( Janatantrik Samajbadi Dal )
The ‘Party For Democratic Socialism’ (PDS) is established on the basis of ideological and philosophical principles. The principal objective of PDS is to establish Democratic Socialism as an ideological direction reached through long standing debate and discussion on ideological issues among and within the various political parties in national and international arena. Mr.Saifuddin Choudhury, The President of PDS, has interpreted such issues in a nutshell,immediately after the formation of the party, in the booklet named ‘our thoughts on some ideological and political issues’ .This document should be accepted as the philosophical and ideological standpoint of Party For Democratic Socialism (PDS) until and unless a formal resolution is adopted through discussion.
“What was the need to form a new political party?” This question was asked by many. The Party for Democratic Socialism (PDS) was established on 21st February 2001. It was a time when elections in some States including West Bengal were due. It was remarked that the PDS had been formed only with a view to contest the forthcoming elections. A query was raised that there exist a number of political parties, which also propagate principles of secularism, democracy, peace, development, socialism etc. Then what exactly is the difference between them and the newly formed PDS? Had the PDS abandoned the path of socialist revolution? Why did the PDS name not include words like â€˜Marxistâ€™ or â€˜Communistâ€™? It is necessary for us to answer all these questions.
There are clear and specific reasons for the formation of the PDS. The initiative for its formation was taken primarily by persons associated with â€˜Marxistâ€™ and â€˜communist movementâ€™ for a long time. But people from other political parties like the Communist,R evolutionary socialist ,socialist and labor parties also joined the process. Several persons who had dissociated themselves from active politics ,too, enthusiastically supported this effort.
A large number of people have become disillusioned with existing political parties, which do not practice what they preach. The lack of internal democracy, rampant factionalism, the lust for power and the abandoning of the welfare and interests of the common people have resulted in growing dissatisfaction among members and supporters of such parties. The overall degeneration of politics has also caused immense anguish to people outside the domain of active politics. All such sections that are looking for a viable alternative have hailed the formation of the PDS.
Since a considerable time now, various political parties have been experiencing internal turbulence centering on any one or all of the above mentioned issues. Certain international developments have also influenced these political and ideological debates and discussions. The most pertinent and controversial debate is regarding the correct path to be adopted for building socialism. Socialism as a new and unfettered march towards freedom held a natural attraction for the common people. Socialism also attracted the intelligentsia as a progressive and scientific ideology. But the situation changed in the past few years. Although socialism was always projected as a crisis free system, serious problems surfaced prominently within the existing socialist countries. All over the world people gradually lost faith in the socialism that was being practiced and propagated. Finally the debacle of socialism in many countries has thrown up numerous questions related to the ideology, principles and practice of socialism.
A very important issue that has stirred the minds of people concerns that of democracy within socialism. Socialism was always considered as a social system with an ever-developing form of democracy, it was hoped that socialism would end the exploitation of man by man. The economic and cultural rights of people would continue to grow and develop to higher forms. There would be an unhindered expansion of democracy. However there was always apprehension and doubt about the path adopted for social reconstruction after the socialist revolution led by the working classes and/or after the peopleâ€™s democratic revolution led by the working class/peasantry combine, under the leadership of the communist parties. The path of â€˜Dictatorship of the Proletariatâ€™ was adopted for building a new society. In the short term this facilitated the defeat of subversive force and combating the retaliation and resistance of the vanquished ruling classes. However its adoption and establishment as a permanent instrument of rule led to the weakening of the new society itself from within. The unlimited dictatorial powers assumed by the all-pervading State crippled the normal lives of the common masses. The work prowess of the people came to be measured in terms of their eagerness to follow the dictates and commands of the party leaders and State bosses. The multifarious thoughts and ideas came to be sacrificed at the alter of a powerful and Unitarian party and State.
In a situation where dissent or difference of opinion was stifled and crushed mercilessly and dissenters were dubbed enemies, persecuted and destroyed, the compulsion to toe the official line became an institutionalized pattern of behavior in the society. Consequently inner-party democracy as well as democracy within the society became a casualty. An intolerably suffocating atmosphere of over-centralism came to be established in the name of â€˜democratic centralismâ€™. The so-called rule of the working class was substituted by the doctoral rule of the Party, which in turn was reduced to the authoritarian rule of the clique, or of an individual. This inevitably led to the collapse of socialism. If this is accepted as the truth the logical question follows â€œIs any advancement towards socialism possible through the old path of â€˜Dictatorship of Proletariatâ€™?â€ The very simple answer to this question is â€“ no. Without democracy socialism cannot be achieved. The path of democracy is the only right path to achieve Scientific Socialism. For us democracy and socialism are inseparable.
Naturally the question also arises, what should be the form and operational features of revolutionary movements in countries where revolution has not taken place and democracy exists in one form or another? It is clear that the struggle for socialism will have to be organized through democratic means only. Today in almost all countries in the world democracy exists in one form or another. In past times there existed real objective conditions to view democracy as insignificant. Democracy was looked upon merely as a weapon used by the ruling classes to deceive the common people and perpetuate their rule. This was true of most cases. But as time went by the poor, toiling and deprived masses, the working class and the intelligentsia joined the struggle for democracy. There was an expansion of democracy. Democracy was transformed from an instrument of oppression into a powerful tool in the hands of the common people. Thus in this new era, democracy has become an important element in the struggle for social change. In countries where democracy exists in some form or measure, attempts to capture power by force have been unsuccessful. Those who succeeded could not retain it for long. On the other hand designs of the ruling classes to obstruct the democratic path have always been foiled by the collective might of the people. It is obvious that democracy is of utmost importance not only in struggle for social change but also for building a new and progressive society thereafter.
One of the most important features of democracy is expression of diverse views, ideas and paths that manifest the existence of pluralism in society. Marxism is founded on the principle of dialectical materialism. Hence ,even the Marxists,must accept pluralism as a fundamental driving force leading to the advancement of society. In exploitative systems pluralistic opinions and actions can be antagonistic in many areas. But is societies which are being built under the leadership of the toiling masses and the working classes and which are opposed to any kind of exploitation the inter-play of pluralism ought to be non-antagonistic and friendly, in the main. Pluralism, whether antagonistic or not, is an essential and inviolable requirement for the sustenance and further development of human culture and civilization. The lack of pluralism in society leads to the establishment of dictatorial and authoritarian dominance in political parties.
In this context it is relevant to discuss the role of the State and the role of the plural concepts in administering economic affairs. The Marxian theory that the State is a reflection of a class society is not in dispute. In a state of un-developed democracy there was a convergence of State and class rule. The State assumed the role of an instrument of class oppression. But now with considerable development of democracy this notion is not fully valid. The oppressed classes also can achieve State power through expansion of democracy. They can change the form, content and application of this power. They can remove any obstacle in its path. But a new State more authoritarian and repressive can never be acceptable as the alternative or replacement of the old State. This was what ultimately happened in the former socialist countries. Theoretically speaking, in a communist society, considered as the higher stage of Socialism, the State is to wither away. Before that in Socialism the State is to remain but with an ever-diminishing role and participation in social life. But this did not happen in the socialist countries. On the contrary the state was made all-powerful far excess of the need of society. This was nothing but a retraction from the ideals of socialism.
The overwhelming and stifling dominance of the State and the Party in the fields of economy, culture and intellectualism created conditions which brought about the failure of the socialist system as a more developed social order. Under Party directions the free intellectual activities of the people were suppressed. Any thoughts or writing, which differed with those of the official Party line, were prohibited.
In a socialist system it was imperative to work towards socialization of property. Instead by using force and coercion, property was taken over and concentrated with the State. There was not enough effort to cause voluntary renunciation of private property and formation of cooperatives based on the principles of individual ownership. Such activities and methods would have inculcated a feeling of accountability among the people and encouraged the formation of a strong economy.
The concentration of all economic powers and activities in the hands of the State resulted in development of parasitical tendencies among the people. Thus economic growth and production activities lost their natural vigor and vitality. Planning was reduced to a lifeless, mechanical process. This might have brought about impressible statistical figures but the sustenance of a continuous and qualitative development of the lives of the people suffered immensely.
The lesson from the historical experience is that any system based on dictatorship and authoritarianism can most certainly not be equated with socialism. In civilized society the best social system is the one that genuinely encourages pluralism. It must be a system that keeps the administration distinct and free from political partisanship. It will ensure that various democratic institutions namely the judiciary, media etc. remain unbiased and independent. Such a system will establish the rule of law over the State. The economy will be pluralistic and there will be no intellectual regimentation.