Maruti: A moment in workers’ self-organisation in India

Pratyush Chandra

The Chairman of Maruti Suzuki, R.C. Bhargava, himself described the July 18 incident as a “class attack”. The management, which learnt from the Japanese how to instrumentalise unions as tools to educate and regulate workers in work discipline, are now learning a new lesson from their own Manesar workers – they want their own voice, which is in their control not in the control of the masters, whosoever they may be. They will tear away every interface if that obstructs their organic collectivity to emerge – then they will speak in their own voice, which will definitely be harsh and brutal, as it will be organic to the very core. They will speak in their own language, without any creative translation into a language that has systemic legitimacy.

The lesson that the Indian corporate sector learnt from the Japanese is graphically retold by Bhargava himself in his recent book, The Maruti Story. It is not just revolutionaries who called trade unions a school, even the Maruti management found them to be so – a necessary means for “continuous training of workers…if their attitude towards work, the company and its management was to be changed…. We understood the logic of their [the Japanese] system and so wanted to completely reverse the traditional culture and bring about a mutually beneficial relationship between workers, the union and the management.”(302) So the management “promoted a trade union at Maruti, before political parties and outsiders could establish”. The founder-Chairman of Maruti Udyog, V Krishnamurthy, “brought” even a union leader from BHEL. “The importance of the union was highlighted by ensuring that the president and general secretary of the union were seated on the dais at every Maruti function. They would, along with the top management of Maruti, receive all VVIP guests and garland them.”

Time and again, the Maruti workers have tried to build their unity beyond promoted, brought, bought unionism and its ritualism. Each time such unity has been institutionalised into a legal form, the management has either destroyed or bought it over, and promoted enterprise unionism. Since the last year, however, things have drastically changed. Maruti workers have understood the meaning of legitimacy, its functions and limits. This remarkable understanding is evident in what a Maruti worker expressed just after the worker-leaders were ‘bought’ and sidelined in 2011:

“Sahibs don’t understand the situation…. In these past few months, a handful of workers had risen to the position where they could control the workers…. By dismissing exactly those men, the management has thrown away a valuable tool.” (Aman Sethi, “Down and out on India’s shop floor”, The Hindu, July 29, 2012)

And again after the July 18 incident, in an interview recorded by a mainline news channel, a worker said:

“Our workers did not have faith in the union body. They were apprehensive about the union cheating them again…. [Yet they wanted that] the management should at least value and listen to the union body.” (NDTV, August 11, 2012)

They understood the limits and dangers of legality and representation, and the need to have extra-legal vigilance of their institutionalised body. Something the workers ensured by evolving shop-floor networks of line and departmental coordinators, and by frequent assertion of the general body. While the representative trade union, in accordance with the legal regulations and norms, included only the permanent workers, this organisational form was organic to the daily shop-floor coexistence of all segments of workers.

Defying every attempt to fragment and subalternise their collective consciousness, the Maruti workers forged a youthful (in a literal sense) unity among themselves beyond all kinds of regulatory and identitarian divides (including the caste and regional), demonstrating their uselessness, except for the purpose of regulating workers in favour of capital. This unity was remarkably visible during the 2011 strikes. They defied every agreement and manipulation from above that tried to break that unity, and they struck three times against them, and surprised the unions and their legitimate sense. Hence, even the need to form a sectionalist union (of permanent workers) – which the legalese and the prevailing industrial political culture compelled them to adopt for negotiations with the management – was continuously overwhelmed by the unity below that questioned the very basis for such unionist sectarianism and economism.

It was this collectivity that could not be destroyed by the management’s union busting, and it did form another union. But its easy registration and semi-recognition by the management made the workers evermore apprehensive, and they enforced constant vigilance on the representatives. However, the management misconstrued this collective apprehension as a distance between the general workers and the union, not understanding that its collective nature in fact tightens the workers’ grip over the union leadership. It is unlike the generalised yet fragmented weariness that leads to helplessness. The management miscalculated and thought its intransigence in dealing with the union will increase the distance and delegitimise the union in the eyes of the general workers. It could not anticipate that such an act was thinning the legal shield that protected it. And, so, what could have passed for the time being as another “class action” got transformed into a “class attack”, as Bhargava calls it. The management should not complain that it didn’t get the warning – workers themselves gave out sufficient signals.

However, one must grant that not just the Maruti management, the suddenness of the July 18 incident at Maruti astounded everybody – where was this anger among workers residing for the past one year? Nothing similar happened during the remarkable “non-violent” strikes in 2011. And prior to the incident nothing happened that could give a hint towards it. Therefore, a plethora of explanations and conspiracy theories has come up.

Interestingly, we can easily identify a basic logic behind the catalogue of ex-, post-facto explanations that various institutional and non-institutional bodies – the state, management, media, unions and radicals – are putting forward. A central thesis runs through all of them, which is that workers as a mass cannot have any coherent plan. Hence, those who see incoherence in the incident, either blame it on reactive spontaneity in the absence of (correct) leaders (radicals), or mob-like nature of the workers action (media elites). For many of these responses, there is some kind of pre-planning that must have come from outside (from Maoists/political unions, as the state and management maintain, or provocation from the side of management through their intransigence or by employing ‘bouncers’, as all the pro-workers institutions or groups opine). However, in the end no one is willing to concede general workers a coherent critical subjectivity that reasons them into taking things (read law) into their own hands, because for all the groups mentioned above, a rational subjectivity can emerge only through the repression of the inner nature (in the present case that of the mass).

All that even the pro-worker forces are willing to grant, and at most, is if the workers were accomplices in the July 18 incident, they were merely reacting to something the management wrongfully did that day (by calling the bouncers or by not resolving the issue of the suspension of a fellow worker) or have been doing lately (by not going for a speedy wage settlement or union recognition). All these self-actions by the workers are arrogantly clubbed together as spontaneity or spontaneous actions, which are generally considered to be reactive, and can have a political meaning only if harnessed by the organised political forces. It is interesting to note how these competitive forces, doing organisational shopkeeping, or at least advertising, among workers, have found workers’ direct actions erratic and even anarchic. They find the workers sensible and tractable only in those moments when they are led or when the consciousness of defeat and victimhood dawns over the workers – when “victim” workers are looking for respite and rights, and for experts who can represent them in the courts of law and negotiations.

These so-called political forces have a notion of politics that comes directly from the civics classes of the (post)modern schools that define politics in terms of institutions (or tangible forms of organisation) and their activities. Even the movements must be located among these activities, or else they are apolitical and even mere riots. Class struggle is reduced to the interplay of these institutions, ideologies and activities. They are unable to locate this representative interplay and their own activity as (re)originating in a continuous class struggle between capital and labour – in the daily imposition and subversion of the process by which capital acquires and incorporates living labour as merely an agency for its self-valorization. They are unable to see that recent unrests on the labour front in India have been largely political – i.e., they are related to a constant recomposition of class collectivity that short-circuits the re-segmentation of labour – the ever real-ising subsumption of labour by capital. In other words, this collective urge is not simply a wont to vocalise the aggregate demands of individual or sectional workers, as in a demand charter. Rather, it relates to their concern to transcend the segmentation on which the capitalist industrial polity thrives – the division between permanent, contractual, casual and interns. It is a marvelous experience to hear from general workers about these real divisions made on false premises. It is this open vocalisation that constitutes workers politics today. The Maruti workers’ struggle clearly is a finest example in this regard.

In one of the discussions that we had with workers in other industrial regions about the Maruti ‘violence’, a worker expressed how they work for the fear of the daily hunger and for feeding their family. Otherwise who would like to work under iron discipline and invisible eyes constantly watching over you, reprimanding you for every small mistake? Workers continuously look for every small opportunity that would enable them to dodge and abuse this system of surveillance.

The (more-or-less) open violence of primitive accumulation that joins the fate of labour to capital readies it for the inherent violence in the active imposition of work that capital as social power with its various apparatuses seeks to ensure. There is nothing reactive about workers’ actions to break out of this panoptic circuit which is now expanded throughout the society. The diverse immediate forms that these actions take are meant to surprise capital.

It is not the question of defeat or success of these forms or agitations that should concern us. In fact, our every success makes our actions predictable, increasing the reproductive resilience of the hegemonic system. Who knew this fact better than Karl Marx? He stressed on the need to watch out for opportunities to stage sudden radical leaps away from the guerrilla forms of daily resistance against the encroachments of capital, or else workers will be evermore entrenched within the system of wage slavery despite – and because of – frequent achievements in their everyday negotiations with capital. Those radicals suffer from the same Second International reformism and co-option politics, of which they accuse everybody, when they visualise class maturation as a linear succession of successes and achievements, not in the increased activity of the working class to catch capital off-guard by its volatile, yet collective thrust.

Today, the dynamism of this workers politics poses a crisis not just for capitalist strategies but also for itself as it constantly outmodes its own forms. The significance of the Maruti struggle and the July 18th incident lies in this process – they demonstrate the increasing inability of the legal regulatory mechanisms and existing political forms to ensure “industrial peace”. This means:

1) For capital, every crisis is an opportunity to restructure labour relations for its own advantage. Many times, it carefully shapes an industrial conflict to seek such restructuring. The recent conflicts have shown the limitation of the legal framework to generate industrial consent/peace, which has time and again forced capital to resort to coercion.

2) The automotive sector has been central to capitalist accumulation, so the needs of this sector have time and again restructured the industrial polity and economic regime globally. In India too, this sector has been in the leadership of pushing economic reforms in a pro-capitalist direction. The high-handedness and intransigence of the managements of Maruti and other automotive companies in recent conflicts is representative of the determination of Indian capitalists to force pro-capital labour reforms.

3) Legal unionism and existing organisational practices to compose and regulate working class assertion are becoming increasingly redundant. The labour movement must look out for new incipient forms in this self-assertion, as older forms are unable to lead working class consciousness, which is much more advanced than these forms, to its political end. The direct action of Maruti workers last year and this time cannot be simply explained by the crude notion of unorganised spontaneity, rather it shows their political will to transcend the segmentation perpetuated by the capitalist industrial polity.

From Nonadanga to Workers’ Power

Pothik Ghosh

तू है मरण, तू है रिक्त, तू है व्यर्थ,
तेरा ध्वंस केवल एक तेरा अर्थ.
(You are death, you are emptiness, you are useless,
In your decimation lies your only meaning.)
– Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh

The resistance of Nonadanga is – for the working-masses of Calcutta, West Bengal and beyond – a shining example of struggle against capitalist repression and exploitation. The Nonadanga movement is a wake-up call for Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress-led West Bengal government. It is an indication that the popular upsurge, which unseated the 35-year-old CPM-led Left Front regime in West Bengal 10 months ago, was neither meant to clear the way for Mamata’s Trinamool Congress to appropriate state-power by forming a new government in West Bengal nor was it meant, at a more general level, to affirm and consolidate the hegemony of and consensus for competitive electoral politics. The different people’s movements – whether they be in Jangal Mahal or Darjeeling, Dooars or Calcutta city – were all directed against the deviation of the Left Front and its largest constituent, the CPM, from the fundamental ideological principles of Leftist politics.

The determined resistance the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority and its slum-eviction drive has come up against at Nonadanga proves the popular upsurge against the Left Front and its then government in West Bengal, not so long ago, was, without doubt, not an instrumentality for effecting a change of guard in the control room of state-power. By the same token, it was also not meant to play a partisan role in determining who would win the competition to usurp the privilege of enforcing and implementing the policies of neo-liberal capital. The Nonadanga struggle proves the working-masses care nothing about which party or electoral coalition gets to enforce the neo-liberal policy-vision by winning electoral and governmental power. Instead, it reveals that the working-masses will persist in their struggle until they have repulsed the neo-liberal assault on their lives and livelihoods, and have decimated capitalism, which is at its root. We hope this message, which rings loud and clear, gets across to Mamata Banerjee, CPM and all those political parties and non-political organisations that consider serving capital and its socio-economic and political system their good fortune and a matter of great honour.

In this context, the Nonadanga movement – which has emerged in less than a year since the change of regime in West Bengal — is an indication that no radical transformation in the material conditions of the working-people as a whole would be possible until and unless they manage to generate a new configuration of social power, based on the working-class logic of self-emancipation and self-activity, by forging a unity among their different struggles even as they keep intensifying those struggles in their separateness. As long as the working people, and the various left and progressive organisations that are part of their different struggles, are unable to accomplish that their dogged but divided struggles will continue to become cannon fodder for electoral competition and capitalist class-power that is the foundation for such bankrupt politics.

That is perhaps why the Nonadanga resistance should also compel the working people of not merely Calcutta and West Bengal, but all of India – together with the various left-democratic forces that are part of their larger struggle – to engage in self-criticism. We ought to view the experiences of our past struggles in West Bengal through the prism of repression and resistance at Nonadanga and the larger socio-political context within which it is situated. This would probably help us understand that as long as different sections of the working-people continue to wage their respective struggles against their particular oppressions in their separateness they would continue to find themselves incapable of constituting the new social configuration of working-class power. That is because capitalist socio-political organisation has the capacity to continually reform itself at its various levels by redressing the problems and demands of some sections of the working class, at times even managing to significantly reduce repression on those sections. But this system, which stands on the ethic of competition for hierarchy and domination, can never extinguish the culture of repression and oppression because without oppression (primitive accumulation) accumulation of capital through extraction of surplus-value (exploitation) is simply not possible. As a matter of fact, capitalism is compelled to continually reduce oppression on certain sections of the working class by transferring the crisis in accumulation, which is embodied by heightening oppression on those sections and the resistance it thereby provokes in them against such oppression, to other sections by simultaneously changing the organic composition of capital and recomposing the working class. It is this that segments and divides the working class and makes it appear as a sectionalised amorphous mass called the working people. In other words, capitalism, as a system of exploitation, is the condition of possibility of oppression and the repressive violence that renders such oppression most clearly evident. In such circumstances, every struggle against oppression must transform itself also into a struggle against exploitation and accumulation of capital.

We must ensure that our respective struggles against oppression do not turn into struggles for the proper enforcement of the rule of law but, instead, get transformed into struggles for the abolition of the very conception of the rule of law that is intrinsic to and constitutive of the unequal sociality of capitalism. “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is an adage that could well have an analogy: “What is law for one section of society is the exception to law for another.” The legally-protected rights enjoyed by one section of society, more often than not, spell repression for another section. And that is because our unequal capitalist society – which is stratified and thus divided – makes possible through the rule of law, differential legal rights for its different sections or strata, which in turn enable the preservation and protection of their differential identities and thus the reproduction of the entire sociality constitutive of those differential identities. Such an unequal sociality of differential identities is crucial because otherwise competition, which is the diesel of capital accumulation, would be impossible. That is precisely the reason why a law that ensures and protects the rights of one identified section of society comes up as a wall of oppression and repression against another identified section lower than it on the social ladder, and its struggles to level the ground in between them. It would, therefore, not be incorrect to claim that the blanks that exist in between the different laws constitutive of the sociality of differentially included socio-economic identities constitute the happy hunting ground for oppression or primitive accumulation. A bench of the Patna High Court has, in a recent verdict, acquitted all the accused of the infamous Bathani Tola carnage of 1996. This judgement sharply underscores the intimate relationship between the rule of law and so-called illegal repression and oppression like never before.

Needless to say the conception of the rule of law – which reproduces the unequal socio-economic structure of capitalism even as it stands on it as its ground — doesn’t merely generate oppression but also separates and divides the working people and their movement into various identitarian ghettos. That is why this conjuncture of postmodern capitalism – when there is such an unprecedented sharpening of socio-economic inequalities that no section of the working people is unscathed by the experience of suffering and havoc it is wreaking– has yielded a world of undeclared Emergency for us to live in. The ruling class, unlike before, does not now feel the need to officially declare Emergency because the identitarianised sectionalisation and ghettoisation of the working people, and the resultant competitive orientation of their respective struggles vis-à-vis one another, enables state-power to be an expression of the covert dictatorship of capital, concealed by a sheer cloak of democracy, over sellers of labour-power. Italian political thinker Giorgio Agamben’s conception of the “generalised state of exception is meant to explicate precisely such concrete situations. And this generalised state of exception, which has transformed the entire society into a factory if not a large fascist concentration camp, is the appearance of the neo-liberal character of contemporary capitalism.

Hence, in the final analysis, Nonadanga cannot exhaust our politics. Our solidarity with and support for the Nonadanga movement would be effective – as opposed to being merely symbolic like it is now – only if we are able to take it to its right denouement. And this denouement would be the eruption of a larger, cohesive, country-wide movement of urban resistance. If we fail on that score, we will have condemned the Nonadanga movement to the electoral cauldron of the CPM (and its Left Front), which is currently waiting like a stealthy and cunning predator for the right opportunity to pounce on its prey.

The Nonadanga movement has shown the way of unity in struggle to the working-masses of this country. If, on the one hand, the political hitmen of neo-liberal capital are busy dispossessing a section of the working-people from its villages, farms and forests in the name of development, thereby forcing it to flee to cities as a mass of completely pauperised proletarians, the same hounds of capital are also expropriating the urban working-people of their homes and their basic rights by demolishing their slums to further the same project of ‘development’ and ‘beautification’. Worse, this political executive (read chattel-slaves) of capital has turned rehabilitation into an alibi to push these uprooted, homeless people into undeveloped areas outside the city-limits, where they are provided neither with respectable homes fit for human beings to live in nor with clean and safe drinking water. Besides, such bogus rehabilitations are pushing uprooted sections of the urban working people farther and farther away from sources of viable livelihood. The progressive increase in distance between places of residence and sources of employment/livelihood that is being imposed on the urban working-masses by this twin process of eviction and resettlement/rehabilitation is leading to a progressive lengthening of their average labour-day. This entire process – which is enforced and realised through repression carried out by both governmental and non-governmental agents – diminishes the value represented in the wages that the working class receive. It also reconstitutes the urban space in a manner that the vulnerability and precariousness of the proletarianised population is increased – insulating the spaces of production from the erratic reproductive domain, while the latter is increasingly made dependent on the former, i.e., it is more and more subsumed under the logic of capital. Consequently, valorisation of labour-power has rendered socio-economic existence into a biopolitical realm, where determination of social life, even at its bare biological level of the body and its vector, is progressively becoming a matter of centralised systemic control. That is yet another salient feature of our conjuncture of neo-liberal capitalism.

Clearly, repression and legally-sanctioned exploitation complement one another. The two processes in inter-weaving with each other constitute capital, its accumulation and its class-power. In such a situation, when governments and the larger capitalist state-formation are pinning adjectives such as Naxalism on to struggles against repression and expropriation of peasants, Dalits, religious minorities, tribals and sub-nationalities, we have neither any fear nor shame in saying that we are all Naxals. In fact, we insist that this Naxalism-against-repression must now be transformed into a description for a cohesive country-wide urban resistance against capitalist exploitation and its neo-liberal class-power.

Occupy Wall Street: Challenges, Privileges and Futures

Saswat Pattanayak

“He who tells the people revolutionary legends,
he who amuses them with sensational stories,
is as criminal as the geographer
who would draw up false charts for navigators.”

HPO Lissagaray, “History of the Paris Commune of 1871” (1877)

The challenges to Occupy Wall Street are many. Some even more critical than the very issues the protestors are fighting against. Whereas it claims to be the 99%, yet the movement practices the age-old privileges of class and race blindness. Similar to most white liberal movements, the OWS is hardly inclusive of the people of colour. Although the spirit is radical and the intent is revolutionary, the movement itself suffers from a lack of critical understanding on how race and class intersect. In reality, 99% of people do not form a class in themselves. This is because the 99% of population comprise a significant amount of aspiring rich, a “middle class” category of people who have steadfastly refused to side with the poor working class whenever the latter has organised itself. In the US, this segment of opportunistic liberal citizens have always believed in the country’s racist foundations, its heritage of exclusionary democracy, and its segregated educational system, and amply benefited from patriotic allegiances. And as a result, they have lent unconditional supports to electoral reforms that sustain an individualistic social order, to corporate policies that help private business thrive, to political outfits such as the Democratic Party in recent times, which upholds the status quo in every level of governance defining American imperialism.

Whither Class Struggle?

In the current romanticised version of revolutionary zeal at the Wall Street protests, there is a marked denial on part of the “General Assembly” of the movement that it could be perceived as supportive of the status quo. Proudly boasting of a movement without specific goals and leaders, the movement publishes formal newspapers and handouts clearly stating its disavowal of “Tea Party” right-wing movements. Not only is the OWS appearing left-wing and liberal – a political lineage that may not find endorsement among the 99% of people – it is also claiming to be without ideologies and specific goals. OWS is in a state of denial that anarchism of various forms are themselves ideologies, and the organisers of the movements are their leaders, the money which enables publications of the “Occupied Wall Street Journal” has sources to its sponsors. If rejection of current economic situation is the inspiration for the movement, the rejection of the current economic situation is the goal.

Calling the 99 percent

The biggest challenge for the OWS is to humbly acknowledge that it is a movement driven by a specific ideology which refuses the use of violence as a revolutionary tool, demands increased taxes for the rich, envisions student debt relief, opposes the Tea Party politicians, demands “direct democracy” as a political approach, and has raised over a half a million dollars within a couple of weeks to fund its campaign. And, it has allowed MoveOn, a multimillion dollar partisan initiative to speak on behalf of OWS to the media. The Occupy project has organisers who decide when the General Assembly will take place, which celebrity will address them, which entertainers will put up shows, which specific websites will be declared “official”, which post-box addresses the charity checks will be received at, and what heads will the money be spent on. Despite massive financial assets, when the OWS refuses to replace the drums of an activist which was destroyed at the protests, it is unilaterally decided by the specific organisers.

In their postmodernist hues, when political movements decry ideologies, refuse to take sides on political issues and pretend to distance themselves from power struggles, they smack of redundancy at best, and hypocrisy, at worst. When the educated youths refuse to acknowledge their race and class prerogatives, and claim that their movements let everyone have equal voice, it speaks of the gravely misplaced understanding of how freedom of speech is interlaced with entitlements. If the Occupy movement has not attracted majority of Black and Latino people into its fold, it is a sad reflection of how the movement has failed to address the needs of the most oppressed while boasting of representing them.

Seeking Wider Audience

People of colour are disproportionately incarcerated, disenfranchised, and unemployed in the United States. There is a rigid American class society in place ever since the country was founded. And yet, “class” as a realistically oppressive concept is seldom discussed in the country. Without any necessary critiques of the class society, majority of white liberals almost never understand their hidden privileges. They unequivocally endorse similar newspapers, television channels and textbooks that are inherently biased against class and race analysis. They invariably exalt founding fathers who owned slaves, presidents who denied racial disparities, and swear by the prison-military-industrial complex of the largest imperialistic society in history of humanity. OWS is based on the primary notion that the American society was absolutely democratic and fulfilling until Reagan spoilt the show. If they tried to include black people who suffered the brutality of every presidential regime in American history, the Occupy movement would not be wishing for the American democratic model to continue while singling out Wall Street.

Work Assignment Activism

Occupy Wall Street has every possibility of becoming its own nemesis. A separation of economy from politics of the day is naive and reactionary. Merely opposing a bunch of corporate houses in the Wall Street without disrupting the political climate in Washington DC is a hopeless distraction. Calling for arms may or may not be a suitable alternative to political misrule, but to clearly disavow any use of violence while calling for “revolution” is a utopian approach. In fact, just around the time when majority of Americans were clearly fed up and were beginning to demonstrate repressed anger with the entire political establishment, when a Malcolm X demand for replacement of the existing political economy by “any means necessary” was going to be a possibility; a movement that preaches nonviolence and targets a few corporate houses as the only stumbling blocks in the path to progress while giving the Democratic Party and its fundraisers a space within its platform either defies progressive logic, or works towards crushing collective demands for concrete replacements at the corridors of power, in lieu of possible electoral gains in the coming year.

The usual occupiers

The problem with a movement such as OWS is that majority of white liberals who protest at Wall Street do not live in coloured neighbourhoods, nor do they acknowledge that they have any similarities with the poor working class of the country, the homeless and the destitute of America, the black families whose children are imprisoned without trials, the Latino construction workers whose health issues are not covered by any insurance corporations that the otherwise liberal Democratic Party leaders have been receiving donations from. Yet, year after year when neglected teenagers from minority communities are routinely murdered and assaulted and detained without justice, most white liberals refuse to show up at demonstrations led by minority leaders to challenge the police state. The OWS should be a venue for rendering apologies with an effort to seek supports of lesser privileged comrades, not as a self-proclaimed glorified uniqueness in the history of protest movements.

Not so inclusive general assembly

Serious issues have been affecting the majority of people in America; they are all for real. They have been well known crisis, nothing abstract to articulate for months on. The tall claims for forming “consensus” through direct democracy are also without merit considering that a huge majority of people that are apparently being represented by the OWS, are the very folks who are not privileged enough to join the “General Assembly”; and timely decisions must be taken on behalf of them without waiting for any consensus. This demands for organised leaderships charting out the most pressing – and therefore, known – issues affecting the most oppressed.

Krishna Consciousness occupying the Wall Street!

For instance, unemployment crisis is neither new nor shocking for the people of colour in this country. Racism is alive and thriving at an institutional level. And demonstrations and marches have been carried out by black people in this country against unjustified administrative policies concerning wars, atrocities, discrimination, and immigration procedures. People of colour vastly are drafted into the military facilitated by an economic system that has failed to work for them from the days of slavery. It is not a mere coincidence that Wall Street is not controlled by racial minorities. In fact, it is a common knowledge that capitalism was founded by plantation/slave economies.

Music to Pacify

That, the majority of working class folks of colour who survive by dodging random bullets in their abjectly neglected neighbourhoods shall suddenly identify with the rich spoilt educated group of youngsters that abruptly woke up to an accidental American nightmare while having always lived amidst downtown luxuries remaining predictably clueless on specific demands of a movement, is an insensitive expectation. That, the “illegal aliens” from the restaurant kitchens owned by overprivileged “citizens” who are upholding American flags at the Occupy Wall Street, will somehow join this movement to sing glories of “First Amendment” rights of the liberals selectively granted by a Constitution that refuses to recognise people in dire despair as full human beings, is utterly inconsiderate a demand.

A movement which fails to adequately address the needs of the most oppressed among the oppressed is a movement that somehow must end up diluting the most basic needs of the society with the peripherals. Such a movement can only enhance general cynicism, which is certainly a desirable wake-up call, but transformative revolutions that address the roots and not just symptoms call for agenda-driven optimism, armed organisations for self-defence, and principled leaderships with theorised visions that must replace political economies which have failed their subjects for hundreds of years.

Political Alternative?

Occupy Wall Street has the same potential of evolving into a revolution as countless other marches across the globe. The first American peoples’ revolution would have well begun, if occupations had inculcated limitless revolutionary imaginings, duly recognised the possible sparks, drew the most oppressed to clearly charted out radical visions in a timely manner, dissociated itself from the very political parties and electoral systems which have historically facilitated capitalism and phony democracies,

After all, there are no surprises in revolutions. They are historical necessities.

Wall Street Spring: Americans Demand Democracy

Saswat Pattanayak

The homeless and the Hippies, the socialists and the students, the communists and the commoners – the Wall Street has been occupied for good by the countless human beings demanding dignity of life denied to them under American capitalism. Every disenfranchised minority is now decrying the citadel of private capital, greed and monstrosity. And contrary to White House assertions and corporate media verdicts, the defamed Wall Street has been denied a bail-out – by the people of the United States.

Braving the NYPD interventions and assaults, seeking solidarity with the otherwise indifferent bystanders, and hoping that the collective aspirations of the oppressed masses finally prevail, thousands of radicals are demanding the revolution – not in faraway Libya or Syria, but right here in the centerpiece of global imperialism, in the New York City. This is the Wall Street Spring – a significant demonstration of solidarity among anti-capitalists and class struggle prisoners!

Wall Street Spring is radical in manners that have shaken the foundation of mainstream media in this country. Both liberal and conservative media have cautiously covered this uprising, essentially because unlike in the past, this gathering is truly diverse, and phenomenally radical. The revolutionaries are not endorsing any simplistic political ploy by a liberal party to garner support through expressions of politically correct rhetoric. In fact, quite the contrary. A placard prominently reads – mocking the Democrats – “Job Creators, my ass”.

In many ways, “Occupy Wall Street” is reminiscent of the several marches across the country over the past decades. People from various sections of society have gathered to march against police brutality and societal inequality. And yet in significant ways, it is rather different. The goal today is not to reconcile following legislative changes, but to revolt to ensure a peoples’ democracy. The march is not silent. The march is not harmoniously conducted hand in hand with musical backgrounds. The march today is disparate, heterogeneous, expressive of collective anger and resentment against the status quo. More of an extension of the Black Panthers taking over college campuses with loudspeakers and radical agendas; than a pacified demonstration of hopeful placards. It is not a congregation to reconstruct the capitalistic society, it is one that speaks through the voice of the latest victim Troy Davis: “Dismantle this unjust system”.

“You Must be Asleep to Experience American Dream”

Long ago, Malcolm X announced how he was experiencing American Nightmare, not American Dream. For several decades his call for the people to literally “wake up” were ridiculed, suppressed and relegated to dustbins of history by the private media enterprises. From Hollywood flicks to CNN headlines, frivolous entertainments were repackaged as news for popular consumption. Big businesses through advertisements and various forms of sponsorships pushed their agendas for a ferociously vital American economy – an economy where capital would be privately held, with solitary aim for unlimited profits, and where the capital would invariably triumph over the labor.

For decades, the American Dream – a fictitious and opportunistic claim that anyone can selfishly prosper through individual efforts – has been demonstrated as the encompassing ideology of global capitalism. The phrase has gained approvals because it has gone unquestioned. Much like the accompanying rhetoric: Democracy.

The dream and the democracy – both are at stake this time. In the past, the masses demanded to restore them. This time, they are demanding to dismantle them. No wonder, the New York Times failed to deconstruct what is happening at the Wall Street. “Gunning for Wall Street, With Faulty Aim” read the headline on the Times. For decades the mainstream corporate media defined for the people what their aims should be in order that the status quo is duly maintained. And usually in the western world, the protests have invariably taken a reformist shape, because the goals are precisely laid out, the conversations are articulately arranged, and the legislative conclusions draw the final lines.

However, this time, it is different, to say the least. It is not just the Wall Street. It is Occupation United States. Similar “occupation” movements are taking over various cities in the country, almost in a way, that it is difficult to fathom the direction they shall take. Many critics of the Occupation are arguing that this movement shall fail because it does not have specific goals. For instance, the otherwise liberal Colbert Report ridiculed the occupation as a mindless gibberish because the humorist found the lack of an articulated goal to be quite unacceptable.

Unacceptable, it sure is. Protests, demonstrations, and marches have traditionally been easy to contain because they tend to address specific issues and have extremely limited sphere of influence. They usually do not address the system as such because strictly from a pragmatic standpoint, it delays the process of redressal. And from a political standpoint, an attack on the system is a call for dismantling and possibly, overthrowing of an existing political economy – something which is outrightly rejected by not just the ruling class members of politics and businesses, but also by a great number of citizens who live in class denial.

War Has Been Brought Home

Occupation movement this time around offers no immediate solution – nor does it harbor much hopes either. If the collective demand is to have Obama administration dissociate itself and the United States from Wall Street money, the collective intelligence says it is probably not possible. Demanding a solution from the very system that needs to be dismantled is a worthless endeavor. And no one knows this better than the radicals themselves. And yet, what is much more important is the historical knowledge that revolutions take place not through pessimistic withdrawals, but through constant engagement with all available avenues of protests until the status quo is reversed.

In our fast-paced, solution-oriented, just-do-it society, it is quite predictable that many intellectuals and journalists, politicians and diplomats shall continue to question the viability of movements that offer no concrete alternatives. But a reflective and critical study of revolutionary theories and unique histories of various progressive movements shall demonstrate that all that the masses need are a few sparks, and there is no telling what turns the events will take!

Capitalistic America today appears to be insurmountable. It appears so, because it is depicted as thus through textbooks and newspapers, amidst televised programs and blockbusters. The deep vulnerabilities and classic contradictions of capitalism are deliberately omitted in an effort to celebrate the manufactured notions of freedom and democracy in the western world. But as humanity continues to evolve, and as consciousness of the masses across various oppressed social locations continues to be raised, the protocols are bound to shatter. The people will emerge as the leaders themselves. And their collective aspirations – to inhale the air that celebrates human dignity, free from greed of private accumulations – are bound to prevail. Its just a matter of time. And, that clock is ticking today at the Wall Street.

West Bengal: From Statist Leftism to Reactionary Anti-Capitalism

Pothik Ghosh

Can the decimation of an institutionalised and bureaucratised working-class force like the CPI(M)-led Left Front in West Bengal be a legitimate revolutionary task of the proletariat? The answer to that must, doubtless, be a resounding yes! But does that make the Trinamool Congress juggernaut that demolished the 34-year-old decadent LF regime in the state the bearer of a progressive, working-class impulse? Strange as it may sound, the reply to that has to be an equally emphatic no! This paradox stems from the fact that the politics which helped Mamata Banerjee slay the “Stalinist” demon of Bengal has simultaneously enabled her alliance with the Congress to seek the perpetuation of its ideological project of discrediting the revolutionary working-class horizon that goes under the name of Communism. The open propaganda by the spinmeisters of Mamata Banerjee’s extended “family of democracy” on sundry ‘public’ fora, where they held up her decisive electoral triumph in West Bengal as an example of the ‘indisputable demise’ of the Communist political project and its Marxist ‘ideology’, bears that out.

But then there are those among Mamata’s sizeable ‘leftist’ vote bank who say with irritated impatience, ‘What’s in a name?’ Communism by any other name, they virtually claim, would smell as revolutionary. Fortunately, or otherwise, when names such as Communism and Marxism are in the play a lot is at stake for the working class. Those two names, and particularly Marxism as a theoretical heritage of the experiences of the revolutionary working class, together constitute an indispensable conceptual procedure for the working class to critique and challenge everything that smells of domination, including its own ‘revolutionary’ theologies and ideologies. That the Mamata Banerjee-led anti-LF alliance rejects not only those two names of Communism and Marxism but their substance as well has been more than borne out by its severance of the immediate issue of democratisation – without doubt real and crucial as it constitutes the determinate ground of concrete situation – from the strategic question of socialism that the question of democracy always potentially mediates and posits. What is, however, even more pernicious is that some of her propagandists from the ‘Left’ camp have been busy sanctifying this political project of democratisation-sans-socialism as a form of “New Leftism”.

It is such politics of democratisation minus socialism that Alain Badiou critically designates as “anti-capitalism” when he says in Philosophy in the Present: “Today there is an entire strand of political literature which carries out a radical critique of the economic order, but which contains a no less radical support for a certain political form. This is absolutely common. Today, innumerable people are fierce anti-capitalists: capitalism is frightful, it is an economic horror, and so on. But the same people are great defenders of democracy, of democracy in the precise sense that it exists in our societies.” (Emphasis added.) Badiou’s point, given his unswerving fidelity to the revolutionary event and the socialist politics such an event constitutes, is neither to reject such struggles against the economic horrors of capitalism nor reject democracy. His point, really, is to save democracy from its bourgeois liberal-representative form, which always and inevitably instrumentalises democracy to reinforce capitalism as a hierarchically competitive logic of social power. In such a scenario, such politics of democratisation merely serves to change a coercive regime of accumulation into another more competitively democratic regime of accumulation, even as the systemic crisis that such a coercive regime signifies is transferred to some other socio-historical locality by reconstituting that regime there. As a consequence, politics of democratisation minus socialist strategy becomes an alibi for maintaining and perpetuating capitalism as a total social system. This is exactly what the politics that drove the Trinamool-led social and political alliance to push out the decadent LF government has accomplished. Clearly, the Trinamool-helmed coalition and the CPI(M)’s Left Front are alternatives that form, to follow Badiou and Slavoj Zizek’s use of a Deleuzian term, a “disjunctive synthesis”. That is, they are “false alternatives” of one another not in spite of but because of their mutual hostility. They constitute, what Mao Zedong would have called, a “non-antagonistic contradiction”: apparently conflicted but essentially united. That is precisely why the mass upsurge behind the anti-CPI(M) politics of the Trinamool must be characterised as rightwing populism.

The current pro-Trinamool, anti-CPI(M) politics – or its movemental constituents to be absolutely accurate – have posed current socio-political forms of representative, and thus competitive, democracy against capital, which in such a scheme is always inevitably construed as an external invading force or form. What such politics is subjectively incapable of grasping is that capital is not merely this or that form or institution of domination. It is the total architectonic of social relations and power based on the twin principles of competition and exchange. A logic that is as much internal to the social and political forms of resistance as the dominant forms of capital that are being thus resisted. Therefore, representative democracy, which is basically democracy of competition, and undemocratic domination are constitutive of one another precisely in their mutual contradiction. Such a contradiction is, therefore, productive of capital and its extended reproduction.

Our criticism of the politics that has propelled the Trinamool Congress-led anti-LF alliance to power is, however, not a sign of ideological resentment. The revolutionary politics of the working class, which such criticism seeks to represent, cannot afford such destructive impulses. The two are, in fact, mutually exclusive. Critical theory in the Marxist tradition is meant to be both a symptom of the lack of proletarian political practice and a call for its actualisation. We would, therefore, wish that our criticism of the Trinamool’s anti-LF politics is received both as a registration of the failure of the revolutionary working-class forces to seize the initiative to lead the necessary struggle against the etatised CPI(M)-led Left Front regime – thereby ceding ground to the Trinamool-led reaction – and an urgent exhortation to reorient their praxis on the basis of a new, coherent and effective programme for socialist transformation.

The theoretical scope of our criticism of the politics that has driven the Trinamool’s ascendancy, and the concomitant ideology of that party, must be expanded to turn that criticism into a comprehensive scientific socialist critique of anti-capitalism. Anti-capitalism is nothing more than the impulse of competitive struggle in its particularised moments against dominant and/or dominating forms of (big) capital specific to the particularity of each of those moments of struggle. It must be recognised that struggles against dominant and dominating forms of capital are, by themselves, no more than competitive manoeuvres. They are directed as resistance against dominant capitalist forms and entities by subordinate locations so that the latter can maintain their concrete historical positions against the advancing encroachment of those big-capitalist forms and entities on certain materially mediating conditions that give the positions their historically concrete specificity. At best, they are battles waged from those subordinate locations to wrench more such materially-embedded conditions from the dominant and dominating capitalist forms and entities to enhance their position in the systemically mobile hierarchy called capitalism.

The politics of anti-capitalist democratisation tends to resolve, if at all, immediate demands of a section (or identity) of the working class, while leaving capitalism as the condition of possibility of those demands intact. As a matter of fact, such anti-capitalist politics of particularised resistance against forms of big capital and their constitutive monopolistic tendency towards complete socio-economic domination reinforces the logic of capitalist class power by allowing capital to resolve those demands by dividing the working class through its recomposition in order to create a differentiation within the working class so that the immediate social and/or economic demands of one of its sections can be fulfilled at the cost of other sections or segments subordinate to it. This process enables capital to reproduce itself through its continuous expansion. It also, therefore, ensures that the isolated struggles by different sections or segments of the working class are not able to transform themselves into one common, essentially united revolutionary movement for socialism because the propensity of capital to ensure the fulfillment of the immediate demands of each of those identities or segments of the working class in their respective sectional specificity, and at the cost of one another, leads to their petty embourgeoisement turning them against each other in a battle of mutually destructive competition.

Each of those anti-capitalisms is, in its isolated momentary particularity, articulated by the totalising competitive social logic of capitalism. Therefore, taken in their discrete momentary particularities, they constitute no more than social and political positions of antithesis. And those anti-capitalist social and political positions, precisely because of their antithetical orientation, become productive of capitalist social totality that is constitutively contradictory. To that extent, those competitive struggles are no more, or less, than petty-bourgeois struggles against the marauding, monopolistic manoeuvres of big capital. To say that such struggles, because of their competitive impulse and orientation, are articulated by and within the hegemonic logic of capital would not amount to an overstatement. No self-respecting Marxist can endorse such struggles as expressions of proletarian politics. And yet no communist formation can afford to ignore those struggles of (petty-bourgeois) anti-capitalism. For, those struggles constitute the various determinate grounds of critique of political economy and thus transformative proletarian politics. Anti-capitalism is, therefore, the tactically necessary mediating condition for articulating the socialist strategy in its practical actuality. It is by itself, however, not socialism. In fact, to see or pose such anti-capitalism as a revolutionary virtue in itself is bound to empty it of all its revolutionary socialist potential.

Such anti-capitalisms become relevant to the revolutionary practice of working-class politics only when their anti-capitalist assertions in the determinateness of their specific social and historical moments become simultaneously their own self-critiques to overcome the limitations of their respective historicities in order to actualise the tendency of counter-representational performativity that is constitutively immanent in each one of them. Such actualisation of the tendency of counter-representational performativity immanent in every antithetical subject-position occurs through its reconstitution in and as new historicities in the process of each such antithetical position tending to overcome itself. This process in its entirety is constitutively integral to the revolutionary working-class praxis.

The Mamata Wave: Political Economy and Class Orientation

But the wave that has swept Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress to power by sweeping the CPI(M)-led Left Front out is clearly not the first wave of that revolutionary tsunami of the working class. It is certainly composed of different sections (social identities) of West Bengal society, each with its own set of genuine anxieties, disaffections and discontent vis-à-vis the CPI(M) and its 34-year-long moribund Left Front regime. Those different social and economic groups or identities include – to name some of the principal ones – the embattled peasants of Nandigram and Singur, the predominantly tribal population of Jangalmahal brutalised by structural violence, the disenfranchised Koch-Rajbongshis of the Dooars, the marginalised Gorkhas of Darjeeling and the large masses of workers rendered unemployed by the sharp decline in the fortunes of the old industries in the state due to the extractive and super-exploitative designs of the owning classes. But those narratives of disaffection – which have ostensibly united these varied groups against the CPI(M)-led Left Front in their common grouse of an unconscionable democratic deficit – are not only disparate in their respective particularities, which is fairly obvious, but are mutually competitive too. One very obvious example of such mutual competition that may sooner or later erupt into a full-blown conflict is how the demand for Gorkhaland, which stakes claims on parts of the Dooars, clashes with the movement for a separate Rajbongshi state, thanks to their contending claims for parts of the same territory.

In contrast to such politics, a revolutionary programme of anti-CPI(M) politics would have been one that supported each of those struggles – insofar as they were directed at the LF regime as an ideological apparatus of the Indian state and thus capital in its global entirety – and through such support consolidated the assertion of proletarian elements against the petty-bourgeois revisionist ones within each of those identity struggles. That would have transformed those essentially competitive struggles into a comprehensive movement against the competitive social logic of capital by effecting a constellated unity among the proletarian tendencies at each of those diverse and disparate social locations.

The Trinamool’s politics of democratisation, given that it is not driven by any such revolutionary proletarian subjectivity or programme, has brought these groups and identities together on a purely additive basis. And this aggregative politics, precisely because it has no subjective-programmatic basis in revolutionary working-class politics, can be maintained, now that it is in power, through a governmental management of sectionalised interests of those mutually contradictory and conflicting groups or identities. Such politics, it must be reiterated, is social-corporatist populism.

The alliance of diverse social groups on which the Trinamool’s politics has based itself doubtless posed an effective challenge to the growing domination and advance of the big bourgeoisie and its politico-economic and socio-political institutional forms. But such an alliance is by no means counter-hegemonic. In fact, the ideological orientation of such an entente, precisely because of its logic of unity of disparate social forces on the basis of their particularised competitive struggles against the advance and manoeuvres of the big bourgeoisie in order to have their respective sets of immediate demands fulfilled, only serves to reinforce the hegemony of capital.

A revolutionary working-class movement can, under no circumstances, afford to see or envision governance as a purely techno-administrative question. For such a movement, governance is fundamentally a political question of how social power is structured. But that is certainly not the politics of Trinamool, which lacks the subjective capacity to articulate governance in those terms. And that should be clear from the way the Trinamool, not to forget its two key allies, the Congress and the Socialist Unity Centre of India, has posed its anti-CPI(M) politics. Such politics, to describe it briefly, has been exclusively about the resolution of immediate problems, undoubtedly real, instead of focusing on how to destroy the essential political-economic condition that has made those problems possible in the first place. In a modern social order constituted by the law of contradiction such a subjective envisioning of politics – which does not seek to do away with a logic of social power that is intrinsically and constitutively competitive – is condemned to yield management of diverse intra- and inter-class contradictions by way of governance. Therefore, the ascension to power of a social alliance driven by such politics would lead to just that. As a result, the crisis, whose unmanageability has so clearly been symptomatised by the collapse of the 34-year-long regime of the etatised Left Front, will continue to perpetuate itself through its continuous and ever-intensifying displacement from one social locality to another. And this is bound to register itself as coercive domination – primitive accumulation in political-economic parlance – of large sections of the working masses and petty bourgeoisie facing progressive immiseration by a coalition of upwardly mobile, prosperous petty-bourgeoisie and big capital. That this will not exercise the dominant public perception too much and will figure even less in the preponderant public discourse because of the celebratory ambience in which the public will now understandably bask for having witnessed the exit of an undemocratic, Stalinised Left force, is quite another matter.

Such class-collaborationist social corporatism, with its basis in coercive sectionalist domination of the working class, would arguably become visible, first and foremost, in the attempts and policy decisions of the new Trinamool-led West Bengal government to make good on its principal electoral promise of striking a “healthy balance between agriculture and industry”. A politics that is incapable of grasping the conflict between agriculture and industry as one of contradictions within and in between capital and labour – an inevitable outcome of the political-economic structuring of social reality and its integral logic of transfer and/or extraction of surplus value – can do no more than try to manage those class contradictions by way of striking that so-called healthy balance.

This political management of sectional interests will amount to no less than social domination of the rural (agrarian and non-agrarian) proletariat by a coalition of industrial and agrarian capitalists to extract surplus value. Such a coalition of capitals, given the constitutively competitive structure of capitalism, is not only bound to be inherently hierarchised but is also one in which the subordinate constituent of agrarian capitalists constantly seeks through competition and bargaining to better its position within that hierarchical coalition. This, in other words, means that the more powerful sections of agrarian capital tend towards industrial capital by seeking a more intimate partnership with the latter to further reinforce and consolidate industrial capitalism in hitherto rural-agrarian localities of capital, even as such a manoeuvre pushes the less powerful sections of agrarian capitalists increasingly towards pauperisation.

A brief political-economic analysis of the agriculture-versus-industry predicament that the ousted LF regime found itself in reveals how any attempt that relies on anything other than the weapon of transformative working-class politics to balance agriculture and industrial development will inevitably yield progressive pauperisation of the less powerful sections of agrarian capital, and an overall intensification in social domination of labour by capital. This analysis will, we hope, also indicate how the impulse for such immiserising capitalist industrial development is, contrary to prevailing common sense, not external to the socio-occupational locality of agrarian capitalism but is completely internal to it.

Operation Barga – which was meant to ensure tenurial security for sharecroppers immediately after the CPI(M)-led LF came to power in 1977 – eventually became the Achilles’ heel of the now-ousted regime. While it did push up agricultural productivity, the delayed advent of green revolution in the state in the ’80s undermined its gains. The economic unviability of petty sharecroppers, caused by expansion of capital-intensive agriculture that requires economies of scale to be viable, has been forcing them for a while now to give up their land for pittance to middle and large sharecroppers. In this process, those middle and large sharecroppers have been emerging as the new kulaks or rich peasants. The eviction rate of petty sharecroppers, by all accounts including the state government’s, is currently 15 per cent. In tribal- and Rajbongshi-dominated districts of south and north Bengal respectively, it is as high as 25-32 per cent.

This decisive shift of rural West Bengal towards capitalist socio-economic restoration, due to the inability and unwillingness of the LF to push its programme of land reform in a revolutionary proletarian direction, has been politically registered in the undermining and manipulation of another initial achievement of the CPI(M)-led “People’s Democratic Revolution”: the vigorous implementation of the panchayati raj model of decentralised governance. Increasing political might of the middle and large sharecroppers, commensurate with their increasing socio-economic power as the emergent class of rich peasantry, became evident in their ever-tightening control over local institutions of self-government. That has enabled this primarily upper- and middle-caste rich peasantry, which is the principal social force that drive the leadership of all the party constituents of the LF, to marshal the organisational machinery of their respective parties to stymie the empowerment of the proletarianised petty sharecroppers – mostly from tribal communities, lower castes and Muslims – by severely restricting their access to vital social wages such as education and public healthcare.

And it is from among this new class of rich peasants that the impulse for industrial development of their agrarian localities first emerged. Such an impulse was, however, not a caprice of the kulaks. It never is. Given the inherently hierarchical structure of capitalism, the terms of trade between agriculture and industry are always unequal. West Bengal cannot be an exception. Those terms of trade are weighted in favour of industrial capital and against agrarian capital. It is this that keeps the value of labour-power (in terms of the price of food that the working class must buy to reproduce itself) depressed in the localities of industrial capitalism. That is precisely the reason why archaic, coercive and non-competitive forms of pre-capitalist social domination continue to exist as ideologies in agrarian capitalist localities, where they are deployed by agrarian capital to keep its cost of production low so that it can subsidise the terms of trade that would otherwise weigh heavily against it. But agrarian capital cannot keep the pressures of the consequent class struggle at bay for long. Such pressures eventually make the continuance of agrarian capitalism in its original backward and archaic form unsustainable. Not surprisingly, agrarian capital, or at any rate its dominant sections, are impelled to seek a change in the organic composition of capital in order to maintain and reproduce their class power. This change is evident in the conversion of rural assets of agrarian capitalists into urban ones through a process of gradual diversification.

In West Bengal, the class struggle of the rural working masses against agrarian capital has taken the form of large-scale migratory flight of the former from the countryside to urban areas both within and outside the state. And the diversification through which the agrarian capitalists have sought to beat this crisis has been their gradual movement away from agriculture and towards other more urban forms of capitalism, primarily the real-estate business. It is not for nothing that the CPI(M) has today become the party of real-estate agents it is often accused of being. The sudden surge in policy and legislative decisions by the ousted LF, in its last five or six years in power, to get industry into the rural areas of the state has been nothing else but a reflection of the will of its predominantly rich-peasant leadership to diversify the rural economy. As a result, the anti-land acquisition struggles that such policy decisions have unleashed are, predominantly, competition between the dominant and the less powerful sections of agrarian capital over the best price of land. This ongoing struggle, contrary to appearances and misplaced ideological propaganda, is not merely one between homogeneous rural-agrarian communities and big capital coming from somewhere outside. Rather, it is a struggle in which the dominant sections of the LF-backed agrarian bourgeoisie – which has far more at stake in swift industrialisation of their agrarian localities – is completely one with the interests of big, corporate capital against the less powerful (petty-bourgeois) sections of agrarian capital. The struggles against land acquisition in West Bengal have, of course, another dimension: the struggle of both rural and migrant wage labourers for land as social wage to supplement their precarious employment and inadequate wages. But the demand for better and higher compensation, which has dominated the rhetoric of such struggles, proves those struggles are intra-capitalist and are completely at odds with the interests of the working class. Also, the politico-ideological project constitutive of those struggles is neo-liberal.

The land-acquisition model, posed by the Trinamool and enthusiastically backed by its so-called leftist supporters, proves that beyond doubt. This model, as opposed to the LF model of government-driven land acquisition that doubtless favoured its constituency of the dominant sections of the rich peasantry, calls for direct land deals between corporate capital and the peasantry. This peasantry, which the Trinamool model is meant to empower and benefit, consist of those less powerful sections of the agrarian bourgeoisie whose competitive, petty-bourgeois interests the LF’s land acquisition policy evidently hurt. Needless to say the Trinamool’s model of land acquisition does not address the working-class dimension of the land question and, in fact, completely undermines it. In this it is no different from the LF model. Even a sketchy class analysis of the anti-land acquisition movements in Singur and Nandigram, which purportedly triumphed under the leadership of the Trinamool Congress, reveals that. Those movements prefigured the emergent right-populist, social-corporatist model of politics and governance that a Trinamool-dominated West Bengal is about to experience.

The Trinamool’s assertion of striking a “healthy balance between agriculture and industry” will, therefore, mean more of the same. The only change will be a change of guard: sections of the less powerful agrarian bourgeoisie, on whose behalf Trinamool took up the cudgels, will now become the dominant force of the agrarian bourgeoisie vis-à-vis the LF-backed kulaks, who will come to occupy the weaker petty-bourgeois position. The working class will, on the other hand, continue to face increased social domination by capital. Worse, its demands and disaffections will be drafted by the recently-ousted agrarian bourgeoisie into its political project of strengthening its own competitive bargaining power with regard to both industrial capital and the newly dominant sections of agrarian capital.

A Plea for Leninist Vanguardism

A detour through the conceptual abstractions of theory and some exegetical polemics is probably in order here. The methodological gloss to our analysis of the concrete situation in West Bengal that such an exercise is meant to provide will, we believe, serve to anchor that analysis more firmly in concepts of Marxist critical theory and also indicate a rough programmatic direction for revolutionary working-class politics in this country.

We wish to begin by defending Lenin’s concept of vanguardism against the preponderant common sense of the anti-party ‘Left’. Lenin’s Vanguard, as opposed to the one posed by his epigones, is not an unmediated, transhistorical categorical imperative of communism. It is meant to be the form of continuously mutating historicities. A form co-constitutive of the will to constantly seek the communist logic in and through the mediateness of constantly proliferating, ever-renewing historicities. Historicities that are revolutionary only in the evental evanescence of their emergence in their critical performative constitutivity. We would do well to read more attentively Lenin’s explication, in What is to Be Done, of the Vanguard as “a compact group” marching “along a precipitous and difficult path, firmly holding each other by hand” amid “constant enemy fire” “without retreating into the neighbouring marsh, the inhabitants of which, from the very outset, have reproached us with having separated ourselves into an exclusive group and with having chosen the path of struggle instead of the path of conciliation”. The “neighbouring marsh” (and its “inhabitants”) that Lenin polemically refers to is, arguably, the constantly failing historical localities of revolution – that is, historicities estranged from and evacuated of the critical revolutionary performativity. As for the Vanguard – the “compact group marching along a precipitous and difficult path” – it is embodiment of the will to constantly seek the communist logic in and through the mediateness of constantly proliferating historicities of contradictions. Clearly, the communist party is the form of constantly mutating historicities that arises from the internality of such historicities through their mutation-causing self-reflexivity.

The Leninist Vanguard is, therefore, not a transcendental Kantian tribune of reason that it has been made out to be by various so-called communist parties (which are really sects encapsulating working-class experience in the partiality of their respective socio-historical specificities) through the overgeneralised theorisation of their respective spontaneous practices, precisely the thing that Lenin criticised as economism in the process of conceptualising the Vanguard and/or the Communist Party that is meant to overcome such overgeneralisation of the local. The Leninist Vanguard is, in fact, the bearer and/or embodiment of Marx’s concept of experimental science, not in its positivistic-inductionist sense but as heuristics. Russian Marxist Boris Kagarlitsky, in a lecture last year at Delhi, provided a rather apposite metaphor for the Vanguard. He said the Vanguard is not an organisational collective of people who direct the course of revolutionary struggle from the top or from a distance. They constitute, he argued and we paraphrase, the first flank of militants to open up and enter a new battleground and are thus people who suffer the worst casualties. It should also be added here that the Vanguard is not one that possesses the knowledge of revolution but is one that is possessed of the knowledge that the revolution has to be constantly searched for amid the contingencies of history and in its strange and unknown wastelands. That is precisely the reason why we cannot think of the vanguardist Communist Party, which is the embodiment of the collective proletarian will of the working class, as anything other than a constantly formational social force and its perpetually open political organisation.

Hence the Leninist Vanguard, contrary to the preponderant commonsensical understanding of it among many of its proponents and almost all its detractors, is not meant to rule. That, at any rate, is not its primary function. In fact, the moment the Vanguard begins envisaging its task merely in terms of consolidation to become an institutional form of regime, it undermines its vanguardism, ceases being a vanguard and degenerates from being the movement-form it is meant to be to become a state-form. That is not to say that this degeneration can be in some way side-stepped by the revolutionary movement of the working class. The history of revolutions has revealed, over and over again, that such institutionalisation of a revolutionary movement is inevitable. It is, thanks to the dialectical and political-economic nature of reality and history, an inescapable tendency constitutive of the revolutionary process. But precisely by that same dialectical token the counter-tendency of overcoming such institutionalised, bureaucratisation also gets posited. And the social force that seeks to actualise this counter-tendency – which is always immanent in our constitutively contradictory reality – becomes in that moment of its actualisation the subjective embodiment of the vanguardist tendency.

The political-economic structuring of reality in capitalism ensures that power is always socially and economically mediated. And given that revolutionary politics of the working class is immanent critique of capital, it cannot escape that taint. This, in other words, means that the abstraction of one moment of the working-class movement – wherein such abstraction is nothing but the embodiment of counter-generalisation of the logic of capital – produces its own new set of contradictions. Such new contradictions, needless to say, are internal to the process of abstraction and the social ontology it yields. And the antithetical subject-positions, which are created by such abstraction and the social domination it embodies, have to be leveraged by communist-proletarian forces to not merely destroy the abstracted moment of their own working-class movement but through such destruction seek to negate the logic of capital that such an abstraction and institutionalised reification of one of its moments has come to embody. In fact, that is the necessary condition for communists to remain communists. But, of course, this communist logic has to be posed in its new social and economic mediateness, which constitute its specific historicity. That the communist task is to leverage the new antithetical subject-positions – generated as a consequence of the inevitable abstraction of prior moments of its revolutionary process – in order to continuously reconstitute the revolutionary process by continuously actualising the proletarian logic immanent in new antithetical social subject-positions that are generated with continuous inevitability due to abstractions of moments of the revolutionary process means that this communist-vanguardist task cannot be any other way.

Clearly, for the working class the only defence of revolution can be more revolution. The isolated defence of one moment of the unfolding revolutionary process is not only not revolutionary but is, in fact, restorative. That, after all, is the implication of the criticism that is justifiably directed at Stalin’s USSR: there could not have been socialism in one country.

A social subject is, arguably, being vanguardist when it embodies this tendency of defending a moment of the revolutionary process by seeking to make more revolution – which would obviously have to include a critical opposition to the isolated and thus institutionalised defence of congealed moments of the revolutionary process so that the proletarian-revolutionary logic can unfold by breaking free of those momentary prisons of its reification. And a constellation of various such vanguardist social subjects, together with the collective dynamic political form of the social forces that is integral to the constitution of such a constellation, is the Communist Party as a constantly formational and perpetually open vanguardist organisation.

Clearly, vanguardism and democracy are not mutually exclusive. Democracy, the lifeblood of revolutionary socialist politics, is integral to the concept of the Vanguard. The working class, in Marx’s sense of the “collective worker”, has to envisage democracy as something that arises through a process of struggle not only with capital in its purity but with the various petty-bourgeois tendencies that arise from within the working class in the course of its struggle, conducted in its specificity by its various sections, against capital. Constellated or essential unity among different sections of the working class or its proletarian social subject-positions implies this unity, unlike the additive identitarian unity of the rainbow multiculturalists, is constituted precisely through conflicts among the different social ontologies of those different working-class sections at the level of their appearances and the discursivities that those appearances, in asserting and affirming themselves as appearances, pose ideologically. Communists, in the business of posing the horizon of socialist politics as the horizon of “the real movement” (Marx and Engels in The German Ideology) cannot resort to this other horizon of the state-form in which democracy, in the established sense of competitive multiparty democracy, becomes a matter of regulation, adjudication and, thus, representation by an institutionalised categorical imperative al la Kant. For, such multiparty democracy can exist only through the intervention of some ‘benign’ regulator, which precisely because of its transhistorical externality would be anything but benign as it would suggest the continuance of representative, adjudicatory politics. The political-economic essence of such politics is determination of concrete labour by abstract labour (that is, subjugation of labour by capital) and the law of value. The revolutionary socialist project is, on the other hand, all about the destruction of the law of value.

To talk, in this Leninist spirit, of historicities estranged from or evacuated of their critical revolutionary performativity must, in the context of Trinamool’s anti-CPI(M) politics, amount to grasping the problem of democratisation minus the actualisation of the socialist immanence of democratic aspirations. In other words, such struggles for democracy minus socialism seek to merely resolve the immediate questions of democratisation while not following up with continuous struggle that moves with the displacement of the mediate possibility of socialism to other new socio-historical localities. Such politics of liberal democratisation often includes sectionalist manoeuvres of various segments of the working class to protect their competitive interests, thereby consolidating the petty-bourgeois tendency within those sections. That is so because their sectionalised demands for democratisation can be delivered upon only through recomposition of the working class in order to transfer value to that section either from some other already-existing subordinate locality (space-time) of the working class, or by production of such new subordinate localities, which in case of the section concerned would spell its division through internal differentiation. And such liberal politics of democratisation becomes, in our late capitalist epoch, a handmaiden of its neo-liberal architectonic by allowing social capital as a systemic totality to save itself by continuously transferring its crisis somewhere else and, in the same movement, reproduce itself through its expansion.

Capital is able to accomplish this because working masses involved in such sectionalist struggles do not seek to subjectively make their immediate specific questions of democratisation into a ground that would render the systemic crisis of capitalism non-transferable, thereby tending to decimate capitalism as a condition of possibility of their immediate disaffection. As a consequence of their unwillingness, or inability, to do that, such sectionalist struggles also, therefore, find themselves incapable of going beyond the specificity of their respective social and historical situations to continuously move against constant capitalist counter-generalisation – displacement of capital’s systemic crisis from one historicity to another – in order to wage capital-unravelling struggles in new spatio-temporal junctures of capital-labour contradiction. Capital, to reiterate an earlier point, is systemically programmed to keep producing such new space-times of contradiction by way of displacing its crisis in order to survive and reproduce itself. Clearly, capital envisages its crisis as a barrier to be broken or overcome while labour must re-envisage that same crisis as the limit to capital leading to its collapse. This is a perpetual dialectic of subjectively posing objectively posited tendencies. And which way the conjuncture is moving – the capital’s way or the labour’s way – is determined by who has the subjective upper hand in this dialectical struggle. This is exactly what Lenin, in the passage cited above from What Is To Be Done, informs us by way of telling his working-class constituency on how to gain the subjective upper hand in this perpetual and essential dialectic of history and social reality. That is precisely what the CPI(M)-led Left Front failed to accomplish in West Bengal. But that is precisely also not what the essence of the so-called democratising politics that unseated the LF government in West Bengal is.

West Bengal Politics: Abuses and Uses of Gramsci

Considering that the Mamata Banerjee-led wave that decimated the LF’s 34-year-old government in West Bengal is a combination of disparate social forces one could be tempted to resort to Gramsci’s much-abused ideas of hegemony and counter-hegemony as an alliance among various historical (and social) blocs. Indeed, some of the bankrupt ‘non-party’ Leftists, directly or indirectly supporting Mamata, have done exactly that and ended up sanctifying her essentially petty-bourgeois, right-populist politico-ideological project. Worse, they have, in the same movement, turned Gramsci against Leninism, which they believe is the bane of communist politics. But the truth is that Gramsci’s concept of hegemony is not something fundamentally opposed to the idea of Lenin’s Vanguard. It is merely its reclamation in the situation of his Italian difference. Gramsci implied precisely that when, in a different historical national setting, he conceptualised the dialectical relationship between “war of position” and “war of movement”. If we truly grasp this creative theorisation by Gramsci we shall realise that a war of position, which cannot simultaneously and dialectically transform itself into a war of movement, cannot qualify as revolutionary. It becomes, instead, a revisionist symptom of distortion of the revolutionary tendency constitutive of its emergence. In that context, we would do well to bear in mind that the Italian was, as Perry Anderson has repeatedly said, first and foremost “a Leninist militant of the Third International”.

Gramsci’s conception of hegemony through an alliance among historical blocs is, contrary to the revisionist view of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, not a conceptualisation of an aggregation of different socio-historical localities through consensual contract and negotiation. It is, instead, a unity of the proletarian logic across multiple historicities. To that extent, the unity among historical blocs is not aggregative but constellational and conjunctural. It is a unity of the proletarian or communist logic across multiple historicities. Such unity is, therefore, constitutive only in and through the movement of history produced by continuous, uninterrupted struggle between capital and labour in all its multiplying social and historical specifications. Clearly, such conjunctural or constellational unity among historical blocs can be accomplished only in and through simultaneous struggles against their common political adversary and among each other. Any effort to maintain or consolidate this coalition outside of such a peculiar struggle would immediately render it revisionist and an apparatus of capital.

Unfortunately, the erroneous Laclauian appropriation of Gramsci’s concept of hegemony as one of aggregative unity of diverse socio-economic identities has often been deployed by many phrase-mongering Leftists in West Bengal and elsewhere in the country to affirm the aggregative social alliance, which has driven Trinamool’s politics to victory, as “Leftist”. Such theoretically pernicious assertions, needless to say, have helped those ‘New Left’ phrase-mongers create an alibi for their bankrupt politics of tailing Mamata’s reaction in the name of fighting, what is without doubt, an etatised, degenerate working-class force. A force that through such bureaucratised etatisation has been transformed from being a militant representative of one moment in the history of working-class revolutionary struggle into an ideological state apparatus.

There are, of course, those really smart ones among the phrase-mongers – the likes of Aditya Nigam of Kafila fame – who try to be in consonance with the delicate aesthetic sensibility of their fellow-travellers of the anti-CPI(M) bhadralok left by declaring that while the LF regime needed to be unseated Mamata’s ascendancy is “disastrous”. That such disdain for Mamata’s politics is no more than an aesthetic problem of the bhadralok ‘leftist’ academics and intellectuals becomes evident in the programme of the ‘alternative Left’ that Nigam put forth in an article uploaded on Kafila a few days before the results of the West Bengal assembly elections were declared. Nigam’s programme is in no sense different from the reactionary petty-bourgeois politics that has driven the Trinamool Congress to power, save of course the label of alternative Left that he has attached to it with such careful unction. What makes Nigam’s attempt even more pathetic is the manner in which he, like an all-knowing Marxist Baba who has been there and done that, deliberately misappropriates Gramsci to serve his anti-communist politics that is not even properly insidious. He cites an entry from Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks on how classes become detached from their traditional parties. This is what he quotes: “At a certain point in their historical lives, social classes become detached from their traditional parties. In other words, the traditional parties in that particular organizational form, with the particular men who constitute, represent and lead them, are no longer recognized by their class (or fraction of a class) as its expression” – Antonio Gramsci, Prison Noteboooks, International Publishers, New York, 1971, p. 210. Emphasis added).” He then adds his spin: “And though Gramsci here was talking of the crisis of hegemony in the context of the traditional bourgeois parties, his discussion makes it clear that he was thinking of much more than that. There is no permanent relation of any party with the class or classes it claims to represent. Simply because a party that has ruled for thirty four years still has a signboard of a Communist Party does not mean it represents the working class or peasantry in perpetuity. It is patently clear from all evidences coming from West Bengal that the party there represents the interests of a combination of the real estate and builder mafia, corporate capitalists and a self-perpetuating party machinery.” What does this mean? What Nigam cites from Gramsci, together with the spin he gives to that quote, suggests that while a traditional party, in this particular case the CPI(M), has degenerated into a political form of domination by various sections of the bourgeoisie, the classes which detach themselves from such parties become, merely by virtue of such detachment, repositories of a progressive impulse.

Nigam’s indictment of the CPI(M) as a repository of reaction and the bureaucratised degeneration of a section of the working class, an ideological state apparatus, is a no-brainer. What is full of pathos, actually bathos, is his attempt to suggest and insinuate that the social classes that have revolted against it have been rendered progressive merely by that revolt of theirs. He either does not know, or mischievously pretends not to – probably it is a bit of both – that for Gramsci a crisis of representation was not automatically a crisis of hegemony. For the Italian Communist, a crisis of representation, which is what detachment “of social classes…from their traditional parties” signifies, is merely the necessary condition of creating that crisis of hegemony. And the emergence of that crisis of hegemony in Gramsci’s scheme, unlike what Nigam would have us believe, is directly contingent on subjective interventions to create a proletarian counter-hegemony by leveraging that objective crisis of representation. Such subjective interventions, together with the counter-hegemony it produces, constitutes the communist subjectivity and its collective politico-organisational form called the communist party. That this was Gramsci’s endeavour becomes evident when we read Nigam’s excerpt from Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks together with Gramsci’s critique of Nikolai Bukharin’s Theory of Historical Materialism: A Manual of Marxist Sociology contained in the same text in a chapter titled ‘Problems of Marxism, under the section ‘Critical Notes On An Attempt At Popular Sociology’. Here is the excerpt that is most germane to our discussion:

“The first mistake of the Popular Manual is that it starts, at least implicitly, from the assumption that the elaboration of an original philosophy of the popular masses is to be opposed to the great systems of traditional philosophy and the religion of the leaders of the clergy – i.e. the conception of the world of the intellectuals and of high culture. In reality these systems are unknown to the multitude and have no direct influence on its way of thinking and acting. This does not mean of course that they are altogether without influence but it is influence of a different kind. These systems influence the popular masses as an external political force, an element of cohesive force exercised by the ruling classes and therefore an element of subordination to an external hegemony. This limits the original thought of the popular masses in a negative direction, without having the positive effect of a vital ferment of interior transformation of what the masses think in an embryonic and chaotic form about the world and life.”

What Gramsci adds to this argument by way of elaborating it is, however, even more relevant:

“The above remarks about the way in which the Popular Manual criticises systematic philosophies instead of starting from a critique of common sense, should be understood as a methodological point and within certain limits. Certainly they do not mean that the critique of the systematic philosophies of the intellectuals is to be neglected. When an individual from the masses succeeds in criticising and going beyond common sense, he by this very fact accepts a new philosophy. Hence the necessity, in an exposition of the philosophy of praxis, of a polemic with the traditional philosophies. Indeed, because by its very nature it tends towards being a mass philosophy, the philosophy of praxis can only be conceived in a polemical form and in the form of a perpetual struggle. None the less the starting point must always be that common sense which is the spontaneous philosophy of the multitude and which has to be made ideologically coherent.”

The way Gramsci articulates his critique of Bukharin proves beyond doubt that for him, like for any other rigorously committed Marxist, a crisis of representation cannot as such be crisis of hegemony. Rather, crisis of hegemony is potentially implicit in crisis of representation. That potential can, however, only be actualised through a counter-hegemonic subjective intervention. And the subjectivity that constitutes such an intervention is the Communist subjectivity and the collective organisational form through which that subjectivity realises itself is the Communist Party. Gramsci, through his critique of Bukharin, is clearly making a case for revolutionary working-class forces to focus their politics primarily on critiquing antithetical (subordinate) positions of the “popular masses” rather than the nomo-thetic ones occupied by the ruling classes. That is because he as a Marxist believes, not at all incorrectly, that antitheses are articulated – not in spite but because of its opposition to the dominant nomo-thetic forms and institutions of the dominating social forces – by the capitalist logic of competition and contradiction and thus hegemonised by that logic. A logic that is the condition of possibility of their subordination that compels them to occupy their positions of antithetical opposition in the first place.

Such argument is not a Gramscian blow for political quietism. What Gramsci is saying, as his critique of Bukharin’s Manual so clearly reveals, is that the recognition of an antithetical position is the first necessary condition of struggle against capitalism, but such antithetical opposition can unravel capital as a social system in its entirety only when that opposition transforms itself through simultaneous self-criticism, which obviously always has to be socio-economically mediated, from being the momentary antithesis it is to perpetual opposition against capitalism as a totality of ever-expanding reproduction of its hierarchically competitive logic of social relations.

The entries in the Prison Notebooks are, however, no idle theoretical speculation Gramsci had indulged in. They are basically the outcome of an attempt to continue his active Communist political project by theorising it in the register of conceptual abstraction when imprisonment for life in Mussolini’s Fascist goal put an end to his activity as a militant and an organiser. This becomes evident the moment we connect the entries from his Prison Notebooks with the theorisations of his Pre-Prison Writings. Gramsci’s Pre-Prison Writings are clearly integral to his task as a political organiser. For instance, if we look at the following excerpt from his pre-prison writings on the United Front tactics of the Communists we would immediately know how for Gramsci counter-hegemony and the concomitant crisis of bourgeois hegemony not only went hand in hand but were integral to the subjective manoeuvres of PCd’I militants like him to build the party.

In a paper Gramsci presented to the executive of the party at its meeting of August 2-3, 1926 he chooses to highlight the first of the “three basic factors” in the contemporary Italian political situation: “The positive, revolutionary factor, i.e. the progress achieved by the united front tactic. The current situation in the organization of Committees of Proletarian Unity and the tasks of the communist factions in these committees”. His emphasis on Committees of Proletarian Unity and the necessary presence of communist factions in these committees was in opposition to the line of Tasca and others close to the trade unions that insisted on concentrating on protecting established labour organisations and working through them. This reveals that while Gramsci was not willing to reify the social democratic gains of a section of the working class into revolutionary proletarian politics, he was not content with forging merely a political unity of all anti-capitalist social forces either. His stress on building Committees of Proletarian Unity through the presence of “communist factions” in them proves that for him essential unity among various working-class locations was possible only through polarisation of petty-bourgeois and proletarian tendencies on every determinate terrain of anti-capitalist struggle. The communist factions within those committees, which in themselves were really anti-capitalist or antithetical blocs, were meant to precisely embody and drive that polarisation from the proletarian side in the determinateness of their respective localities. Gramsci is quite accurate in showing how the United Front tactics of the PCd’I produced such antagonistic class polarisations:

“In practical terms, the question can be framed like this: in all parties, especially in democratic and social-democratic parties in which the organizational structure is very loose, there are three layers. The numerically very restricted upper layer, that is usually made up of parliamentary deputies and intellectuals, often closely linked to the ruling class. The bottom layer, made up of workers and peasants and members of the urban petite bourgeoisie, which provides the mass of Party members or the mass of those influenced by the Party. And an intermediate layer, which in the present situation is even more important than it is in normal circumstances, in that it often represents the only active and politically ‘live’ layer of these parties. It is this intermediate layer that maintains the link between the leading group at the top and the mass of members and sympathizers. It is on the solidity of this middle layer that the Party leaders are counting for a future renewal of the various parties and a reconstruction of these parties on a broad basis.

“Now, it is precisely on a significant section of these middle layers of the various popular parties that the influence of the movement in favour of a united front is making itself felt. It is within this middle layer that we are seeing this capillary phenomenon of disintegration of the old ideologies and political programmes and the first stirrings of a new political formation on the terrain of the united front…. These are the kind of elements over which our Party exercises an ever increasing influence and whose political spokesmen are a sure index of movements at a grass roots level that are often more radical than may appear from these individual shifts.” (Emphasis added)

This clearly indicates that for Gramsci – unlike Nigam or those other bankrupt Leftists who celebrate the ascendancy of the anti-LF rainbow coalition under Mamata’s leadership – proletarian counter-hegemony is all about generating a counter-representative politics that is contingent on the posing of socialism as an affirmative logical horizon of continuous movement of juridical destabilisation and subversion of institutions. This horizon is radically antagonistic to the bourgeois horizon of juridical stability, wherein motion does often get envisaged by the most radical inhabitants of that horizon but only in terms of the tendency to continuously replace one juridically stable regime with another juridically stabilised regime. In terms of political economy and its critique, the system of bourgeois democratic representation and juridical stability is a horizon constituted by the operation of the law of value and the tendency of abstract labour to determine concrete labours thus robbing them of their concreteness, while the horizon of continuous movement through constant juridical destabilisation embodies the tendency to destroy the operation of the law of value by constantly reclaiming creativity of concrete labours against the abstracted necessity imposed on them by the determinations of capital.

The Communist Horizon: For a Return to Marx’s Capital

It follows, therefore, that the communist horizon is one of continuous formation, constitutive of the logical tendency of the synthetic-singular. It is, by that same token, radically antagonistic to the anarchist and/or radical republican horizon, which is also on the face of it a horizon of process but where processuality is constitutive of the logical tendency of duality, non-antagonistic contradiction, and thus representation and abstract labour. In short, the latter political horizon is the horizon of capital as a logic of social relations and power. Therefore, the horizon of continuous, though punctuated, formation – which is radically antagonistic to and perpetually irreconcilable with the horizon of duality and non-antagonistic contradiction – must be grasped and envisaged in its dialectical logic. That, in the inescapable determinateness of concrete historicities, will be actualised as a continuous process of formation-deformation-formation ad infinitum.

Clearly, envisioning the anti-dialectic of perpetual opposition of the synthetic-singular horizon of continuous, though punctuated, formation against the capitalist horizon of duality and non-antagonistic contradictions is the key to the actualisation of the communist subjectivity and its organisational form. But the actualisation of this anti-dialectic is, paradoxically, contingent on the grasping of the dialectical logic immanent in the contradictory social reality of capitalism. Only when this anti-dialectic of perpetual opposition of the two systemic horizons – something that Marx conceptualised as “revolution in permanence” in The Class Struggles in France – is produced through dialectics will continuous democratisation (the diesel of working-class politics) cease being the civil-societal form of cooptative ‘democratisation’ it is today to become “uninterrupted revolution” in the sense that Mao formulated it.

The radicalness of the agenda of so-called continuous democratisation posed by (civil) social movements – of which even our communist outfits, including some of the most radical tendencies among them are also a part – is no more than the radicalness of their popular-republican agenda. To put it plainly, the agenda of so-called continuous democratisation posed by disparate, and often seemingly mutually opposed, politico-ideological forms of radical republicanism, which would include anarchist tendencies as well, can today be nothing more than the distorted, ideological articulation of genuine democratic aspirations by the material reality of late capitalism (neo-liberalism) as its ‘ethic’ of perpetually expanding the capitalist structure of competitive social relations.

The short point in all this is that any attempt to rebuild the Left, the revolutionary transformative politics of the working class to be accurate, must today necessarily be driven by a politico-theoretical programme to reconceptualise the communist subjectivity and its organisational embodiment: the communist party. And to do that one must grasp the working class, its revolutionary subjectivity as class-for-itself and its concomitant organisational form (the communist party) in continuous and, at the same time punctuated, formation in the hurly-burly of the empirically given field of politics (Lenin’s “concrete situation”). A field where all sorts of ideological tendencies are in play and where a real communist intervention will have to mean an encounter with all the tendencies, including even the non- and anti-communist ones, if only to critically slice through the ideological integuments of those socio-political subjectivities to grasp their inverted immanence and, in the same, movement, rescue that immanence from the prison of its ideologically cathected meaning. By the same token, the various fetishes of communist politics, wherein the party-as-movement-form has lapsed into party-as-state-form, will also have to be encountered with an equal measure of critical good faith. One must, however, take ample care to distinguish between the two different historico-logical trajectories of restoration of capitalist class power: one in which the revolutionary working-class potential of an empirically given struggle comes to be articulated, right from the very beginning, by one or more of the hegemonic ideologies; and the other, in which a movement that begins by consciously advancing towards revolutionary working-class politics degenerates into the capitalist logic of competitive politics due to it being forced, by a combination of the changing objective situation and the concomitant lack of subjective class capacity, to fight a “war of position” without being able to simultaneously and dialectically transform that into a “war of movement”.

The crux of the matter is that only through a critically engaged process of grasping the inverted immanence of a contradictory social reality can the immanent communist axiom be possibly actualised into a communist subjectivity. It is precisely such a manoeuvre that would be constitutive of the communist party as a form that is the true measure of itself only in the intermediacy of its dialectically unstable existence as a transit-form in between its generic (and thus philosophical) status and its politically actualised and thus historically specific state. And in order to conceptualise this form of the (communist) party – which, so to speak, constantly wills itself into existence only to constantly will its own disappearance – one must return to the Marx of Capital to rigorously follow his conceptualisation of the interrelationship between value/value-form and use-value/and its form, as also his explication of the inversion and transformation of the Hegelian dialectic in terms of the mutually entwined interrelationship of abstract and concrete labours. The exposition of his conceptual transfiguration of the Hegelian dialectic with which Marx concludes his ‘Afterword To The Second German Edition’ of Capital, Volume I, serves to indicate the drift of our argument and thus might prove useful here:

“In its mystified form, dialectic became the fashion in Germany, because it seemed to transfigure and to glorify the existing state of things. In its rational form it is a scandal and abomination to bourgeoisdom and its doctrinaire professors, because it includes in its comprehension and affirmative recognition of the existing state of things, at the same time also, the recognition of the negation of that state, of its inevitable breaking up; because it regards every historically developed social form as in fluid movement, and therefore takes into account its transient nature not less than its momentary existence, because it lets nothing impose upon it, and is in its essence critical and revolutionary.” (Emphases added)

Militarist Obama and Corporate Nobel: Peaceful Partnership

Saswat Pattanayak

There simply need not be any elements of surprise or shock at Barack Obama receiving Nobel Peace Prize. Almost every year, this award has been granted to neoliberal policy brokers otherwise known as liberals, social democrats, or simply the firm believers in Eurocentric democratic ethos that can be ruthlessly applied on lesser countries via doublespeaks. Obama joins Ahtisaari, Gore, Dae-jung, Trimble, Belo, Walesa, Robles, Esquivel, Begin, Sakharov, Sato, Cassin, Kissinger, Wilson, etc., as the latest torchbearer of the most overrated award in the human history.

Liberal media are attributing his win to moments in anticipation, while conservatives are yet to get over the shock. However, Obama is absolutely worthy of winning the prize and he must be congratulated for the same as a regular recipient of this insipid achievement. Even a cursory look at past few winners should indicate that Obama’s prize perfectly fits.

Last year’s winner, Martti Ahtisaari was almost a NATO agent who worked tirelessly as an anti-communist and aspired to end Finland’s neutrality through his fetishized versions of a corporate Finland as a prosperous Finland.

The year before, Al Gore – a dubious champion of environmental hanky-panky that has no pragmatic basis but plenty of populist boasts with an ability to marry corporate america with Zionist media lobby received the award. Gore’s multi-billion dollar campaigners have been chiefly free market champions who “reformed” Soviet Union and infamous money launderers such as Howard Glicken, Nate Landow and terrorist Rabbi Meir Kahane.

When Kim Dae-jung won the award, he was known as a firmly indoctrinated champion of capitalism, and a tireless communicator in the process of introducing “democracy” in North Korea, the kind of diplomatic talks which can bring down socialistic systems rather smoothly.

David Trimble, a Protestant leader from Ireland hell bent to punish Sinn Fein, the left-wing political wing of the IRA has also been an obvious choice. Comparable to him was a previous winner Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, a Roman Catholic bishop appointed to rid East Timor of the last of its radical strands. As though Portuguese occupation was not enough, an illegal encroachment of the country via NATO-backed Indonesia was to be done to eliminate the communists. After its successful atrocities, Belo and Jose Ramos-Horta have become the human face to the “peaceful” interventions in the lives of indigenous peoples through religious pacifications. The peoples can no more demand for reparations in a religious colony.

Lech Walesa, a pronounced reactionary leader in Poland organizing trade unions against the communists, received Nobel merely for such attempts. Alfonso García Robles collaborated with the nuclear powers in order to promote a non-nuclear zone for Latin America without demanding nuclear dismantling of the West. Nobel Peace Prize has traditionally been conferred upon non-agitating peaceniks who like much of social democrats, do not wish to alter the equation of the privileged while ensuring limitations for the oppressed. Dangerous tools are safe in the hands of the mafia, and very dangerous in the hands of the commoners. Nobel prize committees have year after year acknowledged this colonial notion.

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, another product of Christian missionary position of effecting changes without revolutions- changes as feeble as conversion to a dogmatic religion, was an illustrious winner. Even as vocally opposed to wars and policies led down by the kinds of Bush, the Nobel Peace winners are not the ones who even address the root causes of wars – class conflicts – and have acutely selective memories when it comes to linking the Church with perpetuation of bourgeois wars.

Menachem Begin, a zionist militarist who launched massive attacks against Iraq and Lebanon even before anyone witnessed Gulf Wars was another perfect winner. One of the biggest war maniacs in recent history, he was the architect of Begin Doctrine, way more vicious than any unofficial Bush doctrines the peaceniks have resented.

Andrei Sakharov, an exaggerated dissident who in the peak of cold war was perhaps so oblivious of American expansions that he created a stir through his advocacy in support of the imperialistic intentions; and immediately was conferred Nobel Peace Prize.

Yet another winner was Eisaku Sato, a reactionary conservative collaborator of Japanese-American interests, the principal opponent to Communist China’s recognition as a UN member, and a prime donor to Taiwanese causes. Here was another classic example of a liberal crony of the routine violators of international sovereign policies.

In previous years, René Cassin, chief legal advisor to Charles de Gaulle has won this coveted award, as has George Marshall. Marshall, the post-war propagandist was instrumental in implanting market economies in communist Europe through bribing, investing and coercing.

Albert Schweitzer’s racist stances on African peoples were well known when he won the Nobel Peace for his White Man’s burdens. So was Woodrow Wilson, a racist, segregationist president whose life was marked by pursuance of the American doctrine of imperialism and global hegemony.

Lesser said the better it is about Henry Kissinger, his pronounced hatred for Third World solidarity movements and his war-mongering. If Cold War achieved demise of Communistic alliances globally, it was done through the only weapons the capitalists know of: money, diplomacy and religion. The role of Nobel Peace Committee in converting the interventionists to heroes and legitimizing their methods of covert propaganda operations is unparalleled.

If Dalai Lama through soothing words of peace and spirituality attempted to undermine a peoples’ republic and won the awards through relegating Tibet into ancient conservative times, then it should not surprise anyone why F.W. de Klerk also won on behalf of South Africa. “Non-violence” in our times of global capitalism translates to unconditional surrender on part of the agitating masses to a reformed society. The reforms must take place within the overarching designs of the former colonial masters. Aung San Suu Kyi is another instance of a revolutionary whose limits have been set by Washington DC.

Since the inception of Nobel Peace Prize, an overwhelming majority of the awards have gone to pronounced anti-communists, masquerading as “reformers”. Mikhail Gorbachev is the brightest instance. Second largest category is the Christian religious saints, bishops and preachers. Goes without saying, their roles have been exemplarily complimenting the “pacifist” reformers. Wherever there was communistic presence, the Christian values needed to be imported there to sabotage peoples’ movements. West Bengal in India is a case in point, where Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity had to deserve Nobel Peace Prize through its covert operations of religious conversion, selective care and influence upon CIA-backed dictators in Africa. Communists are bound to agitate the hungry against their class exploiters, but the Saints pacify the hungry through capitalistic charity funds. Who wins the Nobel Peace is anyone’s guess.

Around the time when revolutionary spirits in Latin America was sky-high and Che’s dreams of unifying the region was slowly gaining grounds, Nobel Committee chose Oscar Arias Sánchez who through smooth means, implemented neoliberal economic policies in Costa Rica.

The last category of Nobel Peace Prize winners have great affinity with Zionist causes. The brightest scholar here is Elie Wiesel – the man with the irresponsible claims on the “uniqueness of Holocaust” and one infamous for downplaying or flatly refusing to acknowledge that other genocides caused by the Nazis have any comparable significance. Speaking of Israelis, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin were certainly not the exceptions.

Deconstruction of “Peace” in Nobel Prize and Lenin Prize:

With so many hardcore militarists (Wilson, Kissinger, Begin, Sato, etc.,) winning Nobel Peace Prize, not to mention scores of illustrious supporters of the aggressive Euro-American bloc during Cold War, how exactly is “Peace” defined by the wise committee?

Nobel jurists further the Eurocentric views of the world and they should not be blamed for it. After all, the people of color, the oppressed people in majority of the world did not have the financial means to combat the advertorial impacts of the aura surrounding this prize. For instance, Lenin Peace Prizes have been awarded to freedom fighters against colonial masters in many African and Asian countries, but the relevance of that great award has never been highlighted as part of collective historical knowledge.

Lenin Peace Prize, that truly revolutionary recognition of the people who strived to bring peace among nations has been relegated to obscurity through sheer exhibitionism on part of the European capitalists disguising themselves under the banner of Nobel. The sheer magnitude of diversity among the winners of Lenin Peace Prize, their roles in dismantling of colonial powers, and their relentless struggles on the sides of the oppressed are testimony to the true acknowledgment of what constitutes peace.

There is a rejoice among people of color upon the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Barack Obama. That is just and proper. But what escapes media attention is the fact that Nobel Prizes have been racist awards ever since their inceptions. Not a single black person has won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Physics or Medicine. Out of a total of 789 Nobel Prizes conferred thus far, only 11 have been awarded to black people. Out of these 11, one was an economist, three were laureates, and as many as 8 were pacifists!

How does it so happen that whereas black accomplishments are overlooked in every field of life by the colonial powers, they happen to be so useful when it comes to recognizing their peaceful conducts? How is it that the oppressed are awarded not for their agitations, but for their accommodations?

Quite naturally so. Nobel Prizes have been Eurocentric mechanisms to brand those people as the greatest human beings on the planet, that dutifully submit to the whims of colonial and imperial powers. Those people who have put their acts together to intervene in revolutionary situations with their negotiating skills to prevent escalation of class wars. These are the people who have pronounced that the exploiters and the exploited can and must live together in harmony with the class divisions remaining intact. Nobel Prizes are granted to those chosen few among the minorities that have a greater impact over the masses compared to their revolutionary counterparts.

There should not be any surprises. Nobel Prizes are offered by the Royalists, the status quo upholders, the deniers of class society. Their construction of “peace” is determined through their worldview, which comprises the refusal for a replacement of unjust world order, and strong resentment at revolutionary forces. Barack Obama’s win is the most natural continuation of Nobel Peace Prize tradition. Peace in Nobel Prize tradition is capitalistic utopia. In the realist world, peace can prevail only through equitable redistribution of privileges. Capitalism simply cannot accept that. Hence, peace itself has to be redefined.

Contrasted to that, majority of Lenin Peace Prizes were granted to people of color, and a huge majority of them were agitators. These were true proponents of peace for the peoples in the world. Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Angela Davis (USA), Samora Machel (Mozambique), Agostinho Neto (Angola), Paul Robeson (USA), Ahmed Sékou Touré (Guinea), Julius Nyerere (Tanzania), W. E. B. Du Bois (USA) were some of the leading freedom fighters against colonialism. Lenin Peace Prizes were also awarded to Pablo Picasso (Spain), Brazil’s Jorge Amado, Saifuddin Kitchlew (India), Pablo Neruda (Chile), Bertolt Brecht (East Germany), Thakin Kodaw Hmaing of Burma, Nicolás Guillén of Cuba, Lázaro Cárdenas of Mexico, Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Modibo Keïta of Mali, Aruna Asaf Ali (India), Kamal Jumblatt of Lebanon, Salvador Allende of Chile, Lê Duẩn of Vietnam, Miguel Otero Silva of Venezuela, Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, Mikis Theodorakis of Greece, and Abdul Sattar Edhi of Pakistan, among many other undisputed champions of human liberty. When Nelson Mandela was awarded Lenin Peace Prize in 1990, his legacy was not insulted by getting him to share the stage with F.W. de Clark.

In the world revolutionary histories, there are heroes, and there are sycophants. There are radical activists who march on without awaiting an award, and there are naive moderates that fall into grander schemes of manipulated dictums. In its truest sense, Nobel Peace Prize has never been awarded to peace activists barring on a couple of occasions. One worthy winner was Linus Pauling of the United States. The second one was Le Duc Tho of Vietnam. Like another radical Jean-Paul Sartre, Le Duc Tho too, had refused to accept Nobel Prize. Sartre refused to bring glory to racist France, and Le Duc refused to accept the prize at the same terms as Kissinger and to share the stage with him.

Nobel Peace Prize, in reality is an apologist for, and celebration of continued Eurocentric imperialism. Obama is the latest one to have been “humbled”. Amidst his militarist interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, through his announcements for larger US troops for invasions and bigger budget to feed the military-industrial complex, the Nobel committees have yet again perpetuated a reactionary definition of peace. In their world of successes and achievements, they have merely crowned their King.

Crisis and Class Struggle: The American Way

Pratyush Chandra

If we have to name a single industry prototypical of post-second world war capitalism, which to a large extent defined the nature and range of economic activities in this period, the choice would undoubtedly be the automobile industry. With the financial crisis finally taking its toll over this industry (especially the Detroit Three – GM, Chrysler and Ford), the crisis has almost acquired a general character. The most interesting aspect of this long impending collapse in the automobile industry is its bearing for the industrial regime that will evolve out of the present crisis – this will largely depend on the balance between the forces (classes and their agencies) which will see through this process of restructuring. The bailout package has already been declared and it aims to completely disarm the workers, that too with the assent of their own unions.

A foremost business magazine, The Economist (‘A Giant Falls’, June 4 2009) while assessing “where did it all go wrong”, found the “insupportable burden” of its commitments to workers (that they wrested through decades of their struggle) as the single most important factor that led to the bankruptcy of General Motors, the collapse of the American pride. So obviously the general consensus is being created that these commitments were not justified. It was a case of “mismanagement and decline”. Thus, “the auto unions, themselves once emblematic of what workers could achieve within capitalism, have been reduced to lobbying to save “their” companies, and a decades-long trend in private-sector labor negotiations has now confirmed collective bargaining as having shifted from demands by workers to demands on workers.” (Herman Rosenfeld, ‘The North American Auto Industry in Crisis’, Monthly Review, June 2009)

General Motors (GM), that shaped the American way of life and economy for so many decades, is bankrupt, now, and Obama has alighted to save it. The bankrupt capitalists hid themselves behind the State which is determined to save the “American way of life”. Such determination can be fruitful only under the condition of some sort of social corporatism – through the state-sponsored or negotiated peace among capitalists, and between workers and capitalists. The first reproduces a capitalist-class-for-itself, while the second submits the workers to the logic of capital accumulation and the competitive needs of “their” employers. Didn’t Gramsci teach us that corporatism (or consensus) is the only alternative, besides coercion, for dealing with the crisis of legitimation and accumulation in capitalism?

Around 90 years back, in October 1920, a crisis had struck another giant automobile company, Fiat, in Turin (Italy). To counter the militancy of Italian workers, evident in the tremendous Workers’ Councils and factory occupation movements, the Fiat management had offered a scheme of co-operation, which the workers summarily rejected. Gramsci and his comrades understood the designs of the State and Fiat behind their ideology of co-operation – to get the workers at their mercy. The Turin Communists understood that within this scheme, “[t]he workforce will necessarily have to bind itself to the State … through the activity of working class deputies…. The Turin proletariat will no longer exist as an independent class, but simply as an appendage of the bourgeois State. Class corporatism will have triumphed, but the proletariat will have lost its position and role as leader and guide.” (Quoted in Antonio Gramsci, ‘Some Aspects of the Southern Question’, Pre-Prison Writings, Cambridge University Press, 1994, 325-326)

Where Italian premier Giolitti could not succeed, Obama has succeeded. The “working class deputies” in the US have ultimately bound the workforce to the State and the bourgeoisie, right at the time of a crisis, a moment that Marx and Engels acknowledged as “one of the most powerful levers in political upheavals”. Crisis indeed is a moment for heightening class struggle. Why not? If capitalism itself is shaped through open and hidden struggle between capital and labour, then should the moment of crisis be left out from this fight? At least capitalists are not going to do that; they know the meaning of the crisis – now or never! And in the absence of any strong labour movement, they know it is an opportunity not to be lost.

There are diagnoses and recipes going around to save the ‘economy’ from the deepening crisis, as if the economy in itself is something neutral, and we can struggle over its colour once it is saved. Even when capitalism is blamed (taking into consideration the growing interest in Marx throughout the First World) for its own ailments, the revival is recommended through various interventionist measures. There are many Keynesian quacks nowadays roaming and gossiping around irritating the capitalists – “we told you so”. But the capitalist knows what to do. Yes, intervention, if it’s must, but on whose cost – capital’s or labour’s? The capitalist must be bailed out, and the labourer must be reined in. Social corporatism is not at all bad, if it subjugates labour to the ‘general interests’ of the economy.

Capital doesn’t want to mess up with labour. It has tried to evade the very circuit in which labour-power has to be bought in, but every time it does that destiny reminds it of its painful bond with labour. This time capital had almost created a world of its own without the nuisance of labour. But these consumers and debtors, on whom it relied so much, betrayed it – it suddenly realised that these were in fact the same little urchins – those children of labour, whose devilish smell and smile it wanted to forget.

Time and again, the capitalist class is reminded of the basic lesson in political economy that ultimately profit generates in the productive sector, through engagement with labour. But this class which is composed of competing entities – individuals or groups – relapses into amnesia once prosperity steps in, as they compete to “accumulate, accumulate…”. Ultimately, they all find it ideal to directly jump from M(oney) to M'(oney) without going through the strenuous process of production where they must deal with labour, which simply cannot behave like another dumb ‘factor of production’.

Once capital comes to its senses, and realises its inevitable bond with labour, it tries very hard (and every means) to sterilize labour – alienating it from its creativity (hence, its destructivity) and thus, its humanity. Whoever – capital or labour – mobilises its class and community first during the crisis commands the post-crisis phase. Here labour is always at a disadvantage, it has to make an enormous extra effort and prior preparation to come to command. If it arrives late, it gives enough time for capital and its agents to put themselves in their headquarters. They don’t meet in the streets (only leaving their dogs and watchdogs for the street-fights) but in lavish boardrooms and in the offices of national and international agencies. The labouring multitude is reduced to its representatives, who are b(r)ought in these offices to negotiate a deal. Thus, the social compact is attained.

This is what has happened in the auto industry and will probably happen in many other cases until and unless the working class too realises that crisis is a moment of class struggle, not of negotiation and compromise. In fact, what is a compromise, but an institutionalisation of class struggle under the conditions of capital, in which the defeat of labour is immanent!

India’s Move to the Right

Pothik Ghosh

This is not a practical joke. Something really outrageous has happened. The overwhelming victory of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in the 15th Lok Sabha elections has meant an unqualified triumph for the sangh parivar’s ideological agenda. Of course, if one were to look for the emergence of an electoral centre consonant with such an ideological triumph – as the one symbolised by the Congress in the first two-and-a-half decades of Independence – one would find nothing to substantiate this. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is, with regard to the UPA, the second-largest coalition by far. One cannot, therefore, be faulted for dismissing the above claim as a product of an exaggeratedly apocalyptic imagination that loves to poop a glorious party.

But such, alas, is the irony of the situation that the BJP no longer needs to emerge as the leader of Parliament to culminate the sangh’s programme of establishing a majoritarian national political centre. And wasn’t this the RSS’s cherished dream after all, something that prevented it from seriously pursuing the project of backing a political party of its own for the first few decades of its inception? Well, that dream has come true when the sangh parivar least expected it, needless to say, despite the RSS and its political face.

No sense can, however, be discerned in this seemingly quixotic explanation unless the victory of liberalism, which the Congress’s thumping electoral win signifies, is located in its current historical moment. Otherwise, it would imply an uncritical acceptance of certain pre-given notions of liberalism. The Congress today, thanks to its current electoral revival as a strong centre of Indian polity, is similar to its post-Independence predecessor only in appearance. The consensus that has driven its current re-emergence is significantly and qualitatively different from the one that underpinned its earlier Nehruvian-liberal edition, and which collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions through the ’60s and’70s to unfold into Indira Gandhi’s Emergency and the Jayaprakash Narayan-led anti-Congress movement.

Development is the new shibboleth of the current Congress consensus and the liberal political centre it has purportedly propped up. And this new avatar of development has played, and will continue to play, a crucial role in shaping the social content of this consensus, even as it leaves its political idiom of liberal-secular citizenship intact. The aggressively competitive political-economic ethos of this neo-liberal form of development – which is geared towards socio-economic restructuring through alienation of people from their assets that are their means of life and/or livelihood – has come to increasingly determine what this constitutionally-ordained idea of liberal-secular citizenship actually amounts to in the everyday lives of individuals.

This process of total commodification of hitherto non-commodified or semi-commodified sectors of society and economy through coercive politico-economic and legislative practices – which Marx termed primitive accumulation of capital and which American economic-geographer David Harvey has redefined for our late capitalist times as “accumulation by dispossession” – will continue to shape the inner socio-political contours of the ideology of liberalism with renewed political legitimacy. The secular idea of a culturally neutral citizenship will, in such circumstances, become even more contingent on who gains from, and therefore naturally backs, this kind of development.

It is, therefore, hardly surprising that competitive identity politics, which has always driven electoral competition in Indian society but which has never received overt sanction in its liberal-democratic polity, has of late been turning into a politically legitimate impulse of neo-liberal development that thrives on and encourages competitive dispossession of some socio-political groups by others. For, how else does one explain myriad incidents of land acquisition, effected through legislative changes and other repressive means by various state and central governments that enjoy the support of certain configurations of socio-economic and cultural identities which gain from such development?

That, however, is not the only way in which competitive dispossession, which is the dominant spirit of the reigning neo-liberal orthodoxy, has played out in this country. More indirect and legislatively less ‘legitimate’ means, not directly attributable to governments and their developmental agenda, have also been in evidence. The impulse of certain sections of the Hindu middle class of Gujarat to loot and destroy Muslim businesses, with a little more than tacit support from the BJP-led state government, during the 2002 post-Godhra carnage can, for instance, be located in socio-political, economic and cultural anxieties fostered by an intensely competitive ethos of a preponderantly expropriative political economy of neo-liberal development.

Clearly, citizenship, and its entitlements, remain as culturally neutral and secular as before but the access to development that enables the acquisition of such liberal-secular credentials is paved, now more legitimately than ever, with the bloody bricks of socio-economic and cultural cleansing of some identities by others.

That even the struggles of those socio-cultural identities, which have been at the receiving end of such dehumanising development, have failed to transcend the logic of competition and expropriation intrinsic to this neo-liberal developmental programme, proves there has been no political questioning of that model of development. Their struggles, whenever they have had the opportunity to move beyond defensive positioning, have ended up being contests where the subalterns have vied with the elite social groups to corner the privilege the latter enjoy. Those struggles, even as they have been directed at privileged and socially dominant groups and identities, have failed to focus on the neo-liberal logic of development that such elite groups both embody and are a function of.

This failure of subaltern groups to transform the competitive nature of their challenge – which is how such challenges are bound to be posed to begin with – into a critique of the current political-economic system and its model of development has ended up shattering their initial anti-elite solidarity, evident right through the JP movement up to the Mandal period and the ascendancy of the V P Singh-led National Front government in 1989. That has led to the degeneration of their politics into a regressive battle of social domination among themselves. The ideological expression of such degeneration is, for instance, evident in recent popular cultural histories written by various Dalit and backward-caste intellectuals of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the service of their politics of assertion. Not only do those historical accounts – some of which have been collected by social historian Badri Narayan into a book called Upekshit Samudayon ka Atm Itihas (Self Histories of Marginalised Peoples) – not question the idea of structuring society around a strong centre, they seek to build such centres to assert their caste dignity through their supremacist historiographies. Worse, they do so by often enough adopting the traditional terms and idioms of the exclusivist and oppressive Brahminical social discourse.

The decline in politico-ideological independence or electoral fortunes of various lower-caste, minority and regional political forces – which also includes the CPI(M)-led Left Front – in this Lok Sabha election is merely a manifestation of this troubling competitive identity politics within the subaltern camp. That has led to the gravitation of some of those outfits, and the ‘natural’ support base of the others, towards either the Congress or the BJP. A strong bipolar tendency in Indian polity, which the decline of such third forces portends, is nothing but a disturbing sign of consolidation of the neo-liberal consensus.

The current ascendancy of the Congress, given that it coincides with the emergence of such a strong bipolar political tendency, is especially disturbing. Both the real and imagined victims of neo-liberal development under this new Congress-led dispensation would, in the absence of any strong current of independent subaltern politics, come to rely on the BJP to politically articulate their competitive quest for development. That, needless to say, would prompt the BJP to pose the idea of liberal-secular citizenship, and the question of access to expropriative neo-liberal development that frames this idea, in consonance with the competitive aspirations of social groups it would seek to represent. That the ideology the BJP would deploy at the grassroots to electorally mobilise its potential support base for this battle for modern development and secular citizenship would be cultural nationalism is a no-brainer. In fact, the shift in BJP’s political-ideological tack, post Babri, anticipated precisely this peculiar sort of rightward movement in Indian polity. Since the late nineties the party stopped posing the Muslim as a dangerous alien to the Hindu community of this country, and has instead taken to mounting a zealous defence of a culturally deracinated but majoritarian national identity, and a form of modern development that produces it, from the depredations of groups that it emphasises has originated from within certain “backward” cultural identities (jihad-backing Muslims or Maoist-supporting Dalit Christians of Orissa). It has obfuscated the real causes of socio-economic dispossession and politico-cultural disenfranchisement that underpin such phenomena. That the BJP has forged the secular/pseudo-secular distinction, appropriating the first category for itself while ascribing the second to its opponents, shows there need exist no contradiction between liberal theories and revanchist political practices today.

The electoral pressures that such politics of the BJP would inevitably generate for the Congress and other non-BJP forces in a system of representative democracy, especially one tending towards bipolarity, cannot be overstated. That would, among other things, bolster the ongoing process of socio-ideological homogenisation of policymaking and lawmaking, even as normative, party-based differences are belaboured ad nauseum. The eerie similarity in legislative and policy rhetoric across the political spectrum – especially vis-à-vis questions of development, “jihadi” terror and Maoist insurgency – shows how the BJP-sangh’s ideological project, with more than a little facilitation from the global neo-liberal programme and its local secular backers, has indeed been universalised.

In such a situation – where the current neo-liberal form of development is constitutive of a majoritarian conception of modern political identity that gets projected as democratic — politics conducted in terms of the traditional secular-communal divide is, at best, useless and, at worst, perilously misleading.

What India would see more and more now is aggressively competitive identity politics at the grassroots, often culminating in civil violence, and the winners of such amoral competition rising up to be legitimately welcomed by a normatively liberal-secular political centre as ‘authentic’ and ‘enterprising’ citizens of the nation. This is, doubtless, the epoch when fascism and liberalism not only come to each other’s rescue, as Gramsci had observed, in their respective moments of regulatory crises, but co-exist in harmonious complementarity in the same temporal moment at the social and political levels respectively.

It is nobody’s case that the Congress and the liberal Indian polity were innocent about the ways of identity politics in their post-Independence heyday. Identity management, through competitive and differential distribution of patronage at the societal grassroots by a liberal polity, was the hallmark of the Nehruvian Indian National Congress — which was supported by the Brahmin-Muslim-Harijan combine in UP and Bihar, and the Kshatriya-Harijan-Adivasi-Muslim coalition in Gujarat — till at least the advent of Emergency. But all grassroots Congress leaders, who emerged in legislative and parliamentary politics by dint of their victory in such identity struggles and the concomitant management of such intra-party competition, were ultimately tamed and chastened by the liberal-secular ethos of the party and polity. In other words, the identity loyalty of a particular leader that had launched him from the grassroots to the national polity was perforce sacrificed by him/her at the altar of liberal-secularism – still organic to the relatively more democratic culture of a pre-Independence, anti-colonial Congress – while participating in the business of policymaking and legislation. Clearly, competitive identity politics, and the differential distribution of patronage it entails, existed as the hypocritical and illegitimate unconscious of the Nehruvian Congress and its post-Independence polity. And it was precisely this contradiction – ineluctable in political liberalism, thanks to the political-economy of capitalism from which it emanates – that led to the collapse of the original Congress consensus.

Now, of course, it is a different story. The liberal ideas of culturally neutral citizenship and secularism are empty concepts into which any social content, no matter how illiberal, undemocratic or retrograde, can be poured and legitimised. Identity-based patronage politics, which had either been eyed with contempt or concealed shamefacedly by mainstream political parties, all of which practiced it, is now getting sanctified as inclusion (obviously differential and unequal) by its blessed contact with the neo-liberal dogma of competitive development. The competitiveness that is intrinsic to such politics is no longer an ugly and reactionary secret that liberal politics needs hide in its messy social closets. Given that globally acceptable neo-liberal development is driven by something similar, it is openly celebrated. Such competitiveness constitutes the developmental dynamic that shapes the internal configurations and contours of the liberal form. Unlike in the period of the Nehruvian Congress, caste- and community-based leaders, irrespective of their party affiliations, are not tamed by the liberal idea of secular citizenship. Instead, they fundamentally redefine that idea, with regard to policies and laws, in terms of the interests of the social groups they represent.

‘Democratic’ competition, in the absence of an impulse to socio-ideologically contest the status quo, ends up strengthening the system and its twin-logic of political domination and economic expropriation. That is particularly true in this neo-liberal epoch, which is determined by the operational primacy of finance capital. Before the onset of the neo-liberal era, a subaltern struggle, even if it was waged in the register of competitive identity politics, still had some fighting chance to posit a critique of the political economy of capitalism. Such competition for a slice of the developmental pie, by virtue of being directed at the state, automatically targeted the real sector of the economy that this state regulated. And considering that the real sector can respond more effectively to the autonomous needs of a society the less determined it is by the exigencies of international finance capital, the chances that competitive identity politics of subaltern groups in pre-neo-liberal times could democratise the socio-economic system by seeking to democratise the state and polity were much more than today.

Similar identity-based competitive struggles for a share in neo-liberal development have served to deepen systemic inequality and lack of democracy the more they have succeeded. That is because the real economy of India, ever since it started opening up to the world, has come to be increasingly subordinated to the speculative and profit-seeking demands of international finance capital. The intensified financialisation of the Indian economy this has resulted in has ensured the country’s real sector responds, not what members of Indian society would democratically and autonomously aspire to and demand, but what would yield profits in sectors on which international finance capital has placed its heaviest bets. As a consequence, the entire world of demand-and-supply, and the socio-economic realm of work and leisure constituted by it, has become totally administered, sometimes through repressive force but mostly through ideological production of consent. Development happens to be the mantra of that operation. In such a scenario, any social or political movement that seeks a share of such development cannot deepen democracy, not even objectively. It can only keep consolidating the system and its intrinsically undemocratic and inegalitarian political economy.

The Left – including its CPI(M)-led parliamentary bloc, and its various semi- and extra-parliamentary groups – has completely failed to recognise this peculiar impact of neo-liberalism and financialisation on Indian polity. Not surprisingly, they have continued to press ahead with their time-worn paradigms of politics. Subjective intervention by various Left groups, when it occurs through their pro-active engagement with the disaffections and aspirations of various dispossessed and disempowered socio-economic and cultural groups, can transform the competitive identitarian idiom of their struggles into a fundamental critique of the neo-liberal model of development. Only that, when it happens, can possibly yield, a real counter-hegemonic politics of resistance and restore to the Indian Left its lost political relevance.

Of course, the rejection of the CPI(M)-led Left Front’s authoritarianism by the electorates of Kerala, and particularly West Bengal, which brought its Lok Sabha tally down from 60 in 2004 to 24 this time around, must be hailed, especially since it has also failed to pose an alternative political-economic model of development to the current neo-liberal one, which it has all but normatively accepted. Yet, what must not be lost sight of is the LF’s political degeneration has been challenged and supplanted, not by tendencies from within the progressive tradition of working class politics, but by the Trinmool Congress-Congress coalition, which will be an integral part of the next Union government. In such circumstances, the electoral decimation of the CPI(M)-led Stalinist Left has only accelerated and strengthened Indian polity’s right-ward move.

Such a working-class challenge to the CPI(M) and its front is still desperately awaited to wipe out whatever remains of this degenerate Left, so that revolutionary politics can once again reclaim the trust of the broader toiling masses and mobilise them for an anti-neo-liberal, anti-capitalist battle. But for such a politics to emerge, genuine working-class forces, many of whom are still part of the LF constituents, need to be clear-sighted about what actually went wrong with the CPI(M)-led Left Front. The reactive anti-CPI(M) position, which many Left groups and individuals hold, would be of little help on that score.

We must, for starters, understand that the LF’s attempt to aggregate various anti-Congress, anti-BJP forces in the run-up to the 15th Lok Sabha polls, contrary to what the neo-liberal spinmeisters of our mainstream media have been contending, was not opportunist per se. The challenge, no matter how transient, posed by some caste and regional parties against the two principal political protagonists in question is actually a reflection of the disaffection of social identities that have been rendered provisionally subaltern, vis-à-vis the more privileged social groups patronised by those two parties. Considering that those privileged groups represent socio-economic and cultural domination – which the neo-liberal developmental agenda engendered by a political system hegemonised by the Congress and the BJP has created – any competitive challenge posed to them and their two parties by the provisional subalterns and their outfits is, to begin with, also an immanent and implicit critique of the hegemony of the entire system, and the competitive and expropriative political-economic logic of development that constitutes it. Such implicit critique posits the possibility of producing a rupture in the given neo-liberal conjuncture and thereby effect a complete social transformation.

However, if the immanence of this critique is not recognised and it is not consciously expressed by the movements that pose them, it ceases being the first unavoidable step towards counter-hegemonic politics, and ends up consolidating the hegemonic logic of competition, domination and monopolistic centre-building. The LF’s failure to engage with such implicit critiques so that they can be taken to their logical anti-systemic denouement, has always been responsible for delivering one or the other of these anti-Congress, anti-BJP outfits to either the Congress-led UPA or the BJP-led NDA as a client or junior partner, depending upon the pragmatic calculus of immediate interests and benefits such forces embody. It is this failure of the LF that has always rendered all its attempts to forge an anti-Congress, anti-BJP front opportunistic. And the failure stems from the LF’s fatally inverted mode of politics. Its tactics of sewing up such a third front would be electorally brilliant only if it was preceded by serious struggles that engaged with the disaffection of the subaltern support bases of anti-Congress, anti-BJP political forces and enabled them to articulate them in an anti-systemic and critical idiom of social and political transformation. Such an engagement would, as a matter of fact, make such front-building politically redundant for the CPI(M)-led Left Front’s political advance.

The LF, however, seems obsessed with the absurd idea of driving social change through electoral politics and alliance-building for votes. And that, very clearly, is a symptom of its social-democratic malaise, which it contracted nearly three decades ago when it decided to give up the strong immunity of working-class struggles. It is this social-democratic degeneration that has prevented the LF to envision development as something that needs to fundamentally transform society and its constitutive political-economic logic by re-imagining the hierarchical and alienating configurations of power that are both envisaged and embodied by the modern state in all its different forms, including the liberal-democratic.

The LF’s social-democratic cretinism — constitutive of the process of institutionalisation of the various working-class movements from which it emerged — is manifest not only in the growing authoritarianism with which its constituent parties and state governments are run, but also in its excessive reliance on a broad-based system of dispensing patronage to keep those governments going. Such wide, cadre-based distribution of political patronage is an inevitable regression of the social-democratic imagination. One that envisages social progress and the well-being of the working people and the poor essentially as a question of distributive justice, which it believes is achievable by merely regulating equitable distribution of a given basket of socio-economic entitlements. In such a ‘Leftist’ scheme there is no place for interventionist and transformative politics because the state, which is the instrument of such efficient regulation and equitable redistribution, is treated as a passive and neutral entity that only needs to be controlled.

The upholders of such social-democratic Leftism make no attempt, as a consequence, to rethink and transform the structure of the modern state through a process of constant critique and struggle directed against the political economy that makes such an alienated and coercive institution of power possible. From there to neo-liberalism it is, as we have seen, merely one small step. And what use can working-class politics possibly have for such ‘Leftists’ or their ‘Leftism’?

Revolutionary May Day Greetings!

Saswat Pattanayak

Relevance of this day never was greater than it is today – as a celebration of collective human progress, as a reminder of historic labour struggles, as an occasion to reaffirm class allegiance with the working poor, and the majority strugglers.

Not an allegiance to exploitative ruling class demarcations of geographical boundaries drawn and redrawn through manipulative gestures of status-quo diplomacy. Not an allegiance to standards of academic, material, knowledge society thus distinguished and rewarded by the handful corporate czars to effectively facilitate their spheres of influence. Not an allegiance to normative philosophies of spiritual and religious practices aimed at bringing calm and internal peace through aggrandizing state of ignorance, indifference and ineptitude.

An allegiance to organized human labour necessarily requires obliterations of several convenient divisions mapped thus by the ruling class combines, while recreating new necessary ones.

Class allegiance in action must uproot the notions of purity attached with the cultural high-handedness in the form of canonic texts, classical arts and holy scriptures. Owing to lack of time from life’s labour, indulging in critical reflections on societal upbringings often becomes impossible or inadequate. As a result, the majority’s thought processes of any time are mostly conditioned by the simplistically offered explanations of recognized experts, not reshaped through rigorous testing by the self of acquired knowledge and incidental experiences. Such a propensity towards contentment by not subjecting oneself to question the foundations of belief systems helps maintain the glorification of cultural produces that puts the peoples in their oppressed places: that is, at the level of passive observers.

Authoritative texts irrespective of how patriarchal, discriminative and violent they are – all religious scriptures fall into this category – are passively consumed as holy and irrefutable. Ongoing texts of necessary collective resistance do not find a publishing house or a review on the mainstream liberal media. Classical as well as postmodern arts depicting both the royal past and confused future are heralded as containing “high” artistic value, while realist arts depicting peoples revolutions in the past or existing organized working class movements are discarded as socialist propaganda. Labour union songs, films portraying human labour as protagonist, and books about organized revolutionary history are forced out of circulation. If elite culture is limited to incomprehensible museums, popular culture is defined in terms of vulgar exhibits of indiscriminate media consumption. After dumbing down people through trivia overloads, they are praised for being free to choose what works best for their lives. After conditioning popular thoughts through uncritical materials, subjects are offered options to choose – between Coke and Pepsi, Disney and James Bond, McCain and Obama, Drama and Romance, Oprah Winfrey and Ellen Degeneres, Rock and Pop. Choices vary only by degrees, because they simply cannot vary by kind. Such wide array of similar choices offered by corporate greed must necessarily be a substitute for the limited options necessary for establishment of a classless society. They cannot be supplements.

Classical/postmodern and socialist/realist choices cannot co-exist harmoniously. In their realized state, the monumental and fundamental conflicts must surface. Just as haves and the have-nots cannot co-exist peacefully. In their emancipated states, revolutionary struggles must take over. Political systems that claim otherwise and preach possibility of peaceful coexistence between economically disparate classes merely work overtime to deceive their subjects through propagandist media which conveniently redefine economic classes (hence, a creation of “Middle Class”) and reposition boundaries of dissent by forming among themselves mutually respecting groups of liberals and conservatives – as a result, annihilating the possibility of communistic discourse around property relations.

Political systems such as these – the wide array of “Democracies” rule over a comfortably numb, blissfully ignorant, uncritically religious, and eternally grateful mass of people who are preached the merits of self-centric career growth, domestic peace and personal saving accounts over the high costs they cause – endless cycles of poverty, unemployment, lack of healthcare, absence of socially relevant education, continuation of escalated wars, and unquestioned acceptance of accumulation of private wealth as a necessary virtue. This hegemonist worldview not only widens its own sphere but in the process closes the alternatives. As a result, individual comforts take precedence over collective good and external aggression is justified in the name of internal peace. The wealthy section is heralded as deserving, the poor as resulting high-crime neighborhoods. The rich are rewarded with tax-breaks and bank loans while the poor are condemned to be credit-unworthy and liabilities. The true majority comprising the working class is treated as a minority when it comes to effecting administrative changes, policies governing education, house ownerships, business labour practices and environmental concerns. The true minority consisting of the historically privileged and their recent elite cronies express and install the legislations that suit their interest while masquerading them as national interests. Hence the president of a given country declares wars in these times under the advice of the friendly military-industrial lobby without taking into account the interest of majority of people in the world. What is worse, the majority of people are in fact attributed as the ones who wanted to go to war in the first place. After all, in the democracies – the system where the leaders are elected by virtue of how much money they have gathered – people deserve the kind of government they elect. Since people have exercised their voting options – no matter how uninformed they were kept in their choices not just to vote one leader or the other but about their stance on the process of farcical elections themselves – the leaders carry out most heinous of acts relegating the consequences of responsibilities to the masses.

Under the conditioned pretense of being active deciders of their destinies, people support their elected heads in all unfortunate decisions – just as inside houses the children do not question their reactionary parents, students do not confront their ignorant teachers, followers do not challenge their religious preachers. In effect, narratives of socioeconomic history are authoritative when they speak through the ruling class lenses. Students grow curiosity about the hairstyles and handbags of the First Ladies of White House, than pose critical questions concerning the reason why their own working mothers toil so hard and yet feel they do not deserve the similar treatments as the rich presidential wives or their corporate guests at grand banquets. A “free” society based on rhetoric of individual liberty suffers from being inherently an unfree, ignorant, selfishly passive one. Women are defined by gender roles prescribed to them by men. Their loyalty is defined in terms of how much of the body they cover, and their freedom is defined in terms of how much of the body they expose. From their menstrual cycles to pregnancy months, their status as workers is defined as a liability by norm and disability by law. When the entire workforce strives to accentuate the greedy private capitalist bank accounts, the sense of contribution to societal developments is felt through the merciful charities – disguised as tax evasions – of rich individuals, and through painfully slow legislations of judicial systems that offer drops of justice from time to time. Legal amendments to grant freedoms to minorities – that conveniently divided group of oppressed world majority – offer quotas in lowly paid jobs in form of so-called affirmative actions and reservations. Not as reparations to the historic damages.

Demands for reparations lead to revolutions. Revolutions are prevented by means of granting of charities. Status quo of the privileged is maintained through shedding of material grants, and guilt, from their surplus. World Bank loans and grants to the landless in the world is an act of charity on behalf of the greedy bankers, financiers who put their poster-boys at the helm of political power just to prevent any step toward reparations. In these days as always in the past, private bankers help their political weapons to rule over the people. They do so by granting credits and loans to people for essential needs that otherwise should be taken care of by the governments. Instead, availing of housing, healthcare and education facilities are privatized in order to keep people debt-ridden throughout their lives. Debts and interests accrued on them create a majority population that is unable to conceptualize the demands of reparations. On a May Day today it is only important to note that Bank of America which has received billions of taxpayers money not only spends them for its own profit motives by pursuing a credit war on the hapless consumers; it also lets the CEO Ken Lewis receive $35 million salary in the past two years; and what is worse, it fires thousands of employees who cannot avail of the so-called Employees Free Choice Act – yet another false promise from the American President Obama, known better as the lasting friend of the corrupt banks.

It is not enough to say the economic class war on majority of world’s peoples is an indictment for the freedom and equality envisaged for our world. Indeed, it is only natural that in order to keep the world unfree and unequal, it is important that the economic class war waged by the rich upon the poor continues in this manner. For the ruling class of individualistic corporate, political, judicial, academic, religious profiteers who assume the world does not need revolutionary replacements whereby they must be prepared to give up their private houses, businesses and mansions, it is necessary for them to continue exploiting people – directly and indirectly- by preaching peace while waging war, teaching lies while educating the youths, celebrating private properties while pretending to be moral and religious.

Those of us who must realign or strengthen our class allegiances with the oppressed and the exploited, must sympathetically understand why the ruling class does what it is doing. Only then can we unite together to transcend barriers and divisions instilled among us by the exploiters and empathetically revolt for the classless society that we strive for. May Day is an occasion to stop wondering in surprise. Only yet another day we need to rise above and beyond the divisions. And working class must still continue to unite even more and reach out to those workers who have doubts choosing which side they must be on.

Laal Salaam!

Sri Lanka: Genocide and Other Majoritarian Falsehoods

Pothik Ghosh

Majoritarian chauvinism is almost always seen as a natural, if not a fitting, response to fascistic tendencies within a minority community. Sri Lanka has been no exception. The manner in which the triumphal advance of the island-nation’s armed forces into the northern bastion of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been welcomed the world over, and particularly in India, indicates this has indeed become established wisdom. Buoyed by the current discourse on terrorism, the global opinion seems to have internalised the idea that violence cannot be immoral or unjust as long as it emanates from the state. And yet there could not be a crueler joke at this moment than to offer the imminent victory of the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) over the LTTE as hope of redemption to Tamils of the island-nation. Not only would such a victory weigh heavily against them by reinforcing the oppressive status quo and its configurations of majoritarianised socio-political power; it would completely obscure the origins of authoritarian and bonapartist tendencies among Tamils in the institutionalised Sinhala majoritarianism and the larger fascist conjuncture of Sri Lankan society.

New Delhi is probably being naïve when it continually expresses its concern for the civilian Tamil population of northern Sri Lanka even as it extends complete ‘moral’ support to the SLA’s operations against the Tigers’ apparatus of “terror”. The two simply do not sit together. Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s assertion that the SLA has been extremely careful in preventing collateral damage while mounting and carrying out successful military assaults on the political-military bases of the LTTE is, in that context, entirely disingenuous. And the only claim that exceeds such cant is Colombo’s declaration that it would implement the country’s 13th constitutional amendment for devolution of more powers to the northern province, once the LTTE has been wiped out, to enable the majority Tamil population of that province to realise its aspiration for greater autonomy. For, it is precisely the repeated denial of such autonomy to the Tamils by the majoritarian Sinhala polity and state that jump-started the Tamil separatist insurgency and civil war in Sri Lanka. It is kind of hard to believe that the island Tamils, who failed to wrest such autonomy from the Sinhala state during the heyday of their politics, would be bestowed with such autonomy at a time when they have no real and effective political agency left.

If Colombo does, indeed, effect such devolution, it would be no more than a top-down political manoeuvre, which instrumentalises Tamil autonomy and renders it purely formal. In other words, such institutionalised autonomy would barely be a chimera of the political autonomy the Sri Lankan Tamil struggle, both in its federalist-constitutionalist phase and its more radical separatist-nationalist moment, had sought to accomplish. This struggle for autonomy, albeit articulated by the bourgeois logic of competitive national sovereignty, had potentially posed the question of transforming the unequal configurations of social power and entitlements and their institutionalisation in a Sinhala majoritarian state into a more cooperative, dialogic and egalitarian socio-economic formation and, therefore, a more democratic and participatory state formation. The autonomy the Rajapaksa regime would deliver to the northern Tamils – whose vigorous political struggle for self-determination has almost entirely been exterminated – after it militarily vanquishes the LTTE, would leave the institutionalised structures of majoritarian power, and the unequal social order it is constitutive of, intact. Such autonomy would, therefore, at best create a new strata of Tamil political elite, which would be accommodated by its Sinhala counterparts in a spirit of class collaboration within the existing structures of socio-economic privilege and socio-political power. Meanwhile, the condition of the pauperised Tamil working class – which is already quite handicapped by the disappearance of the vigorous Tamil nationalist struggle and the non-emergence of a real proletarian movement – would only get worse.

That, after all, is exactly what Colombo has achieved in the name of devolution in the other Tamil majority province in the east, which was once also a hotbed of LTTE activity. The Tamils who comprise the supposedly more autonomous provincial government are essentially renegade LTTE elite, including Colonel Karuna, who was Vellupillai Prabhakaran’s eastern satrap till he fell out with the Tiger supremo in what was no more than a power struggle between two sections of the LTTE elite. That this government has delivered neither democracy nor equity to the eastern province is amply indicated by reports of a new power struggle having taken root within the breakaway LTTE faction and its government with the resulting violence spilling over into its wider Tamil-dominated society.

It is nobody’s case, though, that the LTTE is a paragon of national-liberationist and revolutionary virtues. The organisation has become, for its Tamil constituency, a fount of institutionalised military oppression. It has, as a consequence, undermined the very concept of Tamil political autonomy it claims to be fighting for. The question, in such circumstances, is who will decimate and displace the LTTE and how will it be done? To assume, as many including even some liberal sympathisers of Sri Lankan Tamils have, that it does not matter at this juncture if this task of eliminating the authoritarian organisation is accomplished by the security forces of the majoritarian Sinhala state is not only politically misplaced, but ethically troublesome too. The modality of politics constitutive of the ongoing anti-LTTE operation of the SLA sees not only the competitive struggle posed by the LTTE-led Tamil political elite against the Sinhala elite as a threat to the latter’s superior position within the socio-political hierarchy in the region, it even sees whatever is left of the non-LTTE Tamil nationalist impulse rooted in the Tamil working class as a challenge to its position and the hegemony of competitive and stratified capitalist socialisation it embodies. The overrunning of Killinochi, the LTTE’s administrative capital, by the SLA and the current fight to the finish it is waging against Tiger guerrillas in the jungles of Mullaithivu are, therefore, part of a deliberate military-political strategy to destroy not only the LTTE but also, in the bargain, crush all genuine aspirations for Tamil autonomy and empowerment and the concomitant potential desire to shift the paradigm of socialisation from competition and domination to cooperative socio-economic association and socio-political dialogue.

To not recognise this modality of anti-LTTE Sinhala politics, even as the LTTE is castigated for its reactionary and authoritarian strain of Tamil nationalism renders ‘fascism’ into an abstract, one-dimensional moral category and fails to locate it within the larger conjunctural dynamic of capitalism and its institutionalised structures of power. The LTTE’s ossification into a parallel state indicates the transformation of a section of the leadership of the Tamil nationalist resistance into a bureaucratised political elite. This transition, which occurs in all movements for political autonomy, has in this case underscored the failure of a section of the Tamil resistance movement to articulate, not merely subjectively but also objectively, the dialectical interplay between the social and the political. All struggles for political autonomy, whether proletarian or national-liberationist, aim to capture state power. Such seizure of state power is, however, not an end in itself. It is the first step towards reconfiguring institutionalised political power in a fashion that renders the state formation more participatory so that the qualitative and quantitative distribution and circulation of resources, which are constitutive of the differential of socio-political power, are also radically altered to yield a more egalitarian and less exploitative socio-economic order. An anti-LTTE critique and political struggle, which ought to have emerged from within the wider Sri Lankan Tamil society, would have sought to redress the failure of the Tamil nationalist movement on that count. The struggle, which would have sought to displace the LTTE, would not have implied a criticism of the Tigers’ will to capture state power as it would have attempted to do pretty much the same. Rather, it ought to have spelt rejection of the LTTE on behalf of the dispossessed and disenfranchised majority of the Sri Lankan Tamils for its unwillingness to reconfigure hierarchised structures of social power into a maximally democratic, cooperative and dialogic socio-political domain. This struggle, needless to say, would have had to be against the LTTE and the new Tamil political elite it embodies without giving up the larger Tamil resistance against Sinhala chauvinism.

In fact, the continuous forging of alliances among various Tamil nationalist outfits, their frequent disintegration into mutually warring factions, and splits within organisations – ever since the days of the formation of the Tamil United Front in 1972, the Tamil United Liberation Front in 1976 and right up until the mid-’80s – was precisely the churn that resulted from such struggles within the movement among the champions of a Tamil elite constantly in the making and the proponents of Tamil underclasses. That this churn eventually came to an end with the LTTE managing to successfully eradicate all opposition to its Thermidorian ascendancy within the Tamil national movement in Sri Lanka is largely responsible for the current predicament of the Sri Lankan Tamils where they are condemned to choose between two forms of ethno-nationalist authoritarianism.

That the Tamil movement for political autonomy has been a nationalist movement makes this predicament doubly difficult to beat, especially for the Tamil working class. Isaac Deutscher had, in an interview on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to the New Left Review in 1967, said: “…even in the revolutionary phase each nationalism has its streak of irrationality, an inclination to exclusiveness, national egoism and racism.” He could well have been speaking about Tamil nationalism.

There is absolutely no doubt that both the initial federalist movement for Tamil autonomy, under the leadership of S J V Chelvanayagam’s Tamil Federal Party, and the violent Tamil nationalist separatism into which it was subsequently transformed, through two decades of the recalcitrant rise and spread of Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism, were largely centred on a revanchist conception of the indigenous Tamil community’s royalist and feudal past in the northern and eastern parts of the island. And yet it would be equally difficult to deny that the emergence of such politics was entirely on account of the Tamils’ political disenfranchisement, socio-economic dispossession and cultural marginalisation – various moments of a singular political-economic manoeuvre – effected by an extremely repressive and supremacist Sinhala polity. Merely because native Tamil elites of Sri Lanka’s north and east experienced the institutionalised socio-economic marginalisation and political disempowerment of their community as an erosion of their traditional privileges, and have articulated it thus, does not mean that the Sinhala ruling classes have not systematically repressed and pauperised them. Legislation such as the Official Language Act, 1956, which proclaimed Sinhalese as the sole official language, the enactment of a Sinhala-supremacist Constitution in 1972 that made Buddhism into a de-facto state religion, not to speak of various legal and extra-legal measures (riots and pogroms) to socio-economically hold down the Tamils, are examples of how Sinhala majoritarianism has been the local ideological manifestation of the capitalist political economy of economic exploitation, social oppression and political domination. In such circumstances, Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism, which is objectively located in a social group that aspires to liberate itself from socio-political domination and economic marginalisation, cannot be rejected just because its ideological provenance and political tenor have been revanchist and elitist respectively. To quote Deutscher again: “The nationalism of the people in semi-colonial or colonial countries, fighting for their independence must not be put on the same moral-political level as the nationalism of conquerors and oppressors. The former has its historic justification and progressive aspect which the latter has not.”

True, the failure of Sri Lanka’s native Tamils to take up the cause of the Indian origin Tamil plantation workers of the central highlands, when they were repatriated to India in 1964 after the major anti-Tamil pogrom of 1958 in the Sinhala-dominated areas, was precisely on account of this elitist and revivalist orientation of the Tamil autonomy movement. And yet that would only be a partial telling of the story. Most of the blame for the brutal marginalisation, and repatriation (read expulsion) of this indentured community of Tamil workers should be laid on the doors of the Communist Party of Ceylon and the Ceylon Workers’ Party: working class organisations that had been the principal political agency of those central highland Tamils till they gradually began allowing their politics, together with that of other Sinhala liberals, to be by and large subsumed by the right-wing nationalism of the Sinhala elite. That, needless to say, virtually extinguished the fundamentally secular and social transformative politics of the Tamil indentured labourer community. A politics that could have emerged as a more progressive and ecumenical alternative to both the LTTE’s brand of authoritarian nationalism and the majoritarian chauvinism of the Sinhala ruling classes.

Besides, it would be grossly inaccurate to trace the genealogy of LTTE’s autocratic vision of Tamil nationalism to the elitist ideological moorings of the original movement for Tamil autonomy. The emergence of revolutionary guerrilla groups through the mid-’70s to the early ’80s, which either avowed a left-wing nationalist or a Maoist position, shows that nationalism of Sri Lankan Tamils had progressed beyond its elitist beginnings in the quest for federal autonomy towards a politics that sought to envisage national self-determination in terms of a larger project of militant social transformation. That groups such as the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation, Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students, People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam and Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front were eventually wiped out by the LTTE, which had in the meantime degenerated into a bureaucratised and institutionalised cabal of a new Tamil political elite, was as much on account of the tactical, political-military failure of those revolutionary nationalist groups vis-à-vis the LTTE, as the effective support the LTTE elite received from the Indian ruling classes (state) in their collaborative competition against the Sinhala ruling elite on one hand, and the revolutionary nationalist Tamil impulse on the other. All that, however, changed with the arrival of the Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka in 1987. The war the IPKF waged against the LTTE signaled a shift in the axis of competitive struggle among various configurations of the regional elite within the larger stratified capitalist hegemony in the region. Clearly, the Indian state was now collaborating with the Sinhala elite in a bid to not only prevent the LTTE’s new political elite from emerging as a force to reckon with within the stratified capitalist order of the region, but to also exterminate all revolutionary Tamil nationalist impulses that could pose a challenge to the hegemony that underpinned this order. The support the current Indian government has been extending to the Sri Lankan Army’s relentless advance into Tiger country, even as it joins Colombo to pay lip-service to the well-being of Tamil civilians “trapped by the LTTE fighters” in the jungles of Mullaithivu, is of a piece with this decades-old Indian imperialistic enterprise of preserving the existing structure of socio-political stratification in the region and the capitalist hegemony that engenders it. It is probably not naïveté after all.