Monday, May 01, 2006

Orwellian Realism

In his novel 1984, George Orwell portrayed a society that was so completely controlled by Communism that it was impossible for any one or any group to oppose the government. The means by which the government excercised its complete control over the population was by complete control of all information--even "illegal" pornography for the proles--and complete control of the resistance movement, symbolized by the fictitious "Goldberg." But, quite thankfully, such a society never materialized--not even close to it. Even a place like North Korea never came close to approximating the subtle and sophisticated control of infomration as portrayed by Orwell's dark, future Communist society.

Yet the fact that 1984's dark society never materialized strongly suggests that Orwell himself believed too much in the philosophy he vehemently denounced. Marx, after all, predicted that an industrial society is a prerequisite for revolution of the proletariat, yet every society that saw the Communists rise to power was not industrial but agrarian. Unlike Germany, England, and (later) America; Russia, China, and so many numerous banana republics, where Communism came to power (at least for some time), were all agrarian societies.

What Marx got right, however, was that the disparities between the very rich and very poor (the differences Marx imagined between the future bourgeoisie and protetariat) are common in agrarian countries, and it is indeed in these countries where Communism has found the most favor. The kind of society Orwell imagined, then, could not exist as an industrial society but as an agrarian society. For a Communist government to persist indefinitely, it would have to strike the right balance between keeping its political elite popular enough with its followers to earn their allegiance, and it has to demonize their society's bourgeoisie just enough so that the mass of people remain inimical to them but that they continue to prop up the government. Such a government exists in this world, and an example of such is in West Bengal, India.

The state of West Bengal has had a Communist state government for nearly 29 years, winning all fourteen elections since then. What political party in America would give their left arm, and perhaps both legs, to have that kind of electoral success? Yogendra Yadav and Sanjay Kumar give us a further, detailed glimpse into the success of West Bengal's CPI(M) [CPM]:

The architects of the Left Front, leaders such as the late Pramode Dasgupta, carefully integrated Government policy with a strategy of political mobilisation. This design was flawlessly executed by legendary party managers such as the late Anil Biswas, who created a party machine unmatched in any Indian State. The Left shifted its social base from being a party of the industrial proletariat to that of marginal farmers, sharecroppers and the landless poor. This class base was carefully stitched together; a coalition of the socially marginalised groups that included Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims. This class-community coalition has stood by the Left Front through all the political change of the last three decades. The CPI(M) election machine has ensured a very high level of mobilisation, thus increasing the turnout in the State to one of the highest in the country.

Yadav, Yogendra, Sanjay Kumar. "Why the Left will win West
Bengal Again." 16 Apr. 2006. The Hindu. Online Edition. 1 May 2006

Economy and technology are closely related to each other, and both seem to play important roles when used as instruments of oppression. But of the two, since economy seems to be more closely linked to the success of Communism, it could be said that economy is the stronger force. Yet neither economies nor technologies oppress people, people oppress people. Bear in mind that West Bengal's Communist government persists on top of a functional democratic system for electing a government. Througout the world and at all levels of discourse about oppression and liberation, virtue and high character are the persistently missing ideas from all manner of pontifcations about peace.

People get the government, and the society, they deserve.


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