarian Relations'
Government of India; 1973; p.14.
"The state.. has launched schemes to create social, political, cultural
and economic institution to strengthen her positions of power of the richer
section of the peasantry and the trading class through which it is initiating
the process of capital formation and of reshaping of agrarian production
and the rural social order.. The Indian bourgeois has successfully transformed
Indian agrarian society into one composed of small group of landlords and
rich peasants, and vast armies of agrarian proletariat and pauperised peasants,
with vast numbers of human derelicts-the unemployed or economically superfluous
With a view to strengthening this class of rich
peasantry and landlords.. the Indian bourgeois has provided extensive facilities
like the supply of seeds, fertilisers, improved tools, irrigation and water
supply as well as faculties for credit and improved means of communication
and transport. It has further, allowed various kinds of organisations like
cooperative, land mortgage bans, marketing and purchasing societies, panchyats
and others, which primarily serve the same purpose...
The Indian bourgeois state, as part of its agrarian
strategy, is also elaborating varieties of ..institutions which in the
context of class polarisation in agrarian areas are basically being used
to enable those richer sections to influence and control the rural population.
The cooperatives, the gram and nyay panchayats,
the educational, youth womens' and other organisations which have been
elaborated in the agrarian society are also associational forms which have
been cleverly worked out by the Indian bourgeois state to provide powerful
levers for the richer section of the village communities to establish their
control over the village poor and to provide necessary facilities to subserve
the interests of the these richer peasants."
the domination of the state by landowners particularly large landowners
is admitted by Indian government reports and other studies:
Moreover OMVEDT HERSELF gives data that there is
indeed a pauperisation of the Indian peoples:
"The attitude of
the bureaucracy towards the implementation of land reform is generally
lukewarm, and often apathetic. this is, of course, inevitable because ,
as in the case of the men who wield political power, those in the higher
echelons of the administration are also substantial landowners themselves
or they have close links with big landowners, the village functionaries..
Are inevitably petty landowners.. they were also under the sway of the
The Planning Commission;
"The rich and well-to-do
farm groups in India count very much in the inner councils of the Congress
Party bot in the Centre and the States".
and Political Weekly", Bombay; 30 September, 1972.
"A nation wide survey
conducted under the auspices of the National Institute of Community Development
in 1965.. revealed that 64% of the rural politicians, or almost two-thirds,
owned 10 acres or more of land each with 38.2% owning 25 acres or more
each." S.Arora:"Economic and Political Weekly"; Bombay; Annual Number 1972.
"The overall statistics
show a clear decline in tenancy (area leased -in was 35.7% of total land
in 1950-1 and 9.25 percent in 1971-72) and a rise in agricultural labourers
(from 19.7% of total work force in 1951 to 24.9% in 1981)."
Omvedt 3; Ibid,
Omvedt takes refuge
in the fact that:
"The figures do
NOT show a growth in landlessness: in 1953-54 the proportion of rural households
cultivating no land was 10.96% while in 1981-82 it had risen to 27.41%
(Only 9% owned no land) and in 1981-82 it dropped to 23.7%."
Omvedt 3; Ibid;
This menas absolute
landlessness here. It is as if a tiny square of non-productive land somehow
transforms the peasant into a qualitatively different class. Omvedt even
points out that differentiation between industry and agriculture is growing.
There is a drift into the mills:
"The data seem
to indicate that rural impoverishment was pushing people into wage labour,
and the lack of nonagricultural jobs meant that they were thrown back on
the land to constitute a destitute wage-labour force but not a true proletariat."
Omvedt 3; Ibid;
So the difference
between a "destitute wage labourer and a true proletariat" is for Omvedt
only that the "destitute wage labourer" has a tiny piece of land.
How big is this
Well Omvedt again
gives us facts. And who argues with facts?
FARM HOLDINGS AND AREA OPERATED.
Marginal (0-1 hect)
Small (1-2 hect)
Medium (4-10 Hect)
Large (over 10 Hect)
(From Omvedt 3; Ibid; Table 2.1; p.35).
How does Omvedt interpret this data?
statistics show that up to 1985-86 the proportion of poor peasantry was
maintaining itself-and that with a growing population remaining dependent
on agriculture, the whole agrarian structure was in a sense "pushed down":
more and more holdings and a grater proportion of the area operated was
in a marginal category." Omvedt 3; Ibid; p.34.
This is completely
true. Even more would this come out if the figures were to be expressed
per capita (ie per head). But Omvedt misses the fact that even the middle
peasantry is declining also. If figures for semi-medium and medium are
combined, this comes out to be 26.4%; to 23.1%; to 21.6%.
So there is a
general impoverishment, or drift to the proletariat; or is this incorrect?
Omvedt shows in anohter
table, (Table 2.4 a Omvedt 3; Ibid; p.38) that this interpretation is correct.
So, by "Sector of industrial origin:" national income derived from "agriculture
and allied activities" fell from 54% in 1950-51 to 37.9% in 1984-85. In
the same period, income from "manufacturing, construction and mining" rose
from 17.14% to 22.17%; whilst in "tertiary defense and public administration"
it rose from 24.81% to 39.91%.
THIS WHAT MARXISTS-LENINISTS HAVE SAID?
ASIDE THE SHIBBOLETHS OF THE "MARXISTS" !
Where does Marx say
that the peasant absolutely has to not have nary a single possession, nor
a tiny bit of land? We are sure that Omvedt is thinking of a reference.
But unfortunately, as she does not offer it we cannot find it ourselves!
But Marx does indeed say this:
labourer is therefore reduced to the minimum of wages and always stands
with one foot already in the swamp of pauperism"
Marx K; "The General
Law of Capital Accumulation"; Chapter XXV; Part VII; Capital", Vol I; p.642.
And that is exactly
what Omvedt's statistics say. There may be a tiny piece of land, but it
is not adequate as a "productive means" to keep the peasant from becoming
a "destitute wage labourer if not a true proletariat". What academic "distinctions"
like these can disguise!
THE PROLETARIAT HAS GROWN IN INDIA IS INDISPUTABLE.
OMVEDT'S ARGUMENT IS REALLY THAT:
PEASANTRY STILL EXISTS, ERGO THE MARXIST THEORY MUST BE WRONG".
ALL THE PEASANTRY ARE CONVERTED INTO EITHER RICH LANDED PEASANTS; OR INTO
LANDLESS DISPOSSESSED PEASANTS. ERGO - MARX WAS WRONG".
This mechanical and
naive world view cannot help anyone. Only the shackling of Indian industry
by foreign imperialism, resists the faster pace of this process of pauperisation
and driving into the factories. The main thrust of changes in the Indian
countryside cannot be explained by Omvedt. But in any case, can Omvedt
offer a different path from socialist revolution?
We have already argued
to Shiva, that Marx well understood that humans exploit nature. To pretend
otherwise is a fantasy. We have already shown that Engels cogently explains
the history of the desertification of the Middle East. But this is all
part of the human's urge to eat, to reproduce themselves, to rise above
the elements of the world around. Marx expresses it well in the following
"It is the necessity
of establishing social control over a force of nature, of making use of
it, in an economical way, and of appropriating it on a large scale through
works of art, in a word of conquering it, that plays the decisive role
in the history of industry. Such was the necessity of regulating and distributing
the flow of water in Egypt, Lombardy and Holland etc. Such is it today
in India in Persia etc.. Canalisation was the secret of the flourishing
industries of Spain and Sicily under Arab domination".
From Marx K; Capital
French Edition; Vol 2; pp. 186-88. Cited In : Marx and Engels "On Literature
and Art"; Moscow; 1976; p.47.
We have already given
part of this following quote to Shiva. But we must complete it, because
the difference between OTHER Nature; and OUR Nature is put
very graphically here. Who has not marvelled at Nature's constructions?
But are they of the same ilk as the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal or the Moscow
Subway completed under Kaganovich's direction?
"Labour is in the
first place a process in which both man and Nature participate, and in
which man of his own accord starts, regulates , and controls the material
re-actions between himself and Nature. He opposes himself to Nature as
one of her forces, setting in motion arms and legs, heads and hands, the
natural forces of his body, in order to appropriate natures' productions
in a form adapted to his own wants. By thus acting on the external world,
and changing it, he at the same time changes his own nature. He develops
his slumbering powers and compels them to act in obedience to his sway.
We are now dealing with this primitive instinctive forms of labour that
remind us of the mere animal. An immeasurable interval of time separates
the state of things in which a man bring his labour-power to market for
sale as a commodity, from that state in which human labour was still in
its first instinctive stage. We pre-suppose labour in a form that stamps
it exclusively human. A spider constructs operations that resemble those
of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction
of her cells But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of
bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before
he erects it in reality.. He not only effects a change of form in the material
on which he works, but he also realises a purpose of his own that gives
the law to his modus operandi, and to which he must subordinate his will.
And this subordination is no mere momentary act."
Marx K; "The Labour
Process and the Process of Producing Surplus Value"; Chapter VII; Part
III; "Capital Vol 1"; Moscow; 1954; p.177-8.
CONCLUSIONS ON OMVEDT: ONLY ONE PATH TO LIBERATION
We described above the passage from primitive
communism to a more modern, albeit, harsher world. But, in some parts of
the world, there were remnants of this earlier form of society, until very
late. One such place was Russia.
"It is thus seen that the artel is a
co-operative society which has arisen spontaneously and is, therefore still
very undeveloped, and, neither exclusively Russian or Slavic. Such societies
are formed wherever the need for them exists. For instance in Switzerland
among the dairy farmers, in England among the fishermen, The Silesian navvies
(Germans not Poles) who built so many German railroads.. the predominance
of this form proves it is true the strong impulse to associate, but is
far from proving the ability to jump with the aid of this impulse from
the artel straight to the socialist order of society."
p.392. Engels, On Social Relations in
In these societies
it was once possible to "bypass" the passage through the hell of capitalism:
"It is clear that communal ownership
in Russia is long past its period of florescence and to all appearances
is moving towards its disintegration, Nevertheless the possibility undeniably
exists, of raising this form of society to a higher one, if it should last
until such circumstances are ripe for that, and it shows itself capable
of development in such a manner that the peasants no longer cultivate the
land separately but collectively; of raising that to a higher form; without
it being necessary for the Russian peasants to go through the intermediate
stages of bourgeois small peasant holdings. This however can only happen
if, before the complete break-up of the communal ownership a proletarian
revolution is successfully carried out in Western Europe, creating for
the Russian peasant the preconditions for such a transition."
Engels, Ibid, p.395.
But only one way
could have bypassed this hell of capitalism, via the creation of socialism.
In present day India this "short cut" is no longer possible. Because capitalism
has already been well and truly established in both town and countryside;
BUT co-existing with a vicious feudal type oppression of the peasantry;
AND the whole under the thumb of foreign imperialism. This mandates
the completion of the stalled bourgeois democratic revolution. In India
a ruthless land accumulation has gone on apace. This land accumulation
accrued to the benefit of rich landlord farmers who buy tractors. Omvedt
glissades past all this, preferring to lump all peasants into the "Farmers"
THERE IS A SOLUTION TO THE MISERY OF THE PEASANTRY. IT IS
REMARKABLY SIMPLE IN CONCEPT THOUGH ARDUOUS IN PRACTICE. MOREOVER
IT IS PROVEN TO WORK BY TWO CONTROLLED EXPERIMENTS - ONE WAS RUSSIA AND
ONE WAS ALBANIA.
There is only one
way that peasant liberation can be achieved. This is to create conditions
for the socialist revolution. Omvedt does not suggest how this is to be
done. Is the Marxist-Leninist party redundant? How does the peasant link
with the workers? Are the interests of countryside and town reconcilable
and if so how? These are the questions that the Marxist-Leninist party
must grapple with. Omvedt does not wish to try to even create a Marxist-Leninist
SOLUTION IS A MUCH MORE SPONTANEOUS AFFAIR; EVEN THOUGH IT IS GUIDED BY
THE BRUNDLANDT COMMISSION!
against the proletarianisation of India's masses, Omvedt does not even
have the insight of the British Famine Commissioners of 1880:
"At the root of much of the poverty
of the people of India and of the risks to which they are exposed in seasons
of scarcity lies the unfortunate circumstance that agriculture forms almost
the sole occupation of the mass of the population, and that no remedy for
present evils can be complete which does not include the introduction of
a diversity of occupations, through which the surplus population may be
drawn from agricultural pursuits and led to find the means of subsistence
in manufacturers or some such employment."
Famine Commission of 1880, Government
of India, Cited by B.R.Tomlinson, "The New Cambridge History of India.
III.3. "The Economy Of Modern India 1960-1970", New Delhi, 1993. p.104.
Moreover the continuing
proletarianisation and dispossession of the peasantry remains a mystery
to her. For an unstoppable process, all she offers is to try even harder
to turn history back. She has turned her back on the only path that effectively
can face the pauperisation of the peasants:
"Of all the classes
that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone
is the only really revolutionary class. The other classes perish and disappear
in the face of Modern Industry, the proletariat is its special and essential
product.. the lower middle classes, the small manufacturers, the shopkeepers,
the artisan, the peasant - all these fight against the bourgeoisie to save
from extinction their existence as fractions of the ideal class.. they
are reactionary for they try to roll back the wheel of history".
Karl Marx and Frederick
Engels. "Manifest Der Kommunistischen Partei", London, 1848. pp9-11. Marx
and Engels Vol 2, Selected Works, Moscow 1985. p.145.
Here, the leaders
of the world proletariate saw the future. It is this same development that
state that Stalin destroyed agriculture and biological science by supporting
Trofim Desnisovich Lyensko Elsewhere we document that Lysenkoism
evolved a reductionist biology as a part of a revisionist led attack on
the principles of science. This was obstructed by Stalin (A full analysis
of Lysenko is available from Alliance).
against the monoculture of maize - as was advocated by Khrushchev for the
Soviet Union - were however justifiable.
I) THE GEOGRAPHY
OF THE USSR AND MONOCULTURE
Maize hybrid monoculture for the USSR
was first sponsored by Nikolai Vavilov. In the USA this had increased
yields by 20-30% on:
"Millions of acres. The hybridization
program was organized by Vavilov and his collaborators.. But this.. met
the sharp resistance of Lysenko, Prezent, Ol'shansky and others who kept
Zhores Medvedev, "The Rise and Fall
of Lysenko" New York, 1969. p.64.
corn monoculture. However Stalin, by 1952 signalled that "seigniorial attitudes
in science" were intolerable (See Alliance #7; - Stalin on linguistics)
and Lysenko came under scrutiny. After Stalin's death, Lysenko changed
his views by 180 degrees, and joined Khrushchev's campaign to promote maize
monoculture. The second "maize" sponsor then, was Khrushchev.
THERE WERE GOOD
REASONS TO OPPOSE MAIZE MONOCULTURE.
The first was the geography of
the USSR (See map below). Levins and Lewontin point out :
Only in hard copy
MAP USSR VEGETATION ZONES.
From Knystautas, Algridas "Natural History of the USSR";London, 1987.p.32.
Shows the vast range of climate zones from polar zone; tundra; desert,
"There can be no understanding of Lysenkoism
that does not begin with the hard facts of climate and soil in the Soviet
Union.. It is illuminating to compare Soviet and American agricultural
production, Nearly all of the USSR lies above the latitude of St.Paul Minnesota
(40 Deg N) so its general temperature regime is more like that of the Western
Canada.. The growing season in the most productive belt the Chernozem,
is short, and the contrast between summer and winter temperatures is extreme,
as compared with Western Canada and the USA. Although the population of
the Soviet Union is one-third larger than that of the US, the total harvestable
acreage per year is the same about 360 million acres. The rich black chernozem
soils of the USSR, equivalent to the Great Plains and prairie of USA and
Canada are in a narrow east-West belt from the Ukraine in the West, passing
just North of the Black Sea, to Akmolinsk in the East, running roughly
along the 50th Parallel. South of the Chernozem belt rainfall is 10 inches
or less per year and so is much too arid for normal agriculture, North
of the chernozem belt rainfall is 16-28 inches per year, quite adequate
for agriculture but the soil is poor the growing season short and the winter
frosts very severe, so neither winter wheat nor spring wheat is favoured.
The problem for farmers in this region is to plant late enough to avoid
killing frosts, yet early enough to get a full growing season, The Chernozem
belt itself, which is the chief agricultural region of the Soviet Union,
lies in band of marginal rainfall, 10-20 inches per year, with frequent
droughts that result in catastrophic crop failures. In contrast, the back
soil belt of the US runs North to South in the Great Plains, spans a broad
range of temperature regimes, mostly milder than in the USSR, and receives
15-25 inches of rainfall per year, reaching 30 inches in the Easternmost
sections. In addition a large central section of the US, just East of the
Plains, had 30-40 inches of rain, soils 3-10 feet deep, a long and mild
growing season with summer nights that do not fall below 55 Deg F, that
is ideal for maize. This corn belt which is the basis for meat production,
is completely absent in the USSR... these generally poor conditions in
the Soviet Union are similar for other crops. Cotton which in the US is
chiefly produced in the most regions of the Southeast by dry farming, must
be irrigated at considerable expense in the Soviet Union, since warm temperatures
are accompanied there by semi-aridity. The most striking example of the
deleterious effect of environment on a staple crop is sugar beets."
Levins R and Lewontin R; "The Dialectical
Biologist"; Cambridge, Mass; p.171-2.
These authors appropriately
"Lysenko's rejection of hybrid corn
and his insistence on the use of locally adapted varieties usually is offered
as a prime example of the counterproductive effects of his unscientific
theories.. while Khrushchev is praised for adopting American hybrid corn
breeding. Yet hybrid corn has not been a success in the Soviet Union, precisely
because there is no corn belt. In the US outside of the corn belt, in areas
that are more marginal for maize, locally adapted varieties commonly outperform
Levins and Lewontin, Ibid, p.172.
There were other
biological reasons, to oppose monoculture. Darwin showed that inbreeding
of plants led to weakness; but "hybrid vigour" developed with "out-breeding".
Lysenko adopted this principle, calling it "heterosis". But this
was also recognised in the West. Biologists now interpret hybrid vigour
"In the heterozygous
diploid the dominant allele often shelters recessive alleles which are
deleterious in the homozygous state. Self fertilisation quickly results
in the segregation of lethal or sub-lethal types as homozygous recessive
are produced. Unless specially looked for in the seedling stage these types
which may die at an early stage of growth may be undetected even in garden
or glasshouse culture. Further selfings produce rapid separation of the
material into uniform lines - often called pure lines - differing from
each other in various vegetative and reproductive characteristics. The
continued selfing of uniform lines may be rendered impossible as some plants
may become weak or sterile. Surviving lines may by characterised by plants
of reduced fertility and vigour."
Briggs D and Walters
SM, "Plant Variation & Evolution", 2nd Edition; Cambridge; 1984; p.134-5.
Actually the hybrid
corn that so impressed Khrushchev on his USA visits was first developed
in recognition of Darwin's proof of "hybrid vigour". Edward Murray East
and George Harrison Schull established special hybrids of corn by outbreeding
selected corn, because:
"Inbreeding depressed corn yields. They.. discovered that crosses
between inbred lines produced great yields, or what is called " hybrid
Jack Doyle."Altered Harvest", New York, 1985.p.37.
East and Schull used
"controlled fertilisation"; (detasseling of corn) to prevent un-wanted
pollination. This was similar to Lysenko's practices. USA corn yields rose.
But the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) used hybrid corns
exclusively for "monoculture". They now ignored the background theory,
allowing the "hybrid vigour" to decline. This led to widespread chaos;
and the corn futures market was in shock, with the Corn Leaf Blight
of the 1970's:
"The USDA was caught completely off guard by the blight.. the
Southern Corn Leaf Blight devastated 15% of America's 1970 corn crop, reducing
the average national corn yield from 83.9 to 71.7 bushels per acre, costing
farmers about $1 billion in, losses.. Said University of Illinois plant
pathologist A.L.Hooker: "Dry weather reduced disease spread in the
Western Corn Belt and delayed Northward spread of the disease on the Eastern
seaboard. In addition, because of favourable climatic conditions, Northern
states had above normal yields. Without these two features, national disease
losses could have been greater."
Doyle, Ibid. p.5-7.
The rapid spread
of the Blight was due to a cytoplasmic gene. This is another irony; as
cytoplasmic genes were supposedly "impossible" - according to classical
genetic theory. The US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) studied this
and in 1976 reported:
"In the 1960's it became clear that
relatively few corn breeding parents were being used to produce the bulk
of American hybrid corn varieties.. the narrowness of the germ plasm set
the stage for potential vulnerability to disease insects, and other stresses.
In early 1970, environmental conditions in southern and Northern central
corn producing regions were favourable for early disease establishment
and spread among vast plantings of highly uniform varieties. the Southern
Corn Leaf Blight epidemic became of national and international significance."
Cited Doyle, Ibid. p. 15.
In conclusion, corn
monoculture in Khruschevite Russia was a mistaken policy. Special hybrid
corns were not adequate to boost production. The opposition to maize monoculture
under Stalin was well grounded. When Khrushchev later initiated monoculture,
maize production was poor. In arguing against monoculture as a danger,
Vandana Shiva is undoubtedly correct.
By 1929 the USSR
population was 12% more than in 1917; and the area of grain production
only 90 % of the pre-war figure. There was also a continued land parcellation
(24.5 million households in 1928). To overcome these problems, a higher
technical use of the land was needed. Even before the Second World War,
expansion of the arable land had been needed. Stalin
pointed out in 1929:
"The question of cultivating unused
and virgin land is of tremendous importance for our agriculture.. the pivot
of the revolutionary movement in Russia in the old days was the agrarian
question.. one of the aims of the agrarian movement was to do away with
the shortage of land. At that time:
"There were many who thought that the
shortage of land was absolute, ie. that there was in Russia, no new land
suitable for cultivation. And what has actually proved to be the situation?..
Scores of millions of hectares of free land were and are still available
in the USSR. But the peasants were quite unable to cultivate unused and
virgin lands, they longed for "soft" land for the soil which belonged to
the landlord, for soil which could be tilled with the aid of peasant implements
by individual labour. It is not surprising therefore that our Grain Trusts..
equipped with tractors, is now able to place under cultivation some 20
million hectares of free land.. unoccupied by peasants and unfit for cultivation
by individual labour with the aid of small wretched implements."
Cited McCauley Martin; "Khrushchev and
the Development of Soviet Agriculture"; London; 1976; p.23.
DID COLLECTIVISATION DEAL WITH THESE
resulted in an immediate increase in the Sown Area seen in the Table below:
OF THE SOWN AREA (Ha).
AREA % TOTAL INCREASE
%INCREASE STATE FARM
North & Central
Central Asia &
Source : Summary of Fulfilment of the
First 5 Year Plan for the Development of the National Economy of the USSR
(Moscow 1933). Cited from McCauley p.25).
Even hostile forces
to Stalin acknowledge the measures were successful:
"By the great expansion of acreage under
collective cultivation and the imposition of very low prices on the produce
of that acreage, the government achieved its main goal : enough grain was
delivered to the state each year.. The Bolsheviks had reason to begin,
as early as 1932, the periodic boasts that they had solved Russia's grain
problem. In other senses they could not.. overlook the fact that grain
yields per hectare had declined. The average for the periods from 1930-1934
was 0.14% lower that the average for 1925 -1929."
David Joravsky, p.64-5.
"Even as critical an expert observer of
the Soviet agricultural scene as Naum Jasny could not deny
that: 'The socialization drive in Soviet agriculture achieved to a large
extent its major purpose of serving as a basis for the industrialization
Harry Shaffer in:"Soviet Agriculture,
An Assessment Of Its Contribution To Economic Development". Ed Harry G
Shaffer. Kraeger Press London, New York 1977. p.62.
The Machine and
Tractor Stations (MTS) overcame the lack of suitable machinery. But
still, famine in the Ukraine occurred with crop failures. In the winter
of 1927-28 5 million hectares of winter wheat perished, and after the severe
winter of 1928-9, about 7 million hectares of winter wheat perished. With
this background, let us examine the Plan to Transform Nature.
iii) THE PLAN
TO TRANSFORM NATURE, AND V.R. WILLIAMS.
is largely forgotten by modern scientists, remembered only by political
theorists who ridicule him. Yet his concepts strike a modern Green note.
He had been a soil scientist and Rector of the former Petrovskaia Agricultural
Academy. He kept the post when it became the Moscow Agricultural Institute
under the Bolsheviks. Williams was a member of the Agricultural Committee.
He believed that grasses counter-acted desiccation:
This led him to a system he called Travople
(a form of crop rotation), which he advocated for widespread use.
This was opposed by other scientists, primarily Tulaikov and Prishianokov.
They insisted upon chemical fertilizers, instead of Travople; despite the
expense of chemical fertilizers. They won the debate initially. Tulaikov
was sent by the Party to the USA to examine the USA dept Agriculture's
farms. In 1928 Tulaikov proposed a Soviet version of the giant grain farms
in the semi-arid plains of North America, following the USA model:
"He tied everything
from solar radiation to soil structure into one great evolutionary process
that would produce a universal desert unless the world's farmers checked
disaster, by planting grass." Joravsky p.24.
"A special commission,
established directly by the Politburo with Kalinin as Chairman, endorsed
the proposal. Stalin himself was sufficiently impressed to quote Tulaikov..
to the CC. Huge State farms were established on marginal land to work as
"grain factories". Following simple grain-fallow rotations, ignoring Williams
pleas for grass and livestock and crop diversification.. the initial results
in the Soviet Union were interpreted as success, though the Agency in charge,
the Grain Trust, ended each year in the red. Stalin had decreed that profit
(rentabel'nost) was not to be calculated for each individual enterprise..
the cost of production in 1929-30 declined from 10.6 rubles to 8.4 rubles
per centner of grain.. but by 1932 reached 22.9."
But a reappraisal
occurred with declining land productivity. Williams' remarks on "the land
being too dry anyway " now were heard. At the Conference on Drought Control
in October 1931.. travopol'e was accepted for 20 state farms and
20 Machine and Tractor Stations (MTS):
"The major officials Iakovlev, Kalinin,
and Molotov - held to their policy of allowing specialists to decide
such matters. Molotov expiated on the practical benefit of free debate
Current Western texts
on soil management cite practices quite similar to Williams. Thus J.H.Stallins
when discussing soil conservation in areas of wind erosion says:
"In the Great Plains.. the safest practice
is to return all fields West of the 20 inch rainfall belt.. to grass, at
best on a rotation basis for a period of 5-7 years. Such a rotation is
more likely to maintain much needed crop stubble and other residues for
wind protection to improve soil structure and to promote other favourable
conditions than is the conventional cropping system."
Stallings J.H. "Soil Conservation",
New Jersey 1957. Prentice - Hall Inc. p.248
suggest that since Khrushchev abandoned Williams' travopol'e, major deficits
"The virtual abolition of the grass
land system of crop rotation (ie.Travopole system of Williams) without
enough fertilizer and cultivation equipment to make such an undertaking
a halfway acceptable risk proved costly in the long run in terms of soil
deterioration and depletion of fertility that is not easy to restore."
Harry Shaffer In "Soviet Agriculture".
Saskatchewan Canada to Kazahkstan USSR, finding similar weather and land
problems. But the anti- Travopol'e bias of Khrushchev is not a Canadian
"A most striking difference in the agronomical
practices between the two areas under study is the amount of clean fallow
regarded as necessary in Saskatchewan. It averages between 30-4 % even
higher in certain parts. The Soviets employed 10-15% during the Khrushchev
years." McCauley, p.173.
Much scorn is heaped
on the proposals after the Second World War, to transform the Steppes of
Russia from a hostile wind swept area to arable farming land. This was
termed the "STALIN PLAN TO TRANSFORM NATURE":
"Here also, as in genetics early achievement
were blotted out by the Stalinist repression. G.A.Kozhevnikov early exponent
of nature preserves in Russian and the Soviet Union was expelled from his
academic positions during the Cultural Revolution, and V.V.Stanchinskii
developer of trophic dynamics was denounced and arrested. Conservation
and ecology suffered reverses in the Stalinist Soviet Union. Remarkably
despite the atmosphere of threats and repression, attempts by scientists
and activists to resist the worst excesses of Stalin's "great transformation
of nature", and to defend some islands of "free nature" continued throughout
his rule and beyond."
Graham, Ibid, p.243.
But in fact other
Western sources value wind breaks:
"The utilization of trees as windbreaks
in humid areas where wind erosion constitutes a problem is relatively simple."
J.H.Stallings Op Cit. p.257.
"Shrubs and trees make good windbreaks
and add greatly to a North Dakota homestead.. windbreaks and tenacious
grasses and shrubs are especially effective.. rye planted in narrow strips
across the field is sometimes used on peat lands. All of these devices
for wind erosion control whether applied in arid or humid regions and whether
vegetative or purely mechanical are after all, but phases of the broader
problem of soil moisture control."
"The Nature and Properties of Soils."
p.565-4. Nyle C Brady. Cornell Univ.& USAID. McMillan New York
Following the Second
World War devastation, it was needed to extend agriculture into the Steppe
"The sown area of the vast RSFR in 1945
was 25 million Ha less than in 1940. In the USSR the sown area decreased
by 36.6 million Ha between 1940 and 1945. In Kazakhstan the drop was 770,000
But the land problems
of drought had to be tackled:
"Agriculture in the steppe area of the
European part of the Soviet Union, especially in the areas to the East
and South East of the river Don, is affected by dry winds (sukhovei) coming
from the desert and semi-desert areas of Central Asia. Consequently drought
is one of the great problems of these regions. Besides drought, low level
fertility and wind erosion have to be combatted. The solution of these
problems was to be found in a complex system of afforestation measures
for the preservation of moisture in the soil, and increase in the number
of ponds by bring and the construction of reservoirs, measures for the
introduction of rotation in grain and fodder crops (Travople) and other
McCauley, M. p.31.
The Plan called for
the Travopole system to be applied. The Soviet Degree was later rescinded
by Khrushchev, who ignored ecological reality. It had:
"Relied.. on the planting of protective
tree belts in areas suffering from water or wind erosion.. in the Volga
Basin, and the Caspian Sea area, Voronezh to Rostovon-Don, the Northern
Donets to the Don, Krasnodar krai, the Crimea and the Southern Ukraine..
and in Asiatic Russia, Vishneveya Hills -Orenburg-Urals-Caspian Sea.. the
implementation met with mixed fortunes. The survivors proved valuable as
wind breaks and contribute to the anti-erosion struggle. The plan, put
into action in 1949, lost impetus after Stalin's death.. Khrushchev turned
a deaf ear to those who feared the spread of erosion to the large expanses
of newly cultivated soil in the East.. it took Khrushchev a decade to realise
that Kazakhstan was a dry farming area."
In addition under
Stalin, there were irrigation plans that:
"Would provide.. 6 million ha.. and
22 million ha of extra grazing land, mainly in the semi- deserts and deserts
north and east of the Caspian.. none of the irrigation projects.. received
much official backing.. The opposition to the scheme was demonstrated after
the death of Stalin."
Not all the wind
breaks survived; planted as they were in accord with Lysenko's "cluster"
theory. Lysenko argued that the saplings themselves would allow the best
to survive. This was a mistaken theory, akin to Peter Kropotkin's
view of "Mutual Aid". However some 5.7 million hectares of protective trees
were planted; and, witnesses, testify that contrary to Western assertion,
not all the belts died. Durgin, himself a Western academic claims that
the belts survived:
"There has been considerable debate
about the effectiveness of these tree belts which now present a familiar
landscape to a traveller in the countryside."
Cited F.A.Durgin Jr. "The relationship
of Stalin's death to the economic change of the post-Stalin era" In R.C.Stuart.
The Soviet rural economy. New Jersey, 1984.; p. 126.
Overall the Stalin
Plan on Nature made sense and contributed to relief of the agricultural
crisis. By 1953:
"Socialist agriculture had been able
to extend the sown area by about 40 million ha." McCauley, p.32.
ALLEGATION:"STALIN DESTROYED AGRICULTURE".
that Stalin destroyed Soviet agriculture, promoting Lysenkoism. The figures
do not support this contention. Table Two below shows the yields
of wheat relative to the base years 1926-1928, for the USA and the USSR,
using data from the USA Bureau of the Census, 1975.
The figures for the
war years show the expected devastation in the Soviet Union. In the following
years potentially attributable to Stalin's "terrible influence"; the figures
do not corroborate Khrushchev. Even immediately after Stalin's death, farm
yields were not a problem. Indeed later on, the resurrection of private
property did make an enormous impact upon the distribution of the available
TABLE TWO : WHEAT YIELDS USA
AND THE USSR. (base years 1926-1928)
100(14.83BU/ACRE) 100 (6.69 bu/acre)
THE ALLEGATION THAT USSR AGRICULTURE WAS SEVERELY DAMAGED UNDER STALIN
IS CLEARLY INCORRECT.
Lewins and Lewontin conclude:
"There is no evidence that Soviet agriculture
Lewins and Lewontin, p.19-1.
Khrushchev also charged
in his "secret speech" that Stalin neglected updating agriculture, and
did not spend adequate resources upon it. Khrushchev meant Stalin had not
introduced maize monoculture with a large chemical fertiliser industry.
As seen above, Williams was given support for a primary reliance upon travopol'e;
certainly a more "green" and natural approach than chemical fertilisers.
But Khrushchev campaigned heavily against Travopole and for expansion o
of light industry with a fertiliser component. When he came to power later,
unhappy consequences flowed from Khrushchev's bias against Travopole and
"The widespread damage caused by the
dust storms of 1960 and 1962 brought the problem of wind erosion to the
attention of a wide public.. water erosion is a widespread scourge affecting
almost 50 million ha of the European part of the RSSR.. The Ukraine suffers
considerable annual damage. Of a total of 42 million ha inspected.. 13
million were affected.. it was calculated that throughout the USSR 500
million tonnes of topsoil were washed away annually."
As McCauley says:
"Such official neglect is even more
surprising when one recalls that many of the pioneers of the study of soil
were Russian. Soil science is replete with Russian words now accepted in
McCauley Ibid, p.160.
Following the Second
world war, the pressure on agriculture was met. Contrary to revisionist
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appropriate measures for control of drought and wind erosion in the Virgin
lands program. Despite the Lysenkoist cluster planting, the Stalin Plan
was appropriate. The Stalin Plan rested on ecological principles that subsequently
have become commonplace and accepted.
Consistent with Khrushchev's
plan to disrupt socialist practices in the countryside, Khrushchev opposed
these plans. Khrushchev went on to dismantle the Machine and Tractor Stations.
The former Soviet Union is now in a state of severe starvation and ecological
"After Gorbachev came to power in 1985
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