In the midst of LK Advani’s rath yatra to polarize the country and the Telangana agitation to articulate local chauvinism, India is oblivious to the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement against capitalism which has given shape to what the West is today. Demonstrations are all over America and Europe against the grasping bankers, corrupt politicians and misgoverning administrations. It is a revolt against the capitalist system.

But things are no better for communism. Former West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya has remarked at Kolkata that communism must either ‘change or perish’. He belongs to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) which has been thrown out of power from the state after its inadequate rule of nearly 35 years. He has underlined the phenomenon the world over that the communist ideology does not meet the people’s needs. The main communist prop collapsed in 1990 when the Soviet Union caved in and let the West win the cold war.

China is making ‘progress’, not because it is following the communist ideology but because it is treading the path of capitalism which means growth by any means and at any cost, a sort of laissez faire. Yet the glue to keep this system together in China is the dictatorial rule by the communist party and the armed forces. No disobedience or dissent is tolerated, as was seen at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing when hundreds of protesting students were crushed under the army tanks.

Capitalism looked progressive when it replaced feudalism. But today it is stifling the common man because it is in exploitative as feudalism. Those at the top are appropriating the gains of growth and developing such technology which lessens jobs to increase the margin of profit. Without taking into consideration the public, the corporate sector and the banks are making their own institutions solid. What do the people do? They are rightly up in arms.

India should have learnt the lesson. But it is doing exactly what the West did and failed. The national Statistical Survey Organisation has reported the growth stagnant at around eight per cent, with zero per cent increase in employment. Obviously, the rich have become richer and the poor poorer. Since most of the burden falls on the countryside, there is dismal poverty in villages. Strange, the rulers have closed their eyes to the thousands of mutinies, small movements all over the country, directed against those who have dispossessed them of land, water, job or jungle.

The fact is that the two ideologies, capitalism and communism, have outlived their utility. They do not meet the aspirations of people who want bread, without losing their right to say. True, the communists in India have joined the democratic stream and adopted the parliamentary system but it is more of a strategy. Otherwise they have remained stuck in the Marxist slogans and shibboleths. The CPI (M) politburo office at Kolkata still hangs on walls life-size portraits of Marx, Angels, Stalin and Lenin. The communists continue live in a make-belief world that the people would return to them some day. The collapse of the Soviet Union shook them and they swore to change. But they continue to prefer their doctrinaire approach and rigid ways.

Somnath Chatterjee was thrown out of the party because he acted independently as the Lok Sabha Speaker when the CPI (M) wanted him to be a partisan. The party has not even bothered to find out why Buddhadeb does not attend meetings of the politburo. This moribund attitude is no different from that of the communists in other countries which have been thrown into the dustbin of history. The then President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union explained his failure on the ground that he could not hold the country together. But he did not realize that the people could not be held together if they are shackled and have no freedom to choose.

I still think that the communists would someday self-examine themselves and round off the edges. They would have done so by this time, but unfortunately they won 60 Lok Sabha seats in 2004 and got lost in the vicarious satisfaction of enjoying power by joining the Congress-led government.

Karl Marx, a single influence in the development of economic thoughts, is still relevant. Through his theory one comes to understand the historical and social changes. But that understanding is of little consequence when his philosophy ceases to be an engine for the changes. Communism is too isolated from the aspirations and sensitivities of the people and believes that a small revolutionary minority—the communist party—knows the best.

The real problem with communism is that it has become another religion. Ideology and religion help us in our journey up to a point, but subsequently we must come to have faith in the method that our demands for employment as well as free choice will be met. This does not mean that capitalism, more specifically market economy, is better. One ugly example is that of America which has left even Roosevelt’s new deal far behind.

Social democracy is the only alternative. It gives freedom and still allows the majority to prevail. There is some type of egalitarianism also. But the problem which has dogged the system is that the people are jealous about their rights but care little for their duties. And because of ever-improving technology, the employment sector goes on shrinking to the detriment of people.

Although we have a top economist as the Prime Minister, we have never faced such a financial crisis as we are today when inflation and deficit financing have been galloping unbridled. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has no clue how to tackle the situation except to express his concern every week over food price rise. The difficulty with him and his government is that they are still following the World Bank model which may be impressive on paper but a disaster when implemented.

We must realize that capitalism, communism or, for that matter, any other ism has failed to deliver the goods. India does not have to hanker after sterile philosophies. We have to learn from Mahatma Gandhi who was not dazzled by machines. This is not to suggest that the technology should not be used. The challenge is how to sustain the growth rate without lessening jobs.

We in India have to think of an ideology which is suited to our genius. The starting point may well be the advice by Mahatma Gandhi to cut one’s needs. India cannot afford the standard of living which a few enjoy. We are at the end of tether. There is no leeway available. We have to think of ways to curb consumerism and divert those funds to the measures to remove poverty.