Saturday, 10 October 2020

Benjamin Zachariah & Gramscian bullshit

A couple of weeks after 9/11, the Econ & Political Weekly showed it had it finger on the pulse of the Zeitgeist by publishing an article by Benjamin Zachariah titled 'Uses of Scientific Arguments- the Case of 'Development' in India 1930-50.'

The‘lateness’ of the colonial state begins from the point at which it declares its own impending demise: rhetorically, in the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms document, and more generally after the first world war, when the Wilsonian principle of self-determination was on everyone’s lips; and the formula of ‘trusteeship’ was invented to cover the division of parts of the former Turkish empire and the colonies of the Central Powers among the victorious allies. This declaration of its own lateness on the part of the colonial state, even if  widely recognised to be more rhetorical than real, is nonetheless an important event: it sets in motion certain anticipations of a future situation of impending decolonisation and independence. Anticipations of decolonisation and independence set in motion certain debates of an urgency that was lacking in their earlier versions, because they were less immediate.

The Montague-Chelmsford Reforms were a continuation of the Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909. Woodrow Wilson excluded dark skinned people from the principle of Self Determination. League of Nations Mandates distinguished between basically Caucasian countries- which were supposed to be prepared for self-government and African territories which would remain under White tutelage forever.  India's case was different. Britain had gained and would retain paramountcy over it only on the basis of its internal divisions. What changed in 1917 was that Congress and the Muslim League were able to come together. Thus India could have achieved what Ireland and Egypt achieved within the next five years. However, the Congress/Khilafat combine fell apart when Gandhi unilaterally surrendered. Ten years later, at the Second Round Table Conference, all the minorities united against Gandhi. Henceforth, the British would dictate the pace of change and do so on the basis of self interest. Only with the election of Atlee's Labour Government could the Raj be said to have declared the imminence of its demise- though India and Pakistan remained within the Commonwealth. 

When did Indians begin to debate 'Development' in its modern sense? The answer is, it began to do so when Raja Ram Mohan Roy and other such compradors embraced Benthamite Utilitarianism and set up newspapers in the 1820's and began lobbying the British parliament to develop India by sending over more White people to take over the land. By the time of Dadhabhai Naoroji, who was born in the late 1820's, English medium schools were indoctrinating kids in the new Political Economy. Those, like Naoroji who had mathematical ability could branch out from Teaching Mathematics to becoming Dewans or participating in Commercial Enterprises. As a modern mercantile class gained wealth, it could afford to sponsor its own Economist/Politicians. Naoroji and Bhownagree both became Members of the British Parliament. Naoroji moved in a more radical direction, rubbing shoulders with Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. But, by then, India had professional economists who, though brilliant students of Marshall, were more inclined to Listian 'National Economy' arguments. But, in a more inchoate manner, there was also a Socialist school of Economists as well as a 'Swadeshi' search for an indigenous solution based on neo-orthodox Religion and reformed Social Mores. 

It is not the case- as Zachariah implies- that first there was the Montague Chelmsford Reforms and then there was a debate about Development. Instead, the older dream of simply chucking the Brits out and resurrecting the old dynasties had given place to the understanding that, as the Great War showed, the age of Empires was over ; War was no longer the sport of Kings ; Heavy Industry alone could supply its sinews. The days of the dashing Cavalier were gone. Victory would go to the side with the better trained proletariat.

India had astonished itself by supplying soldiers in unprecedented quantities to European battlefields far beyond the ken of a Cyrus, an Alexander, or even the Umayyads. Clearly there was nothing wrong with its man-power. What it required was the sinews of war and the engines of prosperity for the peace that must follow. 

Zachariah takes a different view. He thinks Indians were a primitive people. They were discovering Science. This would free them from the opium dream of Religion. They would then become Socialists- coz Marxism is 'Scientific' right?- and all would be right with the world. Yet, nothing of the sort occurred. Why? The fault must lie with 'Development'. It was of the wrong sort. It didn't kill off Religion and Patriotism and Business Sense. So it was very naughty and readers of the EPW should be told about its naughtiness. This is not to say Science is bad and should be sent to bed without any supper. Rather, it is the 'uses' of 'Scientific arguments' which may be bad. EPW readers should be warned about this or they may abuse themselves using Scientific arguments and then they will go blind and hair will grown on their palms or, like Rousseau, they may give themselves a hernia by incessantly jerking off. 

Notable among these debates in India were those on ‘development’. In reading the writings of people who were concerned with ‘development’ at the time, it becomes clear that they were

following in the footsteps of great men who made their mark in the Nineteenth Century 

not merely interested in ‘economic development’ or ‘economic planning’.

Economic planning only became a buzzword in the Thirties because of the perceived success of 'Planned' Economies more particularly those pursuing autarkic policies.  

By contrast, there had been plenty of technocratic Dewans and Officials as well as Commercial Magnates of various sorts who, throughout the Nineteenth Century, had done 'economic development' by building dams or constructing canals or introducing new crops and setting up factories and so forth.  

The debates reveal a surplus meaning and an emotive significance that is not explicable merely with reference to the state of the discipline of economics at the time, or even to conventional political economy explanations regarding ‘interests’.

If so, this 'surplus' was always and will always be present.  

‘Development’ now stood forth as a category through which concerns related to a future, possible India could be ordered, and connected with ideas of regeneration and progress.

But the merchant adventurers of the East India Company- as much as indigenous mercantile castes- had always spoken of how to increase production and productivity. That's all that 'Development' means. Whether you are in business or are an Estate Manager or a high official concerned with Fiscal policy, you must speak the language of improving the allocation of resources so as to raise output. On the other hand, it is true that some nutters bought into Stalinist propaganda and thus came to believe that 'Planning' had some magical power. However, the precondition for it- in a largely agricultural nation- was collectivization of the land. This was impossible in India because the Commies could easily be rounded up and beaten to death. Only if the Reds managed to gain control of the Army and were able to use it to kill off a vast class of people- something the Khalqis tried in Afghanistan some forty years ago with disastrous results- could Stalinist 'Planning' pass itself off as a panacea.

Although catalysed by contemporary worldwide discussions about how to manage economies or how to industrialise quickly – the New Deal, Soviet and Fascist planning, the beginnings of Keynesianism – these debates contained and incorporated far wider concerns.

The New Deal was about recovering from a Depression, not 'how to industrialise quickly'. As for 'Soviet and Fascist planning'- this involved robbery and murder on an industrial scale. The 'wider concern' had to do with the how to run the fuck away from places where it was happening.

In India, there were two types of 'Plans'. One was the technocratic, Bhavnagar, type which was a continuation of what progressive Diwans and Commercial Magnates had been doing for the last fifty years. Visvesvarayya (an engineer turned Dewan) noting that India no longer had a bottleneck in the shape of lack of technocratic manpower, urged the adoption of a 10 percent target achievable through public-private partnerships. This scared the Left. If India could grow rapidly without their bullshit then they would be doomed to masturbation in ever emptier lecture halls. Amartya Sen reflected the presuppositions of the Indian Left when, towards the end of the Fifties, he explained that private enterprise could generate rapid economic growth but this would mean that India had succumbed to Fascism. This was because the Indian Left equate trains running on time, and public officials displaying competence and incorruptibility, to the magical power of evil Fascist bastards who are all the more evil for being completely invisible. 

The other sort of plan India had was Gandhian nonsense. Everyone should spin their own cotton and grow their own food and abstain from sex till the race died out. 

Four themes stand out in these debates.Nationalists spoke about development in terms of the need for government to express certain social concerns (called ‘socialism’, but whose criteria varied enormously); in terms of the importance of science and technology,

as opposed to Magic and talking nonsense 

therefore of the directing expertise of technically qualified personnel;

rather than random nutjobs 

and of the need for ‘national discipline’,

as opposed to polymorphously perverse orgies 

often expressed in terms of the moral unity of the ‘nation’.

Because only evil Fascist bastards think 'Nations' should be united. Nice Leftists think they should be disunited and immoral.  

These three recurrent themes appeared in various combinations. A fourth theme, which could attach itself variously to arguments using any or all of the other themes, but which on its own was ineffective as a yardstick of legitimacy,

Gandhianism was 'ineffective' in claiming legitimacy? Really? Who knew? 

was what might be called the ‘indigenist’ theme: to be legitimate,‘development’ had to take an Indian, not a ‘foreign’ path.

Because development is not 'Indian' if it occurs in California. 

The four themes were contained within a view of development-as-progress – which had to be ‘modern’(implying a progress possibly universal in nature), but not ‘western’.

Why? Because India had a different property and legal regime.  

 Interlocking and intermeshed, these themes provided the basic building materials of development debates in late colonial India,

and everywhere else at all times. Development has an ideographic component because geography is ideographic not nomothetic. That's why India's Mathematical Economists added negative value to Development Studies. 

a discursive framework that included both proponents and opponents of the developmental model that many in India came to know and love in the 1950s:

nobody 'loved' the Planning Commission. But it did help channel American 'free money' into the hands of vested interests. 

heavy industry, state protection, centralisation and planning. This essay highlights for discussion one of these themes: science and technology – without, it is hoped, losing sight of its linkages to the other themes.

Science and Technology costs foreign exchange. Either export led growth pays for its import or else 'free money' from donors. Indian 'planning' was merely an extension of 'begging bowl diplomacy'. It lost salience once the hole in the begging bowl proved to be India's Gandhian soul which LBJ insisted it sell in return for PL480 food shipments.  

Why is this discursive framework worth discussing at all?

Because it shows that the Leftist enthusiasts for Planning were always shite. The EPW was their vehicle. They prevented India from rising up the way other poor Nations had risen up. Why? Their 'discursive framework' was mental masturbation. But it was American dollars which paid for their imbecility. 

Ideas that form the basis of the accepted political rhetoric of public arenas are ideas that define the boundaries of publicly acceptable political behaviour.

Nonsense! In politics, there is no relationship whatsoever between rhetoric and behaviour.  

They therefore define public standards to which people are expected to conform:

merely appearing to conform is all that is required. 

a language of politics that becomes inescapable in that claims to political legitimacy must be made in that language.

which is why the British still rule over India- right? 

This creates the basis for public debate and the standards for acceptable action. Deviations from such norms need to be hidden,or justified as only apparent deviations,ultimately assimilable within the bounds of the norms.

This is nonsense. In politics, as in physics, there are phase transitions- tipping points. One moment it is unacceptable to be anything but loyal to the regime, the next everybody is explaining how they had been secretly with the Resistance.  

The point, therefore, is not whether the users of a language of legitimacy always believe in the language themselves, but why they must use it even if they don’t. And this involves tracing how a language came into being.

The users of a language of x use language x. Why do they use it? Some may do so because they are coerced. Others do so because it is in their interest. Yet others do so merely as a matter of habit. To find out why a particular person is using a language of x, we need to look at his motivation. We don't need to 'trace how a language came into being'. Suppose I know how the language of Japan came into being- which, in fact, nobody knows. I would not be able to explain how come my neighbor speaks Japanese. Is it because she has a Japanese grandmother? Or did she learn Japanese for work or because of some cultural interest she has?  

There was, of course, a very straightforward reason to claim importance for science in development. Technology was recognised as a necessary means to the desired end of industrialisation, through which Indian economic development would be achieved – this is well-documented in existing writing.

Every country, during the course of the nineteenth century, realized the link between pure and applied Science and the manner in which they could revolutionize the Economy. 

There was both private and public provision of Scientific and Technological education in India and Europe. Around the same time as Prince Albert was promoting Science and Technology in London, Indian entrepreneurs and some Princes and officials began pressing for similar establishments in India.

At College, Mahatma Gandhi was asked to translate the following into Gujarati-

I shall, therefore, rejoice if part of the fund to be raised to commemorate the Jubilee of the Queen Empress be devoted to enabling India to take her place in the new industrial world into which she has entered during the first fifty years of Her Majesty's reign. I hail the circumstance that at this very juncture the need of technical education in India has been powerfully borne in on the mind of Her Majesty's honoured representative in this land. I look upon this as a providential opportunity for directing a portion of the national wealth to a permanent means of national progress. India will rejoice in many ways that her beloved sovereign has been spared to reign during so many glorious years. Illuminations statues, memorial buildings, the feeding of the poor are each and all fitting expressions of the glad heart of the people. But to enable India to worthily fill the new place which she has won in the industrial world during Queen Victoria's reign, seems to my mind one of the noblest purposes to which the thanks offerings of a grateful nation can be devoted. For the last illumination will sputter out into darkness, and time will lay its defacing Finger on the marble and the bronze; but the education of the people has within itself an inherent life which can never perish, and which will throw out new and ampler growths from generation to generation.

Needless to say, Gandhi quickly quit this College whose English was unintelligible to him and, on the advise of the family priest, hightailed it to London where peeps spick Inglis gud innit?  

On the other hand, Indian Colleges were producing good enough Scientists and Engineers by the 1880s and by 1900 it was possible for even quite poor 'low caste' boys from remote villages to rise up on the basis of merit into well remunerated employment of an increasingly prestigious type.  It is no surprise that, by the Nineteen Twenties, Indians were producing Nobel worthy Scientists and Technologists.  

But this was more a concern with technology – practical application of engineering or technical skills – than with scientific practice and method for its own sake.

Zachariah is wrong. By 1930, even the uneducated Marwari shopkeeper understood that Technologists have to be instructed in Pure Science and Mathematics. First the Tatas and then the Birlas and so forth were willing to invest in 'pure' Science and, after Independence, Nehru was happy to invest in such institutes headed up by scions of leading mercantile families.  

In the course of the insistence on the need to industrialise– a call which went back to the 19th century– a great deal of attention had been paid to the lack of technology and technological skills in India.

But, as Visvesvaraya pointed out, this 'bottleneck' no longer obtained. There were plenty of first class Physics and Chemistry and Engineering graduates- some trained abroad, some wholly indigenous.  

The main concern with the teaching of science was centred in imperial arguments around its clearly practical applications – the promotion of engineering colleges being one such area.

'Imperial arguments' were irrelevant. The Military needed engineers as did the Canal administration and so forth. But Indian entrepreneurs too wanted a skilled workforce. As Pure Science and Mathematics gained in prestige, Maharajas and Nawabs were willing to finance Higher Education in such subjects. But so would religious communities- e.g. Aligarh Muslim University or Benares Hindu University etc.  

The debate around ‘technical education’ was also a strong strand in British India,

But 'Britishness' was a thin veneer. The real debate was between Indians. Ultimately, the Religious and Socially Conservative groups came to see Modern Science and Mathematics and so forth as actually confirming their ancient Scriptures. Hindus and Buddhists embraced Darwinian theory because it was compatible with their belief system. But Islam too had a workaround to do with the difference between the 'realm of command' and the 'realm of creation'. That is why the new 'fundamentalism' was more likely to attract the Science graduate than Artsy Fartsy types.  

merging with the demand for industrialisation.

Industrialisation was happening anyway. The 'demand' was for 'infant industry' protection and an accommodative exchange rate and monetary policy.

No doubt, the industrialists hoped that India- like Japan in the Eighteen Nineties- would set up Heavy Industries which would be privatized so as to generate tax revenue. Sadly, that privatization failed to materialize. Instead, the axe swung in the other direction. India paid a heavy price for this folly of the Leftists. 

While for the Indian side of the argument, this was to be combined with constructive government activity, a protective tariff policy, and genuine fiscal autonomy, it was often the limit to what the government was willing to do.

Till the Americans supplied 'free money' which turned out to be a poisoned chalice.  

Nevertheless, in connection with ‘development’ it was urged that science should be put to the service of industrial research and technical training of scientists who would thereafter serve industry – a phenomenon, it was claimed by opponents of the government, which was well known in Britain and other industrialised nations. Nationalists were quick to blame government policy for the inadequate promotion of industrial research or technological training.

The truth is Nehru backed Nationalization because he believed he could create a Technocratic Cadre within the Bureaucracy. The IAS 'generalists' strangled this scheme of his. But, private enterprise too became lethargic. Protection means 'infant industries' never have to grow up. Why bother with technical innovation when you can sell a crap British or Italian car from the Nineteen Fifties for three times the world price in a captive market?  Planning created output quotas- i.e. monopolies. 'The best of monopoly profits is a quiet life'- i.e. not having to innovate or compete in any way. 

In the course of these debates, scientists were

irrelevant. The smart ones emigrated.  

increasingly being cast as the most potentially influential group in a new India ; they were increasingly being included in discussions on developmental matters as‘experts’; and a number of them had already begun to take this role extremely seriously, carrying the message of the importance of science to a wide and constantly increasing readership among the educated middle classes.

Then everybody realized they were shite and so the 'educated middle classes' used 'trapped' PL480 dollars to finance their Hegira to American Labs or NASA and Silicon Valley.  

Journals which catered to a general middle-class reader-ship carried articles on the importance of science,

This happened all over the world. 

on occasion discussing complicated concepts in various branches of science taking for granted the interest of its readership in these matters; a scientific journal could cater to a general interested readership beyond the scientific community, carrying articles on the intricate details of electronic engineering, statistics or physics problems alongside news of the latest developments in Sigmund Freud’s work in Vienna and the successes of the Soviet industrialisation programme.

Magazines had sciencey articles in every country. Yet economic outcomes diverged. Why? It is because magazines don't matter. Language does not matter. Economics is about buying low and selling high and making money and investing money so as to make yet more money. The State can do it. Private Enterprise can do it. But the thing has to be done. Mental masturbation of the EPW sort helps nobody.  

 It might be said,

by a mental masturbator 

therefore, that the need for technology gave way to a heightened interest in scientific practice,

you don't know you need technology till you start using it so intensively that you get hooked. 'Interest in Scientific practice' is historically prior to the creation of new technology. First there is a Descartes, then there is the Steam Engine. But, whereas a country can have lots of philosophers, the Steam Engine won't get off the ground unless it can generate profits. That means buying low and selling high and investing the profits so as to make yet more money.  

which of course was in congruence with the perceived need to be ‘modern’

as opposed to ancient and dead and buried in a fucking pyramid 

– a normative term usually related to in terms of technological or material conditions, 

but the debate between 'the ancients and the moderns' predated any great amelioration of technological or material conditions 

and more specifically in terms of industrialisation. For others, the instrumental use of technology was of more interest than the wider intellectual pretensions of science. In 1934,the engineer and former Dewan of Mysore Sir M Visvesvaraya wrote to Gandhi, “I feel that in this machine age, we should not hesitate, except in temporary situations, to utilise mechanical power to the utmost limit that circumstances permit...I am enclosing an extract from a speech by the Russian leader J Stalin...”.

Visvesvaraya was 74 years old at the time. Gandhi, who was 65, was a mere baby by comparison. My point is that the older generation was smarter and more radical than Gandhi.  

Visvesvaraya was no socialist, believing in the virtues of private capital, and was in fact an admirer

like Gandhi who said the Duce was working towards the same end as himself 

of Mussolini’s ability to get things done properly by disciplining and thereby modernising the masses;

in Gandhi's case, this meant getting the masses to form an orderly queue in order for the police to hit them on the head with lathis.  

the appeal of Stalin was therefore the Stalinists’ apparent ability to solve problems of production and industrialisation by the use of technology.

as opposed to what? Magic? The reason Visvesvaraya mentions Stalin is because Stalin had created an agricultural surplus- by starving millions- and used the foreign exchange earned by 'the primary sector' to import technology. Incidentally, an Indian Chemist working for Dow was encouraged to settle in Russia- he was even provided a nice Russian wife- and he lived very comfortably under Stalin though plenty of Indian Communists in Moscow ended up with a bullet in the back of the head.  

In this he was not alone. A K Shaha,

that should be Saha 

practical scientist and ‘scientific socialist’, the man who claimed to have persuaded Subhas Bose,Congress president at the time, to set up the Congress’ National Planning Committee in 1938, and a member of the NPC himself, wrote in 1948, ‘“Industry and technique solve all problems”, rightly said Comrade Stalin’.

Hilarious! Gulags and genocides solved Stalin's problems till he solved his comrades' major problem by dying. 

The connection of science and technology with industry and ultimately with‘modernity’ was a theme stressed in the1930s, and particularly in the course of arguing against the Gandhian line on not using machinery.

Since Gandhi was financed by industrialists, his arguments were ineffectual. By the late Thirties, nobody was listening to that toothless old crank.  

 This was not the only point of criticism of Gandhi. Others were on the line of his ideas inadvertently

inadvertently? The guy was taking money from Birlas and Bajajs and so forth. There was nothing 'inadvertent' about the piper playing the tune decided on by the guys who pay him  

serving capitalism by providing legitimation for the capitalists through the idea of the‘trusteeship’ role of the wealthy; that his ideas were ‘backward’ and not conducive to modern life; and that contrary to Gandhi’s claims, they were not ‘indigenous’. On the question of ‘indigenism’, unlike the other points, it was his opponents who felt more defensive.

Why? Because they could not tap into caste based vote banks. In politics, you are on the defensive only if you have no mass following 

Gandhi’s claim that his opponents’ positions were not in keeping with Indian traditions or conditions;

though, it turned out, his own position was not in keeping with Indian conditions but rather represented the ancient tradition of talking worthless bollocks 

that they were ‘western’, was the main strength which Gandhian arguments could rely on, as it drew on old anxieties regarding cultural disruption or what constituted legitimate borrowings from the ‘west’.

This anxiety was au fond religious and affected caste status. Economic forces, operating at the margin, could cause 'phase transition'- provided they were allowed to work. India's tragedy is that the interessement mechanism of various sorts of mental masturbators were able to keep a corrupt rent-seeking racket on the road down to our own day

On the subject of machinery and industrialisation, therefore, the response of ‘modernisers’ to accusations of their ‘westernisation’ or a lack of respect for ‘tradition’ was based on a strategy which claimed that there was nothing wrong with the principles of Science and the benefits of technology on which industrialisation was based per se ; if it appeared that they were not universally valid, this was due to their misuse, which had distorted the results obtained. In the hands of a nationalist government with due regard for Indian conditions they could be put to the best possible use.

In other words- 'Technology means bigger profits. If your people are making the profit, why object to it?' The Luddite only smashes machinery which does not belong to him.  

The Gandhian voice, on the other hand, represented to them an unfortunate commitment to ‘backwardness’

idiocy would be more accurate. One can be as backward as shit but still do sensible things.  

– it was admitted by ‘modernisers’ that village industries might have a place in an economically rational scheme to provide employment at the local level, and for this purpose might even be worthy of government protection, but, as the journal put it, to place a commitment to ‘the philosophy of spinning wheel and bullock cart’ at the centre of national economic life could only be a denial of the progress of science, of the ‘techniques of modern civilisation’.

Handicrafts can be 'high value adding'. A Government Bureau promoting this type of industry can generate a profit. The problem with Gandhi was that he didn't want weavers to specialize in fabrics they could not themselves afford to wear. The truth is the handloom sector could have done very well if weavers, carpet makers, etc were allowed to import the best foreign yarn. But this was against the interest of Gandhi's financial backers.  

 This was an unviable approach “[i]f India is to grow into a powerful world-entity like the US, Soviet Russia, and the countries of westernEurope... A nation, however great its moral and spiritual qualities may be, can not hope to win battles with bows and arrows against tanks and artillery. In this world of strife and competition, if a nation wants to survive, it must develop the latest techniques of civilised existence”.

This was obvious to everyone. Still some money could be made pretending otherwise.  The Maharishi made billions by claiming to teach his acolytes how to levitate. 'Yogic flying' was supposed to emanate 'peace rays' and thus avert Nuclear Armageddon. 

 This, it might be noted, was a view of the state and of state power being conflated with the nation.

Because State power exists even if no nation exists. Where does this guy teach? Hogwarts?  

This was also a scientist’s or a technologist’s critique; it assumed a good deal in terms of the transformative capacity of technology.

Whereas Zacharias and his ilk assume a good deal about the transformative capacity of bullshit.  

The Congress Socialists’ critique was more subtle,

Subtle? Bullshit is not subtle. It is shit.  

and took Gandhian ideas more seriously, while still maintaining a strong polemic against them.The CSP were always careful to preface their criticism of Gandhian ideas with the assertion that they had no doubts as to Gandhi’s own good intentions – it was merely the logic of his ideas that they questioned. Asoka Mehta, addressing the Gandhian question of whether machines caused unemployment, accepted that this was indeed the case in many countries of the world at present, but concluded that this was only the case under capitalism –“the logic of capitalism demands an army of unemployed as its reserve force, and it will not eliminate it”.

Whereas the logic of Gandhian Socialism demands an army of antagonomic cretins.  

Under socialism,“there will be planned economy and work will be so evenly distributed that all will have their share of work and leisure”.

Also everybody will be sweet and nice and plentiful rain will fall at the proper time.  

This rebuttal was conducive to confusions on an important point: planning under private ownership of technology could also lead to the replacement of workers by machines. Mehta and other Congress socialists had made the point clear elsewhere, when he argued, describing the initiatives of the New Deal, that planning under capitalism merely strengthens capitalism.

This remains the credo of Leftists like Amartya Sen. If Capitalism works well then it will inevitably turn into Fascism. It is better to be poor and Socialist than risk going down that road. God alone knows why Indian Leftists have such blind belief in Fascism. The truth is, if there are no Commies who need to be beaten in the streets then there can be no Il Duce or Fuhrer or Franco or whatever. Fascism may be better than Communism- but not by much.  

 In the above passage, it was possible to interpret planning and socialism as somehow necessarily connected.

No. Planning could be associated with Right Wing Governments. Socialism-in-one-country, however, had to have planning because it was assumed that the Capitalist West would try to fuck with it.  

This was a conflation of terms often made,

No it wasn't. Visvesvaraya produced a plan for India. He clearly wasn't a Socialist.  

with a planned economy and a large state sector being allowed to stand forth as socialism.

Oswald Mosley, first within the Labor party and then his own 'New Party' introduced the notion of National Economic Planning to the British masses. But it already had an intellectual pedigree on the Left. What was novel was the way that the Right embraced this notion during the Thirties. Indians were well aware of these developments. It is foolish to say they 'conflated' Planning with Socialism.  

The reclaiming of science as a legitimately Indian concern was

accomplished in the Nineteenth Century. Sarojini Naidu's daddy got a D.Sc from Edinburgh in 1875. The Nizam of Hyderabad engaged him to create a College in his State.  

also central to the arguments in the often polemical debate against Gandhi: science was not to be regarded as outside the Indian cultural framework:
It is probably not so well known that the east has originated all those arts and crafts which are responsible for the greatness of the present European civilisation. It was in the east that copper was first discovered from its ores and used to replace tools made from stones. The east has used bronze which is far superior to copper for offence,defence, and work, upto [sic] 1200 BC. It was again the east which first showed that iron by special treatment could be converted into steel, a product far superior to bronze for fighting and tool making. Even the use of mineral coal originated in the east.

Arre, ancient Indian Rishis invented TV and internet and penis enlargement without painful surgery! However, every country doing 'catch up' growth gasses on about the tremendous scientific achievements of its ancient ancestors.

Is there anything at all specifically Indian in Zachariah's tedious article? Can he point to even one 'Scientific argument' which had an impact on 'Development' or the debate regarding Development? He does mention the attempt to provide 'scientific arguments' for cow protection. But nobody was deceived. The thing was clearly religious. Those areas where the taboo had previously existed among the majority, revived it in a draconian form. But lynch law would have enforced it in any case.

I suppose 'Scientific arguments' may have had on impact on some rural parts of Turkey or Iran  or Afghanistan and that this 'jadidi' modernism was associated with Economic Development. As for Turgenev's Bazarov, the path to Islamic Socialism may have led through Scientific nihilism. But India had already become modern in that respect. By 1905, parents were clamoring for English language education even in Primary School. Leading Divines were persuasive in claiming that Science was a good thing because it would prove the superiority of one's own Scripture. Gandhian nonsense was well funded because the appearance of a mass following was necessary for his backers to improve their own position. 

Zachariah's brand of nonsense was not as well funded. But, like Gandhian nonsense, its aim was to prevent Development. Why? Because Development causes nonsense to lose interessement and consequent 'obligatory passage point' status. In other words, Development kills off Magical thinking- even of a corrupt, credentialist, type. 

Who at the beginning of the Twenty First Century still bothered with talk of the bourgeoisie or the Gramscian 'subaltern'? 

The Indian ‘bourgeoisie’ is of course a problematic construct – where exactly might one place the lines of class solidarity?

Where the fuck was class solidarity to be found in the Twenty First Century? 

The Gramscian concept of ‘passive revolution’

was worthless shit. That was the verdict of Italian voters. Still, while the Soviet Union existed, there was something called 'Euro-Communism'. It disappeared with the fall of the Berlin Wall- though some academics in Greece and elsewhere did not get the message.  

has been invoked as an explanation of the bourgeois leadership of Indian nationalism;

Though a guy who is capable of leading is also capable of earning a 'bourgeois' livelihood. However, the fact is, some lawyer/politicians were of peasant or low caste working class family background.  But some were aristocrats. 

but it is doubtful, if we are to use Gramscian terminology, whether the Indian professional bourgeoisie –politicians, scientists, engineers or academics –

who were of diverse social origin. The fact is, these were relatively novel professions. 

who largely conducted the debates on ‘development’ – and on ‘science’– among themselves, were the ‘organic intellectuals’ of the industrial bourgeoisie.

 But such 'organic intellectuals' never emerged anywhere across the globe! On the other hand, the son or daughter of a marginal rice farmer in some Malthusian shithole could become an 'organic intellectual' of Silicon Valley. No doubt, there are descendants of Professors and Lawyers and Merchant Bankers as well among those ranks. But there was nothing 'organic' about their attaining that position. They were smart and did smart things. 

In India, 'the industrial bourgeoisie' included Marwari traders with a primary school education as well as Dalit millionaires in the leather goods industry as well as Parsi descendants of carpenters and farm laborers. There were also some Courtier or Writer caste industrial magnates as well as traditional Seth/Chettiar mercantile lineages of great antiquity. 

If anything, many of the former were suspicious of or downright hostile to the latter, taking sides with state control or socialism.

The fact is, Govt. of India was expected to raise money cheaply to set up Heavy Industries which would then be privatized so as to generate tax revenue. It made sense for some big industrialists and financiers to back Nehruvian Socialism because sooner or later there would be a fiscal crunch so these guys would buy back Public Sector Industries on the cheap. Even though this did not go to plan, it is a fact that Laxmi Mittal made billions by hiring ex Public Sector technocrats to go to work on Steel projects around the globe. In other words, one way or the other, the Private Sector was able to benefit from State intervention in the economy- provided it was exposed to the bracing winds of International Competition.  

They were not ‘organic intellectuals’ of the working class, either, conforming more closely to what Gramsci called ‘traditional intellectuals’, though it is possible further to complicate matters and raise the question of where intellectuals created by colonial education to fill professions ‘traditional’ in the metropole might have stood in this scheme.

Nowhere. Gramsci was talking of a scientifically advanced, sovereign, European country. He wasn't talking about India or China. 

 These intellectuals, an articulate, multilingual elite, often highly educated and self-consciously cosmopolitan in outlook, dominated a good deal of the space of organised political activity,

only while 'free money' from Sam Uncleji was flowing. When LBJ got tough, India-that-is-Indira kept these shitheads on merely to provide a cover for her son's corruption and criminality. Their 'debates' were meaningless. The EPW was what they used to wipe their ideological arses. Then places like Infosys started making mega-bucks and everybody forgot those worthless shitheads had ever existed. It was the charitable thing to do. 

and especially the political philosophy behind it. This applied to politics of all kinds, from the ‘right’ to the‘left’. And if such intellectuals ended up by legitimating what looked suspiciously like a capitalist order,

i.e. people were buying stuff with money, not hugs and kisses 

it is not always to their intentions that we must look – how, in-deed, might we find our way to someone else’s actual intentions – but perhaps to the logic of the situations they found themselves in.

If your psychiatrists end up legitimating what looks to you to be suspiciously like the cosmic order as dictated by the Nicaraguan horcrux of my neighbor's cat, it is not the case that you are crazy. Rather you must look, not at your psychiatrists' intentions- how could we ever find out what they actually are?- but, instead, you must look to the logic of situation they find themselves in. Since Nicaraguan horcruxes dictate that logic, it is no surprise your psychiatrists keep giving you pills.


A brief reprise of an example might be a good way to end: there were of course adherents of scientific or technological solutions who thought of themselves as socialists as well as scientists. Meghnad Saha counted himself as one of them. He was a firm believer in the principle that the true emancipation of Science and its use for the betterment of society was possible only under Socialism. Yet in practice he was confined to recommending solutions to limited problems arising within the framework of colonial or indigenous capitalism.

Why was that? The answer is that Saha occupied the physical plane. He was good at Science, not Magic. So he was only consulted on stuff which was limited to the physical plane. He was a good sport about it. He did not complain that he was not asked to talk worthless nonsense, even though he was a Socialist. Kosambi, by contrast, kept proving the Reimann Hypothesis in the pages of the Journal of Indian Agricultural Statistics! Saha, clearly, wasn't as good a Marxist as Kosambi.  

At the same time, the linkages between business and science –or technology – were facilitated by intermediaries such as the former Dewan of Mysore, Sir M Visvesvaraya, who was convinced of the necessity to industrialise and less committed to questions of social organisation in terms of capitalism or socialism. These linkages worked in curious ways: in Visvesvaraya’s campaign for the setting up of an automobile industry in India, one of his main allies was MeghnadSaha’s journal.

Fuck is curious about that? Automobiles are useful to both Capitalists and Socialists. Stalin paid 30 million dollars to Henry Ford in return for his setting up a Car factory on the Volga. 

Visvesvaraya was also operating through the industrialist Walchand Hirachand,

How was an elderly former Dewan 'operating through' a much younger, highly leveraged, 'dreamer'?  

whose reputation as a defender of the rights of Indian shipping had won him his nationalist credentials, and negotiating with the government of Mysore for land and a collaborative venture on the project.

Hirachand did not have deep pockets and he was a novice in the fields he was entering. So he needed State backing. But this was rational public-private risk-taking rather than pure crony capitalism.  

Saha, whose dislike for business-men was well known,

but who wrote to Nehru in 1938 saying 'controlled capitalism' with patriotic businessmen dedicated to social welfare, in charge of industry was India's best bet

defended the project on the grounds of the need to lift India toa higher plane of technological existence.Visvesvaraya, who had less qualms about businessmen,

but who shared Saha's belief in 'controlled capitalism'. Indeed, we all do. Nobody wants sociopaths to run big Companies.  

provided the principled assault on the government for its obstructive tactics, through his organisation, the All-India Manufacturers’ Organisation, arguing that it was short-sighted and malicious of the government to refuse to grant permission to set up an industry which would, in addition to building up Indian industry, – and here he was not averse to using a loyalist argument – be so useful to the War Effort.

So the context was the War Economy when everything was tightly regulated.  

 This strand was used strongly by Hirachand to justify the importance of his venture (it was somewhat ironic that through all this he never succeeded in learning to spell Visvesvaraya’s name).

Hirachand needed the deal to show Chrysler he was a good partner going forward. Meanwhile Birla had tied up with Lord Nuffield. 

How is it 'ironic' that Hirachand misspelled Visvesvaraya's name? It is more than likely that there are multiple versions of it in his own School or other records. Indian phonetics are not easily accommodated by the Latin alphabet. Within my own family we have Aiyar, Ayyar, Iyer and even one over ambitious Ayyarr. But 'aya' would do just as well. 

 In practice, under colonialism, an Indian capitalist’s demand was a nationalist one;

Nonsense! A demand made by the Indian National Congress or some other such political party was a Nationalist demand. Some random Seth saying 'gimme land for free' was not considered a Nationalist. The thing cost money.  

and Saha’s support reflected this without explicitly using arguments that justified capitalism;

though he made such arguments- with the proviso that capitalists should nice, not nasty. But s 

via Visvesvaraya, he found himself connected to a very different project.

So what? If the Leftists prevailed, everything would have been nationalised anyway, whereas if the Rightist prevailed everything would have been privatized- and India would now be comfortably upper middle Income. 

Today, we would see Saha as a Friedmanite, not a Marxist. Why? He saw that Science and Industry must rise up by decentralized, small-scale, 'out of control' partnerships. A centralized bureaucracy would kill both. 

After Independence, Nehru backed the patrician Homi Bhabha who centralized Nuclear Research and favored a top-down strategy. By contrast, Saha wanted to expand indigenous capacity rather than just import brains and instruments. Saha's approach would have been good for indigenous businessmen who, like him, had come up from the productive castes. It is interesting that he had begun his research with private money but then, after Independence, was denied both money and even permission to do lab work by patricians in Government. But this had nothing to do with any Left/Right divide. Saha had praised S.S Bhatnagar's collaboration with industry in the Thirties. He turned against him and Bhabha because they were cutting off the chance for local industry to continue to develop in alliance with scientific academia. Central laboratories reliant on foreign expertise would not develop synergy with local businesses. Decentralization and the lifting of foolish Government regulations was the answer. Trying for 'turnpike' growth by importing the best technology was fine if the Govt. could pay more and more down the line. But India's Government was very poor. Thus only a decentralized approach- with local academics working with businesses so as to pay for research- would work. 

Saha entered Parliament and attempted to debate Nehru's centralizing initiatives in the Sciences. But that debate went nowhere. It had nothing to do with Socialism or Capitalism. It was purely a matter of a poor country not being able to afford a 'Rolls Royce' or 'turnkey' approach. On the other hand, it was an approach which created opportunities for corruption. 

In the end, fine talk butters no parsnips. Only Economics matters- but not the shite Academic Economists gas on about. Economics boils down to buying low, selling high and using the profit to make even more money the same way. 'Passive revolutions' are just 'phase transitions'. What happens at the margin, over time, precipitates a tipping point. Legitimating ideologies don't matter. 'Arguments' don't matter. Money talks. Bullshit walks. That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

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