I believe, like all matters of the universe, politics also follows Newton's law that it shall remain in its state of motion unless an external force acts on it. Most civilizations have been quite fond of preserving the status quo. But Covid-19 has disturbed this status quo like none in the recent memory. Institutions that remained open even during the two world wars were forced to close down their gates (certain courts for instance). Describing the economic disaster we are facing is impossible without the risk of regurgitating what already has been written in length. Realising that our precious economy and its development that the politicians cannot stop obsessing over are as fragile as the status quo the government tries to conserve, the time calls for re-examining the ideologies we based our systems upon. Denying the fact that the aftermath of Covid-19 will call for new a world order is same as turning a blind eye to the truth.
Academics and analysts, who have been saying that the growth in the GDP is not doing much for the larger part of the population as the money is remaining in a few specific pockets, are surely smirking as their hypothesis is now a proven theory. Most industrialists who were celebrated for their "contribution" to the economy have restrained from making their resources available to the government, rather many of them are asking for bailouts. The discrepancy between the living standards of the ordinary working-class citizens and the big business owners are now more apparent than ever. While we are seeing the fall of businesses making millionaires cry in their luxury cars, the tears of workers represent the fear of homelessness. One cannot help but see how orthodox capitalism has failed us in our hour of need. It is undeniable that some from the "upper-class" have come to the poor's aid but the response from the top one percent has been underwhelming. The "vanity" that Adam Smith sought in the hearts of the capitalists has failed to surface.
In countries where the governments have granted great amounts of financial assistance to businesses, some experts are questioning what would happen if businesses fail to pay back the government. Some are even predicting enlargement of the scope of establishing government control in private businesses. One may see this as leeway for allowing socialist principles to come back to the core of governance. Socialist ideas are resurfacing in mainstream politics for quite some time now. The lifestyles of Nordic countries like Norway, Denmark, and Finland, where taxation is high, are making people wonder, where our political system went wrong! The strongest example of this can be the popularity of political leaders like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (widely known as AOC) in America, one of the biggest objectors of socialist principles. Both Sanders and AOC have openly preached democratic socialism and gained immense popularity among millennials. As millennials get older, they will steer the political ship and the adoration of leaders standing up for the rights of the working-class will continue to grow.
In Bangladesh, socialism is a promise yet to be realised. Abolishing social inequality was one of the driving motives of the Liberation War and one of the fundamentals of Mujibism. Historically in Bangladesh, the workers' and students' wing of political parties have supported socialist ideas of state governance. Although the days of ideological politics in Bangladesh are fading away, I believe the number of people who want a worker-friendly economy is still substantial. Introducing socialist principles in the laws and policies of Bangladesh should be easier than most countries as socialism is one of the four fundamental principles of its Constitution (at least in theory) along with nationalism, democracy, and secularism. At the inception, there was a lot of protest against the decision of including socialism and freedom from exploitation in the fundamental principles of state policy portion of the Constitution which is not judicially enforceable. Also, the left-leaning parties protested the inclusion of the right to property in the list of fundamental rights. Many back then felt that the framers of the Constitution did not intend to establish socialism in Bangladesh as basic necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care were not inducted in the list of fundamental rights.
On the other hand, some believed that the framers of the Constitution wanted the future governments to implement socialism. Through various speeches and writings of Bangabandhu it can be seen that socialism was an ideology in which he had keen interest. Putting a ceiling on private land ownership also indicated that the framers had transparent socialist influence. But as capitalism progresses, so does the concept of socialism. In the current state of the economy, limiting land ownership does not go far in combating the exploitation of the working-class or the existing social inequalities. New methods introduced by the advocates of democratic socialism may be examined by the policy-makers to fulfil the promises of our forefathers. Some may argue that transferring the wealth from the hands of the industrialists to the government may be counterproductive due to corruption, to them I ask, what good is the money doing sitting in the bank accounts of the industrialists? The Covid-19 outbreak has lit a fire in the heart of deprived people around the world against the existing economic system as they realise that they have no social security. Whenever a population reaches a consensus against the existing system, revolution is inevitable. To maintain stability, we must urge our policy-makers to be innovative and examine new ideas to work for the benefit of the greatest number of people possible.
The author is an apprentice lawyer. He can be reached at [email protected]