Dr. Adil Najam, the Ex-Vice Chancellor of LUMS and currently a Dean at Boston University, has compiled views of intellectuals to compare the world situation Before and After Corona (BC vs AC). There is broad consensus that big changes are inevitable. Even the sacred ‘Capitalist Order’ or Capitalism is seriously threatened.
20th century: Shift towards Capitalism
The 20th century was dominated by the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 that created the mighty United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). China followed in 1949. And, the Iranian Revolution of 1979 was a big event. After three major upheavals and two world wars, there was a brief period of calm and accommodation, but it did not last long.
About two years back I had the opportunity to talk to the Russian Ambassador at the GREF (Golden Rim Economic Forum) seminar. I asked him about the prevalent economic order in the country, his reply was: “we are in transition to capitalism”. This surprised me a bit.
China has changed, but the central control and authority is still in place. Iran seems to be in transition to emerge as a serious player in the region by liberalizing its economy. GREF is promoting a new economic bloc consisting of Russia, China, Pakistan, Turkey and Iran.
In the 20th year of the 21st century the entire humanity is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic which threatens its very existence.
On January 11 2020, Mark Lyall Grant, the Ex-High Commissioner of UK delivered a keynote address at the Think Fest held at the Arts Council Lahore. He talked about the emerging new world order. While the rise of China as a new world power was acknowledged, he maintained that their centralized non-democratic system was bound to collapse.
In other words, the future belonged to the democratic west and its capitalistic economy. He did talk about the high handedness of the Western powers in dealing with the Muslim countries including the invasion and destruction of Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan.
Collapsing Liberal values
As students in the sixties and seventies we were influenced by the progressive movements worldwide. The youth played a pivotal role in the ouster of the first dictator followed by the election victory in West Pakistan, of a leftist political party headed by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB). In the eighties, the world started to move away from welfare-oriented states. In the UK it was Margaret Thatcher who took on the Labour Unions and started a program of massive privatization and deregulation it was called ‘Thatcherism’.
In USA, Ronald Reagan another right-wing politician was elected President. He too was against Unionism. When the Air Traffic Controllers went on strike, he fired them. He introduced the free market approach together with globalization, it was called ‘ Reaganomics’. Together, they changed the world economic order neutralizing the 20th-century gains of equitable distribution of wealth.
As a result, the rich got richer at the cost of the underprivileged. Then there was also a technological and digital divide. Industrialization took place at the cost of food and agriculture. Both education and health became expensive and out of reach of the masses.
On December 25, 1991, President Mikhail Gorbachev not only resigned from his office, he dismantled the Soviet Union while handing over all powers to Boris Yeltsin, the President of the Russian Federation. It was a major retreat for the progressive forces in the world. The famous slogan, ‘East is Red’ was replaced with, ‘Socialism is Dead’.
China was able to weather the storm. It kept its course of liberalization of the economy while strictly observing public interests. While the Red Square in Moscow is no longer the nucleus of the revolution, the ‘Tiananmen Square’ is still alive.
In 1992 I met my old Comrade friend from Punjab University who was contesting the election for the President of Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA). He was later elevated to the bench, becoming Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, finally retiring as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
To my surprise, he held onto his Socialist Views. His words were, ‘as long as there is injustice in the world Socialism will make a comeback.’ Impressed by his remarks, I came back home and wrote an article titled, ‘Meeting with a Socialist’ which was published at a time when the progressives were fast becoming extinct. It created a ray of hope for change.
America, we have a choice to make:
Who's going to survive this? Us or #capitalism? #coronavirus #CoronaOutbreak #LockdownNow #COVIDActNow #COVIDー19 #EatTheRich #PeopleBeforeProfit #NotDying4WallStreet #CoronavirusPandemic#CoronaCrisis pic.twitter.com/q11PXuAc38— Ogechi Ike #GeneralStrike2020🌹 (@OgIke27) March 24, 2020
The world has been bracing for a new order. It is both the best and worst of times. While there has not been such a concentration of wealth in centuries, there are no counter-movements to challenge the evil status-quo.
With globalization, deregulation and free markets, Multinational Companies (MNC) rule the world. Governments are now subservient to business interests. National Self Reliance is an alien concept. People of the world are now at the mercy of corporate boards that decide on profit-driven products.
In the USA while the government has now decided to fabricate ventilators for the care of Corona patients, China has become the major supplier of this much-needed commodity by focusing on need-driven industries. The centralized economy was able to shut down, treat and feed the population while the people in the capitalist world are buying arms to protect their assets from food-related riots. Corona may prove to be the last episode of Capitalism.
“Life after Coronavirus (AC)”
For those of us who survive this pandemic, there will be life after Corona (AC), hopefully very different. Maybe a new Corona Calendar BC (before 2020) and AC (after 2020) be introduced. An integrated approach for humanity that would focus on the food, health, education and employment of communities will become the norm. Self-reliant communes, model cities may emerge.
Arms build-up and standing armies have to be curtailed. I have been informed that there is an Institute outside Stockholm in Sweden where this concept is being researched. The proposal is to have one unified Armed Force under the United Nations with representation from member countries. In the case of hostilities amongst nations, this force will restore peace and bring the feuding parties to the negotiating table.
Presently, too many resources are being wasted on external and internal security by most countries. Welfare States on the pattern of the five Nordic countries will emerge. Roosevelt’s new deal and Marx workers paradise may become a reality after all. Fortunately Pakistan has an elected government that has already done the homework to create an Islamic Welfare State. The Prime Minister has been personally involved in fighting the pandemic, once we come out of it as a unified nation the crusade should continue for the common good of the exploited and impoverished 220 million suffering souls. It may be freedom after a wait of over seven decades.
Dr. Farid A. Malik is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.