2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,000 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 17 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Match-fixing in Indian cricket

These are three of several articles I wrote in The Economic Times, Kolkata edition, during the period 1997-2000 on match-fixing in Indian cricket. They seem relevant even today and also point to the complicity of the BCCI in allowing match-fixing in Indian cricket to go on even now despite the matter being exposed at least 16 years earlier.

Article 1

The irony of postmodern cricket

By Arjun Sen

“The avant garde (modern) destroys, defaces the past……..The postmodern reply to the modern consists of recognizing that the past, since it cannot be really destroyed, because its destruction leads to silence, must be revisited: but with irony, not innocently. I think of the postmodern attitude as that of a man who loves a very cultivated woman and knows he cannot say to her, “I love you madly,” because he knows that she knows (and that she knows that he knows) that these words have already been written by Barbara Cartland. Still, there is a solution. He can say, “As Barbara Cartland would have put it, I love you madly.” At this point, having avoided false innocence, having said clearly that it is no longer possible to speak innocently, he will nevertheless have said what he wanted to say to the woman: that he loves her, but he loves her in an age of lost innocence. If the woman goes along with this, she will have received a declaration of love all the same. Neither of the two speakers will feel innocent, both will have accepted the challenge of the past, of the already said, which cannot be eliminated; both will consciously and with pleasure play the game of irony……..But both will have succeeded, once again, in speaking of love.

Irony, metalinguistic play, enunciation squared. Thus, with the modern, anyone who does not understand the game can only reject it, but with the postmodern, it is possible not to understand the game and yet to take it seriously.  Which is, after all, the quality (the risk) of irony. There is always someone who takes ironic discourse seriously. ………The postmodern discourse…demands, in order to be understood, not the negation of the already said, but its ironic rethinking.”

- Umberto Eco in Postscript to The Name of the Rose.

Traditional Test cricket had its moments of glory before the arrival of the avant garde protesters disillusioned with what apparently was a slow moving game spread over as long as five days.

The modern heretics – Kerry Packer and Company – challenged and changed the pre-modern sport. Then, One Day Internationals (ODIs) became the name of the game.

There was the day-night innovation. Payjama cricket (bedroom cricket, if you will, for the couch potatos, trying not to miss even a second of the dying moments of a nail-biter even as the Sun is getting ready to get out of bed) has revolutionised the imperial game.

There was the sudden cramming of the international cricket calender. It was no more the game of the kings. The hoi polloi had taken over. Cricket for the masses, cricket for the market. “To market, to market to buy a fat evening of cricket entertainment,” ran the new nursery rhyme. The rules of the game had changed. The modernisers had tried to destroy and deface the pre-modern game and mould it to the modern, market-driven version.

But the past, since it cannot really be destroyed, must be revisited: but with irony, not innocently. No more is it possible to think of a cricket game as just a game as it once was. No more is it possible to accept the glorious uncertainties of the game innocently. One can do so only with irony -only with the sure knowledge that whatever be the uncertainties of the game it was now being played with the certainty of making profits.

The postmodern game was then born. When Test cricket’s widely-acknowledged master batsman hit a century in an ODI with a strike rate close to 100 but using only approved Test cricketing shots (Sunil Gavaskar’s century against New Zealand in the Reliance World Cup in 1987), we witnessed an attempt at entering the postmodern era of modern cricket. An attempt to revisit the past but not innocently, not in the way one would score a century in Test cricket but instantly, as it were, despite trying to do so with certainty and solidity by sticking to Test cricket’s time-tested batting techniques.

When controversies break out about match-fixing and betting in cricket, we again are witness to symptoms of postmodernity in the sport. The market has taken over, the game can never again be played in the same way that it used to be played in the past. The glorious uncertainties of the game have become a liability for those seeking certain profit. So the game had to be reinvented, or revisited if you will.

The outcomes had to be certain but the game had to still wear the veneer of uncertainty. A new metalanguage became necessary. So that inexplicable inconsistencies could be explained consistently using an impossible text. Five wickets in a match? That was excellent bowling! Never mind the fact that all the wickets were the result of some extremely poor batting.

Flat wickets, no turn, no movement! Never mind the fact that swinging the ball in the air and getting movement in the air has nothing to do with the nature of the pitch. Or, for that matter, never mind the fact that to get the ball to turn you had to have the ability and the intention to do so. Or, never mind the fact that the same bowler, bowling on the same pitch is able to get movement one day and can manage to bowl only as straight as a ray of light the next. As long as poor bowling (or batting) could always be explained by an impossible text – in this case the flat nature of the pitch – you could create certain outcomes despite wearing the veneer of uncertainty.

And as long as commentators, critiques and consumers of the game were willing to ride along – willing to think of the modern game as to be the same as the pre-modern one – despite knowing that everybody knows that it is not so – the postmodern discourse on cricket could go on.

As long as we can still think of cricket as the game of glorious uncertainties despite knowing with certainty that it cannot possibly have remained so given the pressures of making sure profits, the magic reality of postmodern cricket will continue to find millions of takers.

India can then win the Sahara Cup beating Pakistan convincingly in the first three matches of a five match series despite both sides playing some extremely poor cricket. Debashis Mohanty can bowl well to make a winning contribution and yet fail to get mentioned by his skipper Sachin in the post-match press conference. Indian cricket fans can again think of the national team cricketers as heroes. Saurav Ganguly can become the Man of the Match in the crucial deciding game although it is the Pakistanis who inexplicably chose to gift him all of five wickets. India has won but cricket has lost. But then, that is the irony of postmodern cricket.

Article 2

Match-fixing in Indian cricket (this may not be the actual heading as published in ET)

By Arjun Sen

At last the veil of secrecy is being lifted on India’s worst kept secret. Slowly but steadily evidence – albiet only circumstantial evidence – is piling up that match-fixing is on in Indian cricket.

For many of us avid cricket followers, a recent report on the subject in a weekly news magazine has come as no surprise. That there was something extremely mysterious about the performances of the Indian team has been known to us ever since the early eighties when India first began to emerge as a major cricketing force. In fact, one can even pin it down to the time from when master batsman Sunil Gavaskar became India’s captain.

In those early days, we tried to explain those mysterious performances by thinking that it is part and parcel of the new professionalism that has appeared in Indian cricket and the non-performance of certain top players in inexplicable ways was just a way of team building. Something that happens in all other professionalised team sports such as soccer. For, after all, you cannot groom new players unless you thrust upon them a heavy workload under trying circumstances.

Take for example, the Delhi Test against Pakistan in the early eighties where Dilip Vengsarkar scored a brilliant century to save the match for India after India had lost both their then top batsmen – Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Viswanath – very cheaply and that too in uncharacteristic fashion.

If Gavaskar and Vishwanath always bat well then other batsmen will never get a chance to play a long innings under pressure. So, they will never get a chance to realise their full potential. From the team point of view, therefore, established players should once in a while take it a little easy on the field to give newcomers a chance to prove their mettle.

This made a lot of sense so that even when a Gavaskar or a Vishwanath got out to atrocious schoolboy shots it was surprising but not altogether incomprehensible. You could see the benefits to the team when top players did not monopolise all the action.

In fact, that Delhi Test was the turning point in Vengsarkar’s career. From that Test onwards, he never looked back till his retirement in the early nineties. And before that Test everyone knew he had the potential but he was failing to realise it.

Hence, even if we then felt that perhaps Gavaskar or Vishwanath had deliberately played poor shots to get out cheaply, we felt it was all being done in the best interests of the team.

One would like to believe that such things happen even today and that top players every now and then take it a little easy on the field to thrust younger players into tight situations and in the process check out who among them have the temperament and the class to continue to play at the highest levels of the game.

Of course, at any level of the game this is the only way a really good, balanced team can be built up. A team which does not have to depend on the performance of just one or two players but which has the batting and bowling depth to emerge winners even on days when the top players fail for whatever reason.

The key to such team building is to use not-so-important matches for trying out new players, forcing them to play under difficult circumstances and thereby giving them the chance to come good even in those difficult circumstances so that they gain confidence which is vital for performing well when the team most needs such good performance. In the process, of course, the team may lose a match or two since the top players did not play to their full potential. But the long term benefits to the team more than compensate such defeats in what are relatively less important matches.

On the other hand, teams which do not follow such a policy and instead ask their top players to always play to their full potential and always try to win are likely to end up having just one or two good players who always monopolise the action.

The rest of the team members then remain minnows for all practical purposes despite having played a lot of matches in terms of numbers but not in terms of actual exposure with the result that they lack the experience of playing under pressure cooker situations and therefore lack that vital ingredient – confidence.

Ultimately, such teams often find that in a crucial match, say in the finals of a tournament, the law of averages catches up with the top players, they fail and the entire team goes down without putting up even the semblance of a fight.

Moreover, in long-drawn tournaments in team games such as soccer or hockey, it is common knowledge that coaches often do not field the best team in the early, easier rounds, nor do they ask the players to strive too hard in the early matches but instead try to pace their effort in a manner such that the team peaks at the right time — may be in the semi-finals and the finals — the two toughest matches that must be won to win the tournament.

Also, if you do not always play to your full potential then you can keep your opponents guessing as to your real strengths and weaknesses. In fact, teams can even play to a deliberately worked out strategy of consistently showing itself to be weak in a certain area where in reality it is actually strong so that in a crucial match when the opponents come with a plan of exploiting that weakness they get the surprise of their lives. After all, the element of surprise is vital to winning battles be it on the battlefield or the cricket field.

For example, a batsman who is actually very strong on the offside may deliberately get out to offside deliveries in a few non-crucial matches giving opponents the impression that he is weak on the offside. On the crucial day, when opponents try to play to a plan of bowling to this batsmen on the offside they get badly hit in the first few overs. By the time they realize what is happening the match may have slipped out of the hands of the opponents. This is a somewhat naive and simplistic example but I hope it does bring out the point.

In the early eighties, watching India play and lose matches due to the unexpected failure of top players at times seemed to us surprising but one could also see that often as a result of such failures new, younger players were getting a chance to prove themselves and thereby become valuable assets to the team.

This was more so in the case of lower order batsmen and second string bowlers who normally would not be expected to do much because of the presence of other established heavyweights in the team.

For example, one remembers an extremely exciting ODI against Pakistan at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi __ perhaps the first day-nighter in Indian cricket history – which India won due to some excellent lower order batting by Madan Lal, Roger Binny and Kirmani after all the other heavyweights had got out with India still needing some sixty odd runs to be scored at a brisk pace of over eight runs an over.

It is therefore, possible to claim that there is a flip side – a positive side – to not always playing to full potential. But this sort of strategic cricket cannot be called deliberate tanking for purposes of betting although in certain matches India may have lost when the result should actually have been a victory. And although there is no documentary evidence or even circumstantial evidence to prove that from the late seventies or early eighties Indian teams have been playing in this strategic manner except this ‘simple’ matter of the inexplicable nature of certain poor performances which can easily be passed off as merely being evidence of the so-called glorious uncertainties of cricket, the fact remains that India managed to become a world power in cricket during this period winning the World Cup in 1983 and then the Benson & Hedges Cup in Australia in 1985.

So, if there was any deliberate strategic underpotential play in certain matches, in the crucial matches at least, India did emerge victorious and there was no suspicion of deliberate tanking for betting purposes even though in certain not so crucial matches one could see some absolutely inexplicable performances from top players leading to defeats for the team.

The 1987 Reliance World Cup was a different cup of tea altogether. For the first time, we got to see some absolutely inexplicable performance by the Indian team in as crucial a match as the semi-final against England at Mumbai which India lost. Here was the first occasion when India was losing in a crucial match for what seemed to be non-cricketing reasons.

Otherwise, why should two left arm spinners suddenly switch to bowling to Gooch and Gatting on their leg and middle stumps although in their first few overs the two batsmen were clearly uncomfortable against an off-stump/outside off stump line?

Why were there huge gaps in the leg side even after Gooch and Gatting had made it clear that the only shot they were going to apply to the left arm spinners was the sweep shot and why was the leg side at last strengthened only after the two English batsmen had already done the damage?

Why did India decide to field first even after winning the toss despite knowing very well that in one day cricket it is almost always easier to set a target rather than chase one unless the pitch was clearly going to behave badly in the first half (it did not) or the weather was clearly against those batting first (it was not)?

Why did Azhar and Kapil get out to atrocious shots? Why did master batsman Sunil Gavaskar suddenly develop a huge gap between bat and pad – something that one does not expect to see even among good club level cricketers and yet here was the world’s best batsman with a brilliant century behind him in just the previous match showing such a horrible technical deficiency?

Why did Kapil who saw a man being shifted to deep mid-wicket in just the previous ball still try to lift the very next ball exactly in the direction where a man had been shifted to in just the previous ball? There were no reasonable answers to these and many other questions. It all seemed to be an inexplicable act of collective harakiri by some of the world’s best cricketers.

It is from then on that some of us have begun to think that India’s performances on the cricket field cannot be explained by cricketing reasons alone. Even what may seem to some as a new approach – the idea of strategic cricket – could not quite explain what was happening on the field. The strategic cricket explanation is fine as long as the team keeps on winning crucial tournaments but it fails horribly as an explanatory theory when you see weird inexplicable cricket on the field leading to defeat in such a crucial match as a World Cup semi-final.

Examples of such inexplicable and weird games can be multiplied – for example, the 1996 World Cup semi-final against Sri Lanka at the Eden Gardens. Again we found India electing to field despite winning the toss on an entirely unknown newly-laid pitch. And nobody knows better than the Indian team how much more difficult it is to bat under the lights at Eden Gardens with all those crackers going off making the atmosphere smoky and hazy which is over and above all the other usual difficulties of batting under lights.

Then there was that absolutely stunning collapse. Everything was hunky dory when suddenly Sachin took a casual walk from the crease for no apparent reason only to be stumped out. Azhar came, played forward lazily with head held high in a manner that even a schoolboy cricketer who has received some coaching would never do. Srinath was promoted in the batting order again for no apparent reason since the Sri Lankans had piled up only a modest total and there was no cricketing reason to send in Srinath to push up the scoring rate. Srinath’s run out was equally baffling. And before you could say Lanka, from an apparently simple winning situation the Indians had put themselves into a hopeless situation. No wonder the crowd turned violent as they simply could not digest the absolutely weird cricket that was going on in the middle.

Article 3

 I am reproducing here the exact file that went out to other editions of Times of India that night – most probably on the first Saturday of August, 1997.

REs/NEs/Sport Editors: TOI ALL EDITIONS

We are using this on our sports pages tonight under the Freewheeling column. Please consider this for use in your sports pages:  Gautam Bhattacharya, ETC

Freewheeling

 “Why are you giving excuses Mr Gavaskar?”

 By Arjun Sen

 Unfortunately, the controversies have sapped their confidence and they are wondering about aimlessly in the field. If it was too much cricket earlier, it is too many questions about their integrity now. If those asking the questions are really interested in Indian cricket, they must either supply the answers or stop asking questions!

- Sunil Gavaskar in ET, Calcutta, 29.7.1997.

 Mr Sunil Gavaskar, former master batsman and presently top expert, has once again expressed his displeasure about questions being asked about Indian cricket. Clearly, he would have been happier if Indian cricket fans, instead of asking uncomfortable questions, learned to become “sporting” enough to enjoy watching their national team lose time and again in an international match and that too in a humiliating, spineless, pathetic fashion and without appearing to be putting up a fight to the best of their abilities.

We have heard a lot about there “being no question about the world class ability and potential in some of the members of the team,” but the problem is that the team almost never seems to be playing to its potential.

To put the record straight, if questions are being asked today about the team’s integrity then it is the team to blame and not those asking the questions.

It is the poor performances of the Indian team in recent times – for example, at St Vincent’s against the West Indies or the defeat at the hands of even lowly-placed Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe during India’s last tour to the African continent, or the losses to Pakistan in the Sahara Cup in Canada and the list can go on – which have led to the asking of questions.

So, if somebody now says that the poor performances are a result of questions being asked, it sounds too much like an expert excuse. The questions came after poor performances and not the other way round.

But then, Mr Gavaskar would probably argue, given his views quoted above, that the earlier poor performances were due to too much cricket. And before that, the poor performances were due to too little cricket in the recent past and the consequent rustiness. And now it is the controversies that are affecting performance.

As far as excuses go, this is all very fine, very expertly thought out. But what about other teams? While India played 36 One Day Internationals during the period June, 1996 to June, 1997 with a success rate of 30.6 per cent, Pakistan played 44 ODIs in the same period with a success rate of 56.8 per cent, Sri Lanka played 26 matches with a success rate of 61.53 per cent, and South Africa played 23 matches with a success rate of 69.56 per cent. Only Australia played 23 matches but had a success rate close to India’s at 30.4 per cent.

In other words, none of the major Test playing nations except the West Indies (15 matches with a 60 per cent success rate), have played less than 23 matches during the same period and if we take into account the overall schedule of ODIs in world cricket today, instead of choosing any artificial cut off points like June, 1996, then it becomes clear that for any team, playing between 30-40 matches per year has become the norm rather than the exception.

If one has to succeed, one has to do so given this basic parameter. Poor performance because of excessive cricket is, therefore, at best a lame excuse and at worst a deliberate attempt to gloss over the real ills of Indian cricket.

As for controversies arising on the question of team selection, well, the question is should the captain of a team express lack of faith in his players at the beginning of a tournament or should he have waited for the tournament to end and then given his views about team selection? Again in this case too, it is the team captain rather than people who are not “really interested in Indian cricket” who are raising questions and creating controversies.

We have also heard a lot about how the game is so different at the “highest level” and how there are always people dime a dozen at every street corner who dare to comment on various aspects of the game without having any inkling about what the game is all about at the highest level.

But Mr Gavaskar, does playing at the highest level give anybody the right to show a total lack of commitment to the game and to the country’s honour? Because that is what we, poor Indian cricket fans, are watching day in and day out.

Like in any other sport, in cricket too, winning and losing is all part of the game and no one minds losing as long as one’s favourite team goes down fighting. But when you see the same team losing in a callous fashion despite having in the team players with undoubted caliber, it is then that accepting defeat becomes so difficult and it is then that fans ask uncomfortable questions.

And, it is then that one feels that perhaps we could do with a team of players who have never played at the so-called highest level but who are at least not short on commitment or fighting spirit. We may still continue to lose but those defeats won’t hurt because we will see that the team has lost despite everyone trying his best to uphold national pride. Defeats then will not surely lead to asking uncomfortable questions.

Many of us cricket fans not only in India but all over the world have always looked up to you, Mr Gavaskar, as perhaps the greatest batsman in the history of cricket. Many of us have also learnt a lot about the game from you albeit from a distance – much like Eklavya in The Mahabharata who watching from a distance learnt from Dronacharya teaching his disciples.

Hence, today, it hurts to find that you have chosen to use your world-acknowledged expertise in cricket to provide excuses for the Indian team’s pathetic performances on the field and in the process try to shut up those who have been forced to ask questions regarding the team’s performance out of the sense of humiliation and anguish that comes from watching the team lose even in situations when it should never have lost.

So, why are you doing this Mr Gavaskar?

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Revolutionary Movements in a Post-Marxian Era: Towards an actionable agenda – Part III: Why COFs will beat Capitalist Firms in the market and why they are the future?

Why should the so-called Communist Hypothesis, briefly outlined in my last post, if implemented, more likely to succeed than the Socialist Hypothesis? Let me try to answer this question in this post today.

Forces of Production vs Relations of Production

One key aspect of social change is that new types of atomic social organisations (ASOs) for carrying out the task of social production, namely, Firms, must be economically more efficient and successful in carrying out the task of social production in some rigorously definable way than older type Firms so that they are able to establish their dominance and eventually replace the older type Firms. In short, new type of Firms should somehow represent an advance of over older type of Firms.

This thought is captured somewhat partially and vaguely in the following Marxian formulation and I may as well quote Marx himself to avoid any misinterpretation:

At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.

- Karl Marx, Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, 1859

Unfortunately, this was no more than an observation about social change from the history of social change and failed to provide any detailed analysis or explanation as to why this should be so. Why should old relations of production (ROP), or as Marx claims they are the same as “property relations”, come into conflict with and become a fetter on further development of the productive forces or Forces of Production (FOP), and why older forms of “property relations” must give way to new “property relations” for the continued development of the FOP?

ROP is more complex than oversimplified “property relations”

With Marx and his subsequent followers failing to recognise that ROP manifest themselves at the micro-economic level of individual Firms in any discretely definable society, Marxists have, for the last 153 years since the publication of this formulation, or more correctly general observation, unquestioningly accepted the validity of this observation simply because in a very general and oversimplified way, this observation has appeared to be empirically valid.

The dogmatic acceptance of this oversimplified observation led to the misconception that if private property is replaced by state property on a macroeconomic scale one could create a new social order that would mark an advance over capitalism.

But once we make the theoretical advance that ROP manifest themselves at the micro-economic scale at the level of the individual Firms, it becomes easy to see that instead of the vague and oversimplified category “property relations”, the two key determining aspects of any ROP is (a) how the production carried out by production ASOs, namely Firms, is shared between the property owning class providing the means of production and the labour owning class providing the labour power within those Firms – these being the two factors of production necessary to carry out any kind of production (and there are none remaining that can contribute to production despite the gobbledygook produced by mainstream capitalist economists), and (b) whether these two factors of production  are owned by the same class or different classes within any given Firm.

Different types of ROP and whether they are class-less or not must, therefore,  be differentiated on the basis of these two determinants and not by a vague, oversimplified, general term “property relations”.

Once this clarity is achieved, it then also becomes easy to see that in Collectively Owned Firms or simply Collective Firms (COFs or CFs) it is the same class that owns both the means of production as well as the labour power that must be brought together to carry out any kind of social production and consequently, there is automatically some sort of equity in the distribution of social production. Thus, COFs are class-less and therefore, more equitable in character.

[A footnote here:

This also means that the necessary condition of primitive communism or modern communism is the existence of COFs as ASOs in such "communist" societies.

In this context, for purposes of easier understanding and greater clarity, let me mention right away that the necessary and sufficient condition for both Primitive Communism and Modern Communism is that such COFs must also be owned by Collective Households to ensure equitable distribution of social production and we shall try to show why this is so a while later.]

On the other hand, all types of Privately Owned Firms or simply Private Firms (POFs or PFs) are class-riven and the distribution of social production is iniquitous. In such Firms, means of production is owned by one class while labour power is provided by another class and the distribution of the social production is unequal between the two classes through different sharing or distribution formulas in different types of Private Firms with the class owning the means of production, or, in other words, the property-owning class, keeping a much larger share of the production while the class providing labour power getting a much smaller share of the social production.

This results in exploitation defined as grabbing of surplus value by the class providing means of production by dint of property ownership where surplus value is defined as total production less share of production given to the class providing labour. All types of Private Firms are, therefore, exploitative.

This notion of exploitation is based on the simple idea that ultimately any production can take place only when means of production – non-human animate or inanimate objects – things-in-themselves – such as land, machinery, raw materials, domesticated plants and animals or as in the past, if we consider hunting-gathering societies, Nature in general – can be converted into things-for-us, that is, things that humans can consume in order to exist, only when human labour power is exerted on the things-in-themselves to bring about this conversion.

If there is no human labour power coming into the picture, things-in-themselves remain things-in-themselves and do not get converted into things-for-us – no production takes place. So, all human social production is the result of human labour power and since production is always carried out in atomic social organisations, if such production is not equitably distributed between the people comprising the ASO, exploitation takes place – some people benefit more from the production than other people involved in bringing about this production although all the people are equally required to bring about the production.

Why there is no difference between socialism and capitalism?

Once we acquire this conceptual clarity it is easy to see that since  ROP manifests itself at the micro-economic scale within the confines of individual Firms, and since state ownership leaves the ROP at the micro-economic scale of Firms entirely the same as in privately owned Firms,  state owned Firms are no different from so-called privately owned Firms of any capitalist market economy. Let us see why.

State-owned Firms even in a fully centralised command economy operate on the basis of exchange value and although prices are determined administratively and not by market forces, the generation of profits of such Firms require that administrative prices of labour and output – i.e. wages and commodity output prices – be set in such a fine-tuned way that surplus value is generated. If such surplus value is not generated and in turn profits are not generated even State-owned Firms become unsustainable and have to be closed down sooner than later. So State-owned Firms also have to make profits in order to exist and continue to exist.

In such State-owned Firms production is inequitably distributed between workers on the one hand and the State bureaucracy and party functionaries on the other, the latter being the people who exercise control over these Firms and therefore, are nothing but a new class of property-owners – the workers remaining what they always were – mere providers of human labour power.

In other words, there is absolutely no difference between privately-owned Firms and State-owned Firms from an ROP point of view – both are class-riven – both have to make profits from exploitation of the labour-providing class by generation of surplus value. And it is the class owning or controlling means of production who reap the benefits of such exploitation – in the case of privately-owned Firms it is the private capitalists who reap these benefits and are the exploiters, in the case of State-owned Firms it is the State bureaucrats and party functionaries who wield all the power and are effectively the people who “own” or control State-owned Firms and are the exploiters. The class owning or controlling the means of production take the lion’s share of the production carried out by these Firms and the class providing human labour power get little more than what is absolutely necessary for subsistence or in any case substantially less than what the class owning means of production get.

That State ownership is nothing but state capitalism in terms of the empirical evidence with regard to the behaviour of state-owned Firms and the outcomes for workers in so-called “communist”/socialist countries such as Soviet Russia and China is already quite well documented and commented upon and there is a fairly substantial literature on the subject.

Here I am trying to provide the theoretical explanation as to why State-owned Firms are no different from Privately-owned Firms – they have the same ROP at the ASO level – the micro-level of Firms. The view that State-owned Firms in particular and socialism in general represents any structural change from pure unadulterated capitalism and they also represent an advance over capitalism is, therefore, nothing but a complete myth. They are not because they are one and the same thing as far as ROP are concerned and workers are often much more exploited in socialist countries than in their capitalist counterparts because of such factors as lack of trade union rights, the right to strike work, etc.  and plain and simple state terror.

The reader is invited to take a look at the substantial literature on the empirical evidence as to why socialist states are nothing but state capitalist states and how state-owned firms in these societies are almost exactly similar to capitalist firms in capitalist countries in terms of their economic behaviour and the actual outcomes for workers – workers remain wage slaves and exploited through same or similar mechanisms in both types of Firms and societies and for this simple reason socialism or socialist Firms represent absolutely no advance over capitalism or capitalist Firms.

This also explains why all socialist states have ultimately reverted back or are reverting back to capitalism and market-based private ownership. Let us see why?

As the production of such primarily state-owned socialist economies grow, within a few years or at the most few decades, the number of goods and services and the number of Firms for which prices and wages have to be set  administratively goes well beyond what humans or even computers can keep track of and gradually distortions in the demand and supply of goods and services needed by society also go beyond sustainable levels with administrators – the people setting output prices and wages – having absolutely no clue as to how to correct these demand-supply imbalances.

Then a period of reforms set in and such command economies invariably go back to an economic system where output prices and wages have to be allowed to be determined by the market forces of demand and supply.

With the essential character of the ROP obtaining in State Owned Firms remaining the same as in Private Firms of a capitalist market economy, privatising State Owned Firms in such economies is just a matter of administrative action and even if some Firms remain State Owned, their ROP remain essentially the same as those obtaining in Private Firms and there is absolutely no structural change in the ASOs of such societies. This explains in brief the history of the rise and fall of societies based on the Socialist Hypothesis.

How Forces of Production impact ROP and change ROP?

With this to serve as the basic conceptual framework, we can now proceed to the question of how the development of the productive forces impact ROP and bring about new types of Firms.

Let us begin with how primitive communist Firm (CFs) gave way to Slave Firms. Primitive communist Firms were basically hunting-gathering Firms and used simple tools to carry out production. Primitive communism was a stable form of society for many thousands of years and although tool making and other productive technology developed within the CFs of primitive communism such development of productive forces did not bring about any change in the ROP. Meanwhile, change was taking place in the other basic type of ASO – the Household. RORP was changing as I have said before under the impact of evolutionary forces and genetics – the reproductive relations between adult males and females were moving from complete promiscuity to less and less consanguine relations so that increasingly the Household was becoming less and less collective in nature until the appearance of the pairing family based on Private RORP – private marriage or marriage between individuals rather than any form of group marriage, i.e marriage between groups of individuals. All previous forms of marriage were based on collective RORPs, i.e. forms of group marriage.

While the primordial condition was one big ASO – the natural biological group, to use the terminology of zoologists, comprising several adult males and females and their offspring – which was at the same time one Collective Firm “owned” by one Collective Household, as RORP became less and less collective in character several Households appeared within the one primordial natural biological group.

It is a certainty that as the new genus Homo evolved as distinct from Pan (chimpanzees – genetically closest to humans), initially there must have been several natural biological groups  and several competing hominid species and over time only one of these species have evolved into modern man – Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

For the purposes of our discussion, we need not go into the details of such evolutionary anthropological processes except to point out that each such primordial ASO – each primordial natural biological group of hominids irrespective of the particular species they may have belonged to – evolved into a single more or less homogenous tribe or clan living together as the early communities of hominids.

Each such tribe or clan was at that time a discretely definable society and more complex societies comprising several tribes or clans must have emerged much later and certainly not earlier than the emergence of private property and the state.

As is seen from the history of the indigenous tribes of North America – the so-called Red Indians – or other tribal societies elsewhere in the world – different tribes lived in relative peace and clashes broke out only when economic pressures or reproductive pressures – population growth combined with less abundance of what could be hunted or gathered either due to human or non-human natural causes and less abundance of women (one of the two factors of reproduction, the other being men) – forced tribes to seek to expand and grab the territory and women of other tribes.

Also, since there was no economic logic for maintaining male slaves such tribal clashes resulted in the killing of males of other tribes but not conversion of them into slaves. As a result, slavery did not appear within such ASOs and both Households and Firms remained collective and primitive communist in character although within the society – one single collective Firm – many households had appeared and finally the pairing household appeared but still there was no change in the hunting-gathering technologies used for production and there was no change in the ROP within the collective Firm that each such society was.

[Here as an aside, I should point out that ASOs are teleological organisations or goal-oriented organisations and they have existed since the beginning of time as far as human social history is concerned to carry out the tasks of production in the case of Firms and reproduction in the case of Households. Consequently, the behaviour of these ASOs is entirely explained by whatever it takes to carry out these two tasks respectively and changes in the behaviour of these ASOs are determined entirely by the requirements of carrying out these tasks. I shall try to take this up in more detail in a later post when I discuss the relationship between structure and superstructure in human social formations.]

The transition from primitive communism to slavery

The development of animal husbandry and agriculture changed all that. The emergence of Households based on the pairing family had already created the social base for the emergence of private property which had already begun to appear in a rudimentary form in the shape of what things each Household “owned” within the tribe that still operated as a single collective Firm.

The domestication of animals on the one hand and the existence of private households on the other – private households based on the pairing family – meant that some households began to own more domesticated animals than other households.

Similarly, the development of agriculture also meant that some households began to cultivate more land than other households.

Within the womb of the Collective hunting-gathering primitive communist Collective Firms new relations of production were appearing – initially without much tension within the overall collective framework because different households must have simply shared their individual outputs within the Collective Firm of the tribe but soon new tensions and contradictions began to appear.

The men, the warriors, who naturally contributed more to capturing land that could be brought under cultivation as well as taming and domesticating wild animals such as horses and other bovines as well as smaller canines for helping them in hunting, were naturally at the forefront of putting up fences around the land they owned and declaring that the land and animals belonged to them.

The pairing family had already created a situation where mother right could be dispensed with – if the pairing was made strict – that is, if the wife could be forced to have sexual relations only with the paired husband and no other man, it would become possible for the father to know that the wife was giving birth only to his children and not the children of other men.

This was not possible in all previous forms of group marriage where only the mother had any idea, and often even the mother would have no idea who the father of any child was. Children could be identified only on the basis of their mother and not father and so automatically all previous Households were matrilineal in character where mother right prevailed.

Now differences in land ownership and in the ownership of domestic animals came into conflict with the Collective character of primitive communist Firms – people who owned more naturally were reluctant to share with people who owned less and the collective character of the primitive communist Collective Firm began to increasingly come under pressure. This was further aggravated by the ownership of slaves because by this time it had become economically viable to employ  slaves for cultivation of land and for upkeep of domesticated animals.

I am here merely repeating much of what has already been discussed by Engels in Origin of the Family, Private & State just to reinterpret all of that material in terms of Firms and Households rather than in the oversimplified, vague and general terms that Engels had used as he had not succeeded in going beyond broad empirical observation to realising in a theoretical and conceptual sense that both relations of production and relations of reproduction manifest themselves at the micro level within Firms and Households respectively.

All these developments meant that Firms based on the ROP of Slavery emerged within the womb of primitive communist society based on Collective Firms. Soon a time came when societies hitherto based on the old collective relations of production sharing and distribution, the crux of the term relations of production, found themselves being dominated by Private Firms having private relations of production based on Slavery. The men-folk now demanded their pound of flesh – they demanded private property and they demanded inheritance laws so that they could leave behind their property to their children on their death – this required the transformation of the simple pairing family into the monogamic family where women were at last enslaved by men and the sexual freedoms of women got restricted even as men continued to enjoy multiple sexual relationships with other women through their harems of slave women and prostitutes. Prostitution too was born at around this time.

Private monogamic marriage and the Private Household was born and with it came private property and the Private Firm. Civilisation was born with the emergence of Private Firms and Private Households – with the antagonistic contradictions between men and women in Households and between property-owning and non-property-owning classes in Firms.With these antagonisms in place the state as the primary superstructural element in society had to come into being.

Private Households and Firms could be sustained only by the imposition of so-called law and order imposed by the State as these Private Firms and Households were based on ROP and RORP – the absolutely basic human social relationships obtaining at the micro level, atomic social organisation level  – that were essentially exploitative in nature and violated all principles of natural justice and of the basic principles that guide the rest of life in Nature – the rest of the living species on planet earth other than Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

Man-made laws, rules and regulations became imperative to maintain human society because unlike other living species who have Firms and Households based on natural laws, rules and regulations arrived at through evolutionary processes, humans needed to create a State machinery to maintain by force the unnatural and man-made categories of private property and monogamic marriage.

[Again as an aside let me mention that the concept of property definitely exists in the world of higher animals and probably also in plants and other smaller microscopic forms of life. All living species need an eco-niche - a space within Nature from where it draws its sustenance. Readers more competent in biology and zoology can expand on this concept but for the purposes of this discussion it is suffice to discuss the concept of territorial property in some of the higher animals - say, for example, lions and tigers.

I am not going into too much details as I lack the biological and zoological competence to do so but very generally it is widely known that both lions and tigers fiercely protect their territories or their private properties.

The key difference between such naturally arrived at property through evolutionary processes and the man-made private property of human beings is that the private property of lions and tigers are based on natural needs while human private property though originally emerging through evolutionary processes (human social evolution is part of the overall evolutionary process) got converted into an unnatural and in fact an anti-Nature category because of human greed.

Lions and tigers and I suppose all other living species on planet Earth acquire whatever "property" is needed to survive and maintain their existence but humans, especially property-owners, ever since human society became "unnatural or anti-Nature" with the emergence of Private Firms and Households, want more and more property to satisfy their greed for more and more even after their basic wants and what is needed for their basic sustenance has been obtained.

Instead of venturing into what will surely turn out to be an unending moral and philosophical discussion, I should close this discussion by merely pointing out that lions, tigers and other living species acquire only so much property, only so much eco-niche, as they need to survive, but Man as the most evolved living species does not.

Why that is so maybe a philosophical question that will ever remain unanswered but the scientific situation is that this is the undoing of human beings as a living species.

It is because of this greed, because of this desire to acquire more of an eco-niche than what is required for survival, the morbid desire of individual humans to own the whole world if possible, that we are now facing a situation of mass extinction not only of other living species on this planet but humans themselves and the writing on the wall is so obvious that it is a waste of time and intellectual energy to argue in detail as to why this is so. The concept of eco-footprint brings this out very well - how our eco-footprint, especially that of so-called developed societies, is much more than what we need to survive.

Already whole hordes of scientists have amassed enough evidence on why we are as a species heading for extinction and here I will restrict myself to merely say that today Private Households and Private Firms have simply become unsustainable.

As statistics-minded readers can easily check out, in the case of the ASO for reproduction, the Household,  the more developed a capitalist society, the higher is the share of state spending on family welfare and on maintaining the nuclear family and so-called family values and there is a direct correlation between  capitalist development and state spending on maintaining the family or the Household. But to no avail as the more developed a capitalist society, the higher is the rate of breakdown of the family or Households and the higher is the incidence of single-parent families.

Similarly, in the case of ASOs for production, the Firms, the more developed a capitalist society, the more is the share of the state spending on maintaining and baling out the largest Firms by invoking the Too Big to Fail hypothesis or the "Economic Stimulus or Quantitative Easing" hypothesis. The other major area of state spending is on security and maintaining law and order and on defence - all aimed at maintaining the existing structure of class-riven ASOs - Private Firms and Households. 

As a combined effect of the need to maintain Private Households and Firms, state spending on a global scale by capitalist states throughout the world has been growing at an asymptotic rate over the last few decades and has now reached unsustainable levels as reflected in huge fiscal deficits and sovereign debt combined with high levels of inflation brought about by too much printing of money. 

The point is: it is because Private Firms and Private Households are based on unnatural  human relationships that violate the principles of natural justice, that the State was needed. The rest of the living species on planet Earth do not need a State as they do not have to maintain Firms and Households that are based on unnatural principles that violate the principle of natural justice. But humans do because only by using the State machinery and the State gendarmie can a few individuals (read 1% in terms of the OWS movement ) lord over the rest of the people (read 99% in terms of the OWS movement).

In the natural world any such grabbing of eco-niche by a minority would have been dealt with simply - the majority would have killed and removed the minority and life would have gone on smoothly in a natural way and which is exactly what happens in the rest of Nature.

In the case of human beings, the State and its gendarmie makes sure that a minority can continue to rule over a majority in the most unnatural and anti-Nature way violating all principles of natural justice as well as the basic laws of nature.

This is the single most important reason why in a society based on Collective Firms owned by Collective Households the state will "wither away "and will not be required - humans will be able to go back to a natural and pro-Nature way of living based on principles that do not violate the principles of natural justice and therefore, do not require a State to enforce unnatural and anti-Nature laws, rules or regulations.]

Coming back to the main thread of our argument, all this meant that throughout society there was a need to rework past values of community living, sharing and group marriage and replace them by new ones that were compatible with private property and monogamic marriage.

Nature worship gave way to organised religion which said theft was sin, adultery was sin – the two basic tenets on which all modern post-civilasation religions compatible with Private Households and Private Firms are based on. Apart from the State, religion became another superstructural pillar for maintaining class-riven ASOs.

Small quantitative changes taking over a long period of time suddenly turned into qualitative change with almost all of society dominated by Private Firms having new relations of production – that is, new ways of  sharing and distribution of production – as opposed to the Collective Firms of the past having collective relations of production.

The key point here is that the further development of agriculture and animal husbandry could not have taken place anymore within Collective Firms and Households simply because Private Firms and Private Households had already appeared within the old society because of the development of the productive forces and it is only within such new type of Firms and Households that further development of agriculture and animal husbandry could take place.

The oversimplified Marxian formulation that with the development of the forces of production there comes a time when they come into conflict with old “property relations” and these old “property relations’ become a fetter on the further development of the forces of production and therefore, they give way to new “property relations” now turns out to be a much more complex process where it is clear that the development of the productive forces as such does not unleash any direct conflict with “property relations”. Instead, what happens is that when a new revolutionary technology for production appears on the historical proscenium it brings about changes in the structure of both Firms and Households – in other words it brings into play new relations of production and reproduction – it alters the very nature of Firms and Households that had hitherto dominated as ASOs and new types of ASOs emerge.

What are the determinants of ROP change?

The question that now arises is exactly what type of revolutionary productive forces can bring about revolutionary changes in Firms and Households?

In the absence of a quantitative approach that remains to be developed, the only way to answer this question is by using a general conceptual  framework. I will try to gradually introduce new concepts to build this framework and the reader will have to bear with me.

Clearly, any kind of technological advance brings about an improvement in labour productivity that may be conceptually defined as output per unit of labour power used or, what is but the same thing, man hours used.

Such changes in the forces of production also bring about a change in the cost curve of existence, that is to say the cost of living also changes and goes up. For humans to provide labour power, they have to first subsist and exist before they can provide labour power and as the forces of production develop so do the cost of such existence as the basic consumption basket needed to maintain existence grows and gets diversified.

The more economically developed a society is, the higher is the basic generally accepted consumption basket for survival and this is an unending process – new products as they appear in society go through a life cycle from being elitist to becoming essential – this is all the more observable in capitalist society where new products have been appearing almost every day and are gradually becoming a part of the consumption basket of all in society – electric bulbs, toothpaste, soap, mobile phones, refrigerators, motor cars, to name just a few products that started as elitist and became a part of every day consumption of the majority. This is true for all previous socio-economic formations based on older types of ASOs. We may thus think of this rising consumption basket as the cost of existence at the individual human being level.

In primitive communism, there were Collective Firms because the labour productivity was low and the cost of existence too was low – collective living – sharing the total  production of the collective Firm among all the people who brought about this total production made sense – even the minimum production needed for subsistence and existence required the collective activity of many low productive individuals and the total product of the Collective Firm had to be shared to meet the cost of existence of the humans that carried out the production – there was no excess productivity anywhere that could be usurped and still meet the cost of existence.

As long as incremental technological improvements only brought about equally incremental increases in labour productivity and cost of existence, the old ROP of sharing and one class providing both labour and means of production remained intact and there was no need for new types of Firms with new ROP.

But with the discovery of agriculture and animal husbandry there was a disruptive increase in labour productivity but not such a disruptive increase in the cost of existence. This meant that if a class of people could be kept at the subsistence level in terms of cost of existence while being forced to provide labour power then a substantial surplus could be generated because labour productivity was much higher than the cost of existence. This made slavery economically meaningful and the economic reason for maintaining the old ROP of equitable production sharing formula could be replaced by inequitable production sharing.

Moreover, with the emergence of private property there also emerged two classes – a class that owned property or means of production and a class that owned nothing but the ability to provide human labour power because they had been enslaved and a State had emerged to make sure that the enslaved, though in the majority, could not arm themselves so that the armed state could keep them enslaved although the slave owning class was in a minority.

Thus, when the objective condition or hardware of a new type of ASO emerged with emergence of two classes of humans in a discretely definable society where one class owned the means of production and the other class owned nothing but the ability to provide labour power, the subjective condition, the software,  compatible with this hardware, the ROP of exploitation, also emerged at the same time and new ASOs based on the ROP of class division and exploitation replaced the older ASOs based on the ROP of classlessness and production sharing.

To sum up all this verbosity when trying to explain conceptually what can be expressed much more crisply in mathematical terms,  when the productivity of labour increased in a disruptive way in comparison to the cost of existence, the economic conditions for exploiting this sudden increase in labour productivity were created and this provided the economic logic for the emergence of new ROP that was exploitative in nature and the older non-exploitative class-less ROP was replaced by this new ROP.

ASOs for production (or Firms) based on this new exploitative ROP could enable exploitation of this much higher labour productivity as compared to the cost of existence and thereby allowed for rapid growth in production.

The cost of existence, however, has an individual manifestation at the level of the individual human being, a micro manifestation at the individual Firm level and a macro manifestation at the social level comprising many Firms. At the individual level, the cost of existence is the minimum consumption basket required by individuals to exist or subsist. At the micro level, the cost of existence is the share of total production of the individual private Firm that needs to be given to the class providing labour power. At the macro level, it is the share of total social production that has to be given to the class providing labour power plus the cost of maintaining the State.

So, while the cost of existence at the individual human being level and at the micro level of the individual Firm can remain more or less stagnant even as the Private Firms in society go on increasing production, over time the cost of existence at the macro level tends to escalate in a disruptive way because Private Firms have to continuously spend more and more on maintaining the State which in turn maintains the class-riven antagonistic contradiction within Private Firms under control or in other words on keeping the class struggle within society (because of class struggle within individual Private Firms) under control.

In mathematical terms, the cost of existence at the micro level – we can give a generic term for this as the “Wage Bill” to cover all types of Firms although except in capitalism in all previous socio-economic formations based on previous types of private ASOs based on previous types of ROP, the share given to the labour providing class was not called wages – is equal to the share of total production of the Private Firm given to the class providing labour.

At the macro level, the cost of existence is equal to the sum of the share of the total production of each Firm given to the class providing labour plus the cost of maintaining the State expressed as a share of the total social production  or the sum of the total production of all private Firms in any discretely defined society.

For both micro and macro level, I am, however, using the generic term cost of existence to keep the discussion less complex and easier to understand.

The concept of social surplus value

As the productive forces continued to grow within these new ASOs of slavery, the incremental increases in labour productivity lagged behind the incremental increases in the social cost of existence of the providers of labour because the costs of the State spent on keeping a growing population of slaves raced ahead. In other words, the macro level cost of existence now included not only the cost of consumption of the human beings that provided labour power but also the costs of maintaining the State needed to ensure that enslaved humans remained enslaved and remained forced to provide labour power in return for mere subsistence in any discretely definable society .

Now let me introduce another new concept – the concept of private surplus value – which is equivalent to total production of any Private Firm less the wage bill or the share of production that has to be given to the class providing labour power for its sustenance. Social surplus value is the sum of private surplus values of all the private firms in any discretely definable society.

Private and Social surplus value has a key role to play in bringing about changes in the ROP. At the time of the transition from primitive communism to slavery, the private and social surplus value saw a disruptive increase due to the disruptive increase in human labour productivity as compared to the cost of existence (the wage bill in the case of individual private Firms, i.e. micro level cost of existence and total social wage bill plus cost of State for macro level social cost of existence) and provided the economic logic for the emergence of two classes and the usurpation of a much larger share of the total social production by the property owning class as compared to the labour providing class.

In a class-riven society where there is a ruling class reaping the benefits of any extant exploitative ROP, the ruling class is constantly trying to maximise the private surplus value at the level of the individual Firm. In slavery, therefore, Firms based on slavery ROP continued to expand , grow their production and maximise their private surplus value. But as private surplus value grew, the cost of maintaining the State too grew with the result that over time the rate of growth of Social surplus value gradually lagged behind the rate of growth of private surplus value. Moreover, even with the new technology of agriculture and animal husbandry and the growth of productive forces, the continuous working of the law of diminishing returns meant that the growth of incremental labour productivity also began to fall off after a period of initial growth. In other words, mathematically, the normal curve or some variant of the normal curve can be used to describe the growth and fall of private surplus value, social surplus value and labour productivity. In this context, we have to also remember that the cost of existence at the level of the individual Firm is a function of the cost of existence at the individual human being level. This is a new complexity that I am now introducing into the discussion.

As we have mentioned before, the cost of existence at the individual human being level rises with the growth of the forces of production. The individual basket of consumption increases but when expressed as a share of the total production of any Firm it begins to reach a peak and fall off – again a normal curve or some variant of that. The wage bill also follows a similar curve and the social cost of existence also follows a similar curve.

First Law of Social Change

Now it is possible to state the first law of social change – when the development in the forces of production or technological development reaches a stage that it brings about a huge increase in private surplus value then new private Firms with new private class-riven ROP emerge in class-less collective society to convert it into a class-riven private society that can enable the new technology to be used for generating this private surplus value.

These new private Firms emerge and begin to dominate and break down the dominance of the old collective Firms. This law worked in the transition from primitive communism to slavery. Technology played the decisive role.

Second Law of Social Change

But once private Firms came into existence there appeared a contradiction between the reproduction and sustainability of private Firms and that of society as a whole. I have to now remind readers of the teleological nature of ASOs – Firms and Households. As we have seen the social surplus value is equal to total social production less cost of existence at the macro level. Total social production is a function of labour productivity which in turn is a function of technological advance. Cost of existence at the macro level is equal to the cost of existence at the micro individual Firm level (which is a function of the cost of existence at the human being level) plus the cost of maintaining the State for maintaining status quo in class riven society. From this it is clear that social surplus value is directly proportional to human labour productivity which is a function of the forces of production or technology in general while being inversely proportional to the social cost of existence. As ASOs are teleological organisations whose task is to maintain the production and reproduction of human existence – that means social reproduction from a systems point of view – whenever a society reaches a point where the social surplus value that is being generated reaches zero or near zero levels the State gets weakened to a point where it begins to fail to hold together the structural ASOs in society and old ASOs give way to new ASOs. The change in the structure of new ASOS is driven by (a) cost pull – when the increase in the social cost of existence reaches a point that tends to erode the social surplus value and bring it down to zero or (b) a productivity push from technology change that brings about a disruptive increase in human labour productivity or (c) by both factors working in tandem.

In the case of the transition from slavery to feudalism, the cost pull factor made slave society unviable from a social reproduction point of view. The cost being borne by society as a whole (the cost being borne at the micro level of slave firms by slave masters to maintain slaves plus the cost being borne by the State as a whole to help slave masters maintain slaves in the condition of slavery) became so high over time that the social surplus value being generated – that is the total social production produced by slaves less the cost of maintaining the slaves in their condition of slavery – tended towards zero making slave society unviable as a whole. The way out was to free the slaves and convert them into serfs – they were free but they still did not have any control over the means of production. The slave masters who had by then acquired large tracts of land and were local warlords became feudal landlords who used the now freed slaves converted into serfs to carry out production and gave a small percentage of the total production to the serfs for tilling the land and took the rest themselves. A part of the production was also taken by the King or the Church (in the general sense of the dominant religious organisation that combined with the State in pre-capitalist societies to maintain social status quo of class-rivenness). The exact way the production was shared between the ruling combination of landlords, the King or government and the dominant religious organisation (the Church to use a generic term in the sense used by Arnold Toynbee for example) on the one hand and the serfs on the other hand differed from one feudal society to the next but the basic characteristics of the feudal Firm was that the real producers, the serfs only got a small share of the total production, typically about 30-40% while the local landlord, the King and the Church took the rest. This new system ensured the production of social surplus value once again and feudalism became a very stable social system till technological change again brought about a major change in the structure of Firms.

The transition from Fedualism to Capitalism was primarily driven by productivity push due to technological change and the higher productivity in turn led to the need to bring about a rapid expansion of the market for both output and inputs.

In the meantime, the increase in social production first under slavery and then feudalism had also expanded the need for distribution of the social production through exchange based more on money as the medium of exchange replacing the earlier barter system.

Population growth also meant more and more serfs being being driven to urban centres as they had no land to till – the arable land area was more or less fixed growing at a rate far slower than the rate of growth of population. This meant the availability of a class of people in urban areas who had nothing but their labour power to sell.

The simultaneous growth of manufacturing – using labour power to produce non-agricultural goods – also led to increasing use of labour power with money or a wage as compensation and the wage system emerged. With the stage set, the technological breakthrough achieved by the industrial revolution then brought about a rapid proliferation of Firms based on wage labour and in a more or less short time such Firms became dominant from the economic point of view. The new class of owners of such Firms – the capitalists – soon began to be economically more powerful than the earlier dominant class – the landed aristocracy. The democratic revolution was ushered in.

The key change was that in the earlier feudal Firms, production was physically shared – the ruling class took over the major part of the production leaving a small part for the real producers – the serfs. In the new type of capitalist Firms that emerged, the exploitation of human labour power took place in a much more subtle and well-hidden way. By paying a wage that was less than the actual value addition done by a worker, the capitalist earned a surplus value that showed up as his profit. Whatever gobbledygook the bourgeoisie economists   may produce, the simple fact that even the smallest capitalist knows – even the owner of a micro-enterprise who hires labour – is that profits happen only when the hired workers, the real producers of value are paid a wage that is less than the value that they add to the raw materials and machinery while producing the final output. As long as the final output cannot be sold at a price that ensures value addition that is more than what is paid as wage there is no profit in a capitalist Firm.

Finally, to bring this discussion to a close, let us look at the transition from capitalist Firms to any post-capitalist Firms – what would be the nature of structural change?

This transition is being driven all the third factor mentioned in the Second Law of Social Change mentioned above – that is both technological change and cost pull is working. First, technological change towards more automation and less use of labour power has reached a stage where almost all productive activity now being done by humans can be automated but this technological change cannot take place within the existing structure of capitalist Firms because if this happens then except for a miniscule portion of the population – metaphorically the 1% of the global population who are the owners of 90% of global means of production, the rest of the people would become unemployed and the market for capitalists would tend to collapse while social reproduction will come to a halt so that there would be massive social unrest and the system will not be able to go on any longer.

On the other hand, the social cost of maintaining capitalism is increasingly leading to a situation where the social surplus value that is total social production less the cost of existence is increasingly tending towards zero. This is because the cost borne by the state to maintain the system has now reached unsustainable levels – and these costs are of mainly two types.

The first is the cost of state spending on security – the cost of policing the people and of maintaining increasingly larger armies and the second is the cost of propping up aggregate demand through state spending – that is by fiscal deficits and sovereign borrowing.

The total fiscal deficits and sovereign borrowing run by all the capitalist states in the world has been growing asymptotically in the last few decades and has now led to an unsustainable level.

The inequality in incomes has  meant a chronic slump in aggregate demand – essential for capitalist Firms to be able to sell their output at a price where the value addition is more than the wages paid to generate the value addition so that profitability at the micro level – at the level of the individual Firm is tending towards zero while at the society-wide level the difference between total social production and the cost of existence which is equal to the wages paid to the working class plus the profits taken out by the capitalist class plus the spending by the state to maintain the class-riven status quo is tending towards zero.

Here we need to understand the significance of what may be called the wealth economy. The growth of global capitalism has brought about a situation where social  production usurped by the capitalists over time and converted into monetary wealth is sought to be invested and reinvested in primarily financial instruments or in speculative manipulation of stock, commodity and money markets in a bid to generate more wealth.

Unfortunately, however, real wealth can be generated in the capitalist economy only when capitalist firms employ wage labour to produce goods and services that people need to consume to produce their existence. When wealth is entirely financial and monetised this wealth is only notional – paper wealth that is not backed by real material goods and services.

Moreover, capitalists manage to spend only a small portion of this notional wealth in buying real goods and services and this is despite the massive growth of the luxury market where luxury goods and services are very high priced due to branding but are actually consuming very little real goods or services.

For example, an Armani suit may cost $1 million dollars but the suit length material that is used to produce the suit actually costs a fraction of the final output price so that the value addition due to branding, the so-called premium earned from branding is actually only notional or virtual.

This massive growth of the virtual economy based on exchange value is what it is – virtual and notional so in real terms the system is increasingly tending towards a stagnation in the actual production of goods and services in use values although there seems to be an illusion of growth in exchange values but due to population growth the need for real goods and services that people need to consume to produce their existence is growing continuously. It is this dichotomy between actual use values being produced in the economy and the exchange value of these goods and services that is masking the gradual erosion of actual social surplus value – the difference between actual production and the share that is needed and being used up to meet the cost of existence of the people in the society. On paper, capitalist Firms are making profits but in reality real social production is not matching the real needs of an asymptotically growing population and on a society-wide scale this manifests itself as large scale poverty and deprivation on the global scale.

In short, from the point of view of a production system that can ensure the production of existence of the population in the global community of human beings, capitalism has reached its death throes – it is not being able to ensure the production of human social existence and as such capitalist Firms are failing to do what they are supposed to do as an atomic social organisation whose task is to produce such goods and services that people need to consume to produce their existence. This is leading to rapidly increasing social tensions reflected in various social conflicts across the globe in myriad ways – the struggle for existence reflected in people’s struggles expressed in various ways.

The Occupy Wall Street movement and similar movements in the developed world and the various people struggles – such as Left wing extremism in developing countries or even democratic struggles in such countries such as the movements by the unorganised sector in India for example, islamic terrorism which sustains itself because of poverty among the people are all manifestations of this generic inability of capitalist atomic social organisations, the capitalist Firms to serve the teleological purpose for their existence – producing the goods and services that the population needs to consume to produce their existence.

This systemic failure is further exacerbated by the need for capitalist Firms to increasingly destroy the environment in their pursuit of profits – by producing goods and services that people don’t need for existence – arms, automobiles, many kinds of products such as refrigerators or air-conditioning systems, plethora of electronic products, all kinds of machines for industrial and domestic use – but which uses up enormous amounts of energy produced out of fossil fuels and the concomitant pollution.

The enormous amounts of industrial waste is also adding to that pollution and environmental degradation. Similarly,  in order to sustain this military-industrial complex and alrge scale urbanisation that is typical of capitalist growth there is large-scale destruction of forest cover, degradation of life-sustaining top soil and massive extraction of groundwater resources  all of which are destroying the very basis of life on Planet Earth. Capitalism as a system of producing the existence of human society has as a whole turned into its opposite – it is now a system that is destroying the existence of human society and therefore, capitalist Firms as atomic social organisations have become completely unviable from their teleological purpose of existence.

Ongoing structural change

But structural change is already taking place and more and more capitalist Firms around the globe are becoming worker owned Firms. This process is now too slow and too sporadic to become noticeable on a global scale but the process is on. When workers around the world begin to realise that collective ownership of means of production must also be combined with creation of collective households – that is the association of producers of any particular collectively owned Firm must also live in a collectively organised household with a single kitchen and that each such collectively owned Firm-Household combine must try to gradually own enough land so as to become self-sufficient from the point of view of meeting the basic needs of the people engaged in that Firm and that individual collectively-owned Firms can begin to cooperate with others in the vicinity in such a way that they share resources for  inputs for production and share outputs for consumption, a bottom-up process of eliminating exchange value will begin and in this way a market-less system of production, distribution and consumption can begin to emerge. This can be done by making increased use of information technology to match production requirements with consumption patterns – a kind of consumer relationship management system being implemented across the increasingly growing network of worker-owned enterprises.

Why collectively owned firms (COFs) will be more competitive than capitalist Firms?

In the meantime, while individual collective Firm-Household combines walk on the path of linking up with each other on the basis of sharing of uses values in terms of both inputs and outputs, they will continue to operate in the existing capitalist market system and initially they will be producing items that have a market in the capitalist market place. Firms such as Mondragon in Spain as well as others elsewhere are doing at the moment.

Such worker-owned Firms will be intrinsically more competitive than existing capitalist Firms because they will be free to automate their production processes fully without bothering about sacking anybody – the workers are themselves the owners so the only change that automation will bring about will be to free them from hard manual labour and allow them to quickly become skilled and educated in running and developing automated systems of production. Increased level of automation and increased innovation of new products and processes that will be unleashed with each and every individual worker now having a stake in such innovation, being owners themselves, will make such Firms far more competitive than capitalist Firms in the same lines of business apart from other business benefits arising from eliminating the owner-worker antagonistic contradiction (as can be seen already in Firms such as Mondragon).

Such Firms should then seek to utilise their profits – the difference between what the workers earn from their output and what they consume to maintain their existence – to increasingly buy land and create eco-firms that focus on need-based production and consumption rather than capitalist market-driven production and consumption. Such eco-firms would also enable such collectives to adopt a collective way of living – for example, by creating environment-friendly and low energy consuming apartment buildings with each worker family being assigned one apartment. Such buildings will operate like hotels with a common kitchen serving multi-ethnic cuisine  to meet all individual culinary needs and combining a school, a hospital and all leisure facilities. With the focus on need-based consumption rather than getting fooled by capitalist branding and running after so-called “luxury” consumption, all workers can live a life of “luxury” at a much lower cost than what is possible in the existing capitalist system. Here I am merely trying to indicate a vision of how all workers can maintain a fairly luxurious life-style but at a much less cost than that would be possible in the existing capitalist system and without the existing disparities. Exactly how these basic principles will be implemented would necessarily be a matter of social experimentation and how concrete conditions unfold at each concrete worker-owned enterprise. It is likely that as the full innovative capacity of workers are unleashed there will be many different paths by which worker-owned enterprises will move towards more environment-friendly ways of living while ensuring decent life-styles, protecting individual freedom and choice and unleashing the innovative capacities of each individual.

Such worker-owned Firm-Household combines will be States in themselves – self-administered and as the network of such self-administered communities grow a time will come when they will begin to dominate the landscape instead of capitalist Firms and Households. It is only to be expected that in this process of growth of worker-owned enterprises (collective Firm-Household combines) a truly communist (people who are at the same time workers as well as owners) political force will emerge and will begin to challenge the political parties of capitalism albeit through the existing democratic processes. This challenge will lead to political clashes and need for change in other superstructural aspects – primarily laws that govern property ownership and maintain capitalist ASOs. The new collectively owned ASOs will need new laws.

Thus, while initially worker-owned Firm-Household combines may grow within the womb of the existing socio-economic-political-legal framework of existing Capitalist societies in a peaceful and democratic way, a time will come when the worker-owned Firm-Households will begin to dominate the landscape and a revolutionary transformation of the superstructure – the political, legal, religious, philosophical, ideological, ethical superstructure of society will become inevitable.

It is not possible to predict at this stage whether this transformation will be possible entirely through peaceful, democratic processes or whether the gradually dying capitalist Firms and their political parties and state machinery will try to reverse the relentlessly grinding wheels of history by resorting to violence in various forms. It is, however, only to be expected that vested interests will not give up their positions without a last ditch attempt to hold on to their power and privileges and violent resistance to change cannot be ruled out in any way. But the onus of resorting to violence will be on the Capitalist Firms and their States and not those seeking change.

The key question now is whether this structural change will take place rapidly enough to save the Planet from the destructive path that it has been put onto by capitalism? It appears that once more and more people become aware of the theoretical aspects of how structural change has come about in ASOs hitherto – rudiments of which have been sought to be documented here – then this process of real structural change within the atomic social organisations to create collective Firms and Households to resolve existing antagonistic class contradictions – will get speeded up enough to reverse the process of capitalist destruction – initially slowly and then rapidly to bring about a revolutionary transformation to a post -capitalist collective but a more sustainable, equitable, just and rational society.

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Filling the Jap gap!

A view of Sakura: We sat at the far corner table

This post is a tribute to my good friend Jeetendra Sehgal, a glass technologist with many patents under his belt and a great cook and foodie to boot, for introducing me to Japanese cuisine at Sakura Restaurant, Metropolitan Hotel, New Delhi. All photographs are thanks to him.

Many thanks Jeetu san for introducing me to Japanese cuisine.

Thanks to your expert guidance, at one shot I became a fan of this wonderful culinary culture. Not only did I like the food in terms of taste, aroma, texture and what have you but was also amazed by how the fare is so easy on the digestive system.

I had no idea that so much alcohol, raw fish and red meat could all be imbibed without any pressure on the organic physical system that houses our souls and consciousness. In the past and in my youth, the contradiction between our sense of pleasure, our senses in general and the physical body of flesh and blood that enabled us to enjoy these senses never bothered me much. But now with age catching up, the body speaks its mind and revolts whenever I indulge in too much sensual pleasure in terms of food, alcohol or even sex.

This Japanese gastronomic experience, however, taught me there are ways to beat this contradiction at its own game. You can indulge and still be indulgent.

Although I know many of my friends who may be reading this are already quite familiar with global food in general and Japanese food in particular, here is a brief report for all those who may still be interested in knowing what we had and what is making me go gaga over a Japanese feast.

Hot sake

Hot sake

We started with hot sake – Atsukan – the Japanese rice wine served in small porcelain jars kept in a basin of hot water and consumed by pouring the wine not by yourself but by others you are dining with into tiny peg-capacity porcelain cups. Good friend Jeetu, a top notch technologist with many a patent under his belt or as feathers in his cap, explained that because the alcohol was hot it tended to evaporate and reduce itself on its own. By the time it reached the digestive system, the alcohol content was quite diminished but its effect was enhanced as the blood absorbed the hot evaporating alcohol more rapidly and easily.

Eda Mame

The hot sake was accompanied by what the Japanese call Eda Mame – salted boiled soya beans – pods that looked like that of fresh green peas and all you had to do was to hold them to your mouth and squeeze at the right end – the soya bean seeds popped right into your mouth with just that hint of saltiness that made them so tasty. Not only were they very yummy but as Jeetu explained, they also purportedly protected your liver and gave other health benefits even as you drank to the gills. Trust the science and technology-minded Japs to do that. Have alcohol with something that negates the toxic effects of this renowned poison.

Sashimi

Sashimi

Then followed sashimi – small pieces of raw fish – and we had salmon, yellow tail or the Japanese amberjack and mackerel. I was instructed to pick up each piece using the Japanese bamboo chop sticks, dip in a typical Japanese fermented soya bean sauce mixed with a little grated ginger and then put into your mouth. Each fish had its own distinctive taste and they were all wonderful. I had no idea that raw fish could be so tasty and so light on the tummy unlike much of the cooked fish that we Bongs regularly indulge in.

The next item really was an intrusion into Jeetu san’s carefully and knowledgeably planned approach to the dinner. My curiosity got the better of me and I talked about tempura – one of the better known items in Japanese cuisine that even ignoramuses like me have heard of. He agreed, just a bit reluctantly, and we had prawn tempuras. I later realized the reason for Jeetu’s almost unnoticeable petulance – the tempuras were a tad heavy and was the only item that taxed the system a bit.

But again as Jeetu explained, himself a wonderful cook and foodie, the Japs use a scientific technique to counter the effects of deep fried food. Apparently, while making tempuras, prawns or for that matter anything else that is amenable to the production of tempuras, which are nothing but pakodas to use the Indian linguistic equivalent, are dipped in a light corn flour batter that is kept chilled. When these prawns in chilled batter are fried in medium and not very hot oil, a layer of steam forms over the material that is being fried and the amount of oil actually absorbed by the tempuras is far less than in the case of Indian deep fried pakodas. Again hats off to Jap technology. The tempuras were certainly tasty but not much different from golden fried prawns in Chinese cuisine or plain pakodas in Indian cuisine and should have been skipped as Jeetu had hinted at. They simply weighed down a transcendental experience.

Anyway the highly palatable pilgrimage continued with Ikura – a sushi made of raw salmon roe wrapped in

Ikura

Ikura

seaweed. Again fairly large sized bites had to be dipped in a fermented soya sauce mixed with Hon Dashi, a kind of fish stock and Mirin, a modified form of sake with slightly lower alcohol content and Wasabi, grated Japanese horseradish as my knowledgeable friend informed me. Amazing once again. How can raw food taste so good?

Then came the main course – YakigyumikuTeppanyaki – grilled medallions of beef in a bed of very light but flavoured sauce called Teppanyaki and boiled and lightly grilled vegetables – potatoes, carrots and brocollis. By then the sake was working fulltime and I forgot to ask my friend what the sauce was made of even as I found myself transported to an unbelievable gastronomic heaven. Nothing else mattered except the taste of good food.

Grilled Beef in Teppanyaki Sauce

Grilled Beef in Teppanyaki Sauce

One regret, however. In all that epicurean celebration we both forgot about the need to try out a Japanese dessert. We were too full anyway. Maybe for the better. There is still something to check out the next time.

And Oh Yes! Thank you Jeetu san once again even as I look forward to when I can treat you to something that you have never tasted before. I know it’s a tall task given your wide gastronomic experience but I am sure there is something so very Bong that you have never consumed earlier. I am confident I will be able to work out an entirely Bong menu that you have never partaken in the past. That’s a promise!

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The decline and fall of Kolkata

Till the late sixties, Kolkata was one of the most vibrant cities in the world and used to be referred to as the greatest city in the world East of Suez. Baba Kothari owner of Bar-B-Q and I think Flavours of China on Park Street and other restaurants in Japan once told me  in an interview in the late 1990s that Calcutta was then so famous as a city that people came from Singapore, Rangoon, Manila, Bangkok and Hong Kong to enjoy the cultural and night life of Kolkata.

Then from the late sixties the decline began – after the ruthless way the Congress on the one hand under Siddhartha Shankar Ray and the so-called parliamentary Left parties such as the CPI(M) and CPI on the other went about breaking the back of the source of Kolkata’s vibrancy – the middle class intellectual – a class that existed in a big way only in Kolkata at that time and not in any other Indian city.

This middle class intellectual class came from the professionals that the British had created to meet the needs of British trade and industry – lawyers, doctors, engineers, accountants, managers, advertising professionals, film makers and so on. They arose because of the commercial and industrial eco-system created by the British.

Howrah was a highly industrialized area and people came from all over the country to work there. Around Kolkata the jute and tea industries were global leaders and Kolkata was a major port East of Suez, second only to Singapore as a port city. Much of India’s external trade was through Kolkata.

One should not also forget what was once known as the Ruhr of India – the Ranigunge-Asansol industrial belt. Almost all the industries in this belt – steel plants, glass producing factories, collieries, aluminium manufacturers, chemical and industrial gas manufacturers, wagon and locomotive manufacturers, breweries, cycle makers – all leaders in the Indian market and a few world leaders as well such as Sen Raleigh’s which had a major export market – had head offices or registered offices in Kolkata.

Kolkata was also the headquarters of some of the largest companies in India at that time – ITC, Britannia, Brooke Bond, Hindusthan Lever, ICI, Indal et al. West Bengal was one of the most industrialized states in India and this was reflected in the vibrancy of Kolkata as a city around which the industrial-commercial eco-system thrived.

No wonder then that Kolkata was at the heart of the most progressive people’s movements in almost every sphere in India – in culture, in fine arts, in the performing arts and theatre, in education and of course in politics.

When the Spring Thunder – Basonter Bajronirghosh – broke over Kolkata and West Bengal and there were hopes that a single spark would start a prairie fire – Kolkata and West Bengal were leaders in India in almost every field.

But then the decline began – the ruthless suppression of the intelligentsia – the murders of some of the most brilliant young minds that India had at that time – all carried out by the Congress and so-called Left parties in cahoots with each other completely broke the spine of this middle class.

While capital flight took place and one by one almost all big companies shifted to other cities and the Ruhr of India became an industrial graveyard with one closed factory after another, the more advanced intelligentsia too fled the state to other states to study and work.

Kolkata University, once a globally recognized centre of educational excellence – almost all the Indian Nobel laureates till then had something or other to do with Kolkata University – went into a decline from which it has never recovered.

Then after 1977 began the rule of the Fascists who stifled whatever progressive mindedness there still existed in Kolkata. After 34 years of their rule the people of West Bengal had become vegetables who could not think independently, work independently or show any vibrancy in any sphere because independent minded people and competent people were either hounded out of the system or were forced to leave the state and go elsewhere.

The phrase people’s movement became forgotten – once famous for how its people took to the streets to protest against anything anti-people – the city now harboured only such people who were cajoled or coerced by different political parties to come out on the streets.

The politics of being Dogs in a Manger replaced all healthy democratic politics – development of any kind was stifled at the roots because of the politics of spite, of not letting anything good happen.

In the meantime, other states in India were not sitting idle. In a very short time other states became more industrialized, the freight equalization policy, the licence raj and mindless labour militancy now completely detached from the work ethics of the working class and led by a rotting middle class ensured that no investment took place in Kolkata or West Bengal.

By the middle of the 80s Kolkata was already a dead city as Rajiv Gandhi had pointed out. Then in the middle of the Nineties, the so-called Left fascists realized very partially though the mistakes they had made and tried to change industrial and commercial policies to woo back investment. But even before new investment could really take off, the Dog in the Manger politics took over and investments began to be stalled or driven out.

Today, almost all other major Indian states and state capitals are far ahead of West Bengal and Kolkata in every sphere. Today it is a city of ghosts living in the past – of the glorious days that Kolkata had once enjoyed – its inhabitants have become kupomanduks – frogs in the well – who cannot think beyond Kolkata and never care to find out what is happening even in neighbouring states like Odisha, Bihar or Jharkhand leave alone the more developed states of Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

One type of Fascists have been replaced by another type. The intelligentsia has been driven out of the state. West Bengal and Kolkata have now become backward in almost every sphere compared to other states – and today there is neither industrial capital nor human capital to revitalize this moribund state of affairs.

Debates about Kolkata’s glory – past, present or future – are puerile because the basic ingredients for change, vibrancy and robust growth – industrial and human capital – is missing in the state. Unless the state is again able to woo back both industrial and human capital, Kolkata can only remain a dead city, a city of ghosts living entirely in the past!

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Revolutionary Movements in a Post-Marxian Era: Towards an actionable agenda – Part II: Outline of The Communist Hypothesis: Collectively Owned Firms & Collective Households

Prologue

What I have posted below is a first draft and I notice it requires editing at quite a few points. I will try to do this editing over the next few days. In the meantime, I invite reader comments so that I can address them or include them in the final edited version. While editing I may add more material either to further clarify some points or to plug obvious and glaring gaps. In any case, this is an outline version rather than a fully worked out version. There are many very important issues such as how technological progress drives change in the nature of ROP and RORP or the other innumerable dynamics involved that drive change in the structure of ASOS that I have not touched upon at all so as to spill out first a basic vision of the future structural scenario rather than get stuck with explaining history. The Marxist assertion that “All history is the history of class struggles” is again a juvenile oversimplification that is at the root of the misleading thought that a political movement is a sine qua non for any revolutionary transformation of society. The drivers of social change are many and class struggle is only a very important aspect but not the only aspect. It is only after these drivers of social change working in tandem bring about new ASOs within the womb of old society that new political forces can arise and bring about a final political thrust to establish the dominance of the new ASOs. In a dialectical world, how things change from being less dominant to more dominant or how state change takes place needs to be understood from a dialectical point of view. I will try to address some of these very important aspects as I edit. In the meantime, I have to request readers to bear with me and pardon me for presenting what is still very much a work in progress. But I had to start somewhere and I think I have done that to present at least the bare outlines of a coherent answer to what is to be done to bring about a new post capitalist social order free from the ills of capitalism.

Introduction

This post is in response to comments and queries on my views on collectively owned business units and how establishing such units can be the first step towards creating a new post-capitalist social order free from the ills of capitalism.

Apart from a few comments and questions on the subject in the past to which I had not responded to, perhaps more out of laziness than anything else, there have been a few very thoughtful comments and queries from M. Ganguly very recently (see the recent comments section on the right of this page). This post is inspired by her comments – yes, I do happen to now know that she is a dear old friend who chose to adopt a pseudonym while making her comments. Well, you see we had a little fight and she didn’t want to let me know that she was still reading my rantings. Many many thanks to her for choosing to forgive and forget, remain friends and continue to read this blog for whatever it is worth.

I have been writing on the broad subject of collective ownership for quite some time now. This blog is strewn with many attempts to put my views across as clearly as possible. I have, however, found it extremely difficult to express myself as clearly as I think I am able to think. Here is another attempt.

I am, however, taking this opportunity to seek help from all those who read this blog. I am astounded by the fact that this blog has as many as 260-odd followers. This may seem a small number to most writers but for me I am grateful beyond words. That as many as 260 plus people around the world are willing to read or at least keep track of my rantings – the trash that I write – is, as far as I am concerned, unbelievable. I am really grateful. I now seek help. Is there someone out there who is willing to take the trouble of compiling, organising and editing my views on this, IMHO, extremely difficult subject of a post-capitalist social order?

Apart from my rantings here, I have also made a few comments now and then on Facebook, especially in a group that I belong to – BITS Class of 74-75. I would be grateful if this editor, if there is one out there willing to take up this tedious and unenviable task, is also willing to make the effort to collect those pieces of writing and collate it with the rest of the stuff here. Such a collation will, I think, make things easier for interested readers.

I somehow get the feeling that today I am in a slightly better position to put down on paper and share with others views that have been developing in my head since as long as 1989, since a little after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In this blog, I have always tried to write about what my vision of the future is and have refrained from writing a critique of Socialism and what I call the “Socialist Hypothesis”. But I think the time has come to document that as well. I am adding a page on this issue in this blog, the first part of an article that I have been trying to write, where I end with a definition of my conception of “Firms” and “Households” which I call structural atomic social organisations (ASOs).

By using these definitions, I hope to show primarily that it is a mistake to think that the Marxist notions of relations of production (ROP) or relations of reproduction (RORP) somehow obtain on a macroeconomic society-wide scale. The ROP and RORP actually manifest themselves empirically at the micro-level and in such Firms and Households respectively and consequently, the other Marxist notion of “Mode of Production” is a poorly defined category, a result of juvenile oversimplification of how such ROP and RORP appear in the real empirically verifiable world. This oversimplification is one of the most important reasons for the current theoretical bankruptcy of Marxism. Once we realise that the structural nature of any society depends on the kind of ROP and RORP that dominate in that society – in short the kind of Firms and Households that dominate in that society – it becomes much easier to see and understand what needs to be done to structurally change any society from one type of society to another.

While I will try to write a more detailed version and perhaps with some mathematical proof in the unfinished article mentioned above, let me put down here a brief summary of some of the major theoretical conclusions one can reach once freed from the Marxian oversimplification of “Mode of Production”.

1. Firms and Households are the structural atomic social organisations (ASOs)  – the building blocks of any living, actually existing, empirically verifiable and discretely definable human society. Just as we can differentiate chemical elements on the basis of the structure of their atoms, so can such discretely definable societies be differentiated on the basis of the structure of the ASOs that make up that society. But unlike in a chemical element which is made up of only one type of atom (isotopes are isotopes and that’s why they are called as such), in society there can be different types of ASOs existing simultaneously side by side. However, except for periods of revolutionary transformations of one type of society to another type of society, at any given point in time, in any relatively stable society not undergoing any revolutionary upheaval, usually one type of Firms with a “corresponding” type of Households dominate and although at present I have not yet been able to theoretically define domination as it would require a mathematical definition, the concept, for the time being at least, can be understood intuitively from such statements as:

A. A predominantly slave society is one where most Firms in that society are based on the ROP of slavery, where within each firm there is one or more owners and several slaves and the ROP primarily defines the formula by which the production carried out by the Firm is distributed between the class of owners and the class of slaves – slaves get a small share of total social production, the share being entirely determined by the class of slave masters, enough of a share to ensure the subsistence of the slaves. Thus there were and still are Slave Firms within predominantly Feudal or Capitalist societies.

B. A feudal society is one where most Firms in that society are based on the ROP of feudalism, where within each Firm there is one or more landlords and several serfs and the ROP defines the formula by which the total production of the Firm is distributed between the class of landlords and the class of serfs – serfs get a small share of the production of each feudal firm in return for their labour, a percentage determined by each feudal landlord or group of landlords who “own” that Feudal Firm. Thus even within modern capitalism you can have feudal firms existing – Firms where share cropping is the ROP for example.

C. A capitalist society is one where most Firms in that society are based on the ROP of capitalism, where within each firm there are one or more capitalist owners and several workers where ROP defines the market-determined formula by which the total production of the firm in value terms is distributed between the capitalist owners and the workers – a formula based on surplus value or part of the total value addition usurped by the capitalists owners although all value addition is created by workers. (Of course all this has to be stated in more rigorous terms but this is the basic conceptual framework).

2. In the case of Households, the structural nature of households is determined by the RORP – that is, the nature of the relations between the reproductive adults (the type of marriage) in the Household – you can have different types of relationships – promiscuity, consanguine, punaluan, pairing and modern monogamic – or variations of these five basic types – and how children, the product of reproduction, get shared between men and women in these households giving rise to matrilineal and patrilineal types of households.  A little more on this in the next point.

2. There have been basically two types of Firms and Households in human social history – Collective Firms and Households and Private Firms and Households. Collective Firms are those Firms where the class of owners are also the same class that provides labour – so primitive communist Firms were Collective Firms that have already appeared on the human historical proscenium. Collective Firms are now appearing once again within the womb of Modern Capitalism as the early structural ASOs of Modern Communism. Similarly, Collective Households are those Households where the two “classes” that carry out reproduction – men and women are collectively married to each other irrespective of the particular marriage formula prevalent – for example, all types of Households based on promiscuity, consanguine and punaluan forms of marriage are essentially Collective Households and the pairing and modern monogamic forms of marriage are essentially Private Households. Collective Households in turn are essentially or predominantly matrilineal while Private Households are essentially or predominantly patrilineal for reasons already well documented by Lewis H. Morgan and Frederick Engles in their books Ancient Society and Origins of the Family, Private Property and State respectively (a whole lot of subsequent work has provided more evidence and further corroborated the main contentions of these two seminal works).

3. The nature of Households primarily determine the nature of Firms in any society. If Households are Collective, Firms have to be, perforce collective in nature, any other type is not compatible. Similarly, if Households are private in character, the nature of Firms also has to be perforce private in character. A little thought experiment, that being the fancy term used these days for simply thought or contemplation, it will become clear that you cannot have any forms of private property and, therefore, private Firms in a society that has Collective forms of marriage and, therefore, Collective Households. A little thought together with a close reading of Engels’ above mentioned work would show that private property could arise only after the collective nature of reproductive relations broke down (most probably through the working of evolutionary forces with societies, read human communities – clans, tribes what have you, that made marriages less consanguine having better chances of survival because of genetic reasons than those permitting more consanguine marriages) giving way to private reproductive relations (pairing and monogamic marriage) and would have been impossible in societies where the Households were collective in character.

4. This rule is, however, reversed once the basic character of Households changed from being Collective to Private and vice versa. Once their character changed from Collective to Private it is the nature of Firms that primarily determine changes in the RORP of Households and vice versa. In short there is a dialectical relationship between Firms and Households in any society. And in history, while the Households were the primary aspect of this relationship as long as they were Collective in character and drove changes in the character of Firms, once they became private in character, it was the character of Firms that became the primary aspect that drove changes in the character of Households. From this rule that governs the relationship between Firms and Households in human societies it follows that in Modern Communism, the structural change toward collective Firms will be sustainable only when the character of Households change to Collective character based on freeing of the monogamic restrictions that now govern marriage. Collective Firms with Private Households are incompatible and is one of the main reasons why Kibbutz in Israel and other attempts at collectivisation as in China have not proved to be as successful as they should have been. If such collectivisation were done with changes in the nature of Households from Private to Collective, Collective Firms will begin to prove that they are far more productive and efficient at utilising resources than Capitalist Firms and Households. It can be predicted given our knowledge of the dialectical relationship between Firms and Households that in the initial stages, Collective Households will be based on the pairing sort of marriage that was prevalent immediately preceding the emergence of modern monogamic marriage. In pairing marriage, pairs are free to make or break marriages easily as the children are taken care of society and gradually a completely free situation would ultimately emerge within Households comprising several male and female adults where whether a particular pair should produce children or not would be entirely a matter of medical advice rather than of “love” or “marriage”. In other words the task of procreation would become a medically determined affair to be carried out by adults within the community based on who were medically most competent as pairs to produce children while things like “love” and sex between adults (for non-reproductive purposes) would be entirely a matter of individual choice and would be completely separated from the task of procreation. Children would be owned by the entire Household and would be cared for by all adults although biological parents would naturally play a more predominant role with regard to bringing up and caring for their own respective children.

5. Given these few basic conceptual thumb rules (and perhaps a few more less important ones) it is possible to understand and explain the entire history of human social change.

The Communist Hypothesis

Using these few theoretical and conceptual advances and throwing away the oversimplications that are the basis of the “Socialist Hypothesis”, I shall try to discuss in a little more detail, what would be the basic character of Firms and Households in a post-capitalist social order that would be free from the ills of capitalism. This may be called the Communist Hypothesis for revolutionary social change as opposed to the failed “Socialist Hypothesis” that I have already discussed earlier.

Collectively Owned Firms & Households

Collectively Owned Firms owned by a Collective Households comprising all the people involved in working in the Collectively Owned Firm have to be the structural ASOs that would comprise the future post-capitalist collective or communist social order. That means a situation where the set of people related to each other through a Collective Farm would be the same set of people who will be members of the Collective Household not only owning the firm but also providing all the human labour power needed to carry out hard-core production by the Firm.

The Collective Household, of course, will comprise not only these owner-workers but also their children and other dependants who cannot provide human labour power towards hard-core production to be carried out by the Collective Firm. Such children and dependants will still be contributing to social production on the basis of their ability to carry out other social tasks that maybe called soft production – caring for each other, helping hard-core workers in certain tasks as per their ability and so on. Thus, ultimately, as far as social production is concerned, all members of Collective Households except infants and completely infirm and bed-ridden adults, will be contributing labour power from each according to his/her ability.

Since the Collective Firm is owned by the Collective Household, the total production carried out by the Collective Firm-Household combine would be the total social production of that combine – such production would cover not only hard-core production of goods and services that are consumed by the members of the Household but also soft production such as nursing, caring for babies and smaller or easier tasks associated with hard-core production. Here it is very difficult to lay down purely on a theoretical basis how such social production will be carried out and how each member of the Collective Household will contribute – the conceptual principle involved is important, how it will be concretely applied will have to be determined concretely on a case to case basis.

Such Collectively Owned Firms (COFs) can and will initially operate within the present market system in much the same way that any public limited company does, namely, run by a board of directors elected/appointed by the shareholders and operating in the existing capitalist market.

But there would be significant differences between modern day public limited companies and the type of Collectively Owned Firms or companies that I am suggesting should be set up as a first step towards moving towards a post-capitalist social order. These differences can be discussed under different rubrics.

Ownership

First, a present day public limited company is owned by shareholders while all the work is done by employees although some of these employees may also be shareholders.

Collectively Owned firms (COFs) will be owned in an equal and undivided manner by all the employees of the firms as well as their household members. This is crucial and needs repetition for emphasis. The COFs will be owned in an equal and undivided manner by all employees and their household members. The concept of equal, undivided ownership is already well-established legally at least in India and as far as I know in most other countries. It means each of the shareholders will have an equal shareholding but this shareholding is not discrete and cannot be bought or sold separately. Also there will be a system by which new members can be added and individual shareholdings will automatically get adjusted to remain equal. Same thing will happen if a member voluntarily quits or dies. As I hope to show as we go on – the conceptual equality will become so much more important than actual cardinal equality that actual shareholding percentages will become irrelevant. For example, I own an apartment in the Naktala area of Kolkata. It is on a 7-katha-odd piece of land. There are two buildings on this land – one building has eight apartments while the other has 14 apartments. The land is owned equally and undivided by all the 22 flat owners and the two buildings were built by a promoter and then through a partition deed each flat owner now owns a flat. Flat owners and all others can sell or buy individual flats but the land still remains owned by all 22 flat owners, whoever they may be at any particular point in time, in an equal and undivided manner. So how much of the land each flat owner owns has become irrelevant.

Management

All these shareholders will elect/select a board of management (BOM) which will operate under certain democratic checks and balances to ensure that this BOM always protects and promotes the interests of all shareholders just as any Board of Directors of a publicly-held company is supposed to do in extant capitalism. In other words, these COFs will have only owner-employees on its payroll.

 Distribution of earnings

The earnings of these COFs would be distributed among all shareholders on the basis of “from each according to his ability to each according to his needs” where both ability (that is duties of individual shareholders) and needs (that is requirement of individual shareholders or consumption to be allowed for each individual shareholder) will be determined collectively either by the BOM or by all owner-employees through general meetings or some online voting/decision making system – I am not going into the question of detailed operational rules here – I am only trying to give a taste of the conceptual framework. Detailed operational rules will always emerge concretely in specific firms and often on a case-by-case basis but based on some common general principles – here I am only trying to outline these general principles.

 Short-term & Long-term goals of CFOs

These collectively-owned firms will walk on two legs to use a Mao Ze Dong phrase. On the one hand, they will operate in the capitalist market by producing and marketing whatever they can produce and market competitively vis-a-vis the global market, just as any other firm does, while, on the other hand, they will continuously plough back part of their profits to create a fund that they can invest in a way that would help them to become self-sufficient from a basic needs point of view in an ecologically sustainable way. Already various experiments around the world has established the concept of eco-farms – farms that produce foodgrains, vegetables and livestock products, timber, solar and other renewable energy, cotton/jute or other fibres – almost all that humans need to exist – and all this is done in an organic, ecologically and environmentally sustainable way (an example in India being Ecofarms – http://www.ecofarmsindia.in/about_us.htm ).

While operating in the capitalist market to generate profits just as any other existing firm does, these Firms will also try to build linkages with other such collectively-owned Firms in a bottom-up fashion – first forming a local cluster comprising several Firms linked to each other in a certain locality – then regional clusters comprising several local clusters – then national clusters comprising several regional clusters – then international clusters comprising several national clusters and then finally a single global cluster comprising all the international clusters. The point to note here is that individual collectively-owned Firms remain as they are although they gradually become individual members of a vast, all-encompassing global network.

Thus, what will ultimately emerge is a vast global eco-system of thousands of Collectively Owned Farms owned by Collective Households each connected to each other through a bottom-up network for sharing of both resources as inputs as outputs for consumption completely replacing the money and currency based market system. Exchange values will disappear and be replaced by accounting on the basis of use values and systemic material costs.

This is the basic conceptual framework that perhaps would require further fleshing out to address  all the questions that I am sure will be raised by readers.

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Sadat Hasan Manto, Toba Tek Singh and the Children of Macaulay

Facebook won’t prompt me, or for that matter anybody else, about at least two birthdays that will come up in May – Karl Marx’s on May 5 and Sadat Hasan Manto’s on May 11.

While Marx missed the FB bus by nearly 200 years (he was born in 1818), Manto missed it by about 100 years as he was born exactly a century ago. While most people know who Marx is, Manto is hardly as well-known although he was and probably continues to be arguably one of the best short story writers that this country has produced. Of course, he died a Pakistani. But then that’s another story!

Today’s Delhi edition (and I suppose all other editions) of Times of India carried a nice feature (In search of Manto) on this largely unsung literary giant. Do read it if you can spare the time.

I too came to know of him only when I was nearly 30, in 1986, although by that time I had already been a journalist for more than four years. My wife, who was then regularly freelancing for Sananda, an ABP Group Bengali publication, had been assigned to interview senior Kolkata cop Ayan Rashid Khan, a fairly widely acclaimed essayist and poet in Bengali literary circles, and get his views on Sadat Hasan Manto.

Rashid, as he was known to his literary friends such as Sunil Ganguly, Shakti Chattarjee or my father-in-law Udayan Ghosh, was known for his writing against the ills of Partition – the calamitous event at the dawn of India’s Independence that continues to haunt us even today. Incidentally, Rashid, Shakti and Udayan are no more – may their souls rest in peace – if that is at all possible – any which way you may look at it!

Rashid introduced Manto to my wife and through her to me, a “child of Macaulay” – a product of English medium education that had robbed me of my roots.

Just to explain what I mean to readers who may be unfamiliar with a topic that has often come up in various discourses about India and Indians, Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay, who is said to have convinced the then Governor-General of India Lord Auckland to adopt English as the medium of instruction in higher education, from the sixth year of schooling onwards, rather than Sanskrit or Persian then used in the institutions supported by the East India Company, once famously wrote “We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.”

We the children of Macaulay  – and this group includes the Babus who walk the corridors of power in modern India as also the majority of the country’s educated elite – are “zombies programmed by Macaulay to act like Caliban, the slave”. We continue to accept lying down the evil British design of “divide and rule” and the partition of the sub-continent into India and Pakistan. While Germany has rolled back similar evil imperialist designs to reunite and the people of North and South Korea continue to yearn for such re-unification despite conspiracies hatched by their respective states in league with global superpowers to keep the country divided, we Indians revel at the fact that we are at war with our brethren in Pakistan.

For those who have actually met ordinary Pakistanis (not their elite) as I did once on foreign soil – at the railway station in Dusseldorf, Germany late at night and was rather hassled at the time as we (me and my TOI colleague) did not have a hotel booking, a Pakistani came forward to help us out and he not only guided us into the adjoining Ibis Hotel that you could enter right from the platform but also saved us from a drug addict who was a regular on the platforms and was known to take unwary travelers for a ride – it is quite baffling as to why we, the people of the two countries, are sworn enemies when we are really blood brothers? Why is it that we cannot see through the manipulations of our common enemy -  the imperialists -  and seek immediate reunification so as to re-emerge as the world’s largest economy just as we were till the 17th century right up to the time the British came to India?

Manto wrote in Urdu and he wrote passionately against Partition and being a child of Macaulay, I did not have the good fortune of reading any of his works till I could get hold of an English translation of a collection of his stories in 1999 (Kingdom’s end and other stories translated by Khalid Hasan,Verso, London, 1987). By then nearly a decade and a half had passed since I had first heard about him and I read whatever stories that were available in that translation. His story Toba Tek Singh is an iconic tale about the madness that is Partition. Here is one English version that I am copy-pasting for the convenience of readers as also to give them a quick taste of Manto’s writing:

TOBA TEK SINGH

by Saadat Hasan Manto

(Translated from the Urdu by Frances W. Pritchett)

Two or three years after Partition, it occurred to the governments of Pakistan and Hindustan that like criminal offenders, lunatics too ought to be exchanged: that is, those Muslim lunatics who were in Hindustan’s insane asylums should be sent to Pakistan, and those Hindus and Sikhs who were in Pakistan’s insane asylums should be confided to the care of Hindustan.

There’s no telling whether this idea was wise or unwise; in any case, according to the decision of the learned, high-level conferences took place here and there, and finally a day was fixed for the exchange of lunatics. Thorough investigation was made. Those Muslim lunatics whose relatives were all in Hindustan *08* were allowed to remain there. As for the rest, they were sent off to the border. Here in Pakistan, since almost all the Hindus and Sikhs had already left, the question of keeping anyone didn’t even arise. As many Hindu and Sikh lunatics as there were, all of them were conveyed, under police protection, to the border.

No telling what was going on that side. But here in the Lahore insane asylum, when word of this exchange arrived, major discussions began to take place. One Muslim lunatic, who every day for twelve years had regularly read the “Zamindar,” was asked by a friend, “Molbi Sa’b, what’s this ‘Pakistan’?”; after much thought and reflection he answered, “It’s a kind of place in Hindustan where razors are made.”

Having heard this answer, his friend was satisfied.

In the same way, a second Sikh lunatic asked another Sikh lunatic, “Sardarji, why are we being sent to Hindustan? –We don’t know the language of that place.”

The other smiled: “I know the language of those Hindustaggers– those Hindustanis go strutting around like the devil!”

One day, while bathing, a Muslim lunatic raised the cry of “Long live Pakistan!” with such force that he slipped on the floor and fell, and knocked himself out.

There were also a number of lunatics who were not lunatics. The majority of them were murderers whose relatives had bribed the officers to get them sent to the lunatic asylum, to save them from the coils of the hangman’s noose. These understood something of why Hindustan had been partitioned and what Pakistan was. But they too were ignorant of the actual events. Nothing could be learned from the newspapers. The guards were illiterate and crude; nothing could be picked up from their conversation either. They knew only this much: that there’s a man, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, whom people call the “Qa’id-e Azam.” He has made a separate country for the Muslims, the name of which is Pakistan. Where it is, what its location is– about this they new nothing. This is the reason that in the insane asylum, all the lunatics whose minds were not completely gone were trapped in the dilemma of whether they were in Pakistan or Hindustan. If they were in Hindustan, then where was Pakistan? If they were in Pakistan, then how could this be, since a while ago, while staying right here, they had been in Hindustan?

One lunatic became so caught up in the circle of Pakistan and Hindustan, and Hindustan and Pakistan, that he became even more lunatic. One day he had been sweeping– and then climbed a tree, seated himself on a branch, and gave an unbroken two-hour speech about the subtle problem of Pakistan and Hindustan. When the guards told him to come down, he climbed even higher. When he was warned and threatened, he said, “I don’t want to live in either Hindustan or Pakistan. I’ll live right here in this tree.”

When after great difficulty his ardor was cooled, he came down and began to embrace his Hindu and Sikh friends and weep. His heart overflowed at the thought that they would leave him and go off to Hindustan.

In an M.Sc.-qualified radio engineer, who was Muslim, who used to stroll all day in silence on a special path in the garden entirely apart from the other lunatics, the change that manifested itself was that he removed all his clothing, confided it to the care of a warden, and began to wander all around the garden entirely naked.

A stout Muslim lunatic from Chiniot who had been an enthusiastic worker for the Muslim League, and who bathed fifteen or sixteen times a day, suddenly abandoned this habit. His name was Muhammad Ali. Accordingly, one day in his madness he announced that he was the Qa’id-e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. In imitation of him, a Sikh lunatic became Master Tara Singh. In this madness it almost came to bloodshed, but both were declared ‘dangerous lunatics’ and shut up in separate rooms.

There was a young Hindu lawyer from Lahore who had been rejected in love and had turned lunatic. When he heard that Amritsar had gone away into India, then he was very sad. He had fallen in love with a Hindu girl from that very city. Although she had rejected the lawyer, even in his madness he hadn’t forgotten her. Thus he abused all those Hindu and Muslim leaders who had connived together and made Hindustan into two fragments– his beloved had become Hindustani, and he Pakistani.

When talk of the exchange began, then some of the lunatics comforted the lawyer, saying that he shouldn’t mind about it, that he would be sent to Hindustan– the Hindustan where his beloved lived. But he didn’t want to leave Lahore, because he thought that in Amritsar his practice wouldn’t flourish.

In the European ward there were two Anglo-Indian lunatics. When they learned that the English had freed Hindustan and gone away, they were very much shocked. And for hours they privately conferred about the important question of what their status in the lunatic asylum would be now. Would the European Ward remain, or be abolished? Would breakfast be available, or not? Instead of proper bread, would they have to choke down those bloody Indian chapattis?

There was one Sikh who had been in the insane asylum for fifteen years. Strange and remarkable words were always be heard on his lips: “Upar di gur gur di annex di be dhyana di mung di daal of the lantern.” He slept neither by day nor by night. The guards said that in the long duration of fifteen years he hadn’t slept even for a moment. He didn’t even lie down. Although indeed, he sometimes leaned against a wall.

Because he constantly remained standing, his feet swelled up. His ankles were swollen too. But despite this bodily discomfort, he didn’t lie down and rest. When in the insane asylum there was talk about Hindustan-Pakistan and the exchange of lunatics, he listened attentively. If someone asked him what his opinion was, he answered with great seriousness, “Upar di gur gur di annex di be dhyana di mung di daal of the Pakistan Government.”

But later, “of the Pakistan Government” was replaced by “of the Toba Tek Singh Government,” and he began to ask the other lunatics where Toba Tek Singh was, where he had his home. But no one at all knew whether it was in Pakistan or Hindustan. If they tried to tell him, they themselves were caught up in the perplexity that Sialkot used to be in Hindustan, but now it was said to be in Pakistan. Who knew whether Lahore, which now is in Pakistan, tomorrow might go off to Hindustan? Or all of Hindustan itself might become Pakistan? And who could place his hand on his breast and say whether Hindustan and Pakistan might not both someday vanish entirely?

This Sikh lunatic’s hair had grown very thin and sparse. Because he rarely bathed, the hair of his beard and head had clumped together, which gave him a very frightening appearance. But the man was harmless. In fifteen years he’d never quarreled with anybody. The longtime custodians in the insane asylum knew only this much about him: that he had some lands in Toba Tek Singh. He was a prosperous landlord, when suddenly his mind gave way. His relatives bound him in heavy iron chains, brought him to the insane asylum, got him admitted, and left.

These people came once a month to see him; after checking on his welfare, they left. For a long time these visits took place regularly. But when the confusion over Pakistan-Hindustan began, the visits stopped.

His name was Bishan Singh, but everyone called him “Toba Tek Singh.” He had absolutely no idea what day it was, what month it was, or how many years had passed. But every month when his near and dear ones came to visit him, then he himself used to be aware of it. Thus he used to tell the custodian that his visitors were coming. That day he bathed very well, scrubbed his body thoroughly with soap, and put oil on his hair and combed it. He had them bring out clothes that he never wore, and put them on, and in such a state of adornment he went to meet his visitors. If they asked him anything, then he remained silent, or from time to time said, “Upar di gur gur di annex di be dhyana di mung di dal of the lantern.”

He had one daughter who, growing a finger-width taller every month, in fifteen years had become a young girl. Bishan Singh didn’t even recognize her. When she was a child, she wept when she saw her father; when she’d grown up, tears still flowed from her eyes.

When the story of Pakistan and Hindustan began, he started asking the other lunatics where Toba Tek Singh was. When no reassuring answer was forthcoming, day by day his agitation increased. Now even his visitors didn’t come. Formerly, he himself used to be aware that his visitors were coming. But now it was as if even the voice of his heart, which used to tell him of their arrival, had fallen silent.

His great desire was that those people would come who showed sympathy toward him, and brought him fruit, sweets, and clothing. If he asked them where Toba Tek Singh was, they would certainly tell him whether it was in Pakistan or Hindustan. Because his idea was that they came from Toba Tek Singh itself, where his lands were.

In the insane asylum there was also a lunatic who called himself God. When one day Bisham Singh asked him whether Toba Tek Singh was in Pakistan or Hindustan, he burst out laughing, as was his habit, and said, “It’s neither in Pakistan nor in Hindustan– because we haven’t given the order yet.”

A number of times Bishan Singh asked this God, with much pleading and cajoling, to give the order, so that the perplexity would be ended; but he was very busy, because he had countless orders to give. One day, growing irritated, Bishan Singh burst out at him, “Upar di gur gur di annex di be dhyana di mung di dal of hail to the Guruji and the Khalsa, and victory to the Guruji! Who says this will thrive– the true God is ever alive!”

Perhaps the meaning of this was, “You’re the God of the Muslims! If you were the God of the Sikhs, you’d surely have listened to me!”

Some days before the exchange, a Muslim from Toba Tek Singh who was his friend came to visit him. He had never come before. When Bishan Singh saw him, he moved off to one side and turned to go back, but the guards stopped him.

“He’s come to visit you. He’s your friend Fazal Din.”

Bishan Singh took one look at Fazal Din, and began to mutter something. Fazal Din came forward and put a hand on his shoulder. “I’ve been thinking for a long time that I’d come see you, but I just didn’t get a chance…. All your family are well; they’ve gone off to Hindustan…. I helped as much as I could…. Your daughter Rup Kaur…”

He stopped in the midst of what he was saying. Bishan Singh began to remember something. “Daughter Rup Kaur.”

Fazl Din said haltingly, “Yes… she… she too is fine…. She too went off with them.”

Bishan Singh remained silent. Fazal Din began saying, “They told me to check on your welfare from time to time…. Now I’ve heard that you’re going to Hindustan…. Give my greetings to brother Balbesar Singh and brother Vadhava Singh…. And sister Amrit Kaur too…. Tell brother Balbesar that those brown water buffaloes that he left behind, one of them had a male calf…. The other had a female calf, but when it was six days old it died…. And… and if there’s anything I can do for you, tell me; I’m at your service…. And I’ve brought you a little puffed-rice candy.”

Bishan Singh confided the bundle of puffed-rice candy to the guard standing nearby, and asked Fazal Din, “Where is Toba Tek Singh?”

Fazal Din said with some astonishment, “Where is it? Right there where it was!”

Bishan Singh asked, “In Pakistan, or in Hindustan?”

“In Hindustan — no, no, in Pakistan.” Fazal Din was thrown into confusion.

Bishan Singh went off muttering, “Upar di gur gur di annex di be dhyana di mung di dal of the Pakistan and Hindustan of the get out, loudmouth!”

Preparations for the exchange had been completed. Lists of the lunatics coming from here to there, and from there to here, had arrived, and the day of the exchange had also been fixed.

It was extremely cold when the lorries full of Hindu and Sikh lunatics from the Lahore insane asylum set out, with a police guard. The escorting wardens were with them as well. At the Wagah border the two parties’ superintendents met each other; and after the initial procedures had been completed, the exchange began, and went on all night.

To extricate the lunatics from the lorries, and confide them to the care of the other wardens, was a very difficult task. Some refused to emerge at all. Those who were willing to come out became difficult to manage, because they suddenly ran here and there. If clothes were put on the naked ones, they tore them off their bodies and flung them away. Someone was babbling abuse, someone was singing. They were fighting among themselves, weeping, muttering. People couldn’t make themselves heard at all– and the female lunatics’ noise and clamor was something else. And the cold was so fierce that everybody’s teeth were chattering.

The majority of the lunatics were not in favor of this exchange. Because they couldn’t understand why they were being uprooted from their place and thrown away like this. Those few who were capable of a glimmer of understanding were raising the cries, “Long live Pakistan!” and “Death to Pakistan!” Two or three times a fight was narrowly averted, because a number of Muslims and Sikhs, hearing these slogans, flew into a passion.

When Bishan Singh’s turn came, and on that side of the Wagah border the accompanying officer began to enter his name in the register, he asked, “Where is Toba Tek Singh? In Pakistan, or in Hindustan?”

The accompanying officer laughed: “In Pakistan.”

On hearing this Bishan Singh leaped up, dodged to one side, and ran to rejoin his remaining companions. The Pakistani guards seized him and began to pull him in the other direction, but he refused to move. “Toba Tek Singh is here!” — and he began to shriek with great force, “Upar di gur gur di annex di be dhyana di mung di dal of Toba Tek Singh and Pakistan!”

They tried hard to persuade him: “Look, now Toba Tek Singh has gone off to Hindustan! And if it hasn’t gone, then it will be sent there at once.” But he didn’t believe them. When they tried to drag him to the other side by force, he stopped in the middle and stood there on his swollen legs as if now no power could move him from that place.

Since the man was harmless, no further force was used on him. He was allowed to remain standing there, and the rest of the work of the exchange went on.

In the pre-dawn peace and quiet, from Bishan Singh’s throat there came a shriek that pierced the sky…. From here and there a number of officers came running, and they saw that the man who for fifteen years, day and night, had constantly stayed on his feet, lay prostrate. There, behind barbed wire, was Hindustan. Here, behind the same kind of wire, was Pakistan. In between, on that piece of ground that had no name, lay Toba Tek Singh.

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