Renegade liberals and the withering away of the proletariat

George Orwell, in his proposed preface of Animal Farm, wrote of the “renegade liberal”. Renegade liberals glorify socialist experiments and disdain middle-class life despite their own pleasant circumstances.

Renegade liberals search the globe for outlaw states and revolutionary movements to support, who, of course, would ship their local versions of these renegade liberals straight to the camps as soon as they won power. Iran, Castro and Hugo Chávez are their latest rebels without a clue.

The revolutionary excesses of the new socialist or Anti-American regimes are excused as the misadventures of ‘liberals in a hurry’, who understandably lost patience with the slow pace of democratic reform. It is all in the name of liberating the proletariat from their misery or throwing off the dead hand of colonial rule.

How is the immiseration of the proletariat going these days?

  • The immiseration of the proletariat is the central prediction of Marxism, the driver of class conflict, and this growing misery and poverty is what will finally push workers to wage a revolution against the capitalists.
  • It is a bit hard to argue that workers are poorer today than in 1848 when the Communist Manifesto was written. The central Marxist prediction is falsified by history.

I agree with G.A. Cohen when he argues that there is no group in advanced industrial societies united by:

  1. being the producers on which society depends;
  2. being exploited;
  3. being, in conjunction with their families, the majority of society; and
  4. being in dire need.

To avoid the inconvenient truth of modern affluence and the move of so many of the proletariat into the middle class, renegade liberals search endlessly for under-developed countries so they can blame their poverty on capitalism.

When they visit them in solidarity, these renegade liberals should read the visa stamp: ‘people’s republic’ or ‘socialist republic’ is so frequently on it. It is still mandatory for all political parties in India to be committed to socialism.

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Nearly all of Asia (where much of the world’s population lives) has undergone rapid and sustained economic and social progress because they became market economies, starting with the Asian Tigers and recently in previously socialist India and communist China. Latin America adopted the inward economic polices of the mid-20th century that renegade liberals praise so much and they became development disasters.

As the world embraced free market policies in the late 20th century, living standards rose sharply; life expectancy, education and democracy improved and absolute poverty declined. Xavier Sala-I-Martin and Maxim Pinkovskiy (2010) found that between 1970 and 2006, poverty fell by 86% in South Asia, 73% in Latin America, 39% in the Middle East and 20% in Africa. The percentage of people living on less than $1 a day (in PPP-adjusted 2000 dollars) fell from 26.8% in 1970 to 5.4% in 2006.

To go further, P.T. Bauer disputed the lack of development in British colonies. Bauer argued that much of British colonial Africa was transformed in the colonial period.

Peter Bauer

Before British rule, there were no rubber trees in Malaya, no cocoa trees in West Africa, no tea in India:

“…Much of British colonial Africa was transformed during the colonial period. In the Gold Coast there were about 3000 children at school in the early 1900s, whereas in the mid-1950s there were over half a million. In the early 1890s there were in the Gold Coast no railways or roads, but only a few jungle paths…

Before colonialism, Sub-Saharan Africa was a subsistence economy, because of colonialism it became a monetized economy.

Before colonialism, the absence of public security made investment impossible.

After it, investment flowed. So too was scientific agriculture introduced by colonial administrations, or by “foreign private organizations and persons under the comparative security of colonial rule, and usually in the face of formidable obstacles…

In British West Africa public security and health improved out of all recognition… peaceful travel became possible; slavery and slave trading and famine were practically eliminated, and the incidence of the worst diseases reduced..” (P.T. Bauer)

Some colonial powers were better than others. After 500 years of Portuguese rule in East Timor, in 1975, there was one road – to the governor’s house – and the phone number of the Australian consulate was 7! Portugal itself may have not been much better at that time too. Colonial masters are like parents. You must choose them well.

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