Continuing Dilemma

Most Marxist discourses are delivered to be forgotten—the only question is when. As Marxist academics have nothing concrete to offer at this critical juncture when communist outfits across the globe are wandering in ideological wilderness, somewhat aimlessly, without any goal to reach, they frequently indulge in questioning the basic premises of Marxism. There was a time when it was fashionable to criticise Stalin for all the evils under the Sun as if it was the only way to keep one’s genuine revolutionary identity alive. But Stalin in grave may derive comfort from the fact that he is not alone on the line of the firing squad. Now Lenin is being demonised for exercising his authoritarian leadership while legalising party dictatorship in the name of proletarian dictatorship. And Bolshevik Revolution itself  is being questioned as anything but socialist. Also, the very idea of 19th Century Marxian socialism is called utopian. Sometimes they advocate party-less democracy because party means concentration of power in a few hands and in due season the party that champions the cause of people turns into its opposite—a coercive machine. Sometimes they bat for socialism without elaborating any programme of action as to how to achieve it. Ecology is now an added factor in evaluating any kind of socialist thought, utopian or not-so utopian. In the end what all they proved with meticulous precision was the November Revolution was a failure and untimely. But how does it minimise the sacrifice of Soviet Bolsheviks to end the exploitative system in czarist Russia is difficult to understand.

To translate theory into practice is not that easy. It is a daunting task to mould public opinion for the cause involving sacrifices and hardships. And it was more difficult in pre-liberated Russia and China that were essentially backward economies.

‘What has been done’ is being continually censored. ‘What is to be done’ is not on their agenda. Nor do they feel any moral responsibility to offer a better project other than what models were available in the yester years. One wonders whether they at all think that there lies a burning necessity to change this unjust system that begets violence and counter-violence all the time.

It’s easy to ponder over why Soviet Russia failed to build socialism. Just grilling a few individuals won’t make the Soviet reality of those days less important. Also, it is equally easier to debate on the turning point in Chinese socialism and compulsions under which the Chinese opted for capitalist path of development. But how to reverse the situation in the changed context is the point at issue. Academics have no stake in revolution, marxian or otherwise. They are happy in pinpointing the flaws in communist culture. They continue to live in the past. They are not interested in the future. Nor can they prescribe anything new in their tireless efforts to salvage Marxism from the clutches of authoritarian ‘vanguards’.

No doubt the structure of communist parties is authoritarian in most cases. But that is one aspect of the scenario. It is also democratic in many respects otherwise many successes in liberation movements worldwide were not possible. Authoritarian tendency is one reason that these parties quite often face split, sometimes split within split. Then there is exception. Despite their ups and downs, left or right deviation, the Chinese party hardly faced any vertical split during its long journey of revolutionary struggle. Liu Shaochi accepted the verdict of the majority and misfortune as well. So did Mao, only to be vindicated later. They remained united even in the most intense phase of ideological struggle with two opposing trends. Lenin’s party too had to face severe opposition within the party on a number of occasions but they ultimately succeeded in maintaining a broader unity despite differences.

Without any association, voluntary or otherwise, it is simply not possible to execute any programmatic action. If Leninist principles of party building are bad and flawed to the core, a better alternative must be suggested. No, the critics of Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Che have no answers.

The followers of Raya Dunayevskya have been propagating Marxist humanism for long without any lasting impact on the Communist Movement anywhere in the world. In their perception the theory of liberation in essence is the Humanism of Marxism. Denouncing state capitalism in Soviet Russia is one thing but how to build socialism in the field while isolating oneself in ivory towers is quite another. To flow to other planets to avoid facing reality can hardly improve the gloomy situation.

It is imperative for the communist left to create a left-wing political space so they can oppose the oppressing elite in power. It cannot be done without the unity of thought and action.

The experience of Indian communist movement is somewhat tragic. So long as Indian communist movement was united and undivided it scored many victories in their mass struggle and created a political atmosphere of its own. Today things are pole apart. There are too many communist outfits, most of them working at cross-purposes. To compete for parliamentary privilege is their sole motto while paying lip service to radical change for the betterment of the vast masses of people. How to rectify the movement is the principal question, not to demolish it. But Marxist academics with their approach of ‘reject all, burn all’ are just ‘confusing the confused’ without really battling the power structure that stands in the way of freedom. Maybe, their exercise in escapism is left-wing in spirit. Maybe their restlessness is driven by the passionate urge to protest ‘communist tyranny’. Maybe, it is the emerging voice of defiance against personal enslavement to make freedom a reality. But their criticisms are just not bringing in more people into ‘revolution’. The question that remains unanswered is ‘what is to be done’.

Vol. 47, No.11-14, Sep 21 - Oct 18 2014