Monday, March 12, 2007

The Red caste system

It was sometime in middle school that I was introduced to Communism via a lesson in Social Studies. As the teacher explained Communism, it’s birth and evolution and then the revolutions, I couldn't help but be impressed with the system. It looked picture prefect and the school text book laid a wonderful picture of Utopian nations like China, Russia and some other communist’s countries. This seemed like such a nice system where everyone had a job and everyone was equal and there was happiness and contentment all around. I could almost feel the contentment oozing out of the text book. So it was with stars in my eyes that I came home that day and as usual regurgitated the whole thing to my Dad. My Dad didn’t say anything as I was too young then to talk of government owning the means of production, principles of supply and demand etc.

Then I heard an observation by my cousin sister who used to fly with ‘Indian Airlines’ in the eighties. This observation opened my eyes in a way no book could. She talked of plane loads of Russians who came in droves to India on holiday in the 80’s. After flying for many years she had by now learnt to classify passengers at first sight. From these commie hordes she clearly discerned three or four types of people, which I later realized was a type of class system followed in communist countries.

The first class, was well educated, spoke good English and would refuse anything served on board. They would insist on French Coffee, Swiss Cheese etc which ‘Indian Airlines’ did not carry. So they preferred to eat nothing on board. They wore the latest fashion from Paris and Milan and they were attired from head to toe in designer clothes. They reeked “wealth”. This type also stayed in 5 star hotels as she would see them checking in when the crew checked into the same hotel.

The second class was the bureaucrats who had uniformed army men escorting them and given preferential treatment etc. They were polite and would take whatever was offered to eat. But the crew was intructed to take care of them as they were ‘Diplomats”. They would be met at the tarmac with cars that would whisk them off.

The third type was a little less high brow. They were polite and spoke a little English and usually checked into two and three star hotels.

The fourth type was a boisterous junglee type. This class formed the largest number among the Russians tourists. They were the laborers of the Communist economy. They were uncouth but friendly and grabbed whatever was on offer for free like sweets, cotton, Saunf etc. They were herded like cattle and stayed in really cheap hotels. They were treated real badly by the accompanying Russian escort and were used to being treated like crap.

From my cousin’s sisters observation I couldn't help but feel that no matter what the system we follow, we cannot escape classification. How much ever we try to create an equal society, we will fail as no man is made equal. There are some of us who are physically fit, while some are mentally superior. Some are good in business while others are good in numbers. When such disparity lies among humans, a system like Communism was bound to fail or flourish only under duress.

In the case presented above it is clearly visible that a sort of caste system is in practise in Communists countries. Besides an unofficial reward system exists to reward the intellect and productivity of outstanding citizens among them. It is a sort of invisible Capitalism. Unbelievable!!

( One of the best posts on this issue is here)


Alexis said...

Brilliant. As usual you have hit the nail on its head.

MC said...

strange..just a few minutes before i read your post i was thinking of the same thing..maybe after reading the comments on DOC.

you are so right..equality cannot be there because we are humans and not robots. the whole point is accept and believe in your individuality.

but thats exactly where i differ with the red brigade. they dont work towards betterment, but only in breaking down and equalizing - whether individually or as a society.

silverine said...

Alexis: You know I was wondering how this would be recieved as I am no political writer and this could be misconstrued as a serious political post. This is just a very very lay person's dispassionate observations. Now I am relieved after your comment. Thank you! :)

MC: I sincerely dont think that actual "Communists" as in a men who follows Marxist principals exist today. Communism is nothing but a tool to get rich and powerful today. At least the Capitalists are not hypocrits like the so called "commies". I am sure the originators of this system were sincere.
"they dont work towards betterment, but only in breaking down and equalizing - whether individually or as a society" Brilliant!

Neihal said...

I has exactly the same feelings after that chapter on communism....I wondered why it was limited to a few countries only, and it was the teacher who right after the chapter told us the true nature of communist countries.

And if this a "very very lay person's dispassionate observations".....
too good :)

TwoJoy said...

The point that finally emerges is quite interesting and agreeable!

We cannot escape classification, disparity, inequality in society. It would be utopian to assume that we can. But, on the brighter side thats what gives colour to this world. Otherwise everything would be grey.

In a world where everyone is equal what would give men/women the courage to rise up, the drive to achieve wonders?

Jiby said...

good post...i am imagining pseudo-commies within the sfi-dyfi burn your effigy...hehe! kerala and west bengal proves that communism working within a demcratic framework is more dangerous than in a dictatorial setup. bcoz they cant detach themselves from people what they do is identify alarmist issues and turn people against each other in the name of capitalist-labour, high caste-low caste, high income-middle class-oppressed, development-progress, etc.

a govt committed to socialism would have been nice...but all these leaders who rise up to the top have reached there sacrificing most of their inherent goodness...socialism and idealism just stay on paper.
thanks for the link to anish's post...was nice to read it again...its a pity he doesnt blog anymore.

Jinu Johnson said...

communism is nothing more than equal distribution of poverty. Rebranding & obfuscation are the order of the day with communist swines being rebranded as the new liberal left wing. But even obfuscation cannot deny the liberal lineage to the estate of the madman marx.

Abhishek said...

I don’t think my comment negates or endorses your blog, but would just like to share this:

I grew in a steel city which was planned and designed by Soviet Union back in 1960s.
It is Bokaro Steel City, now in Jharkhand. A communist town, Bokaro enjoyed a standard of living, which was rarely enjoyed by cities in the vicinity like Dhanbad and Ranchi. The township was run by the steel plant and inhabited by employees of the plant.

And of course, the local libraries were full of books translated from Russian to Hindi/English. The literature reeked of equality and certain sanctimonious preaching about how equality and Marxist values were important.
But I couldn’t help noticing that the township was divided into sectors and the houses were classified into ‘types’. The more an officer was promoted to, he would be promoted to a higher category of flat by the establishment.

A thousand or so Russians of course lived in a ‘Russian’ colony.
They were ok people… ate a lot...had a lot of parties… and were happier there in that part of Bihar rather than in their own country…they didn’t care much for classes…

But of course, even after Soviet Union dissolved, they chose to stay back… funny.

Fleiger said...

It is as you said, everybody is not made equal. The most we can do is to make sure that everybody gets his or her due, based on the talent and work. of course, sharing the wealth one has earned with hard work with somebody who hasn't worked same will always be a cause for discontent.

Reading Tom Clancy books, you do get a view and communist societies, a very biased one.

Pradeep said...

Equality is a theoretical proposition; and I wonder if it is also an intellectual fallacy. And, so much of time is wasted on debating "equality" "equal treatment" etc etc

Joe said...

Nice post! economic equality can neither be a practical nor desirable state of being..All that would lead to is a halt in the progress of teh world by killing off entrepreneurship and innovation....Equality of opportunity is what we need i guess. Its quite ironical that the red brigade is out to curtail the same by raising the bogey of reservations...

Jeseem said...

their is a big difference between a caste system and an in-equal society.
social equality is a dream and it may even be a disaster for society (after all we do strive to be better than others in one way or another)
a caste system on the other hand doesn't allow a person to grow from a humble beginning and attain the topmost position is society, an in-equal society does. see how many russian presidents had a humble beginning. compare it with indian prime-ministers and US presidents. however communism is a dead concept.

alex said...

A perfectly equal society will never exist. Communism is not perfectly equal, but like you said, just a disguise.

The major characteristic is that, these people have their basic needs, but no freedom. But in an extremely capitalistic society, freedom is there, but opportunities are absent.

Singapore is one such place.

mathew said...

The Red brigade is a highly attractive package like you said..almost like perfect symphony..

But it cant negate the basic human instinct of survival of the fittest..

think heaven is the only place truly communist!! ;-P

silverine said...

neihal: My teacher refrained from giving her private views besides the usual "advantages and disadvantages" of Communism :)

twojoy: Ironic isn't it that this is a system that has scant respect for human nature!?

Jiby: "kerala and west bengal proves that communism working within a demcratic framework is more dangerous than in a dictatorial setup."
You always come up with such astute observations!

jinu: lol that was an awesome observation!!

"communism is nothing more than equal distribution of poverty."

Come to think of it, so true to!

abhishek: That spoke volumes without endorsing or negating my post :p

flieger: I always wondered why we cant take the best out of each system and make a hybrid system that suits us!

pradeep: So right that equality is a thoretical proposition.

Joe: You said it, equality of opportunity is what we should aim for!!!

Jeseem: Good observations!

Alex: I read your post. Very interesting. Check this really interesting write up by Binu!

mathew: "think heaven is the only place truly communist!!" LOL Good one!!!

MC said...

@ alex - thats another reason why Kerala is also known as God's Own Country? :|

alex said...




I will go through the link.

Fleiger said...

There was an attempt I guess. Let's see how it goes:

"India ie. Bharat is a Union of States. It is a Sovereign Socialist Democratic Republic with a parliamentary system of government."


jithesh said...

Equality has been best defined in the preamble to our constitution. It says "equality of status and of opportunity". I doubt whether this was the intention of government while evolving the so called socialist policies.
No country in the present world follows capitalism or communism in its true form. In matters like farm subsidy, labour laws etc, some european countries are more socialist. similarly in matters like investment and trade, china follows capitalist policies.The true forms of the two competing economic ideologies have been best summarised by Churchill when he said "The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."

Jinu Johnson said...

babes, you are a closet right winger! Your posts on religion, communism et al are subtle indications of the same. Now all you have to do is to hold my hand, walk out of the closet and come over to the other side... 'the right' side ;-)



silverine said...

fleiger: lol I have often wondered about the same in Civics class!

jithesh: That was very well said indeed! You should check out They need balanced people like you there :)

Jinu: I am no right winger... :) I would call myself a mixture of a socialist and capitalist. But then many of us want the best of the two systems since there are people among us who cannot compete in a capitalistic set up and hence need a socialist crutch to lean on, while there are people who need capitalistic policies to make it good in life monetarily!

injinuity said...

folds back the extended hand, with a deep sigh, wipes off a tear from the 'right eye'; takes a step back and disappears all alone into the sunset; moments pass and an "I'll be back", reverberates from the void.



silverine said...

Jinu: LOL :))
p.s when u gonna start blogging?

injinuity said...

just hectic with business, resigned from the bank, started my own business, its going great, unfortunately I am left with no time... all work and no play here my dear... I dont see myself blogging again in the immediate future...



Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

Actually, I take exception to this:
In the case presented above it is clearly visible that a sort of caste system is in practise in Communists countries. Besides an unofficial reward system exists to reward the intellect and productivity of outstanding citizens among them. It is a sort of invisible Capitalism. Unbelievable!!

While it was good to learn what sort of a class system was forming in the communist countries, I don't see anything wrong with rewarding intellectual and physical productivity of outstanding citizens. That is not capitalism! In fact, a hypothetical socio-economic system which I think would be effective is one which is socialistic to the point of awarding upto a certain minimum in wages, education, etc: to all individuals, and from thereon merit based. That is, rewarding productivity, whether physical or intellectual. That way, no one has to find survival itself a trial, which leaves them free then to pursue the occupation of their interest, and they would be rewarded based on their productivity from this point on, giving them the incentive to do well.

Sorry, I digress :)

The problem with communism is not so much in its theory as in its practice. It leaves almost all power in the hands of very few, namely, the government. And that power corrupts. This was the primary problem of Russia. It became what might be called in the capitalistic world a monopoly. Hence, it almost dissipates to the worst form of capitalism. Well regulated capitalism, ie, where there is sufficient competition, and where the motive of profit is not allowed to run havoc is indeed one of the best socio-economic systems. Of course, one of the ways of ensuring that its well-regulated is by means of having independent coporate judiciaries :)