Socialist Globalization and United Nations
Er. K Vijayachandran FIE
Chairman Cochin Center for Policy Initiatives
This short paper, published on UN Day 2017, is the third part of my series on United Nations: First one was published in the Frontline magazine, four years ago: and the second with its focus on the failure of WTO was presented in the UN Day seminar of 2015 held in the Public Library of my home town, Kochi. UN is a new historical experience: Mankind possesses, today, adequate S&T and organizational resources to support a global political economy under UN umbrella.
Two decades ago, this author had observed in a seminar in Thiruvananthapuram: “Developments in computing, communication and satellite technologies have revolutionized the processing and transmission of information. These have given birth to Information Technology or IT. Electronic chip has, thus, ushered in a second industrial revolution; the first one triggered by steam engine had led to the extensive use of energy in processing and transportation of materials. The two revolutions, one after the other within a span of two centuries, are re-shaping the destiny of Man: He is preparing for a leap forward vis-a-vis his relationship with the universe he has come to occupy.” (1)
Knowledge and expertise to produce commodities or Science and Technology (S&T), as referred to in this article, was only emerging as a tradable entity or property, when Marx wrote his Das Capital in 1867, even though separation of intellectual powers from manual labor was very nearly complete in the earlier century. Nevertheless, the last Chapter XV of part IV of the book deals with the development and transformation of society, as it puts to use machines for commodity production.
Das Capital had examined in great detail the social origins of technology, how it was appropriated by capitalists as their private property, how bulk of the surplus value generated in the process was appropriated by the owners of capital, how it was used for lengthening the work-hours of proletarian classes instead of lightening the burden of their life, and how they got pauperized materially, culturally and spiritually in a rapidly advancing industrial society.
How Science and Technology (S&T) helped to consolidate the hegemony of capital over labor and society at large was explained in this chapter, through its ten sections and 133 pages (P-371 to 504 of the Soviet Edition, English-1959). As trading and export of capital and S&T gathered momentum, political map of the globe was redrawn under the dictates of global finance capital.
Social character and social role of S&T were explored and endorsed by hardcore scientists as well, including the famous physicist of last century, Albert Einstein in his celebrated essay Why Socialism? of 1949: Technology is to be seen as the product and manifestation of the innate desire of individual Man to belong to larger and larger Collectives and helping him to transcend the limitations of space and time. Communities expanded their boarders and cultural horizons, and merged together to form larger and larger nation-states using S&T. And, S&T liberated Man from crass capitalist existentialism and entitled him for a rich cultural life that spans three dimensions in time; the present, the past and the future. (2)
Einstein was greatly appreciative of the efficacy of S&T organizations of USSR, the first ever socialist state: Only Russia had an academy of sciences at the time of liberation from Czar: And then, the revolution encouraged every constituent identity, nationality, or republic of Soviet Union, big and small, to establish its own autonomous academy of sciences: These were then federated into the Soviet Academy of Sciences.
In a special commemorative volume to mark the golden jubilee of USSR, Vice President of the Soviet Academy of Sciences had observed, by way of introduction: “Within the life time of a single generation, the people of some republics underwent a transition from a feudal society based on archaic agricultural systems to a socialist economy with a highly developed industry and mechanized agriculture. Peoples that did not even have a written language before the October revolution now can boast of their own trained specialists. The children and grand children of peasants and nomads are designing and operating computers and other sophisticated equipment.”
The above introductory overview was then followed by detailed accounts of the concrete achievements of academies of individual republics; Byelorussia, Georgia, Ukraine, Moldavia, Latvia, Azerbaijan and others including the tiny Estonia by their respective academy presidents. (3)
This sort of federal or cooperative dispensation of republican academies of sciences continues to exist even today under the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), despite the dissolution of USSR: recent reports indicate that the glory of Soviet S&T is getting rapidly restored by the CIS collective: Einstein’s enthusiasm over the success of Soviet model organization of S&T is thus fully justified in the context of current realities.
S&T was the sole prerogative of the aristocracy during Tsarist days: Soon after the socialist revolution, special universities were opened for educating the proletarians and, associations of innovators and inventors were established in every production enterprise, cutting across class lines under the initiative of employees associations and local trade unions.
These models were later copied by the production enterprises in capitalist countries: Quality Circles (QC) of Japan as well as the Total Quality Movement (TQM) of Deming Institute of USA were inspired by these shop-floor experiences of socialist enterprises in Soviet Union. And later, after the Second World War grass-root level democracy or participative management systems as practiced in Soviet Union and East European countries had inspired a culture of industrial democracy in post-war Western Europe.
Achievements on the S&T front as well as the innovative management methods developed by the socialist enterprises had not only led to an all-round improvement in social productivity and quality of life, but also helped the practice of universal social security for the first time in human history.
Soviet Union and other Socialist countries had proved the feasibility and sustainability of socialist political economies in individual countries, and demonstrated their superiority over the crisis ridden political economies under the hegemony of finance capital. The massive vilification campaigns against the S&T institutions in the socialist countries and their organizing principles had nothing to do with truth and the ground realities that existed in former socialist countries.
As a matter of fact, these experiences were a source of inspiration not only for the newly liberated countries after the second world war like India and China, but even for the developed capitalist countries: National Science Fund (NSF) and related S&T policies of USA were fashioned after the S&T practices of USSR by Dr. Bush, the wartime S&T advisor of President Roosevelt. They were kept in cold storage for a couple of years, due to ideological and political differences within the US bureaucracy, until Sputnik made history in 1957 and sent shock-waves in US administration.
NSF continues to be the corner stone of S&T administration and management in USA, even today. Japan as well as all the other OECD countries had taken to massive public investments and state intervention in their S&T sectors as a matter of national policies, and it is generally accepted that market competition hardly produces any basic technologies: Even today, Bill Gates and his IT empire are products of monopoly capitalism, and not market competition as made out by market-ideologists (4). Prof Galbraith had formulated, long ago, his famous theory of convergence of capitalist and socialist systems of economic management on the strength of these facts.
But for the short periods of policy disruptions, triggered by the Cultural Revolution, China had stuck to the S&T policies developed as an integral part of its national liberation movement and guided by the principles of socialist development in the Soviet Union. Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), today, is ‘the linchpin of China’s drive to explore and harness high technology and the natural sciences for the benefit of China and the world’.
CAS has a comprehensive research and development network in the public domain, spread over a million establishments, including a merit-based system of higher education: It brings together scientists and engineers from the whole of China and around the world to address both theoretical and applied problems using world-class scientific and management approaches. The massive Chinese S&T of today is broad-based and has roots in all provinces and serves the regional and national economies right across the country. (5)
Marxist-Leninist understanding that, capitalism would be a failure in building up a global technological society, stands validated by historical experience: Numerous colonial wars and two world wars, inflicted on mankind in quick succession, as well as the extremely poor performance of the recently initiated WTO under IMF-IBRD regulation and operating independent of UN framework, are pointers to its abject failure in building up a sustainable political economy at the global level. (6)
Massive unemployment, deepening global recession, widespread failure and even collapse of nation states, violence, terrorism, dirty wars, sixty million refugees reminiscent of the Second World War and, gathering storms of yet another global war, are the balance sheet of two decades of global regulation exercised by WTO: Every leading capitalist country is in crisis: Era of unipolar world under the US hegemony has ended; EU and NATO are on a path of self-liquidation. Capitalism is failing to catch up with technological innovations for the first time in history and regulators find it impossible to catch up with the galloping corruption, and it is the end of capitalist globalization as we know it. (7)
The hypothesis that S&T is an exclusive product of market competition has been challenged and demolished long ago, not only by Marxists-Leninists but even by great scientists and technologists of our times. Nevertheless, the Perestroika-Glasnost movement triggered by the Russian intelligentsia under the leadership of Gorbachev & Co, supported by imperialists and global finance capital, and endorsed by the class of so-called knowledge workers across the continents, was based on this specious argument. (8)
True, Soviet Union, the first-ever socialist state was dissolved and the socialist camp disintegrated: But, that was not the end of history as shouted from house-tops by the reactionaries, all over the world: S&T infrastructures as well as the democratic institutions built under Soviet Socialism have by and large survived under the CIS dispensation.
China is rapidly developing its S&T capabilities. Situation is not very different with regard to the other members of the former CMEA, and OECD countries continue to be rich in S&T resources and S&T is moving forward with its own momentum, quite unmindful of market forces. As Professor Galbraith had pointed out in his famous book, The Affluent Society, mankind today has enough technological resources to sustain a humanity several times its present size. As the world socialist movement observes the centenary of Soviet revolution, the dreams of building a brave new world, based on a better and fuller use of these resources in full have returned, once again.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) using modern S&T tools under the auspicious of BRICS is seen as a small beginning in that direction. This new type of international cooperation, under Chinese initiative, is already challenging the mind-set of technological pessimism (9) across the globe, an inevitable byproduct of capitalist development. Several countries on the BRI route have joined this multilateral development projects which are expected to grow and expand further into a major development initiative under the UN System.
United Nations is a post-Marxian development and a totally new historical experience: But mankind has plenty of experience in promoting the concept of peaceful coexistence and mutual cooperation among nation-states, big and small. Einstein’s appeal of October 1947 to the UN General Assembly to democratize itself and play its destined role of Global Governance, and to ‘guarantee the security, tranquility and the welfare of all mankind’, is immensely relevant today. Despite the non-cooperation of USA and other developed countries that were keen to use the UN system for policing over the developing nations, institutions like UNIDO, UNDP, and others were set up under the initiatives of Non Aligned Movement (NAM) with the support of the then socialist block.
Che Guevara, in his speech of March 25, 1964, at the plenary session of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD ) had said, ‘this conference must establish in plain terms the agreement emanating from the conference to refrain from restricting trade in any manner, direct or indirect’: However, as pointed out by J. Backman in his paper, “Socialist Globalization against Capitalist Neocolonialism: The Economic Ideas behind the New International”, attempts by UNCTAD to create economic globalization faced by ‘continual US resistance, especially through the GATT, the World Bank, the IMF, and the US Government itself (Humanity- Spring 2015). And, as we know Cuba of Che Guevara was subjected to the worst kind of trade barriers by the USA, and WTO had hijacked the role assigned to UNCTAD which has turned a dead instrument within a short span of time.
And, all these add to the relevance of Chinese initiatives towards ‘UN playing a central role in global governance’: Such initiatives by China, the largest nation-state of our times, destined to be the largest national economy in the very near future, on the strength of its own technological prowess, following its own shade of socialism for the past seven decades (10), and presiding over BRICS and promoting novel international development paradigms with the support and involvement Russia, make immense sense towards the prospects of global governance as well as socialist globalization.
Samir Amin had recently (2014) attempted a fairly elaborate global assessment of “Popular Movements towards Socialism: Their Unity and Diversity” (11). He looked at the possible exit roots from globalization controlled by finance capital and rules out the possibility of a negotiated exit using UN framework. Next, the possibility of some member countries challenging the system is examined: In his view, China has this capability and potential but he is not sure about the prospects of State Capitalism of China transforming itself into State Socialism. With regard to Russia he is skeptical about the intentions of the present power-holders, despite their posing as serious challengers to Washington.
As he concludes this long essay, Amin speculates on the ‘strategies of international political (or even military) alliance that might force a withdrawal of the US project of military control, over the whole planet and then concludes: “It is not by chance that the BRICS, and behind them many counties of the South-some having entered the path of sovereign projects to various degrees and others still mired in the ruts of lumpen development – refusing to support US military adventures and dare to take initiatives contradicting Washington, like the use of Veto by Russia and China. It is necessary to go further in these directions, in a broader and more systematic approach.”
There are even more forceful compulsions for change that are technological: The rapidly increasing size and complexity of contemporary S&T as in the case of IT and space technologies, demands a global political economy that is qualitatively different from that of today. Many among the members of UNO continue to be grossly underdeveloped and some even primitive: However, the basic instincts that drive humanity towards larger and larger collectives cannot and will not stop with the formation of some two hundred largely autonomous nation states,
Humanity is on cross roads and in search of its own destiny: Its cultural and spiritual pursuits will continue, and a UNO with a far more efficient and harmonious political economy is likely to be its next halt, as divined by Albert Einstein seven decades ago!
EOD/24th October 2017
1. Information Technology and the Second Industrial Revolution: Synopsis of my talk on August 24th 1998 at the Rotary club Thiruvananthapuram-https://kvijaya40.wordpress.com/2017/10/24/information-technology-and-the-second-industrial-revolution-2/
2. United Nations-New relevance for the world body: My article in Frontline Nov 13 2013: http://www.frontline.in/world-affairs/newrelevance-of-the-word-body/article5338837.exe
3. See my book Perestroika Glasnost and Socialism Partridge 2014, P 96-99: can be downloaded from the Research Gate (RG) web site.
4. A B Nikolaev, R&D and Social Reproduction, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975
5. Chinese Academy of Sciences: http://english.cas.cn/
6. Paper on WTO by myself: https://kvijaya40.wordpress.com/2015/10/24/two-decades-of-wto-the-failure-to-deliver/
7. See the article: https://leftfootforward.org/2017/10/six-ways-the-uks-regulatory-system-is-a-protection-racket-for-the-elite/https://leftfootforward.org/2017/10/six-ways-the-uks-regulatory-system-is-a-protection-racket-for-the-elite/
8. My book, Perestroika Glasnost and Socialism, is a pioneering project on the subject, pages 3-45
9. Technological pessimism is the belief that advances in S&T do not lead to any improvement in human condition. Some social critics and environmentalists believe that economic practices of modern states over-stress planet’s ecological equilibrium.
10. China had claimed from the days of Mao that it was building Socialism with Chinese characteristics implying thereby that every country is free to follow its own brand of socialism based its historical or cultural experience. That was in perfect harmony with Vietnamese vision on socialism as well. Khrushchev had declared at that time that USSR was already building communism after successfully completing the socialist phase!
11. Monthly Review-Article by Samir Amin: http://monthlyreview.org/2014/06/01/popular-movements-toword-socilism/#top