By Dr Jay Dubashi
The collapse of communism, along with the complete annihilation of the Soviet Union in 1991, so stupefied some people in the West that they declared that history had come to an end. A writer called Francis Fukuyama (half Japanese, half American) got so excited that he wrote a famous essay called “End of History” in which he announced that “Mankind had arrived at the end-point of ideological evolution and Western liberalisation had triumphed.”
What he was trying to say was that the West had triumphed over the East once again (Russia was never acknowledged as a western country; it was always the East) and from now the West would rule the world. Acutally, it was not the End of History; it was the End of Ideology. From now on, ideologies would become irrelevant, and the vacuum created by the collapse of communism would henceforth be filled by markets, which would decide the course of history. Things would go back two hundred years from Karl Marx to Adam Smith, and everything would be decided by markets including political power, since politics too would now be a commercial activity like everything else. And since markets are governed by money, money would play a decisive role in politics, so crucial that politics would be organised on corporate lines through political markets, more or less on the lines of financial markets.
This is not what Fukuyama actually said in his piece, but if he had said that he would have been laughed out of court. Politics as commercial activity ruled by political managers? But this is precisely what has happened, not only in the us but all over the world. In the absence of ideology, money now rules the roost. Political parties have become political firms or companies, complete with a board of directors, known as High Command, and a phalanx of political managers, known as leaders, each with a target, and, of course, a budget. Politics is now a corporate game where there is no place for ideology, and only money matters.
Business firms deal in commodities and services; political firms deal in votes, and through votes, the board of directors, which you call ministries. And, of course, the main job of ministries is to look after those who have put them in power. The voters correspond to shareholders, each with a stake in the government which is actually a company. It is a corporate world dealing openly in power, buying and selling it, just as you buy and sell steel or cement or caustic soda, with prices that vary according to demand and supply. So many crores if you want to be a minister and so many lakhs or thousands if you want to be a magistrate. Everything is so simple and cut-and-dried, you wonder why you did not think of it earlier.
No wonder corruption is on the rise. There has been a distinct increase in corruption, not only in India, but world wide, in the last ten years. It is said that half the cash the US military spent in Iraq and Afghanistan has gone into the pockets of the military, in the US as well as in these two countries. In India, there are scams galore, each one involving a Congress big-wig, either in power, like A Raja or close to power, like Kalmadi. Chief Ministers have made thousands of crores out of elephant statues they have installed all over their states, and central ministers have become so wealthy they are now setting up whole townships, rather than some buildings here and there.
Since politics is now a commercial activity, you do not know where one ends and the other begins. Liberal politics and liberal economics are two sides of the same coin, and so are political and business corporates. There are now more business corporates sitting on government bodies than ever before, for there is no real dividing line between the two. You do not know whether business corporates are running the government, or the government is running the businesses. You walk into any ministry in Delhi, and you see businessmen all over the place. You walk into the offices of big companies, particularly, multinational companies, and you see government officials from Delhi lounging about along with middlemen and power brokers. And the smell of money is everywhere.
In the United States, politics was always big business, but now it is a business on par with other more conventional commercial firms. In America, everything is liberal – marriages are liberal, families are liberal, colleges and universities are liberal, and, of course, governments are liberal. Liberal means without ideology. If you are a socialist, you are a marked man. If you are a capitalist, you are liberal, and therefore non-political.
In India too, ideology is vanishing from the political map. Just as there is not much difference between, say, Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola, there is no difference between, say, Indian National Congress and Nationalist Congress Party. Both deal in the same business – money-making, but, of course, have different bosses and different sets of shareholders. They are, on paper, two different political firms, with different logos, different sets of directors, and, of courses, different letter-heads, but they deal in the same product – power. And since power is money, it does not really matter who runs the two firms, since, ultimately, only the profits count.
Take Congress, and, say, Hindustan Lever. Both are in the same business, which, ultimately comes down to rupees and paise. Hindustan Lever deals in soap; Congress party deals in dirt. The two go hand in hand and complement each other perfectly. No wonder, they get on so well with each other. Both are headed by white foreigners, and in both cases, the bulk of profits wind up in foreign pockets. Both are business corporations over hundred years old. And both make huge profits that end up in foreign banks. And there is another common factor. Both are totally bereft of any ideology, unless making money is an ideology.
Things will be much simpler now that all “isms” have come to a dead end. There will be no political parties, only political companies, owned and managed by political businessmen. There will be no voters, only shareholders, and no ministers, only directors. It is going to be very neat and simple, as it should be. I am just waiting for the day the venerable Indian National Congress will be listed on the stock market in Dalal Street!