Musings in Ideology – part –3 Development, Democracy & third world perspective.

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(Are we living in a time different from the time of November revolution? Are we in the same space-time continuum? ….. Politically it is the Leninist scheme of thing and it’s the time of imperialism described by Lenin – argues the writer.)
Written for and published in November, 2010 issue of Pragyan.

The previous part of this article ended with the comment that the organisational practice of the communist till date is not in keeping with the Marxist concept of withering away of state and politics. So keeping in view the Lenin’s theoretical concept of consciousness to the masses from without and proletarian vanguard, Stalinist practice, Gramsci’s concept of organic intellectual and Rosa Luxembourgian critiques, this organizational question needs to be discussed & debated at length in ideological musing. But prior to doing that, few more important parameters left untouched are discussed in this part of my article considering practicing & dominant ideology of the masses.

 Development & democracy are such ideological constructs in the sense that these terminologies bear different connotation depending on the balance of forces within really existing power structure. The ideological concept is as defined by the design of the type of society the development process is supposed to bring about. As Samir Amin puts it “the history of the dominant ideology as a series of successive discourses, whose types I have termed liberal nationalist, then social and national, finally globalised neoliberal,”1. Within the really existing capitalism having capital/labour contradiction permanently operational throughout the system, the diverse conflicting social thoughts bearing ideological values for or against the labour are always at play. The conflicting ideas emanating from really existing balance of forces or social milieu influences and determines the dominant ideology of any period and in that sense the theoretical basis of idea/ideas is different from both deterministic as well as post-modernist (so called pluralist) approach.

The really existing capitalism is in deep crisis, compared to the crisis we are actually heading for, the Great World Economic Crisis of 1929-1933 would look like the Vicar’s tea party as assessed by Mestzaros. The dominant ideology of capitalism assures us to believe that the confidence on the market only can do away with this crisis. Meszaros apt comparison of this confidence with Indian mythology is very interesting. He wrote “In any case, all this talk about the absolute virtue of confidence in capitalist economic management is much like the explanation offered in Indian mythology about the supporting ground of the Universe. In that ancient vision of the world, it is said that the universe is carried, most reassuringly, on the back of an elephant. No one should think of that as a difficulty. For the elephant is, even more reassuringly, supported on the back of the cosmic tortoise. But what holds up the cosmic tortoise? Don’t you dare ask such a question, lest you might be fed to the tigers of Bengal!” 2. Nevertheless, this confidence has already been shaken. The total bankruptcy, not only figuratively but also in literal sense – of metropolitan inspired and dominated developmental strategies all over the World marks the downfall of this confidence.

Marx by a theoretical & historical analysis of capitalism had proved that free competition gives rise to the concentration of production, which, in turn, at a certain stage of development leads to monopoly. But Marx could not see the emergence of extreme form of monopoly. So afterwards Lenin in his book “Imperialism, the highest form of capitalism” enumerated the theoretical analysis of monopoly. Lenin vividly described “…a handful of monopolists subordinate to their will all the operations, both commercial and industrial, of the whole of capitalist society; for they are enabled – by means of their banking connections, their current accounts and other financial operations – first, to ascertain exactly the financial position of the various capitalists, then to control them, to influence them by restricting or enlarging, facilitating or hindering credits, their income, deprive them of capital, or permit them to increase their capital rapidly and to enormous dimension etc.”  He continued, “this bank capital i.e. capital in money form, which is thus actually transformed into industrial capital, I call ‘finance capital’. “Finance capital is a capital controlled by banks and employed by industrialists”  Lenin wrote “ Capitalism in its imperialist stage leads directly to the most comprehensive socialization of production; it, so to speak, drags the capitalist, against their will and consciousness, into some sort of a new social order, a transitional one from complete free competition to complete socialization. Production becomes social, but appropriation remains private. The social means of production remains the private property of a few”. 3 The revolutionary crisis caused by the universal devastation due to the imperialist plunder and the war leads to proletarian revolution. Is the Leninist concept of the inevitability of imperialist conflict and imperialist or revolutionary war under the economic system of the private ownership of the monopoly capital and means of production still relevant? According to many, the situation of Lenin’s time has drastically changed in present era of globalization. The questions naturally crop up what are those changes and do these changes indicate any basic radical change?

The way the Laissez fair proponents in Lenin’s time could find the possibility of peace and reform within the imperialist global structure, the petty-bourgeois critics of the present day globalization thinks that ‘free, honest and peaceful’ competition is possible within the capitalist imperialism. If this is taken for granted as the dominant feature of the present time  instead of imperialist conflict, then any political programme for any radical break with the semi-colonial system of third world countries and any social programme beyond capitalism need to be suspended sine die. This view, though presently waning, gained ground just after the collapse of the state controlled Stalinist Soviet model of “really existing socialism” which was actually the model Engel termed as ‘capitalism without capitalist’ while revealing the project of second international.

When Lenin analysed imperialism, the marginalized countries of Asia-Africa and Latin America except Japan were backward unindustrialized, rural, agricultural & mineral commodity producer and supplier to the capitalist centers and there was intense competition within the nation-states of these centers to extend their area of hegemony & to establish colony in the marginalized countries. This situation of imperialism described by Lenin ended after the second world war. To accommodate anti-fascist and national liberation movement and people’s uprising within the ambit of capitalism, the concept of welfare state with the essence of “capitalism without capitalist” emerged and the industrialization and modernization of the marginalized third world countries began with a notion of “catching up” the developed countries. This conception of welfare state came into vogue due to two opposing trends of the prevalent ground reality -- the expansion phase of capitalism facilitated by the opportunity of profit making investment against reconstruction work for war devastation on the one hand and capital-labour social pact necessitated by the rise of working class due to anti-fascist and national liberation movement. This simultaneously replaced the direct colonial rule of the third world countries with the beginning of a new period of neo-colonialism. Lenin expected that the initial revolution in the countries of ‘weak link of capital’ would soon spread to the whole structure of capitalism due to the intense conflicts within the imperialists camp. But that did not happen. After Russia, the revolution did not spread towards west. Instead the revolution took place in China, the country of marginalized east and this established the fact of prevailing exploitative global division of labour of center & periphery. The center’s hegemony needs to be adequately challenged by the periphery to set the ground for revolution in centers. This global division of labour has not been qualitatively changed by the globalization ( inherent in capital since its emergence) and the resultant privatization, financial liberalization and the dismantling of  the structure of welfare state after 1980. The proponents of capitalism already realized that there was and is no such capitalism which can be called ‘free market capitalism’ in the truest sense of the term. The state & the market are intertwined and complementary in capitalist structure. The dominant ideology of global capitalism is always mediated through these two basic institutions.  It is the inherent structural crisis of the system, the really existing balance of force and the technological arsenal at the disposal of capitalist to maneuver, determine the policy framework to be taken by the capitalist managers and the regulatory measures to decide what should be the role of both state and the market. From the experience of the so called globalization spree since 1980, it is now visible that the capitalist fund managers are again started propagating the need of stricter state regulation and intervention to save capitalism from its dire crisis. That even the dominant ideology of development through the notion of ‘catching up’ and the neo liberal dismantling of the welfarist state in the country like India sometimes backtracks is visible from two recent development. First, the rejection of Vedanta’s application to mine in Nyamgiri, which must be seen beyond all cynical calculations about electoral calculations as a victory for tribal rights in forest area. The second important development, is the proposal of the group of ministers to give tribals a 26% stake in profits from mining, that have come up in the course of drawing up the mines & minerals (Development & Regulation) Bill that seeks, among other things, to control illegal mining as well as protect the environment and tribal right. ( Source : EPW September 18-24,2010, Capital Myths & the ‘New Copernican Revolution’). The dominant ideology of development has to face a trend reversal or retreat for the time being due to conflicting pressure from the working class tribal masses. The two opposite ideological forces one defined by global capital and the third world comprador capital with its unique characteristics of economism and the other defined by thirld world tribal peasant and workers with its perspective of people’s right. But right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development which this determines. The prevalent dominant world view where the ecology is perceived as a subset of the economy to sustain rule of capital has been challenged by the view where economy is perceived as a subset of ecology, tribal rights or right of the third world people etc. Marx explained “economism” as a unique characteristic of capitalism and by “economism” he wanted to mean that, the fact that the laws which govern the movement of capitalism are the product not of transhistorical nature but of particular historical nature is erased from social consciousness. Thus Samir Amin wrote in his book “Liberal Virus” that there is no theory of capitalism distinct from its history. Theory and history are indissociable, just as are economics and politics.4 Thus there is always two diametrically opposite ideological perspectives are at play to visualize the issue of Development. The dominant one is from the perspective of capital and the opposite which is always contending the dominant one is from labour and under the existing ground reality this can be designated as metropolitan perspective versus third world perspective. This conflict is mediated through really existing state, market, politics etc and the concrete situation of balance of forces determines the class ideological prominence. Thus it is imperative to make a radical break to replace one existing dominant ideology by another to ensure Development for the people, not for the capital.

Similarly, Democracy is also one such ideological construct. The text of communist manifesto in collected work of Marx & Engels reveals that the two concepts ‘to raise the proletariat to the position of the ruling class’ and ‘to win the battle of democracy’ are placed side by side. With reference to the Prabhat Pattanaik’s article ‘Socialism & Welfarism’ published in People’s democracy (30 August, 2009), Vaskar Nandi wrote in  the article ‘Democratic deficit’ published in For A New Democracy (October 2009 – March 2010) “ Unfortunately for us, this author, with his own purpose in mind, does not go far into an analysis of the social and economic conditions for the development and consolidation of human freedom in the socialist process, the dictatorship of the proletariat. Presently, we intend to argue that this process, if it aspires to take society to communism, i.e. a classless, stateless society of associated labourers, must constitute itself on the basis of the widest democracy, a democracy that is well beyond the conceptions of liberal bourgeoisie. That is the only basis on which the objects of history can become its subject”. This is the Marxist-Leninist concept of Democracy whose form & content is determined by the class ideology and the democracy will begin to wither away with the withering away of state, owing to the simple fact that, freed from capitalist slavery, from the untold horrors, savagery, absurdities and infamies of capitalist exploitation, people will gradually become accustomed to observing the elementary rules of social intercourse that have been known for centuries and repeated for thousands of years in copybook maxims.5

But for the transformation of the object of history to become its subject as mentioned in the above quotation, the third world people has to settle a score with metropolitan dominated global capitalism prior to taking up the project of surpassing the bourgeois liberal democracy. “The look turns the subject into an object : ‘I want you to feel, as I, the sensation of being seen. For the white man has enjoyed for three thousand years the privilege of seeing without being seen (Sartre 1976a : 7)”  Under different circumstances, it would  be the same endeavor as vividly described by Sartre as “ Natives of all underdeveloped nations unite!. What a decline: for the fathers, we were the sole interlocutors: the sons no longer even consider us as qualified interlocutors: we are the object of their discourse. Of course Fanon mentions in passing our famous crimes Setif, Hanoi, Madagaskar – but he does not waste his effort condemning them: he uses them. If he dismantles the tactics of colonialism the complex play of relations that unite and divide the ‘Colons’ from ‘Metropolitans’, it is for their brothers; his goal is to teach them to outsmart us.” 6

Politically it is the Leninist scheme of thing and it’s the time of imperialism described by Lenin. Though the revolution in China failed to counter the Metropolitan controlled and defined Development and Democracy and the Chinese revolution has not extended and resulted in successful radical break in the third world peripheral countries from colonial status, the so called new globalisation phase of capital has not qualitatively changed the Lenin’s time. That the Indian freedom struggle could not radically break its colonial status was not only due to the lacking in subjective effort, but also due to the immaturity of the objective situation. In addition to the immaturity and mistakes of the communists, the internal social reality was not conducive for the success of the project of any radical break. Had this project been correct to its truest sense, the radical break would not have been possible due to backward social reality. This project is to be reconstructed to face the emerging external & internal situation for a successful radical break with the present and to establish the concept & practice of the development and democracy from the Labour vis-à-vis people’s perspective.                                            
 written by Arup Baisya (                                                                   
  References -
(1) Spectres of capitalism – Samir Amin
(2) The structural crisis of capital. Istvan Meszaros
(3) Collected Works : volume 22 : Lenin
(4) The Liberal Virus – Samir Amin
(5) On socialism: Edited by Irfan Habib
            (Lenin : The state in Socialism and Communism).
     (6)  Colonialism & Neo-colonialism –
            The wretched of the earth – Jean-Paul Sartre.


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