‘Dissent and Its Destiny’

A Lost Journey!

Farooque Chowdhury

This has reference to the article ‘Dissent and its Destiny’ [Frontier, Vol 50, No 40, April 8-14, 2018] by Sankar Ray. The author seems to have succeeded in confusing the confused.

The article began its destiny-seeking journey from Rosa Luxemberg, made a stopover with Lenin, Bolsheviks, Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhmrv aad Putin, haphazardly jumped on Trump, Erdogan, Xi Jinping, Netanyahu and Modi as they are "the", according to Ray, "principal actors in the world's stage of annihilation of dissent". On the way, as reference, he has mentioned Truman, McCarthyism, etc.

No doubt the author is partly correct as he writes : "Trampling of dissent under foot is a part of history". But he has conveniently missed another part: Trampling of dissent is also part of the present. He has himself referred a few examples from the present. Has spatial and temporal coordination been lost?

Ray feels dissent makes "democracy a gigantic farce". Dissent doesn't make "democracy" a farce. Rather that's one of the beauties of "democracy". His problem is with "democracy" as he fails to perceive it on the basis of class. This failure in perception provokes him to perceive democracy in a farcical way.

This is the reason he puts all—Lenin, Bolsheviks, Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Putin, Trump, Erdogan, Xi Jinping, Netanyahu, Modi—in a single wagon.

Ray finds an important finding in the journey as he declares: "Lenin staged a turnabout when he came out with the concept of 'socialist state' or 'commune state' to justify the Bolshevik power". Has he lost perspective? Would Lenin have been on a correct track had he not marched for socialist state in 1917? For what the Russian proletariat should stand in 1917? Retain a tsarist/bourgeois state? Dismantle the Soviet, a new form of democracy? Are these tasks being suggested by him? Or, is it that the entire journey he has tried to chart is simply a gossip without context, without class reality, without class responsibility, without realities of economy and politics? If some sages set aside or prefer to ignore all complexities of democracy of the working classes in a world dominated by imperialism, one single point must be answered by these sages, and that is: What would have happened with the World War, which was raging with its blood-thirsty soul had not the proletariat in Russia seized political power? And, the next question is : Without organising a state power, would some sages have created an island named Utopia with the power of foiling all conspiracies of the exploiting classes to regain their lost political power so that the working classes could be sent to the days of exploitation?

Well, Ray announces in the article: "Bolsheviks under his [Lenin's] leadership set up a totalitarian state which had very little common with Marx's theory of proletarian dictatorship". "Bolsheviks [...] set up a totalitarian state!" Here is the dissenting voice for Ray: The Bolsheviks set up a democracy of the working people. What they strove for was within a historical reality, not in any utopia. To the exploiting classes, it was "totalitarianism", not to the working people.

To substantiate his claim Ray has referred to one of Lenin's speeches. There are many speeches; and not only speeches, there are Lenin's theses on bourgeois democracy and proletariat's dictatorship, and resolution and report of the concerned political party—the Bolshevik Party—on the question. What he is missing is the class content in the entire question. This makes him travel a wrong route while he searches dissent's destiny. A lost journey!

Ray referred to Professor Paresh Chuttopadhyay. Is there any suggestion from Professor Chattopadhyay for the adherents of Bolshevik path within a context, with a perspective, within a reality, historical limitations, a historical moment, in concrete terms instead of abstract comments? Nothing? Something? Please, put that on table. The discussion will continue with concrete form instead of making abstract sounds. Otherwise, the journey will end up straight in the tent of the bourgeoisie.

"Bolshevik regime from the very beginning suppressed individual liberty, even before the advent of Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin". The colour of the flag is visible. Whose liberty was suppressed? Ray claims: "individual liberty". There's no skepticism about the suppression. The suppressed were the tsarist elements, the monarchists, the bourgeoisie, the spies of the imperialist forces, the saboteurs engaged with subverting the nascent Soviet power the workers, soldiers and peasants organised. Their individual liberty was suspended. What's being suggested by Ray and Professor Chattopadhyay? Ought the Bolsheviks to allow these "individual" elements a free hand?

There is reference to Cheka and NKVD! "Thus the 20th Century of Lenin's socialism was totalitarian [...]". Totalitarian rule is not only intelligence agency, and similar sort. If anything Ray has just misplaced the fact to mis-formulate the definition. Marx has dwelt this question.

And, again, another wrong statement : Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Putin. It's a shallow approach. The mainstream follows this approach to hoodwink its audience. They are not the same, not of the same. To have an analysis of the issue of dissent, an analyst should have facts, not shallow ideas. After all, it is simplification of a complex problem.

The author mentions, "[l]egitimate competition" and "healthy competition". Startling discovery! Capitalism conceives "legitimate" and "healthy" competition? Looking at dissent with so much confusion with capitalism, with market! Capitalism doesn't allow dissent; market doesn't allow dissent; capitalism and imperialism don't allow healthy competition, and there's nothing like healthy in capitalist competition. There are thousands of evidences. These are very, very elementary lessons on capitalism.

Ray writes: "Russian wealth becomes more concentrated in fewer hands in the interests of twenty or so oligarchs who have access to 'obscene amounts of wealth because of their affinity with those most powerful in government". It's not only a Russian scene; it's the global capitalist scene.

Ray observes : "The war between civil society and the Kremlin [...]". Here's another problem. He stumbles on the "great" civil society—a political existence with a non-political appearance, a class interest with a non-class appearing, a being with a particular agenda and without a constituency and accountability.

Kleptocracy is practised in all capitalist economies, not only in Russia. Ray has to begin with defining Kleptocracy, which will lead him to matured capitalist economies, to imperialist economies. And, then, he will find the roots of the problem with dissent.

"Dissenters' voice is aired by Radio Svoda, Radio Free Europe [...]". Radio Free Europe? Is it the voice of dissension? Check with history. Is there any voice of dissent in transmissions by Radio Marti?

And, the following sentence is borrowed from the article by Ray : "But dissent never dies out, braving every odd". Ideas supporting the exploiting classes will be dissented. Dissention is not without class interest. Capitalists have dissenting view about the proletarian world view. The opposite is also a fact. Class conflict doesn't allow any neutral ground to evaluate the two views. 

[Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka]

Vol. 50, No.42, Apr 22 - 28, 2018