Millennium Post

Remembering a Marxian caveat

The topic had been the particular type of capitalism that had been unleashed in the country for the past two decades, along with the economic reforms programme. Any critique of this twin attributes of the current Indian society, marked oneself out as a rabid and an incurable leftist, or worse, communist.

One friend, for example, gently slipped in a comment about a ‘devious’ trend in this column of slipping in Marxist thoughts at awkward moments. Another, while quaffing glasses of beer at the Press Club of India, shook violently when he said ‘One has had this kind of talk in coffee houses in youth, it is no longer valid (supposedly, in a gentlemen’s club).’

Not that anyone can find too many gentlemen at the PCI, the underlying assumption of that statement is that ‘communist’ politics have not graduated from the coffee houses to more serious chambers like where one can enjoy one’s adulthood, while pouring down the gullet such heady mixes of beer and vodka, or any other tipple of choice.

Unfortunately, all these reactions are somewhat fact based, at least as much when Francis Fukuyama wrote End of History, possibly at a severe moment of delirium when he saw the Berlin Wall being taken away in pieces by the people on both sides of the dividing line.

In other words, the collapse of the Soviet Union had spawned a particular thought process that gave birth to a belief – that Karl Marx and his theory of scientific socialism had been buried in the rubble when all the statues of Stalin, Beria and Lenin were destroyed on the Russian streets.
And the attendant belief was that Marxian thought had also ended at that moment, never to rise again. Unfortunately for those believers, it didn’t require more than a decade and a half to witness that stellar illusion come crashing down to mother earth.

The irony for the followers of Marx lies in the fact that the Soviet Union and its satellite states had very little in common with what the 19th century German Jewish philosopher had espoused. For example, Peter Hudis, writing in the recently stated, ‘Marx opposed centralised state control of the economy (he called those who advocated it as ‘crude and unthinking communists’); he passionately defended freedom of the press (he made his debut as a radical journalist espousing it); and he ridiculed the notion that a small ‘vanguard’ of revolutionaries could successfully restructure society without the democratic consent of its citizens.’

In fact, it is the demise of  Stalinist Soviet Union that has shone light on the various facets of Marxian thought that have been worked upon by the Frankfurt School, for example or Antonio Gramsci or Louis Althusser. The process they posited was of modernising Marx and taking a relook the revolutionary thinker, who thought more about the emancipatory project of humankind at the levels of individuals. Not many people know that the first so-called Marxist revolution in Germany in 1848 did not have Marx as its participant. For, Marx had feared that the working class, which had been joined by a section of the bourgeoisie, would be betrayed by the latter. And that was exactly how the events progressed and the revolution was crushed.

The principal factor for which he will be remembered is a prescient understanding of the nature of capital and capitalism. The crisis that began in 2008 and is considered to be the biggest and longest ever, and whose effect is now being felt in places like our country, is something that can only be understood by a reading of his tropes.

Indeed, Marx envisioned a successful transformation of the human society to socialism that could only follow an evolution of a bourgeois revolution. The socialist revolutionary consciousness can only grow after the proletariat has experienced the vicissitudes of capital.

So, when the communist parties join in the electoral battle in this country, for an observer they seem doing it while fully understanding that India is not yet ready for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, for the latter itself have not been able to subdue the pre-modern, feudal roots of the society.

Thus when they seek to develop a common front with non-communist parties on the lowest common denominator of ‘secularism,’ to an observer, they are actually seeking to push the country towards completion of the bourgeois revolution that has removed the ideologies of regression based on religion or tradition. In that process, if they achieve political power their goal will be to provide some temporary relief from the severe exploitative nature of capital.

It is important to understand that the UPA II’s pro-people ‘entitlement’ programmes are actually a garb for the process of rapacious growth of capital under a veneer of regulatory mechanisms that have been put in place to mislead people.

The people are given an impression that these regulators are there to bind the owners of capital in a rule-bound society. We have seen what this rule-bound society had to undergo: various multi-billion rupee scams, where the politicians are bought with no recourse to punitive law that can expropriate the stolen billions from them.

The author is a senior journalist
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