Musings in Ideology : Part I

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An Introductory note 
 written by : Arup Baisya; getting published on PRAGYAN
                   The title of this write-up has been borrowed from the book of Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya, the doyen and the great thinker of modern Indian philosophy. In his book he commented, “With the progress of science becoming ever more spectacular, the forces wanting to frustrate its basic aspiration – maiming it and mutilating it – are becoming all the more menacing. This tends to perplex the scientific community itself. Absorbed as the scientists are in their detailed research they feel bewildered. Why for example should so much of scientific knowledge threaten the world with an impending doom, with no more of any scope for science itself?”1  Here comes the question of ideology. The scientific knowledge bereft of a constructive ideological commitment may cause havoc. Everything that is solid melts into the air under the modern technological era and in that case the ideology having no well defined continuum is something airy and cannot be grasped and cherished by the people. If that is so, the human civilization is destined to doom. But that is not the case. Humanity always clasped an ideology. The plain truth is that everything is ‘soaked in ideology’ whether we realize it or not. Istvan Meszaros in his book ‘Power Of Ideology’ pointed out, “to believe that one can get rid of ideology in our contemporary world  - or indeed in the foreseeable future – is no more realistic than the idea of Marx’s ‘valiant fellow’ who thought that men were drowned in water because they were possessed with the idea of gravity.”2 He rightly opined that the Ideologies are epochally circumscribed in twofold sense. First, in that the conflictual orientation of the various forms of practical social consciousness remains their prominent features for as long as societies are divided into classes. And second, that the specific character of the fundamental social conflict which leaves the indelible mark on the contending ideologies in different historical periods arises from the epochally – not on a short-term basis – changing character of society’s productive and distributive practices and from the corresponding need to subject to radical questioning of the continued imposition of the formerly viable mode of socioeconomic and cultural intercourse as it becomes increasingly undermined in the course historical development.3
                The French revolution and Russian revolution had left the indelible mark on the contending ideologies of capitalism and socialism in the above epochal perspective. But in both the cases, capitalism not only survived but also extended its material and ideological sphere of influence. So in the present context of ideological substratum of chauvinism, obscurantism, parochialism, consumerism under global capitalistic world order, discourse of alternative route to Marxism and negation of Marxism thereof have become fashionable in institutional academic circle. Can we Indians build up a substitute for Marxism from the materials of our own cultural heritage? Debiprasad has given categorical negative  answer to this question. And he said “the reason for this is quite simple. The road along which Marx and Engels move is not accidental one. The heritage of classical German philosophy, British political economy and French socialism, which, through the tremendous process of dialectical transformation, culminates in Marxism is not a historical accident. ….. Thus for example we have in traditional Indian Philosophy potentials of the dialectical view, associated particularly with the early Buddhist. We have, moreover, among our ancient materialists called the Lokayatas or Caravaks a brilliant anticipation of the explanation of the origin of consciousness from matter. These are extremely precious elements in the Indian cultural heritage and it will be a fatal mistake for us to remain indifferent to their real significance. Still, only the most extravagant imagination can lead us to expect the emergence of dialectical materialism or materialist dialectics on basis of some kind of synthesis of the two.”4 After revolution in 1922, Lenin also warned that it would be biggest and grievous mistake a Marxist could make to think that millions of the people can extricate themselves from the darkness, ignorance and superstition only along the straight line of a purely Marxist education.
                  But the moot question is, what was the ideological – organizational orientation, which was one of the factors to cause the failure of challenge posed at international and national level to the prevalent and prominent hegemonic ideology of capitalism. This failure casts a shadow of defeatist attitude in the minds of the many proponents of socialist ideology and imbibed an impression that the dynamic system of capitalism in spite of its epochal structural crisis is here to stay for ever and it is ‘free of ideology’.
                In this first part of my article, I just like to pose the above question which I intend to attempt to elaborately discuss later from the Indian perspective with reference to international situation. This is important because of the fact that, Chauvinism in the guise of ‘chimerical nationalism’ under abstract universalism of hegemonic capitalism with structural differential exploitation cannot be challenged evading an answer to this question and without remodeling the concept of ideology based on reality.
              The reality unfolds layer after layer. But the release of energy during unfolding of one layer affects other layers and conversely the disturbances in the lower layer effects the topmost layer also. As all the layers are intertwined, there cannot be any structural change without a change in its entirety. The ‘Soviet Russia’ replaced ‘Tzarist Russia’ but reverted back to the differentially exploitative capitalist fold without making any change of structure of ideology. Infallibility of cleverest central committee could not ensure ‘socialist mass consciousness’ which might have been developed through many mistakes of the masses in their socialist practice. Nationalist struggle in the inter-war and post second world-war period was the history of the struggles of various social classes .But this also failed to generate new ideological base. Indian national struggle was also the struggles of the bourgeoisie, the proletariat, the peasantry (peasant-proprietors, tenants and land labourers), urban and rural middle classes and ruined middle classes and handicraftsman, feudal princes, semi-feudal landlords and others as well as of the interaction of the Indian nation with the other nations of the world. The historical resultant of those struggles and interactions provided movement to Indian society at a given moment.5 The feudal and semi-feudal classes and  the middle classes under the leadership of bourgeoisie triumphed in contrast to awakened lower layers of the Indian society who were culturally backward, organizationally weaker and politically less conscious and thus a truncated nationalism with fragmented differentially exploited social polity under global capitalist order have remained in place. No decisive break from the past and no new ideology generated. Old hegemonic ideology with new mask is set in motion.
             The fragmented and hierarchical social polity under the differential exploitation of global hegemonic capitalistic order hinders the unity of the masses and all the dominant ideologies rest on this premise. So, the ideology of genuine nationalism under real universalism against chauvinism in the guise of ‘chimerical nationalism’ under abstract universalism cannot emerge until this hierarchical social polity is adequately challenged from within. This is a question of activity of the masses from below to attempt to break many cleavages of relation of production and that leads to a interaction of the ideology from within and relatively from without. The synthesis of the two produces new mass ideology and culture. The question is whether this ‘relatively from without ideology’ is actually from without? If not, what it is and how it is emerged?
          During the epochal structural crisis of capitalism, the ideology of consumerism of saleability of everything ‘Even the holy spirit has its quotation on the stock exchange’ gets radically questioned from socialist perspective built on economic emancipation of working class. This socialist ideology gets mediated through the Gramsci’s organic intellectuals and interacts with the ideology of the masses from below.
                But this does not guarantee the triumph of the new ideology and demise of the old. There are ample opportunities for the capitulation of the new to the prevailing dominant ideology. Rosa Luxemburg vividly described it in the passage that says “On the one hand, we have the mass; on the other, its historic goal, located outside the existing society. On one hand, we have the day-to-day struggle; on the other, the social revolution. Such are the terms of the dialectical contradiction through which the socialist movement makes its way. It follows that this movement can best advance by taking betwixt and between the two dangers by which it is constantly being threatened.  One is the loss of its mass character; the other the abandonment of its goal. One is the danger of sinking back to the condition of a sect; the other, the danger of becoming a movement of bourgeois social reform. That is why it is illusory, and contrary to historic experience, to hope to fix, once for always, the direction of the revolutionary socialist struggle with the aid of formal means, which are expected to secure the labour movement against possibilities of opportunist digression”6.
             How the new ideology emerged in the backdrop of structural crisis of capitalism in the past and how this ideology was mediated with the ideology of the masses and what was its organizational form? Has the history taught any lesson which is being accommodated in the present practice to avoid repetition of the same mistakes in the future? These are the questions which can be attempted to answer only through the postmortem of the past and the present in the Indian context with reference to international practice.  (to be concluded)

References –
  1. Musings in Ideology – page 7, para -2
  2. The Power Of Ideology – Istvan Meszaros – page – 10, para -3
  3. Ibid                                 - page -13, para – 2,3
  4. Musing in Ideology – page 84, para -2
  5. Recent Trends in Indian Nationalism – A. R. Desai - page 2, para -2
  6. The Power of Ideology – Istvan Meszaros – page -314, para -2
In the book titled “The Rosa Lusxemburg Reader” edited by Peter Hudis & Kevin B. Anderson, 10th chapter of “Organisational Questions of Russian Social Democracy” page 263, para 2 reads “…. This will in the day-to-day struggle with the existing order and therefore only within its framework. The identification of the great popular mass with a goal that transcends the whole existing order and the identification of the day-to-day struggle with revolutionary upheaval constitute the dialectical contradiction of the social democratic movement which must, in the whole course of its development, work a way forward logically between the two pitfalls, between losing its mass character and abandoning its goal, between relapsing into sects and declining into bourgeois reform movement.” 


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