Asian Varieties of Socialism: China, India, Vietnam – Prasenjit Duara

Asian Varieties of Socialism: China, India, Vietnam - Prasenjit Duara

well thank you very much for bringing me all the way from from Singapore Liz I I too have enjoyed thinking about the subject and and writing a little though when she told me very fiercely that it has to be 15 minutes I said ok well a lot of bucks per minute ok it's also very somehow I find it very fitting that this is taking place in the center for European studies you know the the tables will finally be reversed and the let me first say that liz has done very well in putting me between she obviously knows between rom and shao kuang because and later on Tom tie because well want a bad way to look at it is that I'll cover a lot of the same ground that route it but the good way is that hopefully we can transition ok the first thing as so actually thank you round I mean you know you laid a very nice foundation and put forward some very interesting ideas the first thing I want to say is the the whole sort of appeal of socialism and how it developed in Asia at the beginning of the 20th century or suddenly actually before in fact if you want to look at the prehistory is before the Russian Revolution and you had all forms of anarchism and so on that people like our if Derrick have studied for China and to some extent in India as well before the nineteen seventeen revolution but and that is an important an important history but the crucible in which socialism developed was one that was that also included nationalisms so the appeal of socialism is mixed in with nationalism and a wider sense of universal justice this is what in fact makes the new type of anti-imperialist nationalism very different from earlier forms of Darwinist nationalism that existed in the world and there was something parallel happening with the socialist movement socialism and nationalism in Europe as well we're talking about kotsky and second international and all these kinds of things but in Asia this was a very important crucible and so and we can just just have to look at the may fault movement in in China where nationally it was it was principally a nationalist movement but the anti-imperialist a basis of it very strongly developed into a socialist wider social it's not just communist not just Marxist sort of sense and here I think it's important to understand that the socialism is associated with a sense of universal justice of making nationalism something much more important and sort of reaching to certain types of transcendent goals narrow had a very interesting comment on this where he says that what does he say yeah that socialism makes nationalism more progressive and international making people into citizens of this wide and fascinating world it was I thought a very interesting comment that that Nehru makes as well but for me the best example of this is what you mean who who has in an essay called the a very short lecture called a path that led me to leninism he shows very clearly that he admired Lenin first and foremost as a patron of Russia of the Soviet people then as a liberator of colonized people and then on to socialism and communism and then and then these three elements become inseparable right and and that's the crucible that we find that's the matrix that we find throughout the 20th century in Asia more than anywhere else i think but i may be wrong on that probably in the Latin America and Africa too so this this is and it becomes hard to separate and although it began as a sequential pathway it remains simultaneous and the rationales also mutually interrelated they interpenetrated so cannot separate one from the other easily so one of the most interesting things in China is you know how they do become separated nationalism and socialism and things like that nationalism is bound to anti-imperialism which is bound to universal justice via socialism now we find this also sort of somehow it's harder to find in China in the Chinese case in the same way but when you read something like on New Democracy of martyrdom I think that there is a very close interpenetration of the understanding of nationalism and and socialism and the ultimate appeal of social justice there its treated much more sequentially as in traditional Marxist thinking but it doesn't have to be and I think it goes back and forth I want to make another point to add one more element into this matrix that I've been talking about and that is the idea of an alternative civilization particularly in places like China and India that this is also because you know the classic especially after world war one classical sort of European civilization is identified very much with social Darwinism having lost its civilizing mission and so on but at least in Asia that's the feeling a lot of places in the West as well but this also becomes the opportunity for these anti-imperialist national movements to develop a sort of the idea of an alternative civilization choosing the best of their traditional civilizations which were not aggressive in competitive and things like that you can see it very much as a in fact that was predominantly a conservative appropriation but also had very strong socialist elements and it's interesting to explore how and why this comes around of course it was absent we think in the Marxist socialist movement in China but I think it's very interesting that someone like Mao Zedong had his fierce fierce debates or at least critiques of someone like Lang shuming liang shuang was somebody who founded the idea of not socialism but of deconstruction of China on China's drew roots and so on and this was something that Mao felt not certain but he felt was a as was an alternative and I think we can also see this sort of larger civilizational perspective in mouse notion of world leadership right it becomes very important especially in 1950 once they come to an agreement with the Soviet Union that we are going to be leaders of engine revolution and things like that so there is a civilizational dimension it's more embedded and implicit it's much clearer in India where I think ROM has shown us that Nehru was somebody who narrow and Gandhi were two different faces but I think we can see this matrix in both as well what for Nehru is in his discovery of India clearly we have an appeal to a lost civilization right this is the basic narrative of discovery of India is that India was great in its ancient period since then it's been losing out and how do we sort of restore it and and he had a very strong admiration of all civilizations that is the Chinese civilization I mean that is there all the way through I mean he was a true cosmopolitan in this sense and he was the true cost alternative civilizations man but of course this was all mixed up with his also his great admiration for socialist socialism as as a doctrine in particular in Gandhi's case we don't see an an explicit socialist there what you have is much more peasant civilization rural culture rom Raja the kingdom of ROM or the God ROM this rom doubtless the latest incarnation and and rural self-sufficiency and so on that was the basis of this critique but of course as we know and as this is a great overlap it's the Gandhian socialists who I think have made the most important interventions at a subliminal level in some ways at a political subconscious I think the two most important Gandhi and social from the indian heartland and this is a place that we call you know the cow belt you know the north indian cow belt regressive in every way but they're the ones who who sort of produced i would say to the most important indigenous socialists okay okay and they are a low here whom rom mentioned and and jayaprakash narayan who will just call JP for the moment they ROM has told us a lot you know one of the things that narrow also captured very well in his a distance from from the Soviet type Marxism and something which then these socialists provided an alternative to narrow said that the Communist Party of India is completely divorced from and his ignorant of the national traditions that fill the minds of the people right this is something of course that Mao was able to bridge both both dimensions but the Indian communists were absolutely not and this is what the Gandhian socialists were able to do and here lohia you've heard was had rural national dimension of socialism he was both anti-capitalist and anti-marxist he regarded cast as a kind of an uber determination of class but you could not pretend that it was just class right JP I think was in some ways the more important person I think Jay peas has a model of rural development and and he had a very strong anti autocratic sort of trend and this was of course most clearly in that he was the greatest leader of the anti emergency movement under indira gandhi from nineteen seventy five to seventy seven or something like that anyway and in other words he's he's somebody who's able to use socialism linked it to two notions of universal justice and link it back to certain types of transcendent claims and and here we have of course the programs that they develop in rural self develop a government and so on in particular the panchayati raj that is the village system of self-governance and many other I think you know sometimes these kinds of rural socialists are poo pooed in India's people have told me you know they're not important they didn't really have an impact and so on but in fact if you look at a lot of both the government programs and policies much of it is based on this kind of thinking the very establishment of panchayati raj the very one of the most important developments in india are these watershed development projects all over with which is very much they're very much participatory grassroot level organizations which may not be as efficient and effective as much more mobilize a tree one's right this is the difference I think this is not a mobilization of socialism as much as it is a participatory one and they are much less efficient I think but you see that the leadership is really comes out of and they're almost like messianic figures they almost you know people like Anna Hazare and so on who are appealed to by these NGOs who engage in these watershed development and other kinds of NGO participation things and finally I think that the greatest the most promising leader in India today and he I don't think has a Swiss bank account is Nitish Kumar the bihar chief minister who came directly out of the JP movement and I think and and he is suddenly has if there's anyone with any moral cash in Indian politics it's him and he has managed to achieve great effects in this way so anyway I have two more minutes let me just say that I think in China too so this is the effect in india i think the socialist tradition then you have to go through a different route than to come through traditional Marxism i agree with rom here in china i think there's still also very important survivals of socialism and not just in the rhetorical mode I think one and I only mentioned one one of the most important one is the fact that despite and effort to change rural property laws you still have property is still in owned by the collective and what the farmer has is the right or the migrant labor is it still has use of the land right and that is a very important development because it allows the migrant to come back to the rural area to make claims on whatever develops out of there whether it's a TV or some other agribusiness that is moving in and this is something I'm working on very centrally now but I think it provides the kind of floor which develops out of the older pattern of institutional socialism in China that continues to be important and an important sort of motivating force as well thank you

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