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Understanding Capitalism’s Hidden History from a Stalinist Soviet Photo

The developed economies now require the developing economies to eschew the principles of protectionism and regulations

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Capitalism, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin
Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. Wikimedia

-by Vikas Datta

Jaipur, Jan 22, 2017: What does a Stalin-era photo of Lenin at a revolutionary gathering tell us about the evolution of the world’s developed economies?

It is that the developed economies do now require the developing economies to eschew the principles of protectionism and regulations and follow fully the principles of free market and trade, conveniently forgetting the role that these two factors had played in their own rise, said acclaimed South Korean development economist Ha-Joon Chang.

At a session titled “The Secret History of Capitalism” at the Jaipur Literature Festival’s third day on Saturday, he showed the original photo of Lenin flanked by Trotsky and Lev Kamenev and its Stalinist version where the latter two, who had been purged, have been air-brushed out.

Chang, who moderator Sanjeev Sanyal noted had “heretical views on economics”, began by telling how Britain had in the 18th century invented protectionism, not free trade which it later championed and how the US had followed its stead.

A reader in the Political Economy of Development at Cambridge and author of books like “Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism”, “23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism” and “Economics: The User’s Guide”, which focus on the double standards followed by the developed nations and international lending institutions and seek debunk received wisdom on economics, Chang said he had not obtained this information “by hacking the IMF” or “been told it by a old man in a remote Italian monastery” but relied it from open sources.

“But the problem is that economists now don’t know it and developed nations make excuses if you bring it up. It is like abolishing schools if some people don’t do too well in them,” he said, stressing the need for a change to a more equitable economic system in the world,

Chang observed that this needed strengthening of democracy, not necessarily the Western type, but one in which there is oversight, vigilance and checks and balances that crony-free systems come up.

Calling for an institutionalized mechanism for industry, he clarified that he was not calling for “compulsive Soviet planning” system but an open and transparent process, say a vision document, which can serve the needs of a country and its people, rather than a narrow section of the elite. (IANS)

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The Dangerous Ideology behind Communism: Why is it a Delusion?

Read how the dangerous and radical ideology of Communism led to some of the darkest moments in the 20th century.

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Dangerous ideology of communism
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the greatest critique of Soviet communism. Wikimedia
  • In search of a utopian state, communism was born and instantly attracted a number of followers
  • The dangerous ideology was put to test in the 20th century in places like China, Cambodia and the Soviet Union
  • It is important to learn from the horrors of the 20th century that communism is not the answer to a perfect state, rather, far from it

June 14, 2017: In 1848 the ‘Communist Manifesto’ was published that propounded the dangerous ideology of Communism. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels discovered that they had the same thoughts which resulted in the emergence of this political-economic idea.

Communism rapidly grew in popularity, partly because it is the easiest idea to sell to the poor. The ideology seeks a transition “from each according to their abilities; to each according to their needs”. Simply put, everything should be divided equally between everyone.

Many cultures and countries tried to implement communism in the 20th century and we often do not realize the severe consequences of how that turned out. The totalitarian regimes that were in pursuit of a virtuous society were brutal and that is an understatement. They had no regard for human life.

China, Cambodia, Cuba, Soviet Union, all tried communism. The kind of misery that the civilians of these countries underwent is horrific to read. We take North Korea, for example, as a joke today but the situation there is adverse.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, an incredible critique of the Soviet Communism, estimates 66 million people murdered by Joseph Stalin. Even higher up is Mao Zedong of 80 million people. These numbers are no joke. Hitler killed 6 million people and we talk about it but nobody ever talks about what happened in the Soviet Union or China.

The reason for that could be because communism touches the compassionate people deeply. It feels good to be fair and equal. But here is the thing about communist ideology and the leftist ideology at large- what feels good doesn’t necessarily do good. However, it is immoral to steal from others and that’s what communism is- in theory as well as in practice.

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In an attempt to establish a utopian state, millions of lives were taken. Families either starved to death or froze to death in the Soviet camps.

The Soviet Union collapsed because of the weak economy. Agreed, Glasnost and Perestroika were the final blow, but the basic reason was backwardness of the nation. While the United States and other capitalist countries enjoyed prosperity and better standards of living, the Soviet Union was poor and struggling.

Communists argue that what happened in those places actually wasn’t communism at all. That is an arrogant argument. We cannot risk another 100 million lives to give communism ‘another chance’.

It is unnerving to think that so many people are falling prey to the communist ideology. One out of Five Social Scientist is a communist! They subscribe to the hammer and sickle symbol of communism.

Dangerous ideology of communism
Hammer and Sickle, a sign of Communism. Wikimedia

It should be understood that communism is based on force, while the capitalist world that we live and criticize so often, is based on consent. Consensual transactions result in the benefit of both the parties and there is nothing wrong about that. It is rightly said that communists do not think about uplifting the poor people as much as they seek to bring down the rich. 

Communism does not reward an individual’s hard work and labor. And consequently, when there are no rewards, there is simply no efforts to succeed or do well. What is the point when everybody is equal?

Part of the reason that the United States has done tremendously well and is a great power because it favors free markets (capitalism). It is only in a free market economy that innovation and choices emerge. Capitalism improves the standard of living and brings prosperity to the nation by rewarding individuals for their labor.

Milton Friedman, one of the greatest modern economists, had said “This world runs of individuals pursuing their self-interests. The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus. The only cases in which the masses have escaped from poverty is in cases where they have had capitalism and free trade. The record of history is absolutely crystal clear that there is no alternative way so far discovered of improving a lot of the ordinary people than free enterprise”. 

Today, when communism should be absolutely irrelevant, many people still advocate it. The emergence of libertarian philosophy is a mirror copy of communism. Putting either ideology into policy would result in a catastrophe.

Communism is a delusion. It is a radical transformation in the individual if they decide to apply it. It constructs an illusion that makes the individual perceive he is doing the right thing but in reality, it is just a radical and extreme measure that puts the societal order at risk.

– by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394

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British Library to host 70 years of India-Britain Cultural relations of Jaipur Literature Festival

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New Delhi, April 21, 2017: The British Library will be transformed like never before as the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival animates its iconic spaces for the first time in celebration as part of significant 70 years of India-Britain cultural relations.

Held for two days on May 20-21, the fourth London edition of the ZEE JLF@The British Library will present a sumptuous showcase of South Asia’s literary heritage, oral and performing arts, music, cinema and illusion, books and ideas, dialogue and debate, Bollywood and politics in the context of this broader view of India and its relationship to the Britain.

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The speakers at the programmer include: Oscar-winning British director Stephen Frears, Swapan Dasgupta, Shashi Tharoor, Shrabani Basu, Neel Madhav, Philip Norman, Tahmima Anam, Sarvat Hasin, Amit Chaudhuri, Kunal Basu, Amit Chaudhuri, Meera Syal, Prajwal Parajuly and Lila Azam Zanganeh, Anita Anand along with William Dalrymple and Namita Gokhale.

ZEE JLF@The British Library is the first of five cultural strands which form part of the Year of UK-India of Culture in 2017, celebrating the deep cultural ties and exchange in what is a year of great significance for the world’s largest democracy as India marks 70 years as an independent democratic republic.

“In only a decade the Jaipur Literature Festival has grown from 14 lost tourists to third of a million people and it’s now the biggest festival of literature in the world. We can’t wait to bring its energy and colour to the British Library: our Jaipur-on-Thames,” author and ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Co-Director William Dalrymple said in a statement.

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Namita Gokhale, author and ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Co-Director said: “Delighted that the fourth edition of JLF in London will be hosted by the British Library. London is a uniquely cosmopolitan and literary city, and we look forward to celebrating diversity through a series of vibrant sessions that reflect the special spirit of Jaipur.”

Sanjoy Roy, Producer, ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, said: “Our collaboration with the British Library is reflective of the shared history between the sub-continent and the UK. The festival will continue to be a platform for diverse voices and will celebrate 70 years of India’s independence.”

“The British Library is delighted to be hosting the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival this year as we celebrate the UK-India Year of Culture. The exciting programme reflects the richness of this new cultural partnership,” Jamie Andrews, Head, Culture and Learning, The British Library, said in a statement. (IANS)

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Hindu Philosophy fascinated WB Yeats: Remembering him and his Timeless Poetry at Jaipur Literature Festival

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WB Yeats, Wikimedia

Jaipur, Jan 20, 2017: William Butler Yeats, one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature, has cast his shadow over the history of both “modern poetry” and “modern Ireland” for so long that his pre-eminence is taken for granted, it emerged during an intense session on the life of the late poet on the second day of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) here.

In the session titled “WB Yeats The Arch Poet,” leading Irish historian Professor Roy Foster travelled beyond Yeats’ “towering image as one of the 20th century’s greatest poets to restore a real sense of his extraordinary life as Yeats himself experienced it — what he saw, what he did, the passions and the petty squabbles that consumed him and his alchemical ability to transmute the events of his crowded and contradictory life into enduring art”.

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“Yeats never visited India but it is evident that right from the beginning, Hindu philosophy fascinated him. He deeply admired India and his devotion towards the works of Tagore is well known,” said Foster, author of the first authorised biography of Yeats in over 50 years.Tagore first met Yeats during his third visit to Britain.

English painter William Rothenstein, overwhelmed by the rhetorical simplicity and philosophical gravity of Tagore’s work, is said to have passed his poems to Yeats. And what next? The Irish poet reportedly burst into a torrent of praise on reading the manuscript: “If someone were to say he could improve this piece of writing, that person did not understand literature.”

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Later Yeats wrote the introduction to Tagore’s “Gitanjali”, which caught the imagination of the Western world.

“Yeats presented himself as a representative of his country’s beliefs and that of his generation. This figure is so less understood even today. He is not just a poet but also a politician, a journalist a revolutionary and a theatre director,” said Foster, a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA), the Royal Society of Literature (FRSL) and the Royal Historical Society FRHS). He has delivered dozens of lectures on Yeats in several countries.

“He rediscovers Irish literature, always conscious of looking apart and different from the crowd. He moves from being an Irish Victorian to being an advanced modernist. He moves to a different world but throughout the process and even now he has always remained somebody who continues to make Irish culture richer,” Foster said, as an attentive crowd listened patiently.

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In favor of home rule, Yeats once compared Irish society to “a stagnant pond filled with junk, including the two old boots of Catholic bigotry and Protestant bigotry”. Yeats believed that home rule could undam this pond, Foster said.

“Of course, this wasn’t going to happen. The pond wouldn’t be gently undammed by a constitutional act. It would be dynamited by a revolution,” he said.

Yeats changed his public image from time to time so that he emerged, in 1922, as a prominent figure of a new nation, Foster said.

“Many of his early poems which seemed superficially simple are actually deep, deeper than most of us can ever comprehend. Yeats had an extraordinary ear for rhythm and as such, he believed that his own poetry should be chanted rather than recited.”

“Yards and yards of scholarly research is yet to be written and decoded about the mysteries and the wide range of references and imageries that Yeats made in his work. As somebody growing up in a country facing a revolution, which would soon be free, in the new state of affairs, Yeats would soon emerge as a prominent figure, he always drew anger, strength and motivation from Ireland.

“His poems are so beautiful, in words and significance, because they came at a time when he was constantly changing his mind. He often had to rethink himself,” Foster noted.

Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923 “for his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation”. (IANS)