Have Marxists come to the end of the tether with their own theory of proletarian economy? In Kerala, the Marxist Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, has appointed a Harvard economist and Keralite Gita Gopinath as his economic adviser. She is known as an acolyte of the evangelist of free market economics, Milton Friedman. His philosophy, rather than that of Marx-Engels-Mao, forms the baseline in her economic theory and practice.
The remittances from abroad have been bringing in Kerala above 10 billion dollars annually for almost two decades. The multiplier and trickle down effect of so much money is tremendous. The state has emerged as the largest consumer market and a high wage state in India, with the average at a minimum being three times that of the national average. Every indicator like healthcare, birth rate, maternal mortality rate and life span, is much higher in the state as against the national data on these and others.
The Marxist Chief Minister turning to advice from the market economist signifies acknowledgement that Marxist slogans may still attract the people but do not deliver in terms of jobs and economic growth. Top communist leaders are facing the stark reality by adjusting to it though on the issue of democratic norms they still live by the tenets of “proletarian dictatorship”. In the Indian context, they reluctantly accept democracy but use a vast network of dedicated followers to impose their will on the people by widespread use of violence.
The Kerala communist leader, to be fair to him, is not the first Marxist, who in economic theory, has embraced the allurements of free market economy. The pioneer among global Marxists who openly opted for the free market capitalist economy was Chairman Mao’s successor in Beijing, Deng Tsiao Ping. Inheriting an economy that was in total crisis and chaos as a result of Mao’s Marxist “cultural revolution” ideas, Deng in 1976 flew to Singapore to learn at the feet of free market economy’s most successful government leader, Lee Kuan Yew. As a result, Marxist China became authoritarian in politics but free market in economics. It’s a ruthless capitalist system, sans human rights, in China now.
The scene in Moscow in 1991, when unarmed Russians confronted the Soviet leadership and the Soviet tanks, presents human history’s frozen moment for posterity. In the late 1980s, people under communism in eastern Europe, it is relevant to recall, had collectively denounced Marxist leadership and brought down the humbug of “proletarian dictatorship” regimes one by one replacing them with free market economies. One of the last outposts of hardline communism, Cuba, has now welcomed the American regime and President Obama is now a welcome guest in Vietnam, the country which had in the 1970s driven the Americans out of its land in a long drawn battle.
That leaves only the North Korean family regime of the Kims, which enforces its government over its people through frequent and brutal execution of all dissenters, as the lone US hating communist country that has shut the world from knowing what is happening in the claimed communist paradise.
Kerala Chief Minister Vijayan’s preference for a Harvard economist to advise him on lifting his domain into the high table of domestic and foreign investment destinations, may or may not win for him the place Deng had got in Beijing over a two decade rule. For all the billionaires and millionaires the free market economy of China under a one-party Marxist rule is creating, the incoherence between political orthodoxy and economic liberalism is beginning to show.
An economic slowdown, increasing discomfort among the farmers and the lower middle class, the downside of the export-led growth weighing down the once humming factories and the once great destination for foreign investment losing its shine, are some of the grim reminders that all is not well with Beijing.
The Marxist party in India that has been a great admirer of Chinese communists for their political hold on the world’s largest populous country and building of a huge globalising economy, is at the crossroads. The communists have never grown beyond West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala except for some pockets of influence elsewhere.
After the global wave against Soviet-type communism in the 1990s, the short-lived clout with the first UPA government and setback in West Bengal, followed by the return of the Congress-led coalition to power in Kerala in 2011, the Marxist wave has been fast receding even in its pockets of influence in the country. Whether the Kerala Marxist leader Pinarayi Vijayan wants to cast himself as the Malayali version of the famous Chinese Marxist leader Deng Tsiao Ping by getting a Harvard economist to advise his government is difficult to say at the moment.
Right now his problem is to keep under control two forces: one certainly is the mass following within his party of the sidelined octogenarian leader VS Achuthanandan, a powerful orthodox Marxist. The second would be to discipline the party cadres and the Marxist trade unions that frighten investors from choosing Kerala as their destination.
Harvard or Princeton economists cannot help because the Marxist party derives its power from these rogue trade unions and cadres. The law in Marxist land is not what the legislature says, but what Marxist party cadres dictate to hapless people whether it is a prospective investor or simply a common passenger who lands anywhere in the state. Gita Gopinath is not the real issue.