On the Automobile Workers’ Convention organised by Maruti Workers in December 2012

The following text was translated in Hindi and published by our comrades in Nagpur, for the first issue of “Parivartan ki Disha” (January 2013):

Maruti Workers organised a whole day convention of automobile workers on December 9 to oppose continuing contractualisation and casualisation of the workforce and to press for the workers’ rights to organise and to get decent wages. They showed their commitment to the struggle that they have been waging for the last two years despite intimidation and repression. The continuous attempts to alienate their representatives from them, either by buying them off or by accusing them of criminal offences and incarcerating them have failed to deter their resistance. Of course, the process of open victimisation that has started after the July 18 incident has embroiled a major section of the workforce in the legalese, which has put the workers on defensive. However, this call for a convention demonstrated their political astuteness, since only such moves can rebuild their strength and can renew their struggle to a wider scale.

It is difficult to assess the immediate impact of organising symbolic events like a convention – but it is a marvelous example of how workers themselves develop their political agencies and institutions within their own experiences. Of course, the proceedings of the convention were not unique and fell into the line of the usual spectacles which workers are forced fed, where leaders of various trade unions and workers organisations competed to sell diverse shades of representative languages and tactics. But as said earlier what matters is workers’ resolution to test and taste all forms of institutions available to them and go ahead searching for newer ones until they find ones that can really resonate with the levels of their everyday struggle and consciousness.

The Maruti Suzuki workers’ struggle is different from earlier struggles in the automobile sector in the sense that in this struggle there has been a continuous destruction of the various forms of segmentation that capital imposes on workers to break their unity. Earlier, the forms of workers organisation and struggles were determined by these segmentations, thus they remained largely within the limits of law and capital’s control. But Maruti workers have openly subverted the industrial order, reducing even the legal forms of organisation to mere instrumentality (i.e., even when the official union is that of the permanent workers, the non-legal form of workers unity across industrial divides is primary, thus reducing the union to a mere tool to negotiate and issue statements).

After the July 18 incident, the police repression was meant to subdue the workers, and alienate them from their arrested comrades. Of course, it put them on defensive, but the bond among workers forged during their long struggle was never broken. In fact, it strengthened more and more, and workers came out openly in support of their comrades both within the factory premises and outside. Whenever the management tries to appease the workers (like, by proposing to form a grievance committee), workers refuse to negotiate until their comrades are in jail.

Another aspect of the post-July 18 developments has been a wide support among the regional working class for the Maruti workers. The official and mainstream unions have been forced by their rank-and-file to rally in support of Maruti workers. Even the company union of Maruti’s Gurgaon plant had to extend their support. A general perception of Maruti (Manesar) workers has been that of a self-sacrificing youth committed against the contract labour system, wage disparities and oppressive working conditions. All this has put them in the leadership of the regional working class and its struggle. And this convention too showed their determination to take up this responsibility.


On Maruti violence, workers’ struggles etc


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”.

India’s overseas investments – some facts and meaning

This is a draft report that I submitted to an organisation early last year on the need to develop a labour perspective on India’s rising overseas investment in other developing economies. The report mainly analyses investments in Africa (esp Kenya and Sudan). It’s nothing great, but at least it grasps the urgency of developing such a perspective. It urges us to move beyond postcolonial anxiety and complexes in our understanding of India’s political economic location in global capitalism. At least, people in our neighbourhood and in economies far off, where Indian intervention has reached and increased, are beginning to understand the myth of third world homogeneity. See our interview with a prominent Bangladeshi Marxist, Anu Muhammad.

Download the report

For my earlier take on the issue,
Bush’s Passage to India: Why Does India Carry His Water? (Counterpunch, Feb 2006)

Reading Miliband’s “The Sickness of Labourism” after 50 years

There simply isn’t enough wind in present-day Labourism to fill the political sails of another Labour administration.

While Papa Miliband had already concluded this in 1960 (even before that), Miliband sons are busy filling the political sails of the Labour Party, which papa had declared to be a “sick party”, with something else.

Ralph Miliband’s decent commentary on the Labour defeat in 1959 in the first issue of NLR, “The Sickness of Labourism”, must be distributed to the new Labour leadership. In this article, he started with a quote from Tawney (1932):

“The Labour Party is hesitant in action, because divided in mind. It does not achieve what it could because it does not know what it wants”.

Miliband considered it to be a mild judgement in 1960. For him, things had further changed within the Labour Party. This hesitation and ambiguity might have existed on the part of the Party itself, however, its leadership knew what it was aiming for.

“It is true that leaders reflect tendencies. But there are times when leaders can powerfully re-inforce tendencies and greatly help to give them sharp political content. To ignore this in relation to the recent history of the Labour Party is to fall into the crassest kind of determinism.”

It was in the 1944 annual conference that the rank and file could force the leadership to the nationalisation programme for the last time, and,

In an historical perspective, the achievements of the Labour administrations of 1945—51 may well come to be seen as the maximum expression of Labourism in action.

His comments on the Tories too are astute:

The Tory Party has always been a much more complicated and sensitive animal than Labour has made allowance for. It has been, is and will remain, the main political expression of ruling class power—the party of property and privilege. It is also (and in this it really differs from the Labour Party) the political repository of much civilised savagery; a high proportion of its activist rank and file, as indeed of its parliamentary representation, can safely be relied on to express, publicly, but even more, privately, views and opinions which often seem to be part of the domain of psychopathology rather than of politics.

Were this all, the Tory Party would not be the most successful conservative Party in the world; indeed, it would long have ceased to occupy a significant place in political life.

But this is not all. The Tory Party is a deeply class-conscious party, much more so than the Labour Party, and its class-consciousness includes an awareness, however reluctant, however delayed its effects, that if the essentials of the social system it serves are to be preserved, some concessions have to be made to the pressures of the democracy. Thus the Tory Party adjusted itself to an extended suffrage, to trade union growth, to welfare services, to the emergence of the Labour Party as Opposition and as Government, to State intervention in economic affairs, even to the nationalisation of public utilities. It is now well advanced in the process of adapting itself to a mean, half-hearted, messy kind of labourism.

This flexibility at least helps to explain why a substantial proportion of the Tory Party’s electoral clientéle and of its support in the country has always included masses of people who had neither power, nor property, nor privilege.

Well, with hindsight, the state of the Labour Party as described by Miliband in 1960 resembles much of the parliamentarian left in India.

Is the Maoist movement in India “pre-political”?

In a recent meeting our comrade, Saroj Giri called the recent Maoist upsurge “pre-political”, which makes both Maoists and those against them uncomfortable. Obviously, there can be an endless debate over the textual lineage and correctness of this usage, as some raised in the meeting, but that is not my concern. Before that in an article in EPW he said (more ironically):

“Today when the country is promoting itself as a modern global democracy, with technocratic, security-centric, good governance replacing populist, messy ways of governing the masses, the combination of Maoists, who are literally the adivasis (“old, obsolete ideology”) of left politics, with the adivasi masses, seems to give rise to not just an “undemocratic” force but something almost primordial, pre-political…”

I find this characterisation interesting. For me, the notion of “pre-political” as used for Maoist ‘politics’ has two definite connotations:

Firstly, it stresses on the organicity of this ‘politics’ – i.e., it is not something simply representative and thus external;

Secondly, this ‘politics’ is embedded in the subalternity of a particular section in the working class – which is subaltern in the sense, that it has not found its generalised political expression as that for the working class.

In this regard, one must remember that a political movement, in Marx’s understanding, is

“a movement of the class, with the object of achieving its interests in a general form, in a form possessing a general social force of compulsion.”

A ‘working-class’ movement is pre-political, if it is still jammed at an identitarian level, is sectional (“primordial”), i.e.,

“the working class is not yet far enough advanced in its organisation to undertake a decisive campaign against the collective power, i.e., the political power of the ruling classes”.

But these pre-political (“economic”) struggles are important because they train the various sections of the working class for that decisive campaign

“by continual agitation against and a hostile attitude towards the policy of the ruling classes”.

Class Struggle, Development and Revolutionary Politics

1. What happened in China? Isn’t it capitalism that is being nurtured by the ‘Maoist’ party in China?

The course of development is determined by class struggle (at least the Chinese communists were emphatic about it, when they said that this class struggle goes on in their own ranks as well). The Chinese economy where it stands today too is not a result of any linear development; without deliberating on contradictions of the development process that revolutionary movements trigger, we generally tend to impute successes/failures of the revolutions or movements to the subjective choices of the leadership – their goodness and badness.

2. What is happening in Nepal? The Nepali Maoists are quite vocal about their aim to nurture capitalism in their country.

Even in the case of Nepal, we should try to understand the Maoists, by grounding their politics in the wider political economic processes which limit their ‘dream’ of an uninterrupted revolution, of ‘bypassing capitalism’. Their problem is at least partly our patriotism – like the anti-patriotic Zimmerwald Conference we should first of all decry and call for the defeat of the Indian state and capitalists who virtually hold half of the Nepali economy to ransom; then only can we see a proper anti-capitalist revolution emerging in landlocked Nepal. We should just go through news reports of the past five years, how threats from Indian capital and state (which Indians, including the leftists, generally understand as an expression of big brotherliness, rather than that of imperialism, because we ignore the economic basis of India-Nepal relationship) have regulated the Maoists’ radical initiatives.

3. What is the development strategy of the Maoists in India? Don’t they profess to compensate for lack of capitalism?

About our Maoists, I believe, our so-called movement people are waiting for their failure to be the proof of their wrong ideology, strategy, tactics or even ignorance about the development process. But that is not the way for the revolutionaries – they have to understand every struggle caught up in the particularisation of class struggle in various localities, first by affirming it to be part of the same movement. What will be the development strategy ultimately is determined by the articulation between various local (particular) struggles, and the class hegemony that directs that articulation.

4. How have non-Marxist socialists in India faired on this count?

The socialist movement (here I include many communist organisations too) in India today – because of their populist political base and vision (‘populism’ in a definite theoretical sense) is caught up in the cartesian binaries of big vs small, agriculture vs industry, village vs city, india vs bharat etc etc, in which the hierarchised composition – internal differentiation – of the preferred half (the ‘small’ or the agrarian community etc) are simply wished away, ultimately for the benefit of the well-to-do within this ‘small’/agrarian community (in practical terms increasing their bargaining power). (A parallel example in the urban areas could be the trade unionists protecting sectional interests or labour aristocracies by not taking account of labour segmentation). We have seen how socialists in rural areas have been reactive to any talk of class differentiation, and independent labour mobilisation, since they tend to divide, not unite the rural community.

5. But don’t you think every movement has to have a central focus that can broaden its base? A peasant movement will be homogeneous in this regard.

I think within the peasant movement, even before Independence, there were a few socialists who were quite clear about the complexity of the peasant question – how differentiation within peasantry determined the trajectory of even seemingly “homogenized” peasant struggles: to name some of them, Swami Sahajanand Saraswati (see his “Maharudra ka Mahatandav”) and Indulal Yagnik/Dinkar Mehta (in Gujarat) who understood the task of re-envisaging the rural struggles around rural labourers (which include those sections of the “landed” peasantry who simply reproduce their labour-power by engaging in farming). For a historical review of this aspect please read Jan Breman’s “Labour Bondage in West India”. The recent overstress on peasant homogeneity is phenomenon which is related with a definite rise of the kulak lobby (I am using this term in a purely objective sense).

6. At least the socialists have a clear vision about alternative development.

Yes, the socialists have a clearer vision about development alternatives, but much of that has to do with their dualistic conceptualisation; they can remain happy with utopian anti-capitalism, by choosing one pole in the binary. The problem with communists is that they try to develop a labour standpoint – and labour-capital relationship does not constitute a cartesian contradiction, they are opposites in a dialectical contradiction – “capital is labour”/”labour is capital”, as Braverman said, “working class is the animate part of capital”. The development strategy is constituted through this continuous contradiction, through a generalisation or a political systematisation of the alternatives emerging in the daily experiences of the working class. The question here is to go beyond capitalism, to overcome capital as accumulated labour dominating the living labour – to overcome the subsumption/ alienation/ accumulation of various forms of labour by capital (capitalism expands not just by wiping away the “vestigial” forms of production and exploitation, but also by resignifying them). We cannot have a predetermined development strategy in this struggle, except that which will sharpen the class struggle.

7. But class struggle between capital and labour too leaves aside many other conflicts.

Not exactly. The issue before us perhaps is to understand how ‘other’ struggles (struggle between classes, not just labor and capital but other classes also; struggle within classes; struggles against the State, caste and gender struggles) are related to capital-labour conflicts. Why cannot they be seen as particularisations of capital-labour conflict? Labour does not mean just wage labour. Labour-capital relationship resignify the whole stratification of the society, even castes and gender are posed as specifications of that relationship:

a) Ambedkar can be helpful in understanding the caste system in this regard, when he talked about caste as not just a division of labour, but a division of labourers. In this framework, anti-casteism becomes a working class struggle to create unity among labourers.

b) An Italian-American activist-scholar, Silvia Federici has succinctly put:
“If it is true that in capitalist society sexual identity became the carrier of specific work-functions, then gender should not be considered a purely cultural reality, but should be treated as a specification of class relations…In capitalist society “femininity” has been constituted as a work-function, masking the production of the work force under the cover of a biological destiny. If this is true then “women’s” history is “class history”.

8. So are you against community level struggles, as communities are generally composed of diverse class interests?

A “Community” is not simply an aggregation of horizontal interests; it arises out of an articulation (which includes hidden and open conflicts) between various levels of interests. Its critical edge is determined by the nature of interests that dominate that articulation. We are not even hostile towards the idea of rural community, but the point is to see how it is internally constituted, and which class interest dominates it.

(I thank comrades, interacting with whom I wrote much of the text.)

Bondage, Vestiges and Capitalism

Following paragraphs are taken from a review that I wrote for Labour File in 2008:

It is important to understand Marx’s conception of “wage slavery” here. The usage of this phrase was not at all allegorical or rhetorical, as many tend to believe. It conceptualised the unfreedom or coercion inherent in the dual freedom of labour (from physical compulsion and from the means of production). On one hand, this dual freedom creates an ambience that compels a labourer to sell his/her labour power. On the other hand, once labour power is sold for a period, the labourer has no control over its expenditure for that duration. It should be remembered though the custom is to pay the wages after labour-power is exercised, wages are, in fact, already advanced prior to the labour process not only for the purpose of records, but also as capital required for production – i.e., it constitutes variable capital that is required to buy labour-power and put it to work. In the circuit of capital given below, Money (M) is advanced to buy Means of Production (MP) and Labour Power (LP) before Production (P) can take place.


In fact, “whether money serves as a means of purchase or a means of payment, this does not alter the nature of the exchange of commodities”.(Karl Marx, Capital, Penguin, pp. 279) As “a means of purchase” money is advanced to the sellers of labour power prior to production, while as “a means of payment”, it remains as the worker’s “credit to the capitalist” until production is completed to be paid as wages afterwards. Functionally it hardly makes any difference – “this does not alter the nature of the exchange of commodities”. And both institutionalise labour vulnerabilities in their own way – advance (partial or whole) can easily be transformed into debt, creating liabilities that shape bondage, while wages can be delayed or even lost (when the capitalist goes bankrupt). In fact, the delay in receiving wages is a significant reason for indebtedness among workers. If in Marx’s England debt played a part in tying the worker more to a shop as a consumer, or to sustain the “truck system”, it can instigate other systems, too, to institute labour vulnerabilities. Ultimately the purpose is to increase these vulnerabilities and thus, reproduce the hegemony of capital over labour. The report remarkably succeeds in showing how this is done in various parts of India through debt bondage.

Here are some more observations that I made during that time:

A. The process of proletarianisation to which the majority is subjugated, not the number of ‘ideal’ proletarians or wageworkers, defines capitalism. The actualisation of this process – and thus the degrees of proletarianisation or the “dual freedom of labour” differs according to the concrete contexts defined by the needs of capital and class struggle. More technically, this process is a long thread (not necessarily historical) between the formal subsumption to the actual subsumption of labour by capital – its two ends. At various junctures archaic unfreedom, like slavery, which generally characterised pre-capitalism is formally adopted (more aptly, exapted as explained in B) and transformed according to the conjunctural needs of capitalist accumulation. If we don’t recognise this processual aspect of capitalism, we will be lost in the miasma of overproduced forms and appearances in capitalism.

B. Stephen Jay Gould’s conception of exaptation, I believe, is very useful in understanding the dialectical internalisation of “vestiges” by new stages in evolution – both biological and social. Gould and Elisabeth S. Vrba in their 1982 paper defines exaptation as (i) “a character, previously shaped by natural selection for a particular function (an adaptation), is coopted for a new use”; and, (ii) “a character whose origin cannot be ascribed to the direct action of natural selection (a nonaptation), is coopted for a current use”. This concept allows us to comprehend the reproduction of “vestiges” as a process internal to the new stage in development, not as something hindering the ‘complete’ realisation of the new stage.

C. The “purist” idea that “vestiges” obstruct (not shape or contextualise) capitalist development has for a long time informed the theory and practice of Marxism in the so-called third world countries – engaging the revolutionaries in the fruitless exercise of fighting the “vestiges” before taking on the basic system, thus investing their revolutionary vigour in the reformist project of the capitalist development. It is interesting to note that this is not only true about the “Leninists” and “Maoists”, as some “anti-Leninists” allege. Many anti-Leninists and anti-Maoists present more vehement denial of the feasibility of any socialist project in “backward” countries. Their conceptualistion of revolution not only goes against the thesis of “revolution in permanence” – “the downfall of all the privileged classes, and the subjection of these classes to the dictatorship of the proletariat by maintaining the revolution in permanence until the realisation of Communism, which is the final form of organisation of human society” – but is also an unconscious reinforcement of the notion of “socialism in one country”, which they profess to hate.

A general discomfort about Narayanpatna

1) The federal structure of India’s polity in the neoliberal phase has emerged as a unique mechanism to administer the internalisation and intensification of the general logic of capitalist accumulation at every location – with its great ability to subsume and network all forms of social relations under the command of this logic. The identitarian/territorial separations and exclusions are transformed into a differential inclusion within this logic forming the uneven terrain of the evolving capitalist geography in India. Commercialization and the subsumption of local social relations into this larger logic have recontextualised the social divisions through which the class struggle is refracted locally. So we find identity struggles… yet, they are class struggles!

2) The national club of Indian activists and intellectuals became aware of the movement at Narayanpatna only at the moment of its retreat. Even if they were aware of it, they hardly cared about it. There was nothing like another anti-land acquisition movement against the big “outside” of the corporates, which temporarily (if I may say so) almost seemed to homogenise the ‘affected’ village India against ‘non-Indian’ imperialism and its Indian agencies – a romantic India against the pragmatic world of capitalism (some name this, Bharat vs India) – a dream struggle for oneness with the pristine simplicity which capitalism wants to destroy.

3) However, at the time of its retreat, people inside and outside did try to paint the reality in Narayanpatna according to the images that sell today. But the truth is that Narayanpatna divides people – it represents that politics which emerges out of the divisions that constitute India, not just between the outside and the inside, the rural and the urban, not simply between the upper caste and the lower caste, but between the whole ‘glocal’ network of capital (which unites the global with the local, not just extensively, but intensively too) and the insistence of the indigenous section of the local labour to self-valorise, not to be subsumed by capital and its personified agencies.

4) The Narayanpatna movement was against both the asset-rich and the asset-poor who engaged in that grand network of capital. People were uncomfortable with this movement because it brought forth the fundamentals of the reality – of the deep divisions that constitute rural India. So in Narayanpatna all assumptions about rural movements went topsy-turvy – we saw intra-‘poor’ and community-level conflicts. This movement was against everybody that alienated and sought to alienate the forces of production and reproduction from the “tribals” – their labour, its means and its objects.

Revolutionary movement and the “spirit of generalisation”


“There are no miracles in nature or history, but every abrupt turn in history, and this applies to every revolution, presents such a wealth of content, unfolds such unexpected and specific combinations of forms of struggle and alignment of forces of the contestants, that to the lay mind there is much that must appear miraculous”. V.I. Lenin

Can there be a Maoist movement or for that matter, a Marxist movement? We have been using the phrase “Communist Movement” for a long time, but what does it signify? What is the utility of these phrases in the context of today’s people’s and working class struggle? In my view, these terms at best can help us identify particular ideological streams in that struggle. But to present them as “movements” themselves demonstrate a “sectist” tendency to extol or deprecate particular ideological currents within the larger people’s movement, separating them from class practices in which they are grounded.


There can be a Maoist current that represents a particular tenor emerging from a particular location within the working class politics. So are many other kinds of isms and the so-called “movements” – they represent diverse levels of consciousness (which include its absence too) within the working class movement.

Until and unless we locate these “ideological” currents in larger class processes or struggle, their critique will falter into futile exegetics of particular historical events or documents related to them. For example, much has been talked about Maoism in terms of what Maoists have done, or what Mao said, or what happened to the Maoist “movements” in China, Cambodia and Peru. In this critique, what is missed out is the very ground that they hold – the working masses who identified with these practices and who gave new meaning to Mao’s words. By locating Maoisms in class struggle, we provide scope for their critique too – of their programmes and their particular practices.


Karl Marx, during the First International, talked about “the spirit of generalisation and revolutionary passion” that constituted revolutionary subjectivity which could actualise the possibilities inherent in the objective conditions. He visualised the role of a party or organisation, which was for Marx at that time the International Workingmen’s Association itself, in incubating this spirit. As Henri Lefebvre once said, the task of the revolutionary political party is to recognise the spontaneity and revolutionary instinct of the working masses and unite them with the theoretical knowledge of larger processes elaborated by intellectuals organically grounded in the working class praxis.(1) The spirit of generalisation is based on self-emancipatory practices of the working class (at all levels). It is nothing more, nor less, than recognising and vocalising the evolving revolutionary class logic through and within diverse practices grounded in various spatio-temporal locations.

The problem occurs when instead of parties being founded and refounded in this conscious process of generalisation, their institutional logic overpowers and stunts this spirit – i.e., the forms that the working class movement takes at particular space-times are frozen and “extrapolated”. Thus in place of generalisation, over-generalisation of a particular class practice takes place, leading to sectism.

However, the critique of this over-generalisation cannot be done by externalising and then rubbishing these particular class practices as simply ideological problems or deviations. In fact, this so-called ‘critical’ current too is nothing but a representation of sectarianism. By naming movements in terms of ideologies articulated in particular locations of class struggle, rather than visualising those ideologies as simply symptomatic of those locations, we homogenise and externalise those locations, thus once again distorting the spirit of generalisation. Interestingly, unlike what various brands of Marxists do nowadays (leave aside the upcoming breed of civil society intermediaries, forget them “for they know not what they do”), Marx’s assessment of the Paris Commune as a revolutionary working class upsurge was not based on the counting of number of Marxists in that struggle. Lenin notes that before the Paris uprising, Marx warned the French workers that “insurrection would be an act of desperate folly”, but when it was unavoidable,

“Did he use it …to “take a dig” at his enemies, the Proudhonists and Blanquists who were leading the Commune? Did he begin to scold like a school mistress, and say: “I told you so, I warned you; this is what comes of your romanticism, your revolutionary ravings?” Did he preach to the Communards… the sermon of the smug philistine: “You should not have taken up arms?” No… And he has words of the highest praise for the “heroic” Paris workers led by the Proudhonists and Blanquists.”


The ideological externalisation of various political experiences of the working class is one of the most detrimental tendencies in its movement that thwarts the possibility of the emergence of revolutionary subjectivity in India today. It is not that this externalisation is done only by the critics, but more so by the admirers of the tendencies that dominate particular political experiences. Both do that by reducing the experiences’ particularity to either locational or ideological exclusivity. By relegating solidarity efforts to symbolic association with and external troubleshooting for the struggle going on ‘elsewhere’, the sympathisers too shirk the responsibility of politicising their own everyday life, and thus of generalising the movement.

At a critical juncture like today’s, despite a dramatic rise in local unrests throughout India, the ruling classes and the Indian state seem to be overconfident and increasingly becoming unilateral and authoritarian. It is only by constantly stereotyping the unrest, that they can delegitimize and pre-empt the efforts of revolutionary generalisation, for which the sectarian externalising / competitive tendencies within the movement itself have provided readymade vocabularies and agencies.

Now, the sense of being dispossessed is rampant among the rural poor, those who are ready to take up arms. Whatever be their identity, they come mostly under the class of allotment-holding workers, a term that Kautsky and Lenin used to characterise the majority of the so-called “peasantry” – land in whose possession is just for reproduction of their own labour-power. Hence, rural struggles today, including against land acquisition and those led by the Maoists, are not merely against threats to their livelihood but to life itself – to the very sphere of their reproduction.

Today, rural and urban workers are increasingly getting organised, becoming conscious and militant. Under neoliberalism, their footlooseness (beyond the urban/rural divide and other identitarian boundaries) is progressively making them realise the socialised nature of their labour, while encountering capital as social power in every facet of their lives.

These are the “objective conditions” in which various “forms of struggle” are evolving. What we need today is the urge to move beyond existentialist boundaries, of local and particular experiences, relocating them as diverse moments in the same struggle against capital. There must be a conscious realisation of “the spirit of generalisation” that can recognise the underlying unity between these forms and moments, and strategise on its revolutionary potential.


(1) Henri Lefebvre (1969), The Explosion: Marxism and the French Upheaval, Monthly Review Press (Reprinted by Aakar Books, 2009), p.38-39

The Meaning of Anti-Casteism

Ambedkar clearly defined the meaning of the struggle against the caste system. For him it was not simply a petty bourgeois assertion of identity, a struggle for mere representation, as many exponents for and against the dalit movement have propounded. In his ILP days and again in “Who were the Shudras” (1946), Ambedkar essentially viewed the origin and function of caste (and therefore casteism) as conversion of “the scheme of division of work into a scheme of division of workers, into fixed and permanent occupational categories”. So the revolt against the caste system (or casteism in a capitalist society) is a revolt against the material and ideological division of workers, against the labour market segmentation, against the individualist-competitive ethic (a petty bourgeois tendency) among workers (which frequently takes identitarian forms). Only by questioning and destroying the whiteness of the “white” workers, a larger united working class movement could be posed in racist societies like the US. Similarly in a casteist society like India, only by attacking the “upper/middle-caste-ness” among workers, a working class alternative could be posed. A drastic reorientation of the dalit movement (and therefore of the working class movement) is needed if it has to pose a real challenge to the caste system and casteism, as Ambedkar understood them. Dalit Movement has to re-emerge as the vanguard of the working class movement.