Essay on the Socialistic Pattern of Society in India



India under the guidance of Jawaharlal Nehru had accepted socialism as her goal. Socialism implies the social or collective ownership of the instruments of production. It means that the control of production and distribution must be in the hands, not of private owners of capital, but of the community itself.

Orthodox communists equate community with the working class. As a means to exercise, this collective control, they urge the socialisation of the key industries and all-important means of production. But this transformation of society from capitalist ownership into socialism will not be the outcome of an evolutionary process.

Marx, the pioneer of scientific socialism, explained that as the workers or the proletariat gain increasing control of the instruments of production, they will over­throw the capitalist and the proprietored class.

Nehru, of course, never accepted this thesis. That is why he preferred and adopted the rather ambiguous phrase a 'socialistic pattern' instead of 'socialism'.

One may well look for a explanation of this hesitation and half-hearted compromise of Avadi socialism, i.e. according to the resolution of Avadi session of the Congress. In fact, like many American and English thinkers, he chose to regard Marxism as impracticable. He believed with Gandhiji in the possibility of revolution, i.e. radical change of social order by consent, by appeal to the collective conscience of humanity.

Gandhiji thought, such strong moral pressure would be exerted on the capitalists that they would remain satisfied with only 12% per cent profit and hold their wealth in trust for the entire society. This is broadly known as Gandhian Socialism.

A similar concept was advanced years ago by the Fabian socialists headed by Sidney and Beatrice Webb, George Bernard Shaw and others. According to these idealistic thinkers, it will be possible to transfer control of the instruments of production from private owners to the community of workers with the help of the ballot-box (Fabianism). In the recent thesis of a Communist Party, it has been asserted that it is not impossible to reach communism through peaceful democratic means.

The pattern of socialism that India, under Nehru and to some extent under Indira Gandhi, looked forward to, is not to be achieved by the forced liquidation of class interests but by their gradual elimination. This may be by a gradual change of heart such as Acharya Vinoba Bhave contemplated. But failing this, recourse must be had to legislative measures.

In the initial stage, private capital will not be liquidated but restrained; while the welfare of the workers will be gradually safeguarded and raised to more human standards. The instruments of production will be taken over by the State after payment of compensation to their present owners. Mines, Public Sector Steel Industries, Oil Production, Life Insurance and Banks were nationalised by stages. It is pointed out that land-lordism has already been abolished and the Reserve Bank and the Railways have been nationalised.

Steps were being taken to introduce co-operative farming, instead of small-scale farming under individual management. It was claimed that by gradual widening of the scope of these legislations, the country will be socialised without the painful process of a bloody revolution. So the Govt. started buying shares of big industries upto more than 50% per cent, to control them.

That a public sector is slowly developing in the Indian economy is a fact. It is the characteristic of the economy almost of every under­developed country. Ours is, however, a mixed economy in which the private sector is still predominant. The private sector roughly accounts for more than 75 per cent of our economy. Planning needs of a socialistic pattern cannot be met so long as the private sector is so immensely large.

The actual pace of this movement towards socialism was proposed to be set by the successive Five-Year Plans. The object of these plans was to co-ordinate and control the economic life of the State so as to achieve the maximum results towards the social welfare of the community. Production will be regulated by the needs of the com­munity; methods of distribution will be developed to bring consumer goods within reach of the greatest number. For this purpose, private profits have to be controlled and the interests of individuals must give way to the interests of the community.

It sounds very well as far as it goes. But it may be doubted whether the process of change-over will be so smooth. Where private ownership is being liquidated, it is not in favour of the community but of the State. The State will use its resources in the interest of the class, which controls its machinery. It is now obvious from the fact that in the various so-called socialist measures, no effort is made to transfer control to the community of workers.

Hence, we cannot overlook the danger that lies in this pattern of socialism that has so far emerged. Recently a counter-tendency has surfaced. Dr Monmohan Singh, the Finance Minister of the early nineties, advocated allowing liberal investment of foreign capital in our country. Thus, multi-national business and industry have got off to a brisk start here. It is apprehended that in no distant future the multi-nationals, interested only in profits, but without any national moorings, will create a financial crisis.

The pattern is also slowly emerging that under a mixed economy we are suffering from the limitation of socialism without its benefits. Our rights are being slowly curtailed. But in exchange of these, we are not adequately benefited. In the meantime price index in going up.

Hence it seems that certain fundamental steps have to be taken if a genuine socialist pattern is to emerge. Effective association of the working-class with the management in both state-owned and private industries must be achieved. The minimum living wage for the workers must be statutorily determined. Opportunities for employment must expand. Mere abolition of landlordism will make no difference unless the tillers are vested with ownership of land. Workers must be made to feel that the instrument of production, whether land or machinery, will be used in the interest of those who work there. Unless a progressive policy in regard to these matters is taken in band within a few years, socialist pattern for our country may provide to be an illusion.