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Lilliputian Leninism: A Progeric Disorder

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About a year back, we had written an editorial for Radical Notes about workers’ struggle in Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar plant. And other videos and commentaries were posted too, which critically analysed the dominant perception among pro-worker forces regarding the pre-and-post July 18 struggle of Maruti workers. A comrade associated with Bigul Mazdoor Dasta came heavily against our position, and wrote a 7500-word essay to rebut the dangerous anti-“Leninist” strand that seemed to emerge from our position. To demonstrate the need to combat “new philosophers”, he found anarcho-virus, that we were carrying, in other organisations and groups too, so presumably he saw some kind of ‘anarchist’/’libertarian’ consolidation (alas!) happening in India. The urgency of the polemic is furthermore emphasised by the conclusion that he makes:

All the energies of the revolutionary intelligentsia today must be directed towards building … a revolutionary party. Lest, the moment of Socialism will pass, the “new philosophers” will continue to remain prisoners of their seductive philosophical ruminations, and our punishment will be fascism.

What is most interesting about this piece is the ability of the author to spend so many words to assert one single point – that the “new philosophers” in their fling with Maruti workers are rejecting the role of the vanguard (and thus, Leninism), and how could they? And he is forcing his readers to refer to wikipedia back and forth, to know the influence of real devils behind such rejection – Rosa Luxemburg, Tronti, Negri, Holloway, Castoriadis, Operaismo, Autonome, Johnson-Forrest Tendency… Oh, I forgot to add, Paul Mattick and Pannekoek. Tch…I missed two more, Badiou and Zizek. This new trend that he finds is “a childish mixture” of all these and has eventually congealed into “one single tendency of anti-party revolutionism”. For the convenience of his readers (and to demonstrate that The Vanguard is already aware of all of them), he has put them in bold black letters. We are really grateful to him for providing us a reading list that will help us in understanding and articulating our own position well.

I

Well, comrade, we don’t reject the vanguards (anyway, do we really need to do that, and more importantly, who are we to do that?), we are simply saying that they must cease to behave like competing Lilliputians – daring to bind and pull the working class in spite of their own progressively constipated constitution, and doing all sorts of gymnastics to draw its attention towards them.

Gulliver and Lilliput Warriors

Gulliver and Lilliput Warriors

 

In your passion to exorcise the devils, you have forgotten that Lenin had spells and counter-spells too, depending on his immediate polemical and rhetorical needs. Some of these devils have understood that aspect of Lenin better than the Lilliputian Leninists. Let me start with an example that uses the words that you abhor:

“…it is a fact that the spontaneous awakening of the masses of the workers … has been taking place with astonishing rapidity during the past few years. The “material elements” of the movement have grown enormously…, but the conscious leaders … lag behind this growth.” (Lenin, “A talk with Defenders of Economism”, 1901, emphases added)

That great and very creative exponent of Leninism, whom we all admire, too has something for a devilish use. He has time and again warned against the Leninist tendency of making the party-form and vanguardism into “an immutable fetish”.

“For it is of the essence of history always to create the new, which cannot be forecast by any infallible theory. It is through struggle that the new element must be recognized and consciously brought to light from its first embryonic appearance. In no sense is it the party’s role to impose any kind of abstract, cleverly devised tactics upon the masses. On the contrary, it must continuously learn from their struggle and their conduct of it. But it must remain active while it learns, preparing the next revolutionary undertaking. It must unite the spontaneous discoveries of the masses, which originate in their correct class instincts, with the totality of the revolutionary struggle, and bring them to consciousness. In Marx’s words, it must explain their own actions to the masses, so as not only to preserve the continuity of the proletariat’s revolutionary experiences, but also consciously and actively to contribute to their further development. The party organization must adapt itself to become an instrument both of this totality and of the actions which result from it. If it fails to do this it will sabotage developments which it has not understood and therefore not mastered. Therefore, all dogmatism in theory and all sclerosis in organization are disastrous for the party. For as Lenin said: ‘Every new form of struggle which brings new perils and sacrifices inevitably “disorganizes” an organization ill-prepared for the new form of struggle. It is the party’s task to pursue its necessary path openly and consciously – above all in relation to itself – so that it may transform itself before the danger of disorganization becomes acute, and by this transformation promote the transformation and advance of the masses.’” (Lukacs, Lenin: A Study on the Unity of his Thought, 1924)

We are simply pleading, nothing more and nothing less, that workers can and do discover something new through their class instincts, in both political and organisational terms. For both Lenin and Lukacs, more urgent was the “party’s” task of recognising the new, bringing it to light and preparing itself for “new perils and sacrifices”, so that it catches up with and does not “lag behind” the growth of the “material elements of the movement.”

II

We do understand Lenin’s conjunctural compulsion to use Kautsky’s quote in What is to be done? about the relevance of bourgeois intellectuals to point out that workers need to educate themselves, to understand capitalism and capitalist strategies, to understand their own potentiality, and not just react to their immediate experience (in fact, grasping the richness of this experience requires a science). But we are suspicious of the use of Kautsky’s quote by Lilliputian leftists to defend their own bourgeois outsidedness and the practice of sermonising the proletarians – reducing their experience to subalternity and confusing this revolutionary class to another sack of potatoes aggregated externally and waiting for deliverance. In fact, Lenin’s footnote to Kautsky’s quote transforms the recognition of the “outside” into the Brechtian process of distanciation whereby the revolutionary class can comprehend the capitalist totality and critique its everyday life that would help it in designing its self-activities beyond the evolutionary guerrilla battles – and in the process create its own theoreticians – Weitlings and Proudhons. As Lukacs says, “‘from the outside’, that is, theoretically” – that’s all.

Lenin makes himself furthermore clear, when he says (in the footnote that the Vanguard seemed to have memorised, without understanding its real import):

it is necessary that the workers do not confine themselves to the artificially restricted limits of “literature for workers” but that they learn to an increasing degree to master general literature. It would be even truer to say “are not confined”, instead of “do not confine themselves”, because the workers themselves wish to read and do read all that is written for the intelligentsia, and only a few (bad) intellectuals believe that it is enough “for workers” to be told a few things about factory conditions and to have repeated to them over and over again what has long been known.” (emphasis added)

Yes, we are stressing exactly the same – instead of going on telling the workers that they “do not confine themselves” (and since we are your “outside”, we will tell you what to do), we have been telling our vanguards that the workers “are not confined”, and they must not dare to confine them to their consciousness-raising sermons and “cleverly designed tactics”.

III

The other related charge that our vanguard makes on us is that of celebrating spontaneity. We do agree with him that celebrating spontaneity is really bad, but we must add, denigrating it is worse. Celebration is bad because it reduces spontaneity to pristine purity and subalternity, making it incomprehensible, aborting the pregnant possibilities and squeezing away the radical political vigour inherent in it– its anti-systemic contentiousness. But its denigration is fascistic – since it takes away the agency of the working class and puts it in the hands of a few “comedians of the vanguard party”, as CLR James used to characterise his erstwhile Trotskyist comrades. In fact, celebration and denigration go together in fascism – it is like a bandar-madari game – the instinct of the monkeys and the duce‘s manipulation.

The issue for us is to understand spontaneity and its richness, its potentialities. They are, in the words of (y)our Lenin, the “material elements”. However, there is no pure spontaneity. In fact, as Gramsci would say, such spontaneity “does not exist in history”, and the difference between the spontaneous and the conscious “is a ‘quantitative’ difference of degree, not one of quality.” The recognition of spontaneity helps us in understanding the movement – its historical necessity. This recognition shields us against its disparagement as a cooked-up venture and against the charge of voluntarism, and establishes the matter-of-factness of the revolutionism of the working class.

IV

Lenin very aptly described word-chasing “comedians” in his own party (60-70% of the Bolsheviks).

“Comedians! They chase words, without thinking about how devilishly complicated and subtle life is, producing entirely new forms, which we only partly “catch on” to. People for the most part (99 per cent of the bourgeoisie, 98 per cent of the liquidators, about 60–70 per cent of the Bolsheviks) don’t know how to think, they only learn words by heart. They’ve learnt the word “underground”. Firmly. They can repeat it. They know it by heart. But how to change its forms in a new situation, how to learn and think anew for this purpose, this we do not understand.” (Lenin to Inessa Armand, 1913)

The same has happened with “vanguard”, “party”, “outside”, “spontaneity” etc., whose particular meanings or forms were removed from the contextual and conceptual matrices in which Lenin used them, and were then essentialised. Our neo-“Bolsheviks” have learnt them firmly, and keep on repeating them, without understanding that these words or concepts are pregnant with meanings or forms which could help in developing a language of revolutionary praxis in the changing dynamics of class struggle. They have reduced Leninism to a language which is a mere routinised expression of their organisational existentialism. It has become a vehicle to justify their own bureaucratic congealment – existential outsidedness, voluntarist symbolism and competitive sectarian stinginess.

However, Marx has already given us a mechanism to measure the worth of Lilliputian acrobatic contests vis-a-vis “the real workers’ movement”.

“The development of the system of Socialist sects and that of the real workers’ movement always stand in inverse ratio to each other. So long as the sects are (historically) justified, the working class is not yet ripe for an independent historic movement. As soon as it has attained this maturity all sects are essentially reactionary. Nevertheless what history has shown everywhere was repeated within the International. The antiquated makes an attempt to re-establish and maintain itself within the newly achieved form.” (Marx to Friedrich Bolte in New York, 1871)

Our “vanguards” should do some reality check, whether they are already in Marx’s list of “the antiquated”. It might be that they suffer from premature senility or some variety of progeria – hence, when they compare themselves with others, they find the world full of childishness and infantile disorder.    

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Written by Pratyush Chandra

August 13, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Introducing Marx’s “Wage Labour and Capital”

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This text in Hindi has been written to introduce the Oriya translation of Marx’s “Wage Labour and Capital”. It mainly emphasises on the political reading of the text and of Marx’s other “economic” writings.

परिचय: श्रम और पूंजी के बीच सम्बन्ध – अर्थशास्त्र और राजनीति
(Introduction: The Labour-Capital Relationship – Economics and Politics)

मार्क्स की एक बात जिसे सबसे गलत ढंग से समझा गया है वह है उनका आर्थिक मूलाधार का सिद्धांत – कि तमाम मानवीय गतिविधियों का मूलाधार आर्थिक है. विरोधियों ने इस बात को पकड़ कर यह साबित करने की कोशिश की कि मार्क्स पूरे मानवीय सामाजिकता को आर्थिक संरचना का ऊपरी ढांचा मात्र मानते हैं. अतएव उनकी नज़र में मानवीय सोच और व्यवहार पूरी तरह से अर्थ-तंत्र द्वारा निर्धारित एवं परिभाषित हैं, उनकी अपनी कोई आन्तरिकता नहीं है, उनके विकास का अपना नियम नहीं है, उनकी स्वतःस्फूर्तता और अभिव्यक्ति पूर्णतः आर्थिक सन्दर्भ का नतीजा है.

दूसरी तरफ, मार्क्सवादियों ने मार्क्स के बचाव में कई तरह की व्याख्याएं दीं जिनका निचोड़ बस इतना है कि मार्क्स की समझ में आर्थिक मूलाधार होते हुए भी वह सब कुछ नहीं है. ग्रंथों पर ग्रन्थ लिखे गए मार्क्स के समझ की समृद्धि दिखाने के लिए – यह दर्शाने के लिए कि उनकी संस्कृति, साहित्य, राजनीति आदि की समझ कितनी समृद्ध थी. अवश्य ही इन सब से मार्क्सवाद और पैना हुआ तथा उसका अथाह विकास जो हम आज देख रहे हैं संभव हो सका.

परन्तु एक ज़रूरी चिंता जो इन तमाम बौद्धिकताओं के नीचे कहीं दब सी गयी – वह थी मार्क्स के चिंतन प्रक्रिया में आखिरकार आर्थिक मूलाधार का अर्थ क्या था. अधिकांश मार्क्सवादी पंडितों ने भी आर्थिक को अर्थ-शास्त्रीय चश्मे से ही देखा, जबकि मार्क्स का पूरा “सैद्धांतिक व्यवहार” अर्थ-शास्त्र की आलोचना पर टिका था. उन्होंने यह समझने की कोशिश की कि कैसे अर्थ-शास्त्रीय नियोजन मानवीय समाज की अस्तित्वपरकता को, उन मौलिक संघर्षों को, जिनके आधार पर पूरी सामाजिक आर्थिक संरचनाएं बनती और बिगड़ती हैं, ढांपता है. मार्क्स ने अपनी आलोचनाओं द्वारा उन शास्त्रीय और व्यवस्थापरक पर्दों को हटाकर पूंजीवादी सामाजिक-आर्थिक संरचना में गतिमान मानवीय श्रम – उसकी रचनात्मकता – पर आधिपत्य के लिए होते दैनिक संघर्षों के धरातल और नियमों को समझने की कोशिश की. उन्होंने पूंजीवादी व्यवस्था के तहत, उत्पादन के साधनों के ऊपर निजी और अपवर्जनात्मक अधिकारों से पैदा हुए मानवीय श्रम और उसकी रचनात्मकता के बीच अलगाव को समझा. उन्होंने दिखाया कि पूंजी वह सामाजिक सम्बन्ध है जिसके तहत जीवित श्रम को संचित श्रम की मूल्य रक्षा और वृद्धि के साधन मात्र में तब्दील कर दिया जाता है. पूरी सामाजिक संरचना – आर्थिक और राजनैतिक व्यवस्था – इसी सम्बन्ध को कायम रखने में मदद करती है.

मार्क्स की इस समझदारी ने अवश्य ही कई परिष्कृत सिद्धांतों को जन्म दिया, पर ये सिद्धांत कोई सैद्धांतिक अटखेलियों के लिए नहीं थे, बल्कि वे मार्क्स के राजनैतिक पहल का नतीजा थे. उनके लिए यथार्थ हमेशा सम्बन्धात्मक और गतिमान होता है, जिसमे अंतर्विरोधों की नियामक भूमिका होती है. यही वजह है पूंजी और श्रम के बीच के अंतर्विरोधात्मक परन्तु गतिशील सम्बन्ध की विशेषताओं के अध्ययन को वह आवश्यक समझते थे. जहां अर्थशास्त्री पूंजी-श्रम के सम्बन्ध को महज तकनीकी और प्रबंधकीय समझते हैं, वहां मार्क्स इस सम्बन्ध में अंतर्विरोधात्मकता को दिखाकर उसके राजनैतिक स्वरूप को उजागर करते हैं.

उन्नीसवीं सदी पूंजीवादी-औद्योगिक विकास के वैश्विक फैलाव और उसके बढ़ते अंतर्विरोधों का दौर था. कई तरह के सामाजिक विद्रोह पैदा हो रहे थे – अधिकांश तबकों का सर्वहाराकरण हो रहा था और मजदूर वर्ग सुसंगत शक्ति के रूप में ऐतिहासिक पटल पर पहली बार उभर रहा था. मार्क्स का दार्शनिक और राजनैतिक विकास इसी दौर में, यूरोप के क्रान्तिकारी मजदूरों के सरोकारों के बीच हुआ. इसी ने उनके वैचारिक चिंताओं को जन्म दिया.

“मजदूरी श्रम और पूंजी” मार्क्स के इसी राजनैतिक और सैद्धांतिक परिश्रम का आरंभिक नतीजा थी. उन्होंने पुस्तिका के आरम्भ में ही यह साफ़ कर दिया है कि किसी भी आन्दोलन का, “चाहे उसका लक्ष्य वर्ग-संघर्ष से कितना ही दूर क्यों न मालूम होता हो,” प्रगतिशील निष्कर्ष इस पर निर्धारित है कि उसमे मजदूर वर्ग की हिस्सेदारी किस प्रकार की है – वह कितनी निर्णायक है. मार्क्स की आर्थिक विवेचना इसी वर्ग-संघर्ष के मौलिक धरातल को समझने का, वर्गों के आपसी संरचनात्मक एवं विरोधात्मक सम्बंधों में परिवर्तनकारी संभावनाएं देखने का प्रयास है. यह विवेचना अर्थ-तंत्र की निष्पक्ष जाँच नहीं है, बल्कि ऐसी निष्पक्षता का दावा करते सामाजिक और आर्थिक “वैज्ञानिकों” का माखौल उड़ाती है. मार्क्स दिखाते हैं किस प्रकार आर्थिक तत्वों के तकनीकी पक्ष दिखाने के नाम पर इन पंडितों ने ज्यादा से ज्यादा सतही प्रक्रियाओं को ही दिखाया है – उन्होंने उनमे छिपे मानव सम्बंधों और संघर्षों को पूरी तरह से नज़रंदाज़ ही नहीं किया, वरन तकनीकी शब्दावलियों और विश्लेषणों के परत पर परत चढ़ाकर उनकी सच्चाई को ढांप दिया.

मार्क्स अपने विश्लेषणों द्वारा इन्ही संबंधों और संघर्षों की जांच करते हैं और उनकी मौलिकता को उजागर करते हैं. वह दिखाते हैं किस प्रकार से इन संबंधों और संघर्षों के तहत एक तरफ पूंजी मानवीय श्रम का अधिकाधिक जीन्सीकरण करने को उतारू (या कहें मजबूर) है, क्योंकि इस प्रक्रिया के फैलाव और गहनता में ही उसका जीवन है. इस प्रक्रिया के तहत श्रमिक श्रम-शक्ति देने वाला महज एक मशीन बन जाता है – श्रमिक के श्रम और उसकी रचनात्मकता को ही निचोड़ कर पूंजी को सतत नया जीवन मिलता है. परन्तु मार्क्स के लिए यह प्रक्रिया निश्चित नहीं है – वह संघर्ष है क्योंकि श्रमिक अपने मशीनीकरण, अर्थात श्रम-शक्ति से श्रम खींचने की प्रक्रिया, का लगातार चेतन-अवचेतन तौर पर विरोध करता है.

यह संघर्ष केवल उत्पादन प्रक्रिया में ही नहीं होता, बल्कि पूरे सामाजिक स्तर पर होता है. आखिरकार श्रमिक को श्रम बाजार में भी तो लाना होगा – जिसके लिए उसे मजबूर करना होगा. श्रमजीवियों का मजदूरीकरण अथवा सर्वहाराकरण ज़रूरी है. उसको भूमि और अन्य साधनों के बंधनों से मुक्त करना ज़रूरी है, तभी वह अपनी श्रम-शक्ति का व्यापार करने को मुक्त होगा. श्रम की यही “दोहरी मुक्ति” पूंजीवादी समाज व्यवस्था की नीव है. यही मुक्ति मजदूर-दासता की शुरुआत है. इस व्यवस्था के कायम रहने के लिए इस दोहरी मुक्ति को बनाए रखना आवश्यक है. श्रमिक के पास इतना हो कि वह अगले दिन काम के लिए तैयार हो पाए, और बस इतना ही हो कि वो काम के लिए तैयार रहने के लिए मजबूर हो. अतः उत्पादन प्रक्रिया की तैयारी में ही संघर्ष के तत्व मौजूद हैं, जो अपने दूसरे तेवर के साथ उस प्रक्रिया के अंतर्गत दिखाई देते है.

मुक्ति ही दासता है, सहमति ही जोर-जबरदस्ती है – पूंजीवाद की विशिष्टता उसके अंतर-द्वंद्व हैं, उसका दोहरापन है – पर यह द्वंद्व अथवा दोहरापन असल में पूंजी और श्रम के बीच हो रहे संघर्ष की सामरिक भाषा है. पूंजी के लिए मुक्ति, श्रम के लिए दासता है. मार्क्स इसी संघर्ष को पूंजीवादी समाज का आर्थिक मूलाधार मानते हैं – दूसरे शब्द में कहें, यही उनका आर्थिक मूलाधार का ‘राजनैतिक’ सिद्धांत है.

“मजदूरी-श्रम और पूंजी” एक ऐसी अनूठी पुस्तिका है जो कि मार्क्स की एक अधूरी कृति होते हुए भी पूंजीवादी विकास के भिन्न अवस्थाओं में नीहित श्रम-पूंजी संघर्ष की केन्द्रीयता को पहचानने में मदद करती है. भारत में अब कोई ऐसा कोना नहीं बचा जो पूंजीवाद से अछूता हो, और हम एहसास कर सकते हैं तमाम व्यक्तिगत और सामाजिक संघर्षों में पूंजीवादी अंतर्विरोधों को. मगर उन्हें पहचानने और इन संघर्षों के बीच सम्बन्ध स्थापित करने के लिए मार्क्स द्वारा विकसित सैद्धांतिक हथियारों की आज भी ज़रुरत है. “मजदूरी श्रम और पूंजी” भी कुछ ऐसे महत्वपूर्ण हथियार प्रदान करती है.

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नोट: हिंदी में इस पुस्तिका का अनुवाद “उजरती श्रम और पूंजी” के नाम से किया गया है.

Written by Pratyush Chandra

August 6, 2013 at 12:35 am

Asit Das on “The Posco Issue: Where do we stand”

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An interesting and controversial fact-sheet on the present state of the Anti-Posco struggle composed by a comrade (himself a prominent civil liberties activist) was earlier circulated on Countercurrents, New Socialist Initiative’s website etc and later apparently taken down. It has definitely disturbed the ‘radical’ civil libertarians in Delhi. The text tends to muddy the pristine domain of civil liberties and rights discourse by talking politics (whatever be its level). My criticism of the article is that ‘this’ politics is not enough.

http://stormingthewinterpalace.blogspot.in/2013/07/the-posco-issue-where-do-we-stand.html

In fact, what is happening with all major struggles in India is that various class and political currents in them are being ‘subalternised’, and their sanitised (of politics) translation done by the civil libertarians are publicised everywhere. It is high time we understand the pitfalls of putting civil liberties/rights discourse above politics. This discourse has radical possibilities only when they are under the command of revolutionary politics. What has actually happened is the opposite – ‘civil libertisation’ (ngoisation) of radical (armed/unarmed) politics, thus reducing the latter to militant reformism.

Written by Pratyush Chandra

August 1, 2013 at 4:13 am

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