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Understanding Marxism: What is a socialist state inevitably an insecure, totalitarian realm devoid of any freedom for its citizens?

marxEither the state is insecure about the letter and spirit of its theory or the theory itself is so weak that it cannot withstand the potency of opposing ideologies

The other day turned out to be a good opportunity to walk into a Marxists den through a function hosted by the Progressive Pakistanis forum here in Toronto, on a night dedicated to Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

There was a powerful recitation of Faiz’s two eulogies (marisa) there. Here for the first time I learned the context of these eulogies and the way these were framed around Comrade Hassan Nasir (d. 1958) and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (d. 1979).

However, like any other Third World youth, I have already spent my fair share of idolizing the ideals of Marxism. The romance for socialism that we found in books and speeches of socialist stalwarts in our early days would often render us uneasy dreams.

Of all whatever literature that was available to us, we would draw corollaries that would always end up cursing the ‘cunning’ capitalist. Nevertheless, an uneasy thought that would always pervade, despite the utter romance for socialism, was the ruthlessness of the states that realized the ideals of Marxism in the shape of socialism. And this was not an easy thought to forego. We could also never comprehend the fact that a theory that professes social and economic equality when put into to practice, only churned out abject poverty and cruelty for the masses.

The most interesting, though sad part, about Marxism was that its foundation rested on a classless society, but in practice quickly developed a social hierarchy.

This is the very point that I wish Karl Marx could have answered. Would it be sacrilegious to term that any inorganic arrangement of ideals, no matter how well thought out, when put into practice are bound to fail?

In the subject of Physics, a theory always starts with a weightless matter, but later it requires to be parameterized to experience the reality constraints. Perhaps the same goes for Marxism; in idealism, it is heart-gripping but when factored in the human nature of competition and race for winning, it withers away.

An argument can be put forward that human nature would eventually get tamed given the system is allowed an unparalleled run for an indefinite period. But societies are thin on that front. We cannot expect indefinite patience from those societies. In fact there would be very few who would wait for its true virtues to be realized before it is discarded or accepted.

Consequently, we end up into a hasty question – is it just a utopia? May be not. But as the ideals of communism would profess that in order to establish communism first the entire world would need to implement socialism, once established only then the grand design of communism could be attained. As asserted earlier, it would require infinite passion and patience, which human beings are notoriously short of.

But its converse or the competing ideology, capitalism, has been thriving, even if its fruits are chiefly bourn in the West. Of course, it has its own set of problem and the gulf of rich and poor is increasing in astronomical units of speed under its garbs. But the kind of push this economic theory has provided to human innovation and progress, is simply unprecedented. If we march from the Tulips that set tone for the capital markets to present day free-market economy, it pushed up the human living conditions, to an extent that could only be dreamt of a few centuries back.

This piece, is not about the virtues of capitalism vis-a-vis, socialism. The inspiration was today’s function where among other things they also sung ‘Woh jo tareek rahon main maray gaye’. And the words ‘maaray gaye’, affect me. Naturally it raises the question why were they killed and what lofty goal were they pursuing?

This is just an effort to underline the stark reminders of what history has told us about Marxist ideals. Among the most difficult aspects to gulp-down is the absence of freedom under socialist societies. Why does a socialist state draw curtains to shelter its public from foreign ideas?

Either the state is insecure about the letter and spirit of its theory or the theory itself is so weak that it cannot withstand the potency of opposing ideologies. Or perhaps it pushes the benchmark of its promises to a point where human nature breaks down. How realistic is it to let the proletariat run the entire show?

The hierarchy among humans was established even under the very primitive human colonies. It is an integral part of our evolutionary psychology. The countries that championed the cause of socialism, notably among others were the erstwhile USSR and China. The former ended up becoming a ruthless aristocracy of CPSU (Communist Party of Soviet Union) and the latter found itself into a melting organism of socio-capitalism, eventually becoming more capitalistic than many mainstream capitalist countries.

The only hallmark of socialist states was their sucking off the breathing space from its citizenry. General public was provided living amenities at the cost that practically would make them modern slaves, dancing to the tunes of a select and lucky few at the top of their respective food chain.

So this makes me wonder, what kind of rosy alleys were being promised by poets like Faiz and why Hassan Nasir and countless other comrades who lost their lives? Just to fill the vacuum of the poetic symmetry of ‘woh jo tareek rahon main maaray gaye’? If they were given the chance would they also have ushered us a Pakistan of the likes of some mid-sized socialist state, with all the bells and whistles as narrated above?

If that is the case, I believe we should count our blessings. I don’t buy anymore ‘ye dagh dagh ujaala hai’ – at least there is some light, no matter how hazy it might be, but way better than pitch darkness.

In the end, I don’t profess to be an expert on the subject and am open to ideas. Perhaps I didn’t read socialist scriptures in their true letter and spirit.

Some may find it offensive and might term this piece a rant against an ideology but in all honesty, it is written with the hands of a struggling student who wants to explore the bottom of this pit.

Throughout our lives the socialist weaved a romance for the left and always inculcated this wishful guilt that we might be missing out on a great deal. Yes, I am aware of the implicit benefits that ‘free world’ offers such as free health care and education to counter the socialist tide.

Now that we have these benefits without losing our freedom, what are we really missing here?

By: Bahadar Ali Khan



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