Prabhat Patnaik

Indian economist

Prabhat Patnaik (born 19 September 1945) is an Indian Marxist economist and political commentator.

It is real-life class struggle, informed no doubt by ideas, that ultimately determines which way the world will move.


  • The Hindutva movement as it has emerged is, almost in a classical sense, Fascist in its ideology, Fascist in its class support, Fascist in its method, and Fascist in its program. All the ingredients of a Fascist ideology are present in it: the attempt to unify the majority under a homogenized concept, 'the Hindus'; a sense of grievance against alleged injustices done to this homogeneous group in the past by an excluded homogeneous minority; a sense of cultural superiority vis-à-vis this minority; a reinterpretation of history exclusively in these terms; a total rejection of contrary evidence, of dispassionate analysis, of the scientific method, indeed of rational discourse; and above all an appeal to the so-called homogeneous majority in passionate, blood-curdling, and essentially male chauvinist terms to 'stand up', 'assert their manhood', 'show that it is blood and not water that flows in their veins', all of which amount to an incitement violence, and result in actual violence, against the minority group. … Its appeal is based not on the dreams of a better or more prosperous or meaningful future, but upon hatred.

The World At Crossroads, 2020

The World At Crossroads, 29 May 2020, NewsClick
  • The abrogation of labour laws in Bharatiya Janatat Party-ruled states (which could not have been done without Modi’s approval) is meant to make the labour market more insecure rather than less. Some Indian Revenue Service officers were punished recently for even suggesting that higher taxes should be collected from the rich. In short, the Modi government in its mindlessness is still picking up the intellectual crumbs that had fallen from the High Table of the metropolitan establishment “four decades” ago, without realising that the world has moved on.
  • Just as in the 1930s, world capitalism, as it had existed until then, had reached a dead-end, and the need for it to be altered for the sake of preserving the system itself, was emphasised by many perceptive bourgeois thinkers, exactly in a similar manner contemporary world capitalism too has reached a dead-end and cannot continue as before. [...] Any change in capitalism, however, including a revival of the so-called "welfare capitalism" of the post-War period, will entail a loosening of the hegemony of international finance capital and hence will face stiff opposition from it. The fact that the need for such change is clear to bourgeois thinkers, does not mean that finance capital will simply voluntarily make a sacrifice of the hegemony it currently enjoys. Indeed the history of the 1930s itself bears witness to this fact. [...] Boosting aggregate demand for overcoming mass unemployment finally got accepted as government policy only after the war when the weight of the working class in the advanced countries became much greater than before (of which the victory of the Labour Party in the British post-war elections and the vastly increased strength of the Communists in France and Italy were obvious markers), and when the Red Army came right up to the very doorsteps of Western Europe creating fears of a “communist takeover”. This conjuncture finally forced concessions from finance capital that had been unobtainable till then. Finance capital, in other words, does not voluntarily make concessions even when such concessions are seen by major pro-capitalist thinkers as being essential for the preservation of the system itself.
  • It is real-life class struggle, informed no doubt by ideas, that ultimately determines which way the world will move. Hence even for altering contemporary capitalism in the direction of the so-called “welfare capitalism” of yore, it would be essential to have the working class fighting for such an agenda. But when it does so, and when international finance capital resists such an agenda, we would be in the thick of class struggle. Time alone will tell whether this struggle would remain merely at the level of achieving a revival of “welfare capitalism” or whether it would go beyond capitalism altogether towards a socialist alternative. Once class struggle, for changing the system in its present form, acquires momentum, its outcome would depend on praxis and may not necessarily remain bounded within the system itself.
  • The ruling formation in India, however, is totally oblivious of the world conjuncture. The dead-end of neo-liberalism, which is visible to even bourgeois thinkers in the metropolis, is invisible to our Hindutva brigade. Not only is the Modi government still wedded to the neo-liberal agenda in general, but it has not even deviated from this agenda in the midst of the acute humanitarian crisis unleashed by the pandemic and its own mindless response to it.
  • Far from the pay cheques of private sector employees coming out of the budget, the government has robbed crores of workers, including 14 crore migrant workers (of whom around 10 crore are inter-state migrants), of their incomes, jobs and accommodations, without giving a paisa by way of compensation. This is partly no doubt the result of the utter inhumanity of the Modi government; but partly also it expresses its utter pusillanimity vis-à-vis finance capital, which it seeks to sustain through negating civil liberties and democratic rights and promoting a communal agenda that aims to divide people. But following the same track as was being followed in the "last four decades" and not recognising the dead-end of neo-liberalism, also means remaining stuck in that dead-end, which in turn would mean even greater recourse to authoritarian-fascistic measures and even more odious attempts to promote a communal divide. The working people will have to struggle against this entire endeavour and to show the way out of the dead-end of neo-liberalism.
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