Lessons for the Saner Segments Who Wish to Inhabit the Margins Forever

  • Abhinav Sinha

Song of the Wise

The direction the wind blows, We understand
Why we turn our backs to it, We understand
The meaning of blood
Value of money, We understand
What is for and what is against, We are understand
We understand to such an extent that
Now now we fear understanding and hence,
Hold our tongue.

We understand, the implications of silence
When we speak we weigh every syllable
We comprehend the meaning
of freedom of speech
We know, what it means
To barter independence for
A petty salary
But what on earth can we do
When unemployment is increasing at a rate greater
than injustice
We understand
The dangers of both
freedom and unemployment
We escape the dangers by
a hair’s breadth,
We understand
We even understand
Why we are saved.
…………………
We are woebegone
Why the government does not understand.
We are despondent that the people,
They create a pandemonium.

We are miserable at the
Sorry state of the world,
We understand.
How miserable are we, that too
We undertand
Resistance here is the appropriate step,
We understand.
We compromise at each step
We understand
We construct logic for that compromise
Convoluted parlance is deployed to
Present that logic,
We understand
We even understand,
The logic of the convoluted parlance.

Nevertheless, we consider ourselves
Second to none
We can turn black into white and
White to black.
We can raise
A storm in the tea-cups.
Given a chance, we can even do revolution
If the government is weak and
People wise.
However, we understand
We cannot do anything,
Why we cannot do anything,
We understand that too.

                                                (Gorakh Pandey)

People inhabiting the margins too have their own share of sorrows as well as joys. The question is that of perspective as well as emphasis. Recently, Ravi Sinha, an intellectual standing on the margins and associated with the Left movement for a long time, has offered some lessons vis-a-vis the rise of Communal Fascism in India to his co-fellows standing on the margins (http://nsi-delhi.blogspot.in/2014/05/lesson-for-saner-segments-of-margins.html). However, after reading these lessons, one gets the impression that these are, in fact, a ‘user manual’ for how to remain on the margins forever. One can as well say that it is a proposal to suspend indefinitely the most important tasks of the present times.

We deem it necessary to present a detailed critique of this article for a variety of reasons, though the article invokes all those people who are standing (lying!?) on the margins.

First of all, the article constructs the ‘margins’ as quite an alluring place to be in. Consequently, those who still are not on the margins and therefore, can anytime move towards the political mainland, or else those who are not on the margins of their own will or choice or possibly are not conscious of their position on the margins; for all such people this article paints the ‘margins’ as a desirable place. Secondly, in the process of constructing the ‘margins’ as something alluring, this article makes a travesty of both history and ideology. The understanding of history and ideology of Fascism which has been put forth in this ‘wise men’s reading’, can be called, with utmost liberality, poor and infantile. Therefore, in order to have a clarity of vision on some key issues pertaining to the questions of ideology and history too, we consider it crucial to present a thorough critique of this article.

The points which have been enunciated in the article can be critiqued in order of the sequence in which they appear in the article or in order of their importance. However, since the article is more-or-less consistent in style and content, therefore order of sequence has largely been determined by the importance of arguments. And for the convenience of readers, it would be appropriate to present our critique in the order of importance of the issues. Since we felt the lack of accuracy in certain places in the published Hindi translation of the article, we have used the original English article as our source. Wherever we have quoted the author, it is our translation. (This article was originall writted in Hindi and in the English translation we have quoted the author directly from the original).

Preparing the background of the Lessons: The Geography and Topography implicit in the language

‘When it was possible to change it
I did not come: when it was necessary
That I, little person, should help
I stayed on the sidelines.’

(Bertolt Brecht, ‘St. Joan of the Stockyards’)

The author maintains that his concern is not the margin that falls to the Right of the political mainland, rather he is concerned with one which is on the Left of this mainland. The author is in a stew as to how the whole of the Left has been relegated to this margin. Albeit the traditional Left has not been able to come to terms with this reality. The author also believes that most of his own life has been spent on these margins. One gets the impression that he is holding out his hand to the new Leftist entrants to the margins with a multi-dimensional sense of irony. One aspect of this irony is the fact that a large part of these new entrants was situated on the political mainland till now, however, the rise of the Right has pushed it to the margins! The other aspect is the fact that this author, even while welcoming this new entrants, is aware that they will not pay heed to the lessons taught by a wise man, equipped with the long experience of being on the margins! Before we embark on a systematic critique of the politics of the terminology employed by the auther, it would be better first to acquaint ourselves with the geography and topography implicit in this terminology, particularly the ones pertaining to the ‘political mainland’ and ‘the margins.’

The political mainland here appears to be the parliament and legislative assembly, though the author has, perhaps deliberately, maintained some sort of ambiguity around this. The Social Sciences and Critical Theory have long ago made it clear that silences too have meanings and often they are of more consequence than the text itself. As a matter of fact, the real object of all the branches of Social Theory is to decipher these silences, more than the words! Be that as it may be, the import of political mainland here only appears to be the Parliament and Legislative Assemblies. Because, the Left which exists apart from the Parliamentary Left is already on the margins! Thus the arrival of the new entrants on the margins which is being discussed over, is unmistakably the parliamentary Left, that is to say, CPI, CPM, CPI(ML) Liberation and so forth.

However, on the contrary, here the margins do not seem to imply merely the non-parliamentary Left. Rather, this terra firma is abode to all those forces which do not have any considerable base or hold in the society as such. Earlier, only that segment of the Left was on the margins which, in casual political phraseology, is often referred to as ‘left of CPM’. However, now this neoteric rise of Fascist Right has banished even that section of the Left to the margins which is called ‘CPM or right of CPM’! Consequently, the author is worried. He is not troubled as much by his own protracted sojourn on the margins as by the fact that the parliamentary Leftists too, who were never on the margins, have ended up there and the margin has become overcrowded! Nevertheless, with a heavy heart overflowing with emotions, he is receiving with open arms these parliamentary Leftists on the margins! At any rate, the usage as well as the manner in which the terms have been employed by the author implies that his political geography possesses this very meaning. Because, he has not pointed out even a disputed line of demarcation between the political mainland and the margins. All the same, from here we can now get to the first major point of our critique.

This geography implicit in the terminology makes one thing clear: The author uses “Left” or “Leftism” as a generic term and supports the argument with great zeal and vehemence. The author flatly refuses to divulge as to what he means by ‘saner segments’ by saying that he does not wish to be pedantic about fixing any such criteria! However, later he could not stop himself from such pedantry and goes on to present an extremely broad criterion! It comprises of all those who do not belong to that “lunatic fringe” which differentiates between Revisionist Leftism and Revolutionary Marxism! The author says this somewhat farcically : “that lives by hurling accusations of revisionism, treachery and worse at everyone else!” Clear enough, in keeping with the author’s criterion, had Lenin or Mao been alive, they too would have fallen in this lunatic fringe! We must make this clear that the question here is not whether a revolutionary Marxist ideologically engages with the theorizations of the revisionists or not! The question is that one does not engage in any debate or dialogue with them because one considers them part of the revolutionary Left or harbors any kind of hope regarding them! If Lenin or later Mao waged ideological struggle against the revisionists, its only purpose was to defend the fundamental principles of revolutionary Marxism and educate the revolutionary ranks. However, here all the revolutionary communists have purposely been clubbed under one category: the infantile people who live on calling all the others as revisionists, traitors, etc; the infantile people who harp upon the same old song of now obsolete difference between Marxism and Revisionism; whereas on the other hand, the rise of Communal Fascism is staring us in the face! Most certainly, this voice may in fact seem like the voice of a ‘wise man’ to those lying in the dark depths of defeatism and pessimism!

However, the truth is that the ‘wise man’ has clearly no historical understanding either of Fascism or any understanding regarding the strategies to organize resistance against it. He is also ignorant of the fact that one of the key factors which contributed to the rise of Fascism in history has been the betrayal of the Social-Democrats and their insistence on keeping the working class movement locked up within the confines of bourgeois democratic illusions and legality.

Anyhow, Ravi Sinha sets the tone for the remaining article as well as the content of the “lessons” imparted through the usage of the terms such as ‘Leftism’ and ‘Left’ and consequently his ardent defense of this usage. The author then goes on to say that whether one likes it or not, he will have to include this lunatic Leftist fringe too, in the Left; and what is much to be regretted is the fact that one cannot remain indifferent to or unconcerned about it! At the same time, the author is convinced that these lunatics will not learn any lessons being taught here and will end up brabbling and bickering among themselves! The message implicit in this statement is : “Dare you criticize any of the lessons given by me and I will call you narrow-minded, partisaned, selfish, quarrelsome and conceited!” All the same, even at the peril of being called names, we shall move forth with the task of our critique.

The author begins with putting forth his understanding of the unprecedented victory of Narendra Modi in Lok Sabha elections on May 16.  The analysis of the bourgeois electoral results being advanced here perceives the apparent reality itself as the essential reality. Indeed, the author’s argument does carry some weight that following the victory of Narendra Modi many in the Leftist camp (here, we too, are using the term ‘Leftist’ as a generic adjective just for the sake of immediate clarity!) went into denial mode. The kind of psychological shock that Modi’s victory has caused in them can be gauged from this fact. The author has presented a correct criticism of such people and adds that it must be acknowledged that in these elections, the Far-Right has clearly got a tremendous mandate. However, the author later seems to be somewhat displeased with the people for handing out such a mandate! At this point he is hiding his displeasure a little bit. However, as he progresses, his patience runs out! More on this, later. What the author is trying to say here is that the mandate Narendra Modi got in the bourgeois elections was the manifestation of the will and wisdom of the masses, though the corporate media and the might of money too, had a role to play in it. Ravi Sinha draws a lesson from this for the Leftists (who seem to have an uncritical faith in the masses!) : they must reconcile their uncritical faith in the wisdom of the people with the fact that how, after all, their great Indian masses could give such a massive mandate to Narendra Modi!

This analysis of the victory and defeat in bourgeois elections, generously speaking too, is a faint cry coming straight from the vanquished heart of a demoralized liberal petty-bourgeois intellectual. Any Marxist-Leninist would know that in bourgeois elections the capitalist class obtains the consent to rule from the people; in this respect, it is the first ruling class of the class society that rules through consent and hence the basic premise of its rule is hegemony, and not merely dominance; its rule is not divinely-ordained. But we also know that this ‘consent’ is constructed in the bourgeois society, that it is manufactured. Therefore, summarily saying that the people ‘in their wisdom’ have given massive mandate to Narendra Modi and Sangh Parivar, is least of all, a seriously incomplete fact.  Earlier in history too, people have supported barbarians with their spontaneous wisdom, even people of those societies whom the author considers truly modern society! If  the spontaneous consciousness of the masses itself was the proletarian consciousness, then perhaps there would have hardly arisen any need for the vanguard of the proletariat! Anyhow, first of all the masses ‘in their wisdom’ never stand on the side of the reaction, well, no sensible Leftist has ever believed so. Lenin has written somewhere that the people, in the times of extreme fatigue and lassitude, stand on the side of the reaction and principally, it is not the masses themselves but the absence of revolutionary forces amongst them which should be held responsible for this. The proletarian world outlook, or the political class consciousness of the working class is distilled from the summing up of the historical experiences of the working class, and this summation is hardly ever been done by the members of the working class themselves. Generally speaking, such people come from the ranks of the middle-class intelligentsia. We are not stating anything new here. However, since Ravi Sinha, too, is not stating anything new but resurrecting the old despondent liberal bourgeois orthodoxy in new pedantic parlance, therefore, we too are compelled to present the answers advanced by the science of Marxism-Leninism. Despite tremendous efforts, Ravi Sinha’s displeasure with the unworthy masses of India becomes too evident, however, this is just a preview! On the whole, a very superficial analysis of the bourgeois elections is on display in this entire section and an uncritical understanding of the mandate handed out by the people to Narendra Modi comes forth. Besides, the people have been presented as a monolithic, homogenous category. In other words, class perspective is completely missing from Ravi Sinha’s analysis. We will deal with this later in detail. Moreover, the role of the presence/absence/inadequate presence of the vanguard revolutionary forces in the political decision-making activities of the masses has not been included as a variable in this entire analysis. It is a liberal bourgeois formalist and positivist analysis, which, while analyzing the Fascist rise, in particular often ends up either in despondency and depression or else in opportunism.

It is not as though the author is unhappy with everything post Narendra Modi’s victory! His argument that the BJP and Sangh Parivar under the leadership of Narendra Modi will not resort to the strategy of open and widespread riots after their decisive victory is correct. We also believe that now there is no need to carry out genocide like Gujarat 2002. Neither it is good for the interests of capital nor for maintaining the illusions of bourgeois democracy. The ghettoization of Muslims and their segregation from Hindus through the policy of a kind of undeclared apartheid will suffice. This observation by the author too seems, more or less correct. However, soon after he draws his first lesson and puts forth the reason behind this change in the modus operandi of Saffron Communal Fascists in India after coming to power, and from here emanates many a terrible problems. Let’s have a look at the analysis and arguments expounded by Ravi Sinha.

First Lesson: Let us Retreat to Parliament, Legislative Assemblies and Courts!

“What’s done by force cannot be good. I don’t belong with them. If hunger and the tread of misery had taught me violence as a child I would belong to them and ask no questions. But as it is. I must leave.”

                                       (Bertolt Brecht, ‘The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui)

Ravi Sinha holds the view that after gaining the power, what the Fascists can or cannot do to the social fabric is not that significant as the fact that “what they can or cannot do to the state and its structures”. According to him, for the Leftists, it is more important to understand that what is not axiomatic or self-evident, that is, what is counter-intuitive. As per Ravi Sinha, the “sources of the savage powers” of the Fascists lie in the society, “but this power cannot re-mould the state structures in the shape of their social ideology”. The author believes that this argument can be understood common-sensically that once coming to power the Fascists do not need to make any crucial changes to the capitalist state since this state power is adequate to serve the corporate interests. However, this observation is not sufficient for the author because it misses a crucial point. The point being the difference between an enlightened bourgeois-democratic welfare state and a Fascist dictatorship like Hitler’s. Ravi Sinha asks whether this difference holds no significance for a Leftist? According to him, “Indian state sits in the lap of a society that can, at times, enthrone men who would like to take the fascist-dictatorial path”. However, expressing gratitude towards Indian constitutional bourgeois democratic state, and even thanking one’s lucky stars for having such a polity, he is relieved by the fact that the Fascists, despite gaining control of the state power will not be able to do so in accordance with their desires and ideology! According to him, the first lesson which one can draw from this entire analysis for the Leftist is regarding the “puzzling relationship”, between the Indian state and the Indian society. According to him, “one ought to notice that the society gives rise to savage forces and entrusts them with state power, but the state compels the savages to become civil and act in accordance with the constitutional framework. History has carved a modern polity out of yet-to-be modern society. Many parts of the cultures and practices that make up this society are ill-at-ease with the modern political structure. And yet the political structure is fairly secure. The child sits in the lap of a mother who finds the child alien and at times hostile, but holds the child nevertheless in her lap.”

Here Ravi Sinha while putting forth an understanding of the relations between the state and the society in India, draws his first lesson. If, under present circumstances the new Fascist ruler launches its attack against the Leftists, then what must one do? He states that the Leftists will assert that they will go to the people and fight the Fascists on the basis of their strength; this, according to him, will not be entirely wrong. However, he is quick to advise that the Fascist forces will go to an even larger number of people! Then what will you do? Then he gives an outrageous example. He says that if the Left could not fight the Trinamool Congress in the streets and fields of West Bengal, then how can they fight the new Prince of Darkness in the cities, towns, villages and forests of the entire country even in the unlikely event of all Leftists coming together? That too, when the new Prince, like the Greek Gods, feeds on the admiration, fears and prayers of the masses? Therefore according to Ravi Sinha, one must think hard before challenging the new Fascist rulers for the political struggle among the masses! He maintains that it would be wise that the Leftists would defend themselves within the already existing political framework – in the parliament, legislative assemblies, courts and other institutions while taking the help of the Constitution and the laws. Here he gives the example of the courageous struggles of Mukul Sinha and Teesta Setalvad, which mind you, have not happened on the streets of Ahmedabad or Gandhinagar but rather in the courts. Later he adds a caveat, which could more aptly be termed as an effort to salvage one’s honour having advanced such a shameless plea. He says that we must not expect too much from the modern state power as well as polity and its structure because when the savage forces come to power they do bend these structures according to their desires and needs, to an extent, nevertheless, he believes that his aforementioned argument, in the main holds true.

Now let’s make an assessment of the logical method inherent in the first lesson on the basis of its merits and demerits. However, we will not begin with an outcome because then it is more likely that the saner segments, either standing or lying on the margins will call us “lunatic fringe of the Left” without even listening to us! Therefore, we will undertake a systematic investigation of the arguments advanced by the author and will try to extract his method and ideologico-politico position thence and will try to see that to what extent this methodology is able to grasp the lessons of history pertaining to the problems of history and ideology of Fascism and strategy and tactics to fight it.

Ravi Sinha has presented a paradox between the character of the state and society in India. According to him, the Indian society has still not become modern, however, owing to some specific historical reasons, it has acquired a modern bourgeois liberal democratic constitutional state. To illustrate this point, he has used the metaphor of the mother and child above (though this metaphor does not hold good on the scale of accurateness). According to him, the source of the savage power of Fascists lie in the society because in the absence of movements such as Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment, the society has remained pre-modern, while the state and its structures are bourgeois liberal democratic and bound by the constitutional rules and regulations. He has drawn his lessons based on this fundamental argument. According to the author, the society in India, by its very inherent nature, brings Fascist Far-Right and dictatorial forces to power, however, thanks to the democratic state of India, these Fascist forces after coming to power, find their hands tied down because they cannot change this bourgeois democratic state structure or the constitution; in fact, the state, polity and its structures, in a way, compel the Fascist brute forces to become civilized, discipline them in keeping with itself! This entire understanding is incorrect, ahistorical, sociologistic on many, rather all accounts and terribly falls prey to bourgeois illusions.

First of all, here an essentialization of the Indian society and the state as pre-modern and modern respectively has been done, which is far from reality. Secondly, essentialization of the Fascist movement and ideology too, as a pre-modern phenomenon or as a phenomenon arising out of pre-modern sources has been done, which is completely incorrect not only in the context of our country but in the context of the whole global history of Fascism too. Thirdly, the political economist and historical materialist analysis of the rise of Fascism is completely absent from the article. It is a bourgeois sociologistic analysis and that too, of substandard quality; if someone wants to read the bourgeois democratic and sociologistic analysis of the Fascist rise, far better options are available. Fourthly and most importantly, the analysis of the relations between the society and the state presented is not only an unscientific, ahistorical and vulgar positivist analysis, but in fact, borrows a lot from the American Deweyan pragmatism. This analysis has nothing, not even remotely, to do with revolutionary Left or Marxist analysis. It can, at most, be termed as a liberal bourgeois Fabianist or pragmatist analysis. Besides this, Ravi Sinha, in passing, makes such critical comments on Indian Left which does not apply on it. For instance, he asks that whether a Leftist distinguishes between liberal bourgeois democratic state and a dictatorial Fascist bourgeois state or whether they make a sufficient distinction or not? Needless to say that this query is not value-free and there is an accusation implicit in it. However, we are surprised that the author is ignorant of the fact that it is an established view among the Marxist revolutionaries around the world that a distinction should be made between a liberal bourgeois state and a Fascist bourgeois state; the Marxists have made this distinction clear from the perspective of political economy as well as from the historical analysis of capitalism and have drawn strategic and tactical conclusions in keeping with this distinction. We know that it would be completely inaccurate to say that the communists have already done all the analysis of the Fascist and in particular the present Fascist rise! However, Ravi Sinha’s insinuation that the communists should learn a thing or two about distinguishing between the liberal bourgeois state and Fascist bourgeois state from his lessons that are being broadcasted from the margins, seems inappropriate.

Anyways, let us now come to the concept of the relations between the state and the society in India put forth by Ravi Sinha. The Indian society has been depicted as a pre-modern society in which totalitarian tendencies are naturally present and owing to these tendencies, it sometimes spontaneously hands over the power to the Fascists and dictators! This is an ahistorical essentialization of the Indian society. Certainly, the Indian society, like the West has not passed through the process of Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment and when the ground for different types of editions of Renaissance and Enlightenment was being laid here, the process of colonialism, at that very moment, crushed the possibilities of appearance of elements of bourgeois modernity and capitalist development in the Indian society. The British colonial state, on the one hand, to fulfill its necessities, established the education system, equality before law, etc; on the other hand, it also gave patronage to the revivalist, pre-modern elements of the Indian society. The contradictions in the policy of the colonial state manifested time and again, which can clearly be seen, for instance, in controversies pertaining to ‘age of consent’, equality before law and the debate between Physiocrats and Utilitarians on the question of land settlement etc. On the one hand, there was an economic and political necessity to form alliance with the feudal ruling class and reactionary elements, on the other hand, establishment of Macaulay’s education system and a legal-constitutional system was also desirable in order to fulfill the other administrative and political needs of the colonial state. Owing to this dual and mutually contradictory needs and consequently dual and, to an extent, contradictory policies of colonial state, we find two streams in the rise of the Nationalist Movement in India: the revivalist stream and modernist stream influenced by the Western Enlightenment and Rationality. In some sense, these two streams got fused together in the Nationalist Movement after 1916 and Gandhi became the symbol of this process. In Gandhi, where on the one hand, clear elements of the revivalist reaction are present, on the other hand, elements of bourgeois modernity, humanism and liberalism too are to be found. However, on the whole, the Nationalist movement in the main, was a modernist movement (Here, we are not referring to the Nationalist movement as modern in the sense in which the Subaltern historians call it). It was not merely a patriotic movement, but a nationalist movement; the concept of ‘nation’, by its very nature, is a bourgeois modern concept or hypothesis. No national movement, fundamentally or principally, can be pre-modern. Under varying historical conditions, revivalist and pre-modern elements can be present in this movement, which could have been co-opted by the modern bourgeois nationalism in accordance with its requirements, as happened in the case of India. Anyways, the question is that can the Indian society, which came into being after independence and the society which exists today as the consequence of the developments having taken place in it from the time of Independence till present-day, be termed as a pre-modern society? We believe that such a formulation is totally incorrect.

The society confronting us today is a post-colonial (not postcolonial) modern society; in India, the pre-modern, primordial elements are present in ample amount in this post-colonial modernity and these elements have been co-opted, incorporated and articulated by this peculiar kind of modernity. We cannot expect anything other than that. The state, political traditions and structures which were born out of this society are in place to defend this very social structure. It is one thing to say that the sign of ‘is equal to’ cannot be put between the socio-economic edifice and the state or political superstructure, rather, there is a relation of correspondence between the two due to the contradiction; any Marxist social scientist will express its agreement with this fact; however, the kind of dichotomy and paradox which Ravi Sinha posits between the society and the state is purely a bourgeois sociologistic analysis which can be identified by its lack of historical view. No state or society can exist for a protracted period of time with such a paradoxical relationship. As a matter of fact, Ravi Sinha fails to comprehend the relation between the Indian state and society precisely because he is unable to understand the character of the Indian society as well as that of the Indian state and to situate it in the narrative of a specific kind of post-colonial capitalist development. We are hence presented with a metaphysical view of the character of the state and the society and the relations between the two, which despite claiming to understand their relationships, does not study their inter-relations, rather it analyses these in isolation and ultimately arrives at a static view and not a dynamic one, of their relations.

Ravi Sinha declares the Indian constitutional liberal bourgeois state and its political structures to be modern; however, can the political and state structures and traditions here be called modern in classical terms as well as in an uncritical manner? We do not think so. Is the application of religious personal laws in personal affairs mark of a secular modern state or constitution? Can the political and state superstructure be viewed as completely separate from the religion? The western modernity negates altogether the presence of religion in political institutions or that of state/political institutions in religious bodies, which is interpreted by concept of laïcité in French, and which is considered as one of the fundamental constituent elements of the bourgeois modernity. Can we make any such claim vis-a-vis India? In India, no such thing as complete separation of the state and religion exists, rather, all religions are considered equal in the eyes of the state and hence provision for personal law on religious basis has been made. Therefore, it is a mistake to consider the Indian state and constitution uncritically and classically as a modern institution.

In fact, the kind of post-colonial capitalist society and economy which came into existence in India, gave birth to the same kind of post-colonial capitalist state and constitution. The elements of modernity and revivalist reaction are present in both, the society and the state and it is quite beneficial to the ruling classes to blend these elements in order to continue their rule. There is no dialectical understanding of the particular character of the Indian capitalism in Ravi Sinha’s entire theorization. He departs from his liberal bourgeois pragmatist perspective and presents roughly the same sort of dichotomy between the state and the society, which pragmatists like Dewey and Rawls and following them Ambedkar did. In their eyes, the liberal bourgeois constitutional welfare state is the most rational actor; it counter-balances the disorder, irregularity and inconsistencies present in the society! And according to Ravi Sinha, it is needed immeasurably here in India because leave aside the Indian society, in the western societies too (which as per him, are not totalitarian, primitive and pre-modern), there are certain inconsistencies, inequalities to be found which are counter-balanced by the state through its affirmative action. Though Ravi Sinha’s theorization does not follow Dewey or Rawls completely, however, it must be said that the shadow of Dewey and Rawls never leaves it. In Ravi Sinha’s analysis, the structure of the Indian constitutional bourgeois state is a given constant. The Indian society, mainly and fundamentally, is reactionary, totalitarian and pre-modern, and it periodically hands over the power to the barbarians; however, once in power, these poor, helpless barbarians are forced to become civil by the Indian state and constitution! This is ludicrous and amounts to making mockery of the facts of Indian history. History has repeatedly shown that the Far-Right forces and the reactionary forces, without meddling with the constitutional framework and the structures of state, can implement their political design. Rather it should be said that right from the beginning, latent possibility was present in the Indian state and constitution where without making any changes in its basic structure or with some minute changes, the Fascist and the Fightist reactionary interests could be served by it. Nevertheless, Ravi Sinha’s observation that the Indian state and constitutional structure will coerce the barbarians to civilize demonstrate that his understanding of the Indian history is extremely impoverished and moreover, in the name of being realist, in fact, makes an unsuccessful attempt to look for archetypal categories present in bourgeois sociology textbooks in the real history.

Here we can find yet another strange formulation in Ravi Sinha’s analysis. He has declared the character of Fascist forces and the sources of their power to be pre-modern. It is in fact, like going back even further from liberal bourgeois analysis. It is apparent that the political economic and historical materialist analysis is completely missing from the explanation advanced by Ravi Sinha as to what Fascism is and what historical reason can be attributed to its rise. The rise of Fascism does not demonstrate any rupture in the narrative of bourgeois liberal state and system, rather it shows its continuity too. If any element of rupture does exist, it is more at the level of the form. Historically as well as generally speaking the more appropriate modus vivendi of the capitalist state is most certainly the bourgeois democratic state (whether it is welfare state or not, is of little import). However, the irresoluble crisis of the capitalist system gives rise to dual latent possibilities. This crisis can take the history in the direction of revolutionary transformation in case the working class and the common working masses are politically prepared and its vanguard forces are ready too, and if this is not the case, then the crisis can assume a reactionary turn (Fascism or any other kind of reactionary Rightist upsurge). Fascism is not some rupture in the grand narrative of capitalism rather it is a part of it. Fascism is, in fact, a modern phenomenon which can roughly be characterized as the most brutal and open dictatorship of big capital as well as the romantic upsurge of the petty-bourgeois classes. Certainly, it makes use of the revivalist and pre-modern elements present in the society, however, this itself does not make it a pre-modern political phenomenon. Fascism is not just any Rightist reactionary upsurge, rather it is a social movement. However, it is not enough to call it is social movement; besides this, it is essential to undertake the class analysis of this political social movement, otherwise like Ravi Sinha one can blame it on the whole of the society and whole of the people by saying that ‘people in their wisdom’ gave power to the Fascists.

Fascism provides a reactionary and barbaric resolution to the capitalist crisis, which does not, in any way, mean that it is not politically modern. The bourgeois modernity cannot be celebrated uncritically, like Ravi Sinha does, nor can it be discarded altogether, like many postmodernist, postcolonial ideologue and Subaltern theoreticians do (though they all themselves never transgress the boundaries of bourgeois modernity, rather they inhabit its Rightist, reactionary and anti-people portion). Engels, in ‘Socialism: Utopian and Scientific’ presents a dialectical analysis of the bourgeois modernity and while referring to its historically progressive character at one time, views it as the naturalization of the rule of the bourgeoisie too. In present times, when the capitalist system has entered its most decadent and misanthropic phase and has cast doubt upon the very future of humanity, then the bourgeois modernity too will assume and rather is assuming various inhuman, anti-people, barbaric and reactionary forms. Only those who are supplicating and bowing down in reverence in front of bourgeois Enlightenment and Rationality and are anachronistically trapped in its hang-over, can think of Fascist upsurge as something which is not a part of bourgeois modernity, but rather born out of the totalitarian tendencies present in the society, whereas the state, as a modern institution is counter-balancing the barbarism of Fascists through its modern civility. The whole theorization of Ravi Sinha can be clearly identified by its fetish for bourgeois modernity. Ravi Sinha goes into a kind of a ‘denial mode’ vis-a-vis the rise of Fascism as a natural part of bourgeois modernity and as natural consequence of the capitalist system. He is hell-bent on professing, time and again, the character of Fascist upsurge and its sources as pre-modern, whereas, in reality, both of these are absolutely modern concepts. By doing so, Ravi Sinha objectively comes across as an apologist of bourgeois modernity.

Any thorough analysis of the rise of Fascism without the political economic critique and historical interpretation of the capitalist system is bound to be only sociologistic and positivist. And here lies the problem with the analysis of Ravi Sinha. This analysis is either unaware of the Marxist-Leninist and even anarchist and social-democratic interpretations of the rise of Fascism till now or else overlooks these with convenient silence. There have been massive debates among Marxist scholars on the reasons behind the rise and development of Fascism. Ravi Sinha’s analysis is ignorant of the likes of Kurt Gossweiler, Anson Rabinbach, Tim Mason, Michal Kalecki, Bertolt Brecht, Georg Lukacs, David Abraham, Derek Linton etc. Despite having differing perspectives, one thing that is commonly agreed upon by all these Marxist scholars is: Fascism is a modern phenomenon and to confuse and mix it up with the pre-modern or primitive tendencies in any form only goes on to show that one does not understand capitalist modernity itself. Rabinbach’s statement is worth contemplating:”Fascism is without doubt a modern phenomenon. This is visible above all in the transformation of the relationship between state and society which has now almost universally, though in the context of liberal democracy, emerged in post-war advanced capitalism”. (Rabinbach, ‘Towards a Marxist Theory of Fascism’, Resistible Rise, Ed.- Margit Köves and Shashwati Mazumdar, Left Words Books, 2005, P. 71). Rabinbach further makes it clear that the character and the requirements of the Fascist upsurge are such that it looks in the past for the necessary ideologies for the reactionary mobilization of the petty-bourgeois classes along with its future plan to undertake an extreme kind of capitalist modern reorganization of the state and economy.

It is also noteworthy that the ideology of the past which Fascism invokes is not something pre-modern. It is, in fact, the modern imagination, invention and innovation of a glorious past. The invocation of the ‘glory’ of the past finds resonance among the petty bourgeois masses because the crisis of these classes is also modern and their fantastic expectation of its resolution, too, are fundamentally modern! Rabinbach further writes ,“Theories of Fascism which do not grasp these two seemingly disparate moments – its technological and political modernism and its ideological traditionalism – are incomplete.” (ibid) Rabinbach’s this observation, even though not agreeing with his entire theory, can roughly be considered as correct. Walter Benjamin has written at one place, “To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it “the way it really was”(Ranke). It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger. Historical Materialism wishes to retain that image of the past which unexpectedly appear to man singled out by history at a moment of danger. The danger affects both the content of the tradition and the receivers. The same threat hangs over both: that of becoming a tool of the ruling classes.”(Walter Benjamin, ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, Illuminations, Fontana/Collins, Glasgow, 1977, P. 257) If we leave aside the influence of Judaic Messianism in this citation, then this observation is completely correct that in the moment of danger, both the tradition and its receivers are faced with the danger of becoming an instrument in the hands of the ruling class.

Ravi Sinha’s analysis, in another sense, stands with the liberal bourgeois schools of all the various schools explaining the rise of Fascism and in fact, is a poor blend of their positions. One of these is the theory of Fuhrer-state which considers the coming of any dictator like Hitler to power as an expression of the “will of the people.” This theory sees the people or the society as a biological totality or a homogenous entity. Neither does this theory present any class analysis of the society nor does it sufficiently throw light on the class character of Fascist dictatorship. Therefore, there is an over-emphasis on the role of dictator itself. Only such an analysis can make use of phrases like ‘Prince of Darkness’. Certainly, metaphors such as ‘prince’, ‘savages,’ etc. can be used in a complete class analysis of Fascism. However, when such literary metaphors become a substitute for a thoroughgoing analysis, then it becomes problematic!

Ravi Sinha’s analysis, in an attempt to explain Fascism through the instrument of dichotomy between the modern and the pre-modern (possibily independant of his will) exonerates the capitalist system!  Because for him, Fascist upsurge is not a natural part of the narrative of capitalist system, but rather an outcome of the totalitarian, pre-modern, primitive, barbaric tendencies inherent the in Indian society and others like it and the bourgepis liberal democratic constitution framed by Ambedkar and the state system governed (?) by it acts as a counter-balancing force against these! This unique analysis, unwittingly though, makes Ravi SInha stand with the likes of incorrigibly liberal bourgeois theorists like  Henry Ashby Turner, who knowingly or unknowingly either omit or else weaken the umblical relationship between the Fascist rise and the capitalist system. The way in which Ravi Sinha uses the binary of the modern and the pre-modern (not only here but at other places too) has been aptly called by Gilles Deleuze  as Disjunctive Synthesis, that is, a binary of false alternatives. The binary which Ravi Sinha posits in front of us and in fact, the binary on which whole of his analysis is based and his “lessons” derived from, is, as a matter of fact, a disjunctive synthesis, a binary of false alternatives. The entire struggle against Fascism has been reduced to this binary. And the outcome has been terrible!

Besides this, shadow of yet another bourgeois theory on the rise of Fascism can be found in the theorization of Ravi Sinha, which is commonly reffered to as the theroy of national peculiarity. One of its theorists, Jurgen Kocka  has put forth the argument that the German society was never in true sense a bourgeois modern society and because of this Fascism took roots there; because the ground for irrational, reactionary ideologies and barbaric values and theories to flourish was always present there. This theory fails to explain the fact that the rise of Fascism is tied to a particular moment in the development of capitalism and in many countries of the world, Fascist movements came into being at this very particular moment, though these found success largely in Germany, Italy and to an extent in countries like Spain, Hungary, Portugal, Greece etc. In present times too, when the world capitalism is going through an unprecedented crisis, we are witnessing not only the rise of Fascist forces such as ‘Golden Dawn’ in South European countries like Greece, but also the upsurge of a Far-Right Fascist party such as ‘National Front’ in modern societies like France (that is , as modern as it can get in your imagination!). Today the global rise of Fascist and Far-Right forces cannot be explained by the binary of false alternatives of ‘modern’ and ‘pre-modern’. Neither the particularity of the Fascist rise in India can be identified by the methodology of Ravi Sinha, nor can it be situated in the generality of the global upsurge of Fascism.

This is the understanding offered by Ravi Sinha on the question of relationship between the state and society, which, with utmost generosity, can politically be termed as liberal bourgeois, pragmatist, reformist and Social-Democratic and ideologically as ahistorical, unscientific and irratioanl. Same can be said about his first lesson drawn from such an analysis. Ravi Sinha asserts that to counter the Fascist upsurge, right now it is not an appropriate strategy to go to the masses and organize them because if we do so, the Fascists too, will go among the people and their reach will be greater. The author, taking the example of Left’s defeat at the hands of Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, asks, “If the Left, for example, cannot fight the Trinamool in the streets and fields of West Bengal, how can it fight the new Prince of Darkness in the cities, towns, villages and forests of the entire country even in the unlikely event of all other leftists coming together with it?” Ravi Sinha seems quite terrified with the fact that the new Prince of Darkness is deriving a lot of admiration, fears and prayers of the people! We can see that in the absence of any faith in the society and people he has become utterly scared and therefore, he has chosen an incorrect point of beginning for his analysis, that is, what led to the rise of Fascism and is there a possibility that our not going among the people previously contributed anything to it?  Precisely because of this, in the end he calls upon fighting against Fascism in bourgeois democratic constitutional institutions such as Parliament and Legislative Assemblies and judiciary too and his role models, in this regard, are Mukul Sinha and Teesta Setalavad!

First of all, there is no analysis in his conclusion as to why, at all, Fascism arose, which we have earlier referred to as not selecting a correct point of origin. Certainly, there are both objective and subjective reasons for it. The crisis of capitalism lays down that objective ground in which Fascist forces flourish and thrive. However, this objective basis does not on its own bring the Fascist forces to power; it is a pre-condition for the rise of Fascist forces. In reality, this capitalist crisis prepares revolutionary circumstances too and gives birth to a relvolutionary possibility. However, this, too, is only the fullfillment of a pre-condition. In such a period of history, the agent which is politico-ideologically more prepared, organizationally more consolidated and has a wider social outreach, the scope of translating that possiblity into reality becomes more likely. In this sense, the rise of Fascism, in fact, demonstrates the faliure of the revolutionary communist forces. The Nazi and Fascist upsurge in Germany, Italy, Spain and Hungary, too was built on the ruins of Socialist movement and working class movement. The resistible rise of Fascism does not become irresistible because of such inherent totalitarian tendencies in a given society which periodically brings Fascism to power, as Ravi Sinha wants us to believe! At least the global history of Fascism does not corraborate this, nor the political economic analysis of Fascist rise substantiates such a claim. Does not the history of the rise of Fascism in Germany and Italy demonstrate that the treachery of Social-Democracy played a crucial role in it? Does not the history of Germany reveal that the inconvinient union of Capital and Labour during the period of Weimer Republic led to the sprouting and blooming of capitalist and petty-bourgeois recation in the end? Does not the entire history of Germany in 1920s bear witness to the fact that the revolutionary possibility which the capitalist crisis created, failed to be translated into reality owing to the ideological, political and organizational weaknesses of the true vanguard forces of the working class? The same questions can be raised about the history of Italy, Hungary, Portugal and Spain. Can it not be called the collective political amnesia of Ravi Sinha-brand “Left” which has forgotten as to why and how in the past too, the resistible rise of Fascism became irresistible? Because only as a consequence of such forgetting can anyone suggest such stale Social-Democratic course to fight the Fascist upsurge, which Ravi Sinha is proposing and which not only has miserably flopped time and again in history but also has caused the rise of Fascism. This is a ridiculous fear that if we mobilize and organize the masses for the fight against Fascism, then the ruling Fascists too will go among the masses on a larger scale and this will lead to crisis of our own existence! As a matter of fact, the Fascists assumed power because the revolutionary communist movement in our country is ideologically, politically and organizationallly dispersed and weak and does not have a reach in the broader cross-sections of the masses! Borrowing from the Bible, one can as well say that here the ‘Original Sin’ is the misdeeds of the Social-Democrats who did not display the courage and determination to engage with Sanghi Fascists on the streets. Moreover, the dogmatism and narrow-mindedness of the communist revolutionaries of our country is to be held equally responsible for they were not there where they were needed the most; for they left the immense proletarian population of India at the mercy of Fascist corporatism and revisionists. And now Ravi Sinha is prescribing us to repeat that ‘Original Sin’ afresh and with all the more terrible consequences. Besides the objective groundwork which was laid for the rise of Fascism (because these will be prepared periodically, time and again under any circumstance), various weaknesses of the subjective forces too were responsible, and Ravi Sinha is advocating to repeat at least some of those and is substantiating all of this with his use of pedantic jargon. His basic argument is that the fight against the Fascist forces on the streets and in the society should be deffered for the time being indefinitely and presently the struggle should be confined to the constitutional bodies like courts and parliament-legislative assemblies. Examples of Mukul Sinha and Teesta Setalvad have been given with this view in mind. It goes without saying that the fight led by Mukul Sinha and Teesta Setalvad is courageous in many respects and both of them have waged an uncompromising legal battle. However, does not their fight, despite being heroic and principled, support precisely the point that Fascism cannot be countered, the Fascist upsurge cannot be halted merely by waging such struggle? Does not it substantiate the view that all such struggles have in fact, failed to coerce the savage Fascists to be civil? Right from the demolition of the Babri Masjid to Gujrat Genocide, have these legal struggles (whose desirability is not under question) achieved anything else other than put a couple of minor lumpen elements, hoodlums or small-time leaders behind the bars for some time? Certainly, the bourgeois constitutional and legal battles against Fascism have relevance only as a part of larger anti-Fascist mass mobilization and movement. However, limiting the whole of anti-Fascist struggle even for some time, to just legal constitutional battles demonstrates the very grave illusions Ravi Sinha harbours for the bourgeois constitutional democracy. A glance at the history of Fascism will reveal that such legal struggles, in fact, never even become cause of irritation to Fascism, or at the most become only a cause of irritation! Even radical filmmakers like Costa Gavras beautifully potrays this reality in his much acclaimed film, Z. Bertolt Brecht, too has uncovered this truth in his The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. As  far as the academic and non-academic Marxist-Leninist analysis is concerened, a lot has already been written on the efficacy as well as limitations of anti-Fascist struggles within the ambit of bourgeois constitution and law, some of which we have mentioned above. However, the ‘sane’ pragmatist Left position of Ravi Sinha has even retrogressed behind the position of a radical filmmaker like Costa Gavras. As a matter of fact, this position is born out of defeatism and hopelessness and besides, presents a manifesto to defer or cancel ad infinitum and the indispensible tasks confronting revolutionaries in the face of the Fascist upsurge. And what is noteworthy is the fact that from academic and general intellectual standards too, this position is quite poor. It is evident that the struggle against the Fascist forces waged within the legal and constitutional bounds has, generally as well as historically speaking, proved useful only in demonstrating the limitations of bourgeois legality. However, if someone is having high hopes from this, they should be ready for a rude shock.

Second Lesson: Long Live the Bourgeois Democratic Constitutional Liberal Welfare State!

Peachum: “…The law was made for one thing alone, for the exploitation of those who don’t understand it, or are prevented naked misery from obeying it. And anyone who wants a crumb of this exploitation for himself must obey the law strictly.”

Brown: “I see, then you believe our judges are corruptible.”

Peachum: “Not at all, sir, not at all. Our judges are absolutely incorruptible: its more than money can do to make them give a fair verdict.”

                                                       (Bertolt Brecht, The Threepenny Opera)

The second lesson Ravi Sinha preaches pertains to the processes and form of democracy. That is to say, as to what should be the entire structure of democracy like. As far as this is concerned, he believes that it is not enough for the democracy to be merely robust, grass-root and participatory. He criticizes various new philosophers, N.G.O. thinkers, social movements, Magsaysay awardees on the point that they have only laid emphasis on the concepts like participatory democracy, grass-root democracy, etc. The author criticizes all those advocates of the participatory democracy for the fact that they admired the “new knights in shining armours” who emerged on the Indian political scene in form of ‘Aam Aadmi Party’ who attempted to enforce concepts like ‘democracy from below’, ‘participatory democracy’, ‘Mohalla democracy’, etc; though there were some “more sophisticated advocates” who were apprehensive about their vigilantism. Nevertheless, all of them admired AAP was “shaking up the system.” Ravi SInha criticizes those Leftists too who have been advocating grass-root democracy or participatory democracy for their own reasons and in their own right for the fact that in their support for participatory democracy, they too, have overlooked an important point. According to Ravi Sinha, participatory democracy “makes the political process thick and viscous and makes the designing and implementation of policies muddied and opaque.” However, as per him, the concept of grass-root or participatory democracy can also wreak havoc on democracy itself as Khap Panchayats and Khirki Extension incident during AAP’s rule has demonstrated; though while enumerating these instances he mentions the ‘Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution’ too in passing, in which the “ferocious mob democracy” has shown its antics! We will come to this in a while. Ravi Sinha claims that the Left supports the participatory democracy on the ground that they have no use of any of the institutions and practices of bourgeois democracy because all of these had been created to serve the interests of the capital. And therefore, even under capitalism the Leftists’ struggle is “aimed at making democracy more direct, more participatory and more decentralized.” However, he asserts that while advocating participatory democracy these people tend to forget that in the absence of a strong democratic tradition and constitutional-representative-liberal democratic system and framework grass-root or participatory democracy is like a door which swings both ways, a double-edged sword. Therefore, a democratic constitutional state bound by laws and rules is extremly important because pre-modern masses cannot be trusted.

Then, in passing, this view is imposed on the Leftists that they believe that people did nothing to bring about bourgeois democracy, that this is only an instrument of the capitalists to serve the interests of the capital. The author then preaches that after the advent of Socialism, we will have to imbibe some of the institutions of bourgeois democracy and modify these according to the core principles and values of Socialism. Because bourgeois democracy is not only a mode of constituting the state and structure of power, but it is also associated with rights, choices and freedoms for the individual citizens! Following this, he asserts that democracy is also a mode of constituing the structure of state power and all power structures are, in the last analysis, inimical to freedom. Therefore, if humanity has to progress, it must make them “increasingly dilute and transparent” and in this process eventually they will wither away. The author is a bit apprehensive whether this is actually ever going to happen, however, he believes that this at least proves that we need to make democracy and structure of state more and more transparent. In this way, the state would gradually shrink and larger domains of life will increasingly be released from its grip. However, according to him, under capitalism this is not going to augment freedom because “anything released by the state will be taken over by the market.” Therefore, under capitalism, it is absolutely essential for the state to be transparent, which is possible not only through participatory democracy but rather through the means of a democratic constitutional state system as strong democracy does not uniformly imbibe the democratic ethos and culture of an age. This task is undertaken by a constitutional democratic state according to him. Such a state can be constituted by the people themselves and it will also not be a rejection of the principles of particioatory democracy. Now let us analyse the methodology of argument implicit in the second lesson.

The essence of this second lesson is that the participatory or grass-root democracy is not enough on its own, particularly in pre-modern society like ours where the society or people have not imbibed uniformly “the democratic ethos of modern era”; in such a scenario, if there is no democratic state bound by any rules or law, then the participatory democracy of people can, in fact, destroy the democracy itslef! However, state here has been taken to be the natural carrier of “democratic ethos of modern era”. The Deweyan pragmatism of Ravi Sinha has completly come out into the open. As we have stated earlier. Dewey’s theory was that the state is the most rational agent and through its affirmative logical intervention it counter-balances the inconsistencies and contradictions present in the society. Dewey’s other instrument was the presence of a moral code in the society which could also be provided for by egalitarian religion; Ambedkar embraced both these Deweyan arguments quite faithfully, however, Ravi Sinha does not adpot them word for word; in his theorization, moral code gets substituted by something akin to John Rawls public reason. Here, the influence of John Rawls’ views on Ravi Sinha is clearly discernible. Since no such public reason exists in Indian as well as other pre-modern societies; since the society has not internalized the “modern ethos of the age” therefore, in his therorization the role of a bourgeois democratic liberal constitutional state becomes all the more imperative. If on the one hand in Dewey and Rawls, the role of state is that of an arbiter or mediator in case of antagonism arising in a well-ordered society, that is, a society embracing public reason and political diversity, then on the other hand in the theorization of Ravi Sinha, the presence of a democratic constitutional state acts as the guarantee to prevent barbarism of a pre-modern totalitarian society. However, the similarity in methodology with pragmatists, liberal bourgeois thinkers like Dewey and Rawls can be clearly seen. In both cases, the state is the embodiment of modern reason. Its position in the theorizations of Ravi Sinha is same as that of demiurgos (supreme idea) in the Hegelian thought. The impact of Kantian views on Rawls is well known.

There are two basic premises of Kantian thoery of state. First, that human beings living together can only be free if they have some rights in relation to one another (which Kant refers to as external freedom); the internal freedom is associated with the moral and logical decision-making process of the human beings; second, that this is only possible when the condition of civility is ensured and the task of ascertaining this is undertaken by the state as the embodiment of reason. If we look at Ravi Sinha’s theory of the relations between state and society in the light of these views, we will find that his thought is strongly embedded in the tradition of liberal bourgeois ideology.

We can clearly observe this in his second lesson pertaining to the inadequacy of the participatory democracy and desirability of a rule-bound constitutional liberal bourgeois state. Certainly, as he himslef believes, his second lesson is in the continuity of the first lesson and is related to it. And what is this continuity? The same ahistorical and non-dialectical dichotomy of the modern state and pre-modern society, on which stands his entire theory. A bit of a relevant digression and then we will  move ahead.

Gramsci also believed that the petty-bourgeois population and even a section of working masses under the influence of backwardness and traditional ideas prevalent in the Italian society had supported Fascism and culturally as well as historically, there was such a potentiality in certain sections of the society to lend support to the forces of barbarism. However, Gramsci also very clearly held that this barbarism has been appropriated by capitalism and capitalist modernity and today no kind of bourgeois state can limit, discipline or distroy it; only a proletarian state can undertake such a task. We cannot discuss in detail the complete position of Gramsci here. However, interested readers can look at it in his article ‘On Fascism’ (1921). Now let us return to our discussion on the comparitive analysis of grass-root participatory democracy and constitutional bourgeois liberal democratic state by Ravi Sinha.

Ravi Sinha further asserts that there is a consensus among people across the ideological spectrum on the desirability of a strong, grass-root, participatory democracy. He adds to this list all sorts of people – New Age philosophers, people from social movements, NGOs, Leftists and Magsaysay awardees. Here he criticizes the New philosophers, social movements and NGOs for not understanding the inevitability of a democratic constitutional state alongwith the participatory democracy! This is similar to reproaching Hitler for playing bad violin! The target of Ravi Sinha’s critique is not the ideology of these ‘social movements’ and NGOs financed by the imperialist funding agencies, bourgeois governments and capitalists and the objective role they play. Anyways, we have not been able to fathom as to what on earth does this ‘social movement’ mean! This phrase, in my opinion, is akin to Jaiprakash Narayan’s ‘total revolution’ in the sense that both are tautological. Meaning thereby, which movement is not social? And which revolution is not complete? When this sort of tautology exists, it means that there is some hidden intent underneath these phrases. For instance, the slogan of ‘total revolution’ was given to co-opt the real revolutionary movement and wave by the system. Similarly, social movement has been presented as an alternative to another kind of movement, that is to say, political movement. ‘Social movement’ means that which is not political; which does not raise the question of the state power! Today the characteristic of all such so-called social movements is that while talking about the problems confronting people, they never tell who is the enemy? Who we need to fight? However, Ravi Sinha does not criticize the NGOs and social movements on these accounts! Lifting his fore-finger, he preaches them, “Friends! Only a participatory democracy will not do, rather what is needed is also a constituional democratic state!” Or else it can be said that these helpless souls have not imbibed the “modern ethos of the age” sufficiently, therefore, Ravi Sinha has deemed them fit for his censure! Therefore, we have said that it is analogous to criticizing Hitler for playing bad violin.

Ravi Sinha denounces the Leftists too for not grasping the desirability of constitutional democratic state and supporting participatory democracy for other reasons! In fact, a revolutionary communist never talks about the form of democracy and their desiribility in politically incompetent and impotent terminology. Here too, Ravi Sinha has proposed a ‘disjunctive synthesis’ – participatory democracy versus constitutional liberal bourgeois democracy! This terminology has been borrowed partially from IMF-World Bank discourse, partially from World Social Forum discourse and partially from the liberal bourgeois ideological tradition of Rousseau, Locke, Dewey, Rawls. Marxism never percieves the question of democracy in this way. Firstly, no distinctive and real contradiction has arisen, between the constitutional liberal bourgeois democracy and what Ravi Sinha calls mob democracy in India as yet and there are very faint chances of this happening in the future too. Certainly, any progressive individual will oppose the “participatory democracy” of Khap Panchayats; however, only a simple-minded progressive living in a fool’s paradise and fallen prey to liberal bourgeois democratic illusions can rely on the courts and rule-bound legal system of this country to fight this horror. If we cast a glance on the post-independance history of our country, leaving aside a few exceptions, can one recall even a single instance where the Oriental pre-modern barbarism of our author was challanged by the modern civil-rule bound state system of our country? Or else can you name a single instance where the liberal bourgeois democratic state has civillized the Fascist barbarians? If that was the case then had it been possible for 2002 Gujrat Genocide to even occur? Has the court or legal battles succedded in causing any significant harm to the perpetrators of Gujrat Genocide? If, despite the experience of all these years, any false hope remains, then what can one call this, if not incorrigible bourgeois illusion?

The truth is that participatory democracy as well as constitutional democratic state system can both be repressive and barbaric or really progressive and one unleashing the initiative of the people. By creating dichotomy between these forms and by presenting a formalist analysis of this kind, one can only disseminate illusion regarding them. The real question is about the class character and leadership of these different kinds of institutions. If there is absence of political conciousness and dynamism on the part of masses in the grass-root bodies of power and if leadership of a proletarian vanguard is not present, then, undoubtedly such institutions can assume the status of unknown variable. Because revolutionary people’s conciousness is not something naturally available and present in an ideal form, rather it is distilled through consistent political and ideological class struggle in a dialectical process. The real question here is not regarding the form of democratic institution or of that society (as if it is a monolithic entity!) being essentially modern or pre-modern but rather of their politico-ideological content, which certainly has a class character. However, entire analysis of Ravi Sinha is confined to the form of democracy. His analysis is silent on the question of its class content. Even if we believe that the subject matter of this article is limited to the startegy of resistance against Fascism only within the bounds of capitalist system, then, too he does not go further than a comparative study of two froms of bourgeois democracy and the yardstick of the differentiation between the two is modernity and pre-modernity. This is the reason why Ravi Sinha fails to differntiate between the mass initiative awakened during the Great Proletarian Cultural Ravolution and Khaap Panchayats as well as “Republic of Khirki Extension.” His class partisanship is totally missing. For him, there is no criterion other than modern versus pre-modern. During the Great Ploretarian Cultural Revolution the anger of the masses that burst out against the bourgeois and bureaucratic distortions, could not have been expressed in gentle, loving, polite discoursist manner. It was a political struggle which was raising the question of the very existence of the socialist proletarian power in China. Consequently, in that struggle, there was certainly a non-democratic element present in the political practice of proletarian masses; the same kind of non-democratic element which is present in the violence perpetrated during the course of a war. Is there democracy in the concrete violence of the war? We do not think so. In that sense, the concrete immediate process of any radical transformation or revolution is never formally democratic! The intellectuals of the feudal class had termed the storming of the Bastille as the mischief of the mob! The liberal bourgeois democratic intellectuals, nearly on the same grounds, call not only the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution as mob democracy, but also all other activities of the working class as the acts of the mob. This judgmental tone is visibly coloured by bourgeois elitism. If a liberal bourgeois democratic intellectual is looking for elements of civility and discource in class struggle or in the concrete expressions of class war, then he will surely get a setback; the pathological reaction of this setback will blur his or her political vision. With blurred vision, one only finds mob in every class struggle! And this is what has happened with Ravi Sinha. And this is precisely why he fails to make distinction between Khap Panchayats-Khirki Extension incident and the Great Ploretarian Cultural Revolution. Anyways, let us get back to our original discussion.

Within the confines of the capitalist system, the working class and the common working masses, on the one hand, wage struggle to make the capitalist system more representative, participatory and constitution-bound (even when the constittution and legal system are progressive as per the bourgeois standards), and on the other hand build their own political representational institutions. However, there is no place for this in the strategy proposed by Ravi Sinha because for him this fact is axiomatic that India is a pre-modern society and if people do build such institutions these will fall prey to mob democracy or at least might fall prey to it and these too, will need to be regulated by the constitutional bourgeois liberal state! In such a scenario, if, for instance, tomorrow workers create Soviet-like institutitons in India, Ravi Sinha will be quite apprehensive about them and will plead for their regulation by the bourgeios state! His methodology at least arrives only at this conclusion.

Ravi Sinha further claims that the Leftist commonsense is that no institution or component of bourgeois democracy would be adopted under Socialism; that it is not the task of the working class to fight for the maximum possible bourgeois democracy and whatever bourgeois democracy exists today people did nothing for bringing about it. This can only be the liberal bourgeois common-sense of Ravi Sinha about Marxism, the corrrect Marxism, at least, does not adhere to such a perspective. This view has been imposed on Marxism. The proletraiat, too, believes in reprentative democracy and proletarian democracy will definitely present the opportunity of this representation in front of the majority of the working masses. However, the modus vivendi of the socialist democracy, at any rate, cannot be multi-party liberal parliamentary capitalist democracy. (For critical discussion of this point see, ‘Soviet Samajvaadi Prayogon ke Anubhav’, in Disha Sandhan, October-December 2015, p. 118-119) The Socialist state will also impart a constitution-bound rule. However, the class content of this constitution will be different. Therefore, as far as the question of institutional aspect is concerned, the proletraian democracy would build its new institutions. It would demonstrate that the principle of bourgeois democracy was an idealized dream of bourgeois philosophers and as long as capitalism survives, it cannot mean anything other than freedom to buy and sell, formal equality before law and eventually it has to culminate into some kind of reaction. However, there is no class content of democracy for Ravi Sinha. Pay attention to this statement, “The history of modern democracy overlaps with that of capitalism but that does not mean one is synonymous with the other.” This view percieves the question of democracy and capitalism as a dichotomy. It looks at the evolution of democracy as an aggragative process. According to it, the modern democracy evolved under capitalism and it will further evolve under Socialism! There is no element of rupture in this whole process. This kind of gradualism and evolutionism is, in fact, the hallmark of same sociologism, from which the analysis of Ravi Sinha suffers. The history of the origin, evolution and then decline of capitalism is also the history of origin, evolution and decline of capitalist democracy. As a matter of fact, with the birth of economic fundamentalism with economic crisis and birth of political fundamentalism with political crisis, the entire capitalist system reaches its point of impossibility. The development of democracy is not linear from the begining till the end of the capitalism but rather narrates the story of its birth, reaching its apogee and then its degeneration. The bourgeois democracy passes thorugh the stages of coming into being of progressive potential, its reeaching its apex and then its degeneration by being devoid of all progressive potential. Ravi Sinha’s understanding of entire historical narrative of bourgeois democracy, in this sense, terribly suffers from vulgar gradualism and evolutionism.

Socialism learns from the ideals of bourgeois democracy, but at the same time undertakes its realist transformation and clearly demonstrates that true democracy can only come under the rule of working class which truly is the democracy of the majority of working masses; besides it also shows that democaracy is not an above class concept. If democracy is for all, then no real and effective difference would remain between equality and democracy. This is the reason why the communist project of creating an egalitarian society was earlier called Social-Democracy, that is to say, that movement which aims at the socialization of democracy. Of course, later because of being inadequate and gaining new historical meaning, the revolutiobary communist movement abandoned it. Anyways, democracy carries any meaning only when its class character is elucidated.

Ravi Sinha argues that bourgeois democracy is not only a mode of constituting the state and other structures of power, but it also carves out a domain of rights, choices and freedoms for the individual citizen! This view, in fact, demonstrates that very liberal bourgeois concept of bourgeois state which defines the statepower within the scope of rights-discourse. Certainly, people have gained many democratic rights in their struggle against the bourgeois state. Besides, bourgeois statepower itself too, confers certain democratic and civil rights. However, the fundamental and principal concern of bourgeois statepower is not to bestow rights on citizens, but rather to regulate the people. Without this regulation, a very fundamental constituent element of the hegemony of the bourgeoisie would be absent. And this is not applicable only to general civil laws but to all laws, including labour laws and penal laws. Marxism comphrehends the rights given by the bourgeois liberal state and constitution through regulation discourse. Here too, it is visible that how dazzled the author is by the “grandeur” of modern bourgeois liberal welfare state.

Owing to not raising the question of class character in the context of democracy and power Ravi Sinha writes, “All power structures are, in the final analysis, inimical to freedom.” Whose freedom? Which power structures? Here too, class analysis is absent. The influence of Michel Foucault’s views is clearly discernible on this statement. Certainly, the domain of state is the domain of repression, as Engels had said. And in this sense, the proletarian state too, would be an instrument of repression. However, if the question of repression of whom and by whom is evaded then it would not be anything more than a passive radical demagoguery. The author believes that goal of human progress is to make institutions of state increasingly dilute and transparent and eventually to make them go away, though he seems apprehensive about the actual withering away of state! This skepticism uncovers the ahistorical view of the author on the question of origin, evolution and eventually withering away of the state-power. However, here too, he presents a gradualist and evolutionist perspective of the process of this withering away. According to him, under the capitalist system, the progressive forces will work towards making the institutions of state dilute and transparent and this task will be accomplished during socialism. In reality, neither the struggle for democratic space and rights under capitalism makes the capitalist state institutions more transparent and dilute, nor the communist revolutionaries carry out this struggle to make the capitalist state institutions more transparent and dilute. The communist revolutionaries over-identify with the promises and commitments of the bourgeois liberal state and constitution and hence fight for them because this struggle takes the capitalist system and liberal bourgeois democracy to its point of impossibility. If the bourgeois state becomes more transparent or dilute as a by-product of this process then it is altogether a different matter. This is precisely why Lenin had said that under bourgeois democracy, the proletraiat wages a militant struggle for democratic rights because on the one hand, it provides for the most conducive ground for the political training of the proletraiat as well as the class struggle, on the other hand, it also exposes the capitalist system. Therefore, the struggle for maximizing the bourgeois democratic space and rights under the capitalist system is a part of the class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie.

Ravi Sinha believes that the state, in a gradual process releases increasingly larger domains of life from its grip and in that very process, it shrinks and eventually withers away. However, according to him, this cannot really happen under capitalism because anything released by the state will be taken over by the market! This too, is an outrageous understanding. According to this, today the domain which is under bourgeois state is not subsumed under profit and market! Here too, one can see a non-dialectical dichotomy and behind this lies the Social-Democratic utopia of a welfare state. This dichotomy of a welfare state as well as an idealist understanding of the liberal bourgeois state. This dichotomy is state regulation versus market regulation. In other words, the dichotomy between planning and market. In terms of economics, it can utmost be called a Neo-Keynesian understanding, from which Paul Sweezy, too suffered. In the debate on the Socilaist transition, he had considered planning as the yardtick of Socialism and market as that of the capitalism. Bettelheim had put forth a roughly balanced critique of this view. This dichotomy is incorrect in itself, as long as the question of the political character of both the state and market is not understood. In present times too, whatever is under the control of state is, in fact, under the control of the market. Rather, it should be said that today one who cannot see this, is, if not suffering from political blindness then with what? The modus operandi of the forces of market operating in the domain of state is slightly different from those operating in the domain of pure market. However, this does not mean that the empire of some imagined liberal welfarism and not market exists in the realms under the control of state regulation! This, too, is demonstrating the uncritical fetish of Ravi Sinha for bourgeois liberal state. The essence of his argument is that as long as capitalism is there, we must all the more feel the need for a liberal bourgeois constituitonal democratic state because on the one hand, it will counter-balance the pre-modern barbarism and on the other, regulate the forces of the market.  Advancing such an argument at a time when the state is, in the most naked and blatant fashion clearing the way for the loot and plunder by market forces, is ridiculous. In the recent times, debate has been going around in academic and political circles regarding whether the state, in the phase of Neo-Liberalism and Globalization, has become more interventionist or is it increasingly becoming invisible and absent. We contend that the state has never been less interventionist or absent; only the forms of its interventions and presence have been changing. In the so-called “free market” capitalism too, the state played, in a different manner, the regulatory and interventionist role. There is no debate pertaining to the phase of welfare state, when in the view of the long-term interests of capital, the state, many a times, behaved contrary to the wishes of the individual capital and implemented a few welfare policies for the people. However, as far as the current phase is concerned, some people are of the opinion that the role of state is decreasing, its intervention is diminishing. This is just an optical illusion. As a matter of fact, today the state has become more interventionist than even before. However, as opposed to the Welfarist phase, now it most blatantly and shamelessly intervenes on the behalf of the interests of capital. Whether it concerns the role of state in making easy the plunder of natural resources and cheap labour of the country or the role of state in bringing to an end the security obtained through the regulation of labour laws – the intervention on the part of the state has not lessened as compared to the earlier period rather it has only augumented. In such a scenario, arguing that under capitalism, the domains of life released from the control of state will be subsumed under the animal forces of market, is liberal simple-mindedness and only goes on to show that the picture of capitalism presented in the text books of bourgeois sociology, political science and economics has been taken too seriously by the author. No such dichotomy or paradox between state and market exists under capitalism because both of these are capitalist state and capitalist market. This methodology of grasping the contradictions between the two can never correctly explain the relations of state and market under capitalism.

Ravi Sinha’s viewpoint towards the bourgeois constitutional liberal democratic state is that such a state is transparent! This too is a terrible illusion. According to him, such a transparent constitutional and rule-bound democratic state counter-balances the excesses of the grass-root participatory democracy because whereas on one hand it is transparent, on the other, it is the embodiment of modern reason. Such a state would not be an enemy of the grass-root democracy of the people, but rather its complementary and he believes that such state can be constituted by the people as well! However, if we cast a galnce at not only India, but also at the most liberal bourgeois welfare democratic states of the world, then can we find any such transparent bourgeois state as being imagined by Ravi Sinha? Throughout the world, the modern capitalist state is implicated in secret anti-people pacts with the corporate houses; everywhere, the capitalist state, in the name of nationalism and internal security, keep various crucial information out of public cognizance; most of the capitalist states of the world including the United States of America have framed such repressive and special laws which snatch away the democratic and constitutional rights of the people; needless to say that this non-transparency will be there even more in a post-colonial capitalist state. However, it would be foolish to expect complete transparency from any breed of liberal bourgeois democratic state.

Ravi Sinha does not percieve the political content of democracy but rather undertakes an institutionalist analysis. That is to say, some democratic institutions (constitutinal liberal bourgeois democratic state) would be more democratic in the true sense, whereas others (Mohalla Panchayats, committees and other instituttions of participatory democracy) will be less democratic and tendencies to destroy democracy, too, would be present in them. And ulimately, this institutional analysis again ends up with the dichotomy of modern and pre-modern, whose superficiality we have already analysed above. The essence of Ravi Sinha’s first and second lesson regarding the resistance against the recent upsurge and coming to power of Fascism is: firstly, to counter Fascism, the attempt to mobilize people as well as the struggle on the streets against Fascism would prove sucidal because (1) the people of India themselves are the pre-modern totalitarian community which ‘in its wisdom’ has given support to Fascism and brought it to power and (2) if progressive forces would go to the people, then the Fascists too will go amongst them and that too on a larger scale and since the society is pre-modern, the savage invocations of Fascists will find more resonance in this society than the progressive invocations, therefore, it is futile to expect any success out of going amongst the masses or the fights on the streets, and thus according to Ravi Sinha, the struggle against Fascism must be limited to the scope of modern constitutional liberal bourgeois democratic state, because only this state coerces the pre-modern barbaric Fascists to become civil. Secondly, in the struggle for democracy, stress should be laid on making the bodies of state increasingly transparent and the political process increasingly dilute, and not on building models of grass-root participatory democracy because there would always be perils of grass-root paticipatory democracy turning into mob democracy; once again the reason is that the society is pre-modern and replete with totalitarian tendencies. We will put forth a few more observations based on these two lessons and then will move towards the third lesson imparted by the author.

First of all,  there is no two ways about the fact that in the Indian post-colonial society, pre-modern, totalitarian and barbaric trends do exist. However, there is a historicity to these trends, which Ravi Sinha fails to grasp and therefore, he does their essentialization. The reason is that he fails to understand the dialectics and articulations of modernity and pre-modernity in a post-colonial state and society. If there is a dominant aspect to this dialectics, then certainly, it is the modernity, which has appropraited the pre-modern barbaric and totalitarian trends according to its need. This is because it is capitalist modernity and the capitalist class is its driving force. In such a scenario, a post-colonial capitalist class, which on the one hand embraces modernity for the smooth functioning of the economic architectonic of the capitalist system, on the other hand, in order to make its political hegemony multi-layered and extensive, it adopts the pre-modern elements present in a post-colonial capitalist society too. Therefore, when the Indian society and state too, sometimes, demonstrate pre-modern elements, it causes optical illusion of being pre-modern to all those who harbour fetish for the capitalist modernity. Ravi Sinha, to a greater extent suffers from this.

Secondly, by percieving this dialectics of modernity and pre-modernity in isolation, very firmly establishes Ravi Sinha within the tradition of liberal bourgeois thought. In fact the interplay of class forces remain in progress underneath this dialectics. Therefore, without grasping the umblical relationship between the modernoity and pre-modernity present at the plane of form and the social class struggle, there is always the danger of any analysis falling into the pit of institutionalism. If elements of pre-modernity are present in the Indian society, then as a counter-force, forces of modernity too, are present and undoubtedly, it does not only include Mukul Sinha and Teesta Setalvad. Rather it can be said that the forces of capitalist modernity have proved inadequate to counter-balance the pre-modern elements of the Indian society. In present times, only, through the forces of revolutionary proletrian Enlightenment, and if one may permit the use of this term, only through proletarian modernity the per-modern reactionary forces can be countered, which particularly in a post-colonial capitalist society, is the true successor of the principles of rationality and modernity, propounded by the revolutionary philosophers of the bourgeoisie and which were thrown into the dust with the real assumption of the rule of the bourgeoisie.

From here we can come to our third point. The challanges of present day cannot be fought by standing on the turf of the past. This holds true for every epoch of history. Today the pre-modern elements present in the Indian capitalist pre-modern society are not, in any direct way, the remnants of a by-gone feudal or pre-capitalist age or their continuity. It is a distinct kind of barbarism born out of the articulation of the barbarisms of the past with the barbarisms of the modern era, which cannot be called feudal, pre-capitalist or pre-modern in the real sense. Even the study of the history of Khap Panchayats demonstrates that it is not just any pre-capitalist pre-modern continuity, but rather is a particular phenomenon of the present times and has been conviniently as well as readily co-opted by the capitalist modernity. This peculiar kind of post-colonial modern barbarism cannot be fought by standing on the gorund of 16th or 17th century; this present challange cannot be opposed by standing on the ground of Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment and the capitalist modernity which came into being by passing through the process of scientific as well as industrial revolution. Today the elements of barbarism present in the Indian society cannot be combatted by standing on the ground of idealized form of capitalist system and rule as was imagined by the Enlightenment bourgeois philosophers and on the strength of some anachronistic nostalgia of this sort. Today, a new proletarian Renaissance and Enlightenment is needed to counter this. Today only the proletariat can undertake this task, whatever be the influence of pre-modern ideas within it. Certainly, the working class cannot spontaneously carry out this task and a proletarian vanguard would be required, which leaving aside dogmatism, and understanding the particularity of Indian capitalist state and society would chart out its ideological, political and cultural tasks. The spontaneously and naturally available conciousness of the working class, or one can as well say the spontaneous working class consciousness is not the proletarian conciousness. The institutionalized leadership of the vanguard party equipped with the science of consistent ideological political class struggle and Marxism-Leninism is required for this proletarian conciousness to take shape. However, this is certain that today this task cannot be fullfilled under the leadership of any enlightened middle class petty-bourgeois intelligensia and nor can it be fought only through the struggles in the courts and within the legal framework. The tasks of history which remained incomplete due to the colonilization of India cannot be fullfilled by going back in history. Such is the motion of history; such is the redemptive activity of human progress.

Third lesson: ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’

“What are you working on?” Mr. K. was asked. Mr. K. replied: “I’m having a hard time; I’m preparing my next mistake.”

(Bertolt Brecht, ‘Stories of Mr. Keuner’)

‘Little changes are enemies of great changes.’

(Bertolt Brecht)

 

The third lesson of Ravi Sinha pertains to the policies and program of the bourgeois state in which he proposes those basic demands for which the Leftists should fight today. Here he is not preaching anything new. In fact, whatever he is saying is prescribed every week or so by the Social-Democratic political economists like C.P. Chandrashekhar, Jayati Ghosh, Prakash Patnaik, etc. in journals and website such as The Hindu, Frontline, Macroscan, Network Ideas, etc. This is nothing else but the outmoded Keynesian prescription, according to which the Leftists must struggle for the welfare state and regulation of the unbridled motion of capital. The reasons given by the author for this is exactly those advanced by the aforementioned CPM brand economists. Because there lies a strong Keynesian, Hobsonian under-consumptionist, Kautskyite, Social-Democratic and revisionist ideologico-political foundation underneath these reasons. Ravi Sinha cannot directly name those reasons as there will arise a crisis of identity; however, he is either not able to put forth any reason as substitute for those or else the one he spells out are totally ludicrous.

The author argues that today the Indian Capitalism is in a particularly rapacious stage and there are two major factors which account for this. The first is abundantly available cheap labour and second is the fact that most natural resources, such as forests and mines and most of the small assets such as land of small landholders are yet to be turned into capital. This whole observation once again demonstrates that the author has failed to understand the general trajectory of the post-colonial capitalist development. First of all, the second factor enumerated by the author is factually incorrect. The natural resources and most of the small holdings present in India have, in the main, been transformed into capital. Having turned into capital means that the production is done not for consumption but rather for the market, that is to say for exchange. Again, that is to say, the cycle of commodity-money-commodity has been turned into money-commodity-money. The abundance of small holdings in India can be seen in the agricultural sector. Even a decade ago, the major source of income for 60 percent of village households was wage labour; the income from the exchange of small commodity production came second; in 20 percent of the households, the income generated from the exchange of surplus production and the income coming from wage labour was same. 40 percent share of the production by marginal peasantry, that is, peasants in possession of the smallest landholdings was intended for the market. Certainly, conditions must have changed all the more in these last ten years. Secondly, it is imperative to understand the formal subsumption, in which the capital formally subsumes the labour process and that of real subsumption, in which it really subsumes the labour process. Marx had clearly differentiated between these two stages and had said that the capitalist accumulation fully commences with the second stage. First the capital brings the already existing process of labour under its control. In this stage, the capital subsumes the means of production and turns the producers into wage labourers and makes capital accumulation possible. However, the labour process roughly continues along the same lines. In the second stage, the capital, in accordance with its interests brings the entire labour process and technology under its sway and consequently transforms it. The capitalist economy attains maturity with this second stage. We can also grasp this process through the journey from manufacture to machinofacture. In classical terms a line of demarcation can be drawn theoretically as well as to an extent historically between these two stages in the development of capitalism. However, it is the peculiarity of the capitalist development in the post-colonial capitalist countries that various moments of its historical evolution exist side by side. Therefore, in India on the one hand, we can find innumerable instances of extremely advanced capitalist accumulation and on the other we can also come across those regions where moment of “primitive” capital accumulation are anarchonistically found in which small producers, tribals, etc are being dispossessed of their land, water, forests and road is being cleared for the corporate plunder of their natural resources. Moreover, for Marx, ‘primitive’ capital accumulation was not purely a temporal concept. The capitalist development, in whatever country we take, by its very nature is unequal in both the dimensions of time and space, however, in a post-colonial capitalism, this inequality appears in peculiar and astonishing forms. Despite this, to argue that the assets of small ownership in the whole of economy have not yet turned into capital is far from reality. This however is true, that these small assets in our country, be it in agriculture or else industry, have not as yet been completely hegemonized by the corporate monopoly capital. Therefore, in our country alongwith corporate capitalism, petty-bourgeois capitalism too exists though, the share of the former in the economy is substantial.

However, to list these two as factors responsible for making the capitalist beast more ravenous today, is beyond comprehension. Because the existence of cheap labour and massive presence of natural resources and small holdings has not been there since today in India but rather has been there for decades, then why this particular phase of Indian capitalism arrived today! According to Ravi Sinha, this goes on to show the particularly rapacious character of Indian capitalism today! If this is the case, then this peculiarity should have arisen much before since both these factors had already been there for a long time. This is true that the Indian capitalism today has entered a particularly plundering-marauding phase. However, this should be explained by the development of a new phase in the history of the Indian capitalism. Here, in our opinion, two factors are specially noteworthy: First, the admission of Indian capitalism into the phase of open neo-liberal capitalism in 1990 from that of public-sector capitalism and concomitant with it, those labour resources and natural resources which until now were out of bounds for the unobstructed plunder of private capital, increasingly came under the sway of its loot; and second, the increased and organic integration of Indian economy in the global financial capital system, owing to which the jerks and jolts of recession and crisis in the global capitalist system were now directly and increasingly felt in the Indian economy. These are two factors which were not present before and can satisfactorily explain the particularity of Indian capitalism today. However, the author fails to grasp both these factors and enumerates those constants which were already there and thus cannot explain the current transformation by themselves.

Anyways, Ravi Sinha, in this particularity rapacious stage of Indian capitalism advises the Leftists to fight for two demands: First, for a welfare state and second, for regulation of unrestricted plunder by capital. He argues that a welfare state, through the means of progressive taxation system, will take full responsibility of fulfilling the basic needs of the people. Besides this, he argues we must fight for a legal framework which would prevent the capitalization of natural resources (unless they are nationalized) and small assets (unless they are made permanent share-holders in the upcoming enterprises). Ravi Sinha seems woeful that first ‘India Against Corruption’ and later AAP ran away with these two demands which eventually proved beneficial to the Fascist upsurge and believes that these demands should be raised by communists instead. However, these two demands are not only economically impractical but also shows the petty-bourgeois and ahistorical political views of the author. Today, even the inferior most of Social-Democrats hardly ever raise the second one of these demands. Anyhow, the two demands of struggle proposed here eliminates all distinction between various revisionist political parties and intellectuals on one hand and Ravi Sinha on the other hand. Moreover, Ravi Sinha has already made this clear in the article that he expects nothing from that ‘lunatic fringe’ which distinguishes between revisionism and revolutionary Marxism and who will raise narrow-minded questions on his lessons! Since we have already been declared lunatics in a predetermined judgment, we will say what we have to, on the point, anyway!

Do revolutionary communists fight for a welfare state? We believe that in a capitalist system, the revolutionary communists fight for all those demands of people which fall within the scope of constitutionality and legality and also those which are outside of it. In fact, this is the difference between civil rights and democratic rights. Our struggle is for the basic rights of employment, housing and education for the people. However, the demand for a welfare state is an entirely different political demand and even as a short-term demand, they do not raise the demand for a welfare state because there is a political economy and politics associated with it. This is the Keynesian and Hobsonian under-consumptionist understanding which today people like Prabhat Patnaik, Jayati Ghosh, C.P. Chandrashekhar are reverentially repeating. That is to say, the prescription of increasing the domestic demand through welfare and under-consumptionist policies to ward of the crises and fulfil the basic necessities of the people. The revolutionary communists fight for every legal as well as legitimate demands of the people and still do not transform that fight into the struggle for a welfare state. They fight for all those demands that can be secured within the space of Capitalist system, realize those demands and through what cannot be obtained go on to expose the system and take it to its point of impossibility. Our struggle is for a Socialist system. The issues are the same but the approach and method differ. Today in the Indian society the ground is prepared more than ever before for training the masses to fight not just for the cake but seizing control of the whole of the bakery! Therefore, raising the demand for a welfare state would be retrogressive.

One of the reasons which led to the rise of Fascist forces in Germany was that the Social-Democrats there fought for safeguarding the welfare state instead of fighting for Socialism which could have transgressed the boundaries of the capitalist system. On the strength of a robust working class movement, they even succeeded for some time in obliging the forces of capital to enter into a compromise with the forces of labour as well as preserve the welfare state. However, all this while instead of carrying out the political task of dispelling the illusions regarding this among the masses, they kept on reinforcing them because their political rhetoric never went past the welfare state. Consequently, no sooner had the compromise between labour and capital been put under strain arising out of crisis and the German bourgeoisie suffered from profit-squeeze, than it handed over the political stage to Hitler and the Nazi Party to decimate the working class movement through the mobilization of the petty-bougeois classes and with this came the downfall of the Weimer Republic. If in present times too, our political charter would raise the demand for a welfare state then we are bound to repeart the same mistake in history. Our demand, despite its refrain for making education, employment and housing as the birth-right of the people, is never the demand for a welfare state. Secondly, today the demand for a welfare state is an ahistorical demand. The disappearance of the welfare state from the stage of history is related to moment in which the world capitalism today finds itself; today neither the advanced Western capitalist countries nor the post-colonial backward capitalist countries find it possible to bear the expense of a welfare state. Ravi Sinha believes that the agenda for the struggle must be decided on the basis of concrete facts and the hard fact is that the demand for welfare state is the realist demand of the present times, though the Leftists consider it outdated. As a proof of its relevance, he states that the United Progressive Alliance too had put forth the agenda of a welfare state in front of Far Right neo-liberal BJP, though it had failed to implement it. The Leftists (CPI, CPM, etc) were in the best position to either implement it or get it implemented, however, they committed the folly of walking out of the UPA-I on the issue of Nuclear Deal! Ravi Sinha considers this mistake, to a large extent, responsible for the Fascist rise and coming to power of Modi on May 16! As a matter of fact, all these instances such as the use of the rhetoric of welfare state by Congress, do not demonstrate that the demand for welfare state is a relevant and realist demand of today. On the contrary, it goes on to demonstrate that it is an ahistorical and farcical demand in the present phase. This demand, in present times, is not only politically incorrect, but impractical too. The use of this demand as a rhetoric in parliamentary politics can still be understood. However, to raise the demand for welfare state by a communist (please note, instead of taking the system to its point of impossibility by raising the demands related to the basic needs of the people and carrying out propaganda for Socialist alternative, fighting just for the demand of a welfare state as the ultimate objective) if not retrogression, then what is it? When a traveller has nothing in sight ahead, he only looks back. Once again the author wants to counter the challenges of present by standing on the ground of the past. According to Ravi Sinha, Leftists today should fight for Nehruvian Welfare state or something resembling that past! This has happened earlier too in the history that in the name of being realist and basing oneself on the hard facts, pessimism, compromisism and defeatism has been dished out.

The second demand proposed by Ravi Sinha does precisely this, rather does something more than this. According to him, till the time natural resources are not made state property, their turning into capital must be opposed. Whatever he has stated is roughly correct till here, however, at the same time he advocates raising the demand that the small assets should not be transformed into capital till the time they are made share-holders in the upcoming enterprises which would come into existence after the capitalization of their assets! This is terrible. According to this view, if big capital engulfs small factory owners and petty producers then they must be given share in the new enterprises! Similarly, if some agro-business company swallows small or middle peasantry, then the dispossessed peasants should be made share-holders in the new farms! The question of peasantry will be discussed ahead, however, why would a revolutionary communist would suffer pangs at the dispossession of small factory owners and petty capital? This demand, in every regard is retrogressive. It advocates turning the wheel of history backwards. There are some demands which are appropriate for the struggle within the capitalist system. However, these intermediate demands are those which expose the capitalism system and provide some immediate relief to the broad cross-section of working masses. However, this demand lacks both these qualities. As far as the peasantry is concerned, today its sizeable section too, is being freed from the illusion of petty ownership. In the National Sample Survey of 2003, 40 percent of the small and middle peasantry said that given a chance, they would leave farming. The same survey reveals that while there are 110 million owner peasants in farming, 100 millions are agricultural labourers .  The 60 percent strong population of this 110 million owner peasantry does not have farming but rather wage labour as their principle source of earning livelihood. In that case, nearly 160 million of the 220 million people engaged in farming have already been either proletarianized or semi-proletarianized. The study of Amit Basole and Dipankar Basu (http://sanhati.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/india_surplus_may_11.pdf) demonstrates that there is no relevance of attempting to save either small peasantry or small landholdings even within the ambit of capitalism; this does not constitute even as an intermediate demand because, in Lenin’s words, it is akin to pushing the peasantry into the vicious circle of ‘self-exploitation.’ On the basis of these figures, if today land reforms for redistribution are carried out, then each peasant would receive 1.2 hectare of land, which is absolutely inadequate. In such a scenario, demand for these kind of reforms have lost their relevance even as intermediate demands. As far as the proposal of permanent share in the new agricultural or non-agricultural enterprises arising out of acquisition of small farms is concerned, it is not only impractical to the extent of being ridiculous but politicall regressive too. Why would any revolutionary communist argue in favour of such a demand? Today the history has furnished more favourable conditions for carrying out the propaganda for the socialist agrarian program in a new form following the dispossession of small and lower middle peasantry. Why, then would we argue for pushing the dispossessed peasantry back into the vicious cycle of poverty and misery in form of petty proprietors or small share-holders? When the entire bakery belongs to us, then why stop at demanding just bread?

And all this advice has been given on the pretext of assuming realist, practical and non-dogmatic stance. This is not practicality but rather pragmatist compromisism and retrogression. The author is extremely displeased at the inanity and “dogmatism” of the parliamentary Left. According to him, the parliamentary Left had broken its ties with the UPA-I government on the issue of nuclear deal owing to the nationalist bug which had gone into its blood during the period of colonial imperiliasm, which eventually became a factor leading to the Fascist upsurge under the leadership of Modi! This too is an astounding analysis. Here we would not be able to discuss in detail this so-called mistake of the parliamentary Left, however, it is quite evident that author’s illusion regarding the parliamentary Left, which displayed its true Social Fascist character in Nandigram, Singur and Lalgarh, borders on sickness. He considers the hoodlums of CPM better than the lumpen elements of the Trinamool Congress! The nationalism conceived during the colonial period has deliberately been thrust in without any rhyme of reason. The CPM and CPI can be branded ‘nationalist’ only in the sense in which they represent the indigenous small capital, though now, they do not even do so whole-heartedly. The purport of all that CPM wrote in its defence after the events of Singur unfolded was that the big capital is historically more progressive and safe-guarding petty-bourgeois capitalism and small land holdings/peasantry in agricultural sector is historically regressive! However, the conclusion that they drew from this was that the CPM itself should play an active role in dispossessing the small peasantry! Anyways, since Left is a generic category for Ravi Sinha and since he does not want to end up in that ‘lunatic fringe’ which still uses the outdated terms like revisionism, Social-Democracy, etc (!), therefore, we do not deem it necessary to say something else on his position regarding this.

According to Ravi Sinha there are two maladies afflicting the Indian Left. One of them is dogmatism owing to which it fails to present a practical outline or a broad program of a Socialist future in front of the people. This is because the so-called “twenty first century Socialism” and “future Socialism” of various new Socialist theories continue to be a prisoner of the memories of the Socialist experiments of the Twentieth century and is not able to see beyond it. The reason being the Twentieth century Socialism has turned into a canonical model of Socialism for these Leftists. As far as we know the various new proponents of Socialism have unnecessarily being dragged here. The reason being that be it István Mészáros, Michael Lebowitz or Marta Harnecker, all these intellectuals hold a rejectionist attitude towards the Socialist model of the Twentieth century and at least, regarding them, to say that they continue to remain prisoners of the memories of the Socialist experiments of Twentieth century is just plain ridiculous. Rather it can be said that they suffer from terrible amnesia. The less is said about their understanding and knowledge of the Soviet Socialist experiments, the better it is. For instance, in one of his recent works, István Mészáros writes that Stalin, in order to bring the trade unions under the control of the state, had given them the epithet of ‘conveyer belt, transmission belt, etc.’. Anyone conversant with the Soviet history knows that these terms were used by Lenin and not only as regards to the trade unions but rather the entire machinery of dictatorship of the proletariat in which he had used the metaphor of ‘cog-wheels’ and ‘conveyer belts’ or ‘transmission belts.’ Secondly, Lenin had done this precisely because he was against the statization of trade unions as envisaged by Trotsky! However, Mészáros by messing up all the historical accounts concocts a strange medley. Similar examples can be cited from the works of Lebowitz and Harnecker but here we do not have room for that. However, one thing is certain. These proponents of ‘future Socialism’ and ‘Twenty-first century Socialism’ not only not consider the Socialist experiments of Twentieth century as any model, but they also believe that there is nothing much to learn from them. Besides this, if we speak of Badiou, Zizek, etc., then they even outdo Ravi Sinha in their claim of deeming the Socialist experiments of Twentieth century as disaster, therefore, Ravi Sinha is definitely not talking about them. Thus, Ravi Sinha is factually incorrect here.

In the revolutionary communist movement of India, dogmatism surely is an important problem, especially dogmatism on the question of program. It would have been better if Ravi Sinha had dealt in detail on the dogmatsim he is referring to. However, this is certain that whatever might constitute this dogmatism, the axis-less ‘free-thinking’ which he proposed as its alternative is not only incapable of constructing any new practical Socialist program but rather, as a matter of fact, is just  peculiar blend of old, blunt-edged Social-Democracy, revisionism, liberal bourgeois pragmatism and reformism.

According to Ravi Sinha, the second problem confronting the Indian Leftists is populism, owing to which they fail even to be as radical as the liberal bourgeoisie. They even fail to take steps as bold as liberal bourgeoisie towards closing the gap between the actually existing popular consciousness of the masses and the historical consciousness of the age. The Leftists here still talk nostalgically about the nationalist period and about the Gandhian communitarian ethos when the communist party was organically with the peasantry and then put all the blame for Left’s failure on the severing of ties with the masses. Here deliberately a mess has been created. First of all, which historical consciousness of the age is being talked about here and who is this liberal bourgeoisie? We can gather from the earlier tone as well as content of the article that here the historical consciousness of the age too is related to the modernity and we can find Ambedkar in history and possibly people like Teesta Setalvad and Mukul Sinha in present times as the figures of liberal bourgeoisie. We believe that the historical consciousness of the age today has surpassed the capitalist modernity. And precisely because of this today more is required than the liberal bourgeois individuals and their politics which is being prescribed by Ravi Sinha. Secondly, which revolutionary communist today is nostalgic about Gandhian communitarianism? However, since author’s definition of Marxism and Left is unprecedentedly broad, who knows perhaps such people do exist! But the Leftists are nostalgic about their ties with the peasantry and the masses in the past and are unhappy at its severence. And the author seems unhappy with their unhappiness! However, if a communist feels heavy-hearted about breaking of ties with the masses, then what is wrong with it? To our knowledge, no revolutionary communist considers this to be the only problem. However, if our knowledge is limited and there are such people then we certainly agree with Ravi Sinha that merely having link with the masses is not the solution to all problems and a correct ideological and political line is equally necessary. But we do not feel that the lessons imparted by the author would prove of any help in this regard; the possibility of these being detrimental, however, cannot be ruled out. Besides, we also believe that for those of whom delinking with the masses is an important reason behind their landing up on the margins, they at least should feel grief-stricken about this!

 

Fourth Lesson: ‘It is easy to advise the wise’ (Serbian Proverb) 

‘I’m teaching all the time. When am I to learn?’

                                                       (Bertolt Brecht, ‘Galilio’)

“He who stands aloof runs the risk of believing himself better than others and misuse his critique of society as an ideology for his private interest.”

                                                       (Theodor Adorno)

As the author himself contends, the fourth and the last lesson is not really a lesson but rather an attempt to investigate into the recent spontaneous social movements and a step in the direction to formulate the tasks of the Left in this regard. However, the moment you venture forth with the hope that an analysis of these movements would be presented, you are faced with one disappointment after another. Evidently, the author has inserted this lesson without any reason in the article since and extremely incorrect analysis, that too, very briefly of the history as well as the present of these movements has been put forth. Perhaps this “lesson” has only been added to make this article a correct representative of its times! Because the subject which has been raised here certainly deserves a systematic critique.

Ravi Sinha while discussing the recent movement such as ‘Occupy Wall Street’ claims that some of these raised economic and social issues, still others brought the political question on to the agenda. However, what was common to all of these was that these movements questioned modernity and an entire way of life characterized by modernity. It has not been clarified as to how did it come about and in what way these movements raised question on the way of life propelled by modernity. Perhaps the reason is that the author perceives the origin of the phenomena of these movements in the student movements, feminist movements, anti-racist and anti-war movements of the late sixties, in which certainly there is some grain of truth. These movements received support from the New Left and besides, the radicalism spear-headed by the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution too had a role to play in their rise. However, according to the author these movements heralded an era of new social movements which were very different from the working class movements led by the communist parties and the anti-colonial movements led by the nationalists as well as the communists. As per Ravi Sinha, some of these movements enjoyed great success and they transformed the social-political-ideological-cultural landscape of the humanity. Others were relegated to the back stage of the world history as the particular issues to which these movements immediately responded lost their relevance. According to the author, some new Leftists on the basis of the experiences of the movements of 1960s and recent contemporary spontaneous movements, are making the claim that the age of political movements organized or led by the party is over. Now the age of new spontaneous and loosely organized social movements has arrived. Ravi Sinha raises doubt about such a claim, however, he does not advance any argument to reject it. He contends that these new social movements are not so new any longer. It is worthwhile to note that he includes World Social Forum under the category of these movements, which remained confined to social question as well as Arab Spring and Tehrir Square, which raised relatively more direct political questions. Subsequently, he merely states this – how long will the advocates and the theorists of the such social movements continue to the point towards the failure of Leftists and class-based movements as a proof that there are no alternatives to social movements when it comes to changing the world?! What does this mean? Certainly, they would continue to do so till the time communists, both on the plane of theory and practice give them a befitting reply! At least, they would not stop by asking such a rhetorical question! Anyhow, we will now throw a critical glance on the understanding of Ravi Sinha on these new spontaneous social movements.

Ravi Sinha claims that these social movements, in which he includes World Social Forum, Occupy movement, Arab Spring, etc. raised question on modernity and the way of life characterized by modernity. We do not think so and Ravi Sinha has not even deemed it necessary to present any argument to support such claim. First of all, all the movements which Ravi Sinha enumerates, cannot be put in the same basket. Secondly, various differences notwithstanding, if there is anyone common characteristic feature running across all these movements then it is certainly not their questioning the modernity or its way of life. If there is one common distinctive quality then it is the fact that all these movements, in some way, have raised questions on the retreating of welfare state in various countries, on fast depleting social and economic security and increasing uncertainty, on equality and other ‘bounties’ of capitalism such as homelessness, environmental degradation, etc. in the phase of unprecedented economic capitalist crisis of today, even though some reactionary forces had been active in these movements. In some instances, these movements were conscious of their resistance and were, deliberately opposing these things whereas in other cases, they were pathological reaction to the ruination brought about by capitalism. These movements in some instances could have been more or less, either more definite or amorphous; however, one thing was similar: most of these were spontaneous anti-capitalist movements; and in that sense, were opposed to those forms of modernity which are being born out of capitalist system and society in its most decadent, moribund and misanthropic phase. However, their agenda in itself was not to oppose modernity and its way of life. In fact, these movements themselves were modern movements. These movements were opposing Globalization and naked neo-liberal policies which today are wreaking havoc on the people in period of structural crisis of capitalism. Certainly, these movements could only have assumed the form of ‘Occupy’ movement in the US and that of ‘Arab Spring’ in the Arab world; this too would be tautological to say that if any spontaneous movement comes into being as a consequence of the global crisis of capitalism in the ‘weak links’, then its character would be more political and element of organization too would be more pronounced than its western counterparts. Its definite reasons are implicit in the differences in the political economy and history of Arab countries including Egypt and the political economy and history of the US or countries of western and northern Europe. Therefore, the global crisis gave rise to different kinds of anti-capitalist movement in different places. One thing which was common to all was the world historical context of a globalized capitalist world, that is to say, the most structural economic crisis till date and the spontaneous anti-capitalist movement of the people against imposing of the burden of this crisis of capitalism on them. However, this, precisely was the weakness of these movements: today mere spontaneous anti-capitalism is not enough. Since the politics and ideology of these movements was vague, incomplete and hazy, therefore, they could not put forth any positive proposal and nor could they any alternative to the capitalist system. As Slavoj Žižek had said about the ‘Occupy’ movement that this, to a large extent was living in the nostalgia of welfare state and was insisting upon its return whereas today it is needed to go beyond the capitalist welfare state and ask for communism, because welfare state in any case cannot come back. Though not in agreement in Žižek in general, one cannot help but agree with his this observation. The structural crisis through which the capitalism is passing today is different from the Great Depression of 1930s in the sense that now no period of real boom is going to come. The welfare state was a product of an unprecedented phase of boom which post-Second World War, western capitalism was witnessing. The US ‘Occupy’ movement in some terms was only expressing the hang-over with the American ‘Golden Era’. Despite fundamentally disagreeing with various points of his analysis and his model of communism, Žižek’s this observation should be considered correct.

On the other hand, the Arab Spring, though could not go beyond anti-capitalism, it was in many ways different from the ‘Occupy’ movement. First of all, the working class movement was the most key constituent of the movement in Egypt though later, in the absence of a correct and unified political leadership, it got co-opted by the petty-bourgeois radicalism. The petty bourgeois radicalism comes into being for a while and then lies dormant for the rest. At the time the petty bourgeois romanticist radicalism had become inert and listless, the working class movement was still going on strongly in neighborhoods such as Mahalla of Egypt and continues to be so. The movement which commenced at Tehrir Square created those objective conditions in Egypt where the people were ready for a systemic transformation and the ruling class of Egypt too had lost the ability to rule. However, in absence of a correct political ideology and organization, the moment of revolution passed and the people of Egypt, first had to suffer at the hands of Muslim Brotherhood and later at those of the reactionary period of army rule. Egypt is not going to stay still in the coming times too, however, this too is certain that in the absence of an agent which is required to transform the revolutionary situation into revolution itself, there can be regime change but no systemic change. Anyways, we cannot go into a detailed analysis of Arab Spring, and especially the people’s movement in Egypt here. The fundamental point is this that Ravi Sinha, without presenting any analysis places all these movements in one single bracket and then unfairly accuses them of opposing modernity and its way of life which is, factually as well as politically incorrect.

As we have said earlier, that there is some truth in this observation that the ideological source of the present day New Left, post-Marxists, postmodernists can be traced in the movements of 1960s as we have written elsewhere too (‘Soviet Samaajvaadi Prayog aur Samaajvaadi Sankraman: Itihaas aur Siddhaant ki Samasyaen’, Key Paper presented in Fifth Arvind Memorial Seminar, Allahabad, available on arvindtrust.org). This can only be said in one sense regarding the present day anti-capitalist movement and in particular their contemporary ideologues: only the ideological source of these philosophers and at least those anti-capitalist spontaneous movements which occured in advanced western countries can be found in the movements of the 1960s because the historical, politcal, social and economic context and background of these present-day movements is qualitatively different from the earlier ones. The present day spontaneous anti-capitalist movements in a limited sense, share only a few of the ideological sources with the movements of 1960s and nothing beyond that. The late-60s could be identified with certain things. The ‘Golden Era’ of capitalism was coming to an end; the genesis of pathological reaction, especially in Europe among the politically progressive and ideological circles with the downfall of Socialism and rise of Social Imperialism in the Soviet Union and its misdeeds in the Eastern Europe and the other parts of the world as well as its rivalry with the US imperialism; the dual impact of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and Maoism on the intellectual and political circles of Europe (that is to say, on the one hand, the birth of new Maoist parties under the influence of Maoism and on the other hand, coming into existence of a pseudo-Maoism which, meandering through the streams of non-party revolutionism, Operaismo, Council Communism, Anarcho-syndicalism eventually culminated in various breeds of post-Marxist, which today are making tall claims regarding an ideology more radical than Marxism); Taking shape of civil rights and anti-racist movements, coming into being of the second wave feminist movement and ideology; the inauguration of a qualitatively new parasitic phase of financial capitalism in the post-Second World War period which is characterized by post-Fordism, debt-financed boom, deregulation, market flexiblization, etc. in which the finance capital came to the fore in an unprecedented speculative and unproductive form; along with this, the inception of post-industrial theory, postcolonial theory and postmodernism and conversion of many Left intellectuals to theories of ‘rhetorical radicality’, which was in fact a part of the pathological reaction against the fall of Soviet Socialism; many other characteristic features can be added to this list by which the decade of 1960s and 1970s could be recognized. The social movements which rose in that period bore the indelible marks of these ideologies, in which the crimes of imperialism-capitalism were imposed on the whole of Enlightenment, Modernity and Reason; Marxism was declared to be inspired by Enlightenment and thus a chapter in the meta-narrative of Reason and Modernity; every concept of Generality or Universality was considered as part of the oppressive western project of Modernity and everywhere celebration of all kinds of fragments and difference was promoted; though it was nothing but itself the universalization of fragments and differences! The political essence of this entire philosophical rumination was this: it is true that the liberal capitalism is bestowing the humanity with ruination and destruction, but what did those who professed to have an alternative to it give? Totalitarianism! Therefore, a binary of false alternatives was proposed: liberal bourgeois democracy, which at least confers some individual freedom and rights, or else, totalitarianism (which suppresses all kinds of freedoms and rights)! With the beginning of 1990s this binary of false alternatives had come to the front in its worst form when Francis Fukuyama acclaimed with much enthusiasm the ‘End of History’. Well, that was the Golden Era of capitalism triumphalism. As the end of 1990s approached, the postmodern hysterical shrieks had turned into panic-stricken bleats as capitalism, after the collapse of the Asian Tigers in 1997 had reached the fag-end of the phase of a short-lived boom, and the joy and revelry surrounding the fall of sham red flag of the Soviet Union too had now become repetitive and monotonous. In the 2000s, the capitalist triumphalism had landed up in its grave and instead of those who proclaiming aloud about blatant capitalist triumphalism, people from social movements, NGO politics and vagabond philosophers speaking of post-Marxist communism became more serviceable to capitalism-imperialism.

Today the various ideologues of the anti-capitalist movements such as Negri, Hardt, Badiou, Halloway and little different sense Žižek (to place him in the same category with Negri and Hardt or Badiou creates many inconveniences for the analysis) are in fact, not asserting that there is no alternative to capitalism. They are speaking of a new kind of communism; in fact, they are putting forth a new theorization of capitalism itself, in which capitalism becomes an impersonal entity; those opposing it too become something of an impersonal and amorphous entity which Negri and Hardt call ‘multitude’; and that what is to be fought for and what is to be fought against too become impersonal and indeterminate! The ’empire’ replaces capitalism and ‘multitude’ takes the place of proletariat. Badiou believes that the concepts like state and party have become irrelevant for the emancipatory project. The passive radicalist theories such as ‘subtraction theory’ are being advanced which claim that today the movements of revolutionary transformation should withdraw themselves from domains under the hegemony of global capital which will lead to the tumbling down of the global capital structure and through the new forms of popular participation, political transformation of state power will come into being; that is to say, theorizations of how not to do revolution are being put forth. This is the new strategy of the global capital hegemony: do not say that other world is not possible! Say that many worlds are possible! But do not utter a single word about how to create any one of these! And the other world which is really possible, snatch away the agent and agency necessary for bringing about that change! Tell the social forces desiring change that the concepts of party and state and class have become irrelevant. These new vagabond philosophers and ideologues are proposing these very things to the present day spontaneous anti-capitalist people’s movement and certainly, without their telling too, these ideas have a considerable influence on these movements because there are already such non-party revolutionists and anarcho-syndicalist groups active in these movements who swear by these views. Moreover, we should not forget that theorists like Negri and Tronti had their roots in the Anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist trends active in the working class movements.

In this sense, one can say that there is an influence of those ideologies which were conceived, to a considerable extent, during the confused Paris of 1968 on the present day spontaneous anti-capitalist movement. However, todays movements cannot be placed in the continuity of the movements of that period and nor can these social movements (whatever it means!) of 1960s considered as milestones for the present-day people’s movements, as Ravi Sinha believes. The historical, economic, political and social is totally different. And whatever elements of continuity ideologically exists, those we have already identified. In fact, Ravi Sinha does not present any consistent critique of the way in which these new theorists and philosophers make use of non-party revolutionism, opposition to organization and anarcho-syndicalism to rob from these movements the very agency of transformation. Other things apart, he includes even World Social Forum in the ranks of these social movements which means, for him, there is no fundamental ideologico-political difference between the ‘Occupy’ movement and Arab Spring on one hand and World Social Forum on the other hand. And he criticizes all of these movements for their political unclarity and spontaneitism. As far as the World Social Forum is concerned, we can certainly re-iterate that to criticize it for spontaneity is similar to criticizing Hitler for playing bad violin! And secondly, the World Social Forum is not even that spontaneous or unclear because it has in fact been consciously created as an organizational form to prevent spontaneity and unclarity to move towards consciousness and clarity. This is an organizational expression of consciously organized spontaneity and unclarity and for this very purpose it receives funding not only from the French government but from many Imperialist agencies too. It tells quite a lot about Ravi Sinha political sight that he fails to differentiate between an institution funded by Imperialism and founded to co-opt various people’s struggles and Arab Spring. Anyways, instead of presenting a critique of these various movements, Ravi Sinha asks rhetorically: how long philosophers of these movements will point their fingers at the failures of the Leftists? What kind of critique is this? As a matter of fact, the tragic and heart-rending voice of the author reflects his own state of philosophical, ideological and political indecision and wavering self-confidence.

In the last paragraph, while stating the reason for the failure of the Left, Ravi Sinha argues that the reason is not that the Left refused to imitate these afore-mentioned social movements but rather the fact that though it possesses the art to fight colonialism, feudalism, monarchy and military dictatorship, but these are the adversaries belonging to a bygone era. To challenge its present adversary, that is to say, capitalism-imperialism, it needs to evolve a new strategy. Though one can consider it, to an extent and overstatement, since in the Russian Socialist Revolution the Russian proletariat under the leadership of communists was fighting capitalist itself, albeit, it was a nascent, feeble and backward capitalism, and was leaning on the crutches of semi-feudal forces; however, there is some truth in it. The most central question on the agenda of Marxists not only in India but throughout the world is to evolve strategy and general tactics of the struggle to fight the present day capitalism. Today, it is especially imperative to comprehend the extremely key changes that took place in them modus operandi of world capitalism in the aftermath of the Second World War and equally essential is to formulate accordingly the important changes in the strategy and general tactics of the New Socialist Revolution. However, if someone in the name of innovation speaks of rejecting the fundamental principles of the science of Marxism-Leninism, without any legitimate logical reason then it is fatal. If someone in the name of dismissing the basic Leninist thesis of ‘State and Revolution’, abandoning the distinction between Revolutionary Marxism and Revisionism, discarding a correct Marxist-Leninist understanding of Fascism and in the name of realism and drawing conclusions from concrete facts, churns out stale concoction of Social-Democracy, Reformism, Sociologism, Positivism, Pragmatism, Ahistoricism and liberal bourgeois theories, then certainly such hodge-podge quite aptly belongs to the garbage bin of history. The entire theorization of Ravi Sinha is in fact such a hodge-podge, which has been wrapped in treacle of pedantic language and then served. This would prove quite influential and popular among passive radical intellectual circles as they always need a justification for doing nothing or an excuse to snuggle up in their comforting abodes on the margins, because as we had said right at the outset, the life on the margins has its share of sorrows, but it has its share of joys too; this joy is born out of that convenience and sense of security which is the prerogative of the elite intellectual circles living on the margins. Ravi Sinha’s article is not a lesson for the saner segmets standing on the margins but rather a lesson for those saner segments who always want to be on the margins.

(Translated by Shivani from Hindi)

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