Indian Reality

Redefining Imperialism

Arup Baisya

There exists diversity within Marxist revolutionary circle in conceptualising the phenomenon of fascism vis-à-vis dictatorship in the Indian context. And one must understand that there cannot be any static definition of it for all time to come. But on one count, revolutionaries agree that there are many camps which are pitted against the forces that are hell bent on changing the form of state from constitutional democracy to an authoritarian regime. These camps can be broadly delineated as Bourgeois democratic, Reformist left and Revolutionary left. The political content of the three camps differentiates them with distinctive features. Bourgeois camp wants a space for them for capital investment and profit and the concomitant constitutional democracy. Left reformists want to extend the bourgeois space so that profit motive is restricted in such a way that the welfare of the toiling masses is guaranteed, the left revolutionaries espouse the ultimate defeat of the fascist vis-à-vis authoritarian regime only through radical transformation of the society under the leadership of working class. Broadly speaking, these three forces go through a process of permutation and combination while combating the transformation of the fascist/authoritarian transformation of the state albeit dictated by the social balance of force at any moment of time.

So, this is important that a revolutionary party continuously assess the situation to formulate its task ahead, both strategically and tactically. It is unfortunate that a section of revolutionaries jumped the gun with a mechanical and static interpretation of the here and now and set their task to sit on the lap of the Congress to combat fascist/authoritarian transformation of the state. This mechanical anti-Marxist approach compels them to hurriedly formulate an inchoate idea of revolutionary unity which smacks of choosing the bed-fellows for constructing an opportunistic comfort-zone. The Indian revolutionaries with the legacy of Naxalbari uprising have a chequred past to always side with the ongoing class-struggle and intensifying the class-struggle for a radical transformation of the society. It does not mean that one claims to occupy the position of the science of social change without committing any mistake in theory of praxis and to epitomise the knowledge of the ongoing class-struggle and its future ramifications. Marxism does not entail staticity of mindset and demands continuous assessment of the concrete situation through concrete analysis.

What India is witnessing now resembles the social transformation that leads the gradual predominance of the capitalist social order which Marx described as “primitive accumulation”. Marx described it as a pre-condition for establishing a centralised absolutist state capable of upholding the new capitalist social order that emerges from appropriation of property and proletarianisation while at the same time legitimising it as a regime of ‘freedom and equality’. But Marx saw the early capitalist colonialism in the form of British act for settlement in Australia and emphasised the internal dynamics of capitalism for territorial expansion. In the present form of imperialism, the dependent economy like India is pursuing a state policy of income deflation of the vast majority of Indian masses caused by the displacement of peasants and permanent workforce as “primitive accumulation” for sustenance of imperialist division of labour based on unequal exchange and transfer of value from periphery to centre.

J A Hobson in 1902 coined a new popular term to describe the phenomena of his age: imperialism. Many of Hobson’s ideas influenced the Marxist theories of imperialism that were to be formulated a few years later. According to Hobson capitalism appears to have moved beyond its ‘competitive’ stage and entered a new phase characterised by high levels of concentration of capital in ‘trusts’ and ‘combines’. The growth of production is accompanied by reduction in the income of the labouring masses, in turn triggering a fall in consumption and leading to recurrent capitalist crises. Export of capital is an answer to the problem of the crisis. Imperialism is a symptom of the capitalist crisis of under-consumption. Rudolf Hilferding introduced into Marxist theory the idea of a ‘latest phase’ of capitalism, characterised by the formation of monopolistic enterprises which abolish capitalist competition, fusion of bank and industrial capital leading to the formation of finance capital, which is seen as the ultimate form of capital, subordination of the state to monopolies and finance capital, and finally, emergence of an expansionist policy of colonial annexations and war. Luxemburg in her critique of Marx described Imperialism as the political expression of the accumulation of capital in its competitive struggle for what remains still open of the non-capitalist environment. In continuation of Hobson and Hilferding, Lenin approached the question of imperialism from the viewpoint of a revolutionary strategy under which the working class might win power and political tactics on the movements of national self-determination that were developing in various countries. It is to be borne in mind that Lenin upheld right to self-determination to formulate the revolutionary task of his time when such movement was a dominant feature of people’s movement, and he was not quite averse to Luxemberg’s opposition to national self-determination from a basic Marxist tenet. His analysis of imperialism of his time dictated him to include national self-determination movement as a revolutionary movement. Instead of a uniform global soico-economic structure, Lenin formulated the concept of imperialist chain as he emphasised on Marxist theory of state and the political power. What counts is not simply economic development but the overall power of each state that is a link in the chain. The imperialist chain involves the material, domestic and international, precondition for proletarian revolution and this is the theory of weak link.

Many new features have now emerged in the global scale. In contradistinction to ‘zero-migration’ policy prior to neoliberalism when the settlement of migrant labour was barred by the protectionist regimes, the settlement of migrant labourers domestically and internationally post-1980s in significant number has changed the global capitalist contour. The export of capital that was envisaged as imperialism in Lenin’s time has been extended as the shifting of entire modern industry from developed to underdeveloped or from centre to periphery both nationally and internationally and this has become the dominant feature of present time. The subordination of industrial capital to monopoly finance capital has taken a new form where finance capital has developed its own market globally and this global chain of finance capital has also become the dominant feature of the present time. In continuation of the Leninist tradition, the Marxist revolutionaries have the task to redefine the imperialism of the present time, if not a new-imperialism, with the viewpoint of formulating a revolutionary strategy under which the working class might win power and political tactics on the movements that were developing in various countries. Such attempts are being made in that direction, but the revolutionaries need to articulate this in the context of rise of neo-fascism or authoritarianism (whatever it might be called) and the concomitant rise of new people’s movements.

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Vol 56, No. 38, Mar 17 - 23, 2024