Marx In Motion

Time Puzzle for Marxist Practitioners and Revolutionary Unity

Arup Baisya

Marx uses the German word verwandelt, which means literally “a movement of wandering, walking, strolling, which transforms” itself through motion. The commodity is sensuously over-sensible because it is both a sensuous quality (use-value) and a folded or covered sensuous quality (value) at the same time. (Marx in Motion: 2020).

It is the kinetic origin and a specific kinetic act of folding or covering constitutes the whole process. So Marx says of the example of the table, “The form of wood, for instance, is altered if a table is made out of it. Nevertheless, the table continues to be wood, an ordinary, sensuous thing. But as soon as it emerges as a commodity, it changes into a sensual, supersensible thing. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, when set in relation to all other commodities, it moves over and against itself onto its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more strange than if it were to begin dancing of its own free will”.

When set in relation to another, commodity takes a relative form, and then the form acquired by the movement of transport, and finally the relative form is simply a projection of a single kind of commodity. Each form does not appear as the reflection of labour or appropriation of labour but as if it is the origin of its own natural properties. The kinetic truth is that all three forms (relative, transport and equivalent) are threefold motion in the same continually differentiated motion. This is the kinetic theory of value. (Marx in Motion: 2020)

As in natural science, motion is fundamental in Marxism for social change. For transcendence from capitalism to socialism or communism, the conscious role of the observers comes into play. The emancipation of workers is conquered by themselves, but without the intervention and participation of the conscious group of Marxist practitioners, this emancipation does not automatically translate into a change of society from capitalism to socialism. Time dilation occurs due to changes in the moving frame of reference.

The moving frame of reference is now a space-time coordinate defined by the interaction of the two–working-class emancipation and their party. This is the premise where Marx becomes an ‘ism’ and an ideology to be termed as Marxism.

The entire form of motion of commodity economy can be explained by the Marxian law of value in a moving frame of reference whose coordinate is determined by a separate coordinate of space and time combined. For example, imperialism can be defined and ascertained in terms of the flow of value from the periphery to core or dependent to dominant and vice versa at present and in comparison to one set of countries with another and the nature of value transfer in present-day imperialism relative to the same in British colonialism. To delineate the motion of transfer of value, there is a space i.e. specific country, time in the present and the past, and relativity i.e. one set of coordinates constituting of space and time with respect to another set. This resembles the Galilean-Newtonian laws of physics on space, time and relativity.

In a normal social polity under an imperialistic world-order, when a socio-political event occurs at a certain location, the information from within that particular social-space travels through diverse social structures and layers to the society at various distance locations. The time lag for reaching this information depends on the social relation of the production of a space and the distance from the occurrence of the event. Time dilation occurs in consonance with the moving frame of reference depending on the diverse social structure. Due to this time lag, the event at one place cannot be influenced by the reciprocal social action at other places. The event that represents the present for one locality becomes the past for another locality. Similarly, when after a lag, the information of one event in one particular locality reaches another locality, there may occur another event in that locality, the information of which does not reach the society at other locations instantaneously and as such future events for other locations cannot be influenced by other society. So the past, present and future constitute a time band that forms the societal present that needs to be analysed based on causality before and after this time band i.e. on the perception of time as the past and future. The past is human memory and the future is the perceptive prediction. This can be done based on the Marxian general law that states ‘Human history is the history of class-struggle and pre-history is the class-less class-struggle’.

But what happens when a revolutionary or nationalistic socio-political big event occurs, e.g. the French revolution, Russian revolution or a recent event like the Palestinian nationalist assertion leading to the Israel-Palestine imbroglio? Here, the two phenomena interact with each other -- the popular or working-class emancipation and Nationalistic, Marxist or other ideological practitioners -- to form the material base. This material base transforms and accumulates huge energy. The space and time no longer remain separate coordinates and form a new geometry in place of a Euclidean geometry that existed before in a normal situation by shifting the uniformly moving frame of reference of the exploitative and oppressive ruling class regime to the frame of reference to the working class and oppressed i.e. the socio-politics of that particular location abruptly change relatively from the ruling class socio-political frame of reference to working-class frame of reference. Due to the squeezing of space-time, the two parallel processes of working-class and the oppressed and the conscious practitioners of societal change intersect each other.

This space-time curvature is so big that everything happening within this revolutionary space appears to be inevitable and normal to the observers within, but it appears to the outside observers or Marxist practitioners as something unprecedented, magnificent and special. Due to this new material base and energy, time dilation occurs drastically. But at the moment of the revolutionary seizure of power, almost no information disseminates from within this event-horizon, but the information that emanates from the superficial or surface layers of the event-horizon, sends out a signal to the outside world of that event-horizon that some magnificent event is happening and such revolutionary upheaval is possible everywhere.

At this moment, nobody is exactly sure how the Palestinian resistance movement is shaped from within, one can only guess from the nature of actions that are reported from the superficial layers. Before the revolutionary upheaval, Marxist practitioners remain entangled within the hegemonic and dominant moving frame of reference of the ruling class with a conscious mind-theory of radical societal change but in a confused and indeterminate way to achieve this. Though this confusion and indetermination are resolved in a formulation of learning from praxis, this praxis is always in flux with various divergent approaches. Thus the question of Marxist practitioners’ unity remains obscured and this in turn, the question of revolutionary change remains a chance event of future possibility. Can Marxist practitioners travel to the future to predict this future chance event of revolutionary change?

In the situation of hegemonic control of the ruling class, the socio-economically differentiated toiling masses orbit around the ruling class at the centre in various orbital motions of a socio-political structure. But this orbital motion has its own limitation determined by the forces of production and social relation of production and the binding of the state. The Marxist's idea of ongoing class-struggle presumes that certain orbital motion always radiates energy from the underlying movement of the most oppressed and exploited and this creates the countervailing pressure to set a tendency for the collapse of the structure. This emanation of energy-wave grasps the Marxist practitioners to be engaged with the struggling toiling masses. But when the conscious Marxist practitioners with their mind-theory for radical change detect this wave, they not only add psychological and material energy to the wave that has been generated by the struggling masses, but they act to pick up conscious elements into their rank from within a single wave-like formation of a huge number of workers - the process of which is termed as party building - also subsides the wave.

A movement of workers or a section of toiling masses - even if it embraces the Marxist practitioners - appears as a wave, but when the conscious practitioners want to detect the movement, they see individual workers to be co-opted in their rank as causing the collapse of the wave. How this dichotomy of diametrically opposite acts of a single process is resolved? Marxist practitioners’ theoretical premise to resolve this dichotomy is based on subject–object relation. If the objective condition is not ripe, subjective effort cannot transform into revolutionary upheaval and this objective condition is determined by the development of productive forces which is not compatible with the existing social relation of production. There lies the uncertainty. The overemphasis on party-building in normal times subsides the struggling wave of the workers in ongoing class-struggle and on the contrary, if it is not emphasised, the subjective preparation remains weak and not in commensurate with the objective condition for revolutionary change when the objective condition becomes favourable. This overemphasis is also antithetical to revolutionary unity in normal times. It means that, without making such a prediction of forthcoming objective conditions for a revolutionary change, the unity of the revolutionary Marxist practitioners cannot be achieved. How to address such uncertainties?

In the situation of imperialistic and nationalistic hegemonic control and domination, the orbital motion of the toiling masses around the ruling class at the centre resembles the atomic structure. The aristocracy of labour or privileged labour relative to other sections as the Marxist practitioners delineate for developing class-struggle orbits near the centre and that’s why the left side of the orbital structure is allowed to radiate wave-like energy, but the right side is not allowed. The fallout of the interaction between the ongoing struggle of the oppressed and exploited toiling masses and the Marxist practitioners has been briefly discussed above. Marxists believe that without a party and a theory, there cannot be any revolutionary social change. But it must also be noted from the above discussion that the over-emphasis on party building in an ongoing class-struggle and action based on the theory of mind for a future society might have a dampening effect on the ongoing occasional eruptions of class-struggle and is also antithetical to revolutionary unity.

One can draw an analogy from the law of physics here. When the wave is weak, the advanced element of the workers from within this wave cannot be easily detected. But this is not the case in a situation of revolutionary upheaval when the energy-wave becomes very strong. So the emphasis should be on achieving such a situation. What can be the underlying act of the Marxist practitioners that makes such a situation more possible to arise than without such an act? On a global scale, the waves of struggles of diverse sections of the toiling masses may interfere with each other constructively or destructively giving rise to strengthening of the wave of struggle or diminishing it. The wavelength of the struggling-wave on global-scale is so long that it is difficult to ascertain, intervene and interact–the uncertainty is more than in the case of localised struggles. But the mass in such societal phenomenon of class-struggles of diverse sections coalescing together is so big that the uncertainty is very small and the making of future predictions may be very close to accuracy. Nevertheless, there is uncertainty.

In a localised event, if the struggles of the diverse section of toiling masses coalesce together and reinforce each other constructively, then there arises a situation of short-wavelength high-frequency with scores of high-energy advanced elements of workers within this wave. So the task of the Marxist revolutionary practitioners is to unite to assist in achieving such coalescing of the diverse movements together. In the country-specific localised event, the low-energy intervention i.e. the intervention to give this social phenomenon of struggle a direction of change instead of applying radical mind-theory at one go, can enable the observers to make future predictions quite accurately and with minimum uncertainty. But if the intervention becomes vehement and fierce at a moment as in the case of the Russian Revolution, the advanced elements within the classes in struggle cannot be completely determined and detected, and thus the future becomes uncertain. But for societal change, such risk is worth taking and as such, Leninism is valid though the time dimension is still a puzzle for the Marxist practitioners and revolutionaries.

Back to Home Page

Vol 56, No. 21, Nov 19 - 25, 2023