At first look, it seems as though the both are antagonistic. Where the first one is for the people, for the “country”, the second one is for the capitalist class. Hence, the Congress, during the Nehru era was pursuing socialism.
Afterwards, the neo-liberal policy, known as Manmohan Singh’s economic policy (he was the then-finance minister), was pursuing capitalism.
Neo-liberalism came with various masks, like globalization, perestroika, reform, cure of bureaucracy and ailments killing the public sectors, worker’s apathy with the work, loss of profit and unnecessary expenditure on welfare and subsidies.
Let us analyze the past, immediately after Indian independence, in fact even before that.
The “smooth” handing over of power to Indians (and Pakistanis) was not to the working class, as envisaged by the HSRA (Hindustan Socialist Republic Association), whose members included Chandrasekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Ashfaqualla Khan and others; as well as the Communist Party of India (CPI).
In fact, when the Indian constitution was being made, there were four participating groups. One of them was represented by the CPI and who were forced to quit, when it was clear that the constitution was to be in the service of the private property.
It was to safeguard the capitalist class (even the remaining feudal class). This was a tacit understanding between the British raj, the bourgeois class and the Congress, the Muslim league, USA, and others who mattered.
Two examples must be studied to understand the characteristics of the Indian bourgeois class. First, how it dealt with the Telangana movement, which was against the British raj as well as its accomplice, the nizam (ruler of Hyderabad), feudal lords and the Rajakars (nizam’s army), under the leadership of CPI, which fought very valiantly since 1945 to 1952-’53.
It fought till the leadership abandoned its own cadre to favor Nehru and Patel’s government. It signed the pact of peace treacherously one-sided, favoring the Indian state.
The UNO (United Nations Organisation) had raised the human rights question, where more than 2,000 local women were raped, tortured and 1,000s of fighters and their sympathizers were killed in fake encounters as well as in jails by the Indian army and the army of the nizam, but somehow was quashed.
After the peace pact followed and the Telangana movement finished, the nizam and his army men were rehabilitated, in the most possible “honorable” fashion.
Similar to this was the Bombay mutiny of 1946, which spread to Lahore, Bengal, Madras and was supported by the workers, peasants, youths, various unions and organizations across the country.
However, the Congress and the Muslim league officially and openly opposed the mutiny, advised their respective followers to remain away from the “law and order” problems, as they never wanted to share the power with the working class.
The CPI seems to have chickened out or failed to analyze the situation correctly.
However, after the independence was secured, despite all the bloodbath between the two newly-emerged nations, India and Pakistan, India preferred to follow industrialization and modernization of all the industries, services, and superstructure and new industries, factories.
The Indian bourgeois class was unable to take over these concerns, enterprises, due lack of capital as well as technical knowhow and other much needed wherewithal.
Hence, the Indian government had to intervene and build all the “navratnas”, superstructures and other parts of public concerns. These included airlines and airports, shipping (Jahajrani, SCI), power, oil (ONGC), telecommunication (BSNL), research works (DRDO), super-specialty medical services, space exploration (ISRO), highways, railways, and many others.
This five-year plan may sound like it’s been borrowed from the USSR, but it was supported by the Tatas, and other big capitalists.
The USSR was happy in providing cheap technical know-how as well as big machineries, like thermal plant in Patratu (Jharkhand), defense equipment, with the help to build and repair facilities etc., which was its foreign policy.
It wanted to keep the imperialist powers away, as much as possible, in the new, rising nations.
Was socialism being constructed in India? No, as the state power was in the hands of the bourgeois class and the working class, though much united than today and militant, was in back seat, “satisfied” with the “facilities and labor laws” in its favor.
The situation gave a brilliant ideological framework to the CPI to support the ruling party, Congress, in name of building socialism, which of course was strengthening industrial as well as finance capital.
The bureaucracy (red tapeism), corruption and other ailments penetrated into the public concerns in a natural fashion and “socialism” was blamed.
In the meantime, capitalist restoration in the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) gave “moral” support to the opportunist communist parties, the world over, to shun class struggle and follow parliamentary struggle—a path to build socialism peacefully.
An open class collaboration followed and these parties happily accepted opportunism and revisionism. The leadership which opposed these political lines, had to break away from the old parties, but in most cases that lead to “revisionism vs revisionism”, like the CPI(Marxist) or left wing adventurism, like the Maoists.
The earlier version, the Naxalite movement, did connect question of state power to the struggle, more appropriately class struggle, but that was the end of its break from the past revisionism. We know now that this movement was crushed by the Indian state.
Well, the nationalisation, end of privy system, etc. were accelerated during the Indira Gandhi regime, and the “left” was euphoric. ‘Garibi hatao’ (eradicate poverty), inclusion of the word “socialism” in the constitution and other such rhetoric, was nothing but a part of the capitalist society and capitalist politics.
The political economy, that was being followed, was nothing but steadily empowering capital and the concentration of wealth in hands of few was accelerating. The nationalisation of 14 largest banks in India in 1969, when Indira Gandhi was the PM (and even the FM) did not work towards the upliftment of the poor.
Compare it to this:
“The ownership of the capital wielded by and concentrated in the banks is certified by printed and written certificates called shares, bonds, bills, receipts, etc. Not a single one of these certificates would be invalidated or altered if the banks were nationalised, i.e., if all the banks were amalgamated into a single state bank. Whoever owned fifteen rubles on a savings account would continue to be the owner of fifteen rubles after the nationalisation of the banks; and whoever had fifteen million rubles would continue after the nationalisation of the banks to have fifteen million rubles in the form of shares, bonds, bills, commercial certificates and so on.”
– Lenin on the nationalisation of banks, in 1917.
The so-called “socialism” through nationalisation never attacked the production field, where the means of production was in the hands of the capitalist class, and where the surplus value was created by the workers and usurped by the capitalist class.
A small part of the surplus value (or rather, through more exploitation of the workers) was used in circulation through welfare measures and subsidies. This allowed a small section of the working class to enjoy the bourgeoisie large-heartedness towards its social duty, on the cost of the others.
Today, the others, the workers in unorganized sector are approximately 93%.
To jump a few decades, we see the “opening” of the economy, reforms, globalization, changes in labor laws, introduction of laws for land acquisition, dilution of environment acts, etc. followed in the 1980s, accelerated in the 1990s, by the “socialist” Congress government, in between the BJP (RSS) government, under Vajpayee and now Modi.
The Modi government has much freedom to work due to fascism, a social movement, where a section of the masses is supporting most of his anti-people, economic and political policies.
This is being done in the hopes of crushing the minorities and Dalits and building a Hindu rashtra (nation), and India becoming a world leader.
The building up of the Indian property in many compartments, but mainly in government and in private hands, was all for the capital and its various forms.
Now, when the world economy in plunging into economic crisis, even before the Coronavirus pandemic, and is almost in economic depression (resembling the 1928-’31 economic recession), the capitalist class, with no love for the working class and the oppressed people, has thrown the country under the yoke of fascism.
It is ruthlessly “re-appropriating” the created public funds and concerns! See the rate of privatization of almost all the public concerns, where they are in loss or are inefficient, is of no more a concern, all are to be privatized, as soon as possible.
There is bridge between the earlier “socialist” construction, better say it resembled a welfare state (providing social security but, in reality, far from it) and now the capitalist “restoration” in India, but with a violent break, qualitative change, from a masked “democracy” and constitutional government to open fascism, where constitutional methods have been thrown into the dustbin.
The world imperialism, the IMF (International Monetary Fund), World Bank, etc. have extended their full support to the Indian bourgeois class and its tirade against the proletarian class, with a sizable pie in the plunder.
The nationalisation in a capitalist society or country is for the capitalist class and not for the working class. The unemployment, poverty, inequality continues rising in both the bourgeois state, namely anti-people state or pro-people (welfare state) state.
But during the crisis, either political or economic or any other kind, the bourgeois state comes down heavily on the working class legally, illegally, socially (a section of the mass supports it, for some perks or for some regressive ideology), through police, military, bureaucracy, etc.
While we, the revolutionary forces, work with the proletarian class and its oppressed allies, we do join their struggle, protests, rallies, it is our task to educate them on political economy, telling them how such concessions, which they may bargain due balance of struggle in their favour, is temporary.
These concessions are taken away, when the enemy class becomes the dominant bargainer, especially during the crisis and when the unity of the working class is weakened.
Nationalisation, in any bourgeois society or state, is not confiscation of the means of production, albeit taking over the management from the private hands by the state, after giving full compensation to the earlier owners.
Yes, that does facilitate few wel- paid and even other employees for a comparatively peaceful life. It saves them from the wrath of their erstwhile capitalist masters. Here, nationalisation, as we can see, blunts the class struggle.
The real emancipation of the exploited class is its own state, by defeating the enemy class and smashing its old state apparatus, and by building a socialist society, where the private property is converted into social wealth.
Nationalisation of industries, land and other resources, in a country where the state power is in the hands of the working class, through its revolutionary party, is a transitory method to control the production, as long as the state exists and later, make it part of social wealth.
We call it socialisation, and that is our aim.