Social Scientist. v 16, no. 185 (Oct 1988) p. 78.


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78 SOCIAL SCIENTIST

their onslaught against the very foundations of a socialist system, no less. Must we however forget either history—or, for that matter, the realities of contemporary living? Socialist planning emerged because of the proved imperfections of the capitalist market structure and the inhumanity grafted in it. It is the hallmark of socialist ideology that, unlike the economic philosophy held in adulation by expropriation-minded capitalists, it is not afraid to take up the challenge of experimentation. But there can be no question of throwing out the baby along with the bath water. It is not even half-a-century since Oskar Lange and his associates demonstrated that the tenets of what neoclassical ideologues have described as welfare economics—which is the most idealized form of free and perfect competition—are realizable only under a socialist sky. Because of exigencies of circumstances in the Soviet Union, such as frictional problems affecting the deployment of men and resources, it may be necessary to relax the postulates of socialist planning temporarily, in isolated cases, and for experimental purposes. It would however be lunacy to relax the overall control of State authority and the dominance of the will of the people which this authority reflects. Again, there could be debate over the most appropriate format for maintaining continuous two-way communication between people and state agencies, or between people and a party burdened by the complexities of a throbbing, developing system. The format nonetheless has to belong to the corpus of socialist ideology. Since Lewin drains his analysis of all ideological content and reduces the Soviet problem into a problematic of national transition, while one may admire his left-over patriotic instincts, one has to reject his conclusions.

And because he has chosen a narrow patriotic groove for himself, Lewin also lapses into that other error so common these days; he ignores the international context of the socialist system. What concerns the Soviet Union and its people does not leave unaffected the international brotherhood of struggling, working peoples across the world. Thus perestroika, and the manner it is implemented, have major global implications. The essential issue is not just what pressures could be lifted from the Soviet economy should there be a detente leading to extensive disarmament, or what new relationships could be established, within the framework of the Soviet apparatus, to mirror more faithfully than has been possible in the past both the aspirations of the people and the compulsions of targets set, at various levels, by the State agencies. It is the ideology of class war which gave birth to the Soviet Union. Perestroika does not imply the suspension of that ideology, nor does it negate the reality of that war. Perestroika is only a facet of a short-term tactic. The tactic must however serve the cause of ideology. Those who, like Lewin, miss the point only mislead themselves; it is unlikely that they will mislead true socialists.

ASHOK MITRA Former Finance Minister, West Bengal Government



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