The Pandemic and the state

Second Part: Politics Commands: Why Vacillate?

Arup Kumar Baisya

This revolution is necessary not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in riding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew. (Marx in German Ideology)

Freedom and capitalism
Engel reiterated Hegel in Anti-Durhing, “Freedom is the recognition of necessity”. What is this necessity? The answer to this question is unveiled in how Marx dealt with Capitalism as a process. The capitalist world as delineated by Marx is an inverted world where everything is objectified by the dynamic process of capitalism. Capitalism appears to be the subject that mediates through the human labour objectified as the productive force along with other material objects like a machine and raw material i.e. means of production. The capitalist law of value drives the relation between the Capital and labour, and within the domain of this relation, Capitalists become the capital personified.

The transcendence of the Capitalism is the journey from unfreedom to freedom, freedom of humanity through a transitional phase of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the dictatorship which, in essence, the evolution of democracy to its highest form surpassing the bourgeoise democracy through withering away of the state. The moment at which this journey to freedom can begin is the moment of revolution which precedes by a paradigm shift in the normal theoretical discourse. The Paradigm as defined by Thomas S. Kuhn “On the one hand, it stands for the entire constellation of beliefs, values, techniques, and so on shared by the members of a given community. On the other, it denotes one sort of elements in that constellation, the concrete puzzle-solutions which, employed as models or examples, can replace explicit rules as a basis for the solution of the remaining puzzles of normal science.”

The Paradigm shift and the revolution
Once the capitalist paradigm through which to view the society has been found, the theoretical endeavour goes on adjusting any systemic anomaly which comes in conflict with the observation. If one fails to adjust the anomaly, it is the “the carpenter (the theorist) who blames his tools”, not the capitalist paradigm. This dominant paradigm is rejected only by substituting it with another. This substitution or a paradigm shift begins when the anomalies are so strong that it leads to crisis and those who adhere to reform or revisionism within the capitalist system resist or ridicule such paradigmatic shift.  They are determinists and at the same time voluntarists who think that at any given time, the range of possibilities is determined by what has gone before, but within this range genuine choices are possible. This very general principle, however, by no means exhausts the Marxian position. It is more important to consider Marxism as the revolutionary idea which can emerge as a dominant paradigm after a prolonged period of stability of a given capitalist social order to be followed by a revolutionary transition to a new social order.

The proletarian character of a revolution, in fact, depends more on the dominant role of the proletarian ideology and of the party which embodies this ideology, than on the “numerical” strength of the proletariat. Despite the example of a proletarian revolution in a backward country like Russia under the leadership of a Bolshevik Party, the demise of the organised working class in large industries during the neo-liberal restructuring instilled a defeatist mindset within the practicing Marxists who interpreted the Marxist philosophy more as an idea to adjust working-class position within the paradigm of capitalism than as a philosophy to transcend capitalism. But at this given moment, the anomalies which have emerged within the system and surfaced for the observer to visualise are so strong that the paradigmatic shift for a radical politics of change can challenge the efficacy of the capitalist paradigm and grab the imagination of the masses to become a formidable force to break the notion of TINA factor to transform the working class into a ruling class for a new social order.

The Indian development and the working class
In the first part of this series “The Pandemic and the state”, the options before the ruling class and the communist parties are dealt with. This part of the series deals with a revolutionary political line that can emerge mot only through ruthless criticism of capitalism but also revisionism. This necessitates the brief mention of the history of the development of the Indian economy to keep it in perspective.

From the experience of the colonial period and the Chinese experience of ‘erosion and retention’ of feudalism under imperialism and the Chinese revolution, it was presumed that the intertwining of feudal class and the capitalist class alliance of imperialism and feudalism thereon provides the best conditions for imperialist super-profits. So, the battle against caste or feudal class is the battle against feudalism and as such, this struggle by itself is the struggle against imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism. The real manifestation of this struggle in the vast expanse of the agrarian sector is the struggle against the ownership of land and other means of agricultural production of the upper castes.

The objective reality of the rural and urban landscape of India has already undergone a drastic change. After long post-independent dirigiste Nehruvian development strategy under uneven and combined global development model and especially after neo-liberal development spree post-eighties, there has been a long haul of concomitant proletarianisation and pauperisation. The migrants who were only represented as dry data for the policymakers and analysts to make them fit in capitalist law of value have now struck a decisive blow to the mass social consciousness by their passive rebellion of exodus against the systemic capitalist rules of disciplining labour. The workers in the service sector who sells their labour-power to the capitalists who in turn sell the service of the labour to the consumers also deserted their site by defying the order of the state and thus temporarily snapping ties with capitalist relation of submission and discipline. This exodus and strenuous journey to their home by itself is a rebellion on their volition. They find themselves in a cultural and political void where there are strong anomalies in the prevailing system, but the absence of any radical political endeavour for a paradigm shift. This itself challenges the myth ingrained in the defeatist mindset of a section of the left that the politics and ideology of a proletarian party cannot bring the revolutionary agenda into fore in absence of large-scale industrial workers who are really subsumed into capital.

The Govt policy and the Indian big bourgeoisie
Now it is amply clear that the Indian ruling class is settling down for a policy of “Privatised Keynesianism”. Both the rate of unemployment and the rate of exploitation are increasing in real terms. New sectors have indeed opened for the capitalists for trillion-dollar business and accumulation of profit. But the menacing crisis of overproduction due to accumulation of wealth is not going to be resolved in near future, rather it is deepened further due to Pandemic and lockdown. The new opportunities of investment with the strong support of the state are not going to compensate for the job losses before and after lockdown, the unemployment rate which indicates a capitalist crisis beyond a threshold is not only going to prevail, but also deepen. Unlike previous instances of capitalist history, the new technology Cybernetics instead of generating new employment opportunity retrenched workers, this time the Robotics or AI is going to play the same role.

A balancing act between the market and the state in which the present dispensation in power is envisioning to serve the interest of the domestic bourgeoisie is not going to generate the domestic market in the backdrop of the high unemployment rate. The rural agricultural economy can be revamped only in the backdrop of an industrial and urban earning population whom the agricultural produces feed. In the backdrop of the breaking down of the global value chain, large scale FDI in India cannot be expected at this moment. The foreign manufacturers of spare-parts may shift their production to Vietnam and Mexico for labour arbitrage, but not in India in the immediate future, at least before economic revival. When US President Donald Trump imposed import tariffs, the Indian big bourgeoisie Jindal’s JSW invested one billion dollars for establishing a steel manufacturing plant in the US. Mittal, Jindal, Adani et el invest in foreign countries in steel, mining, etc. Indian big bourgeois is a partner in mining activities with Chinese companies in Africa and they adopt the form of colonial exploitation in African countries.

The Pandemic and productive restructuring
Due to the lockdown and the Pandemic, the focus on productive sectors has been undergoing a shift towards the manufacture and as a result, the old manufacturing capitalists are once again coming to the limelight surpassing or reducing the one-sided influence of capitalist like Ambanis, etc. In this crisis situation when both production and labour processes have been drastically disrupted, the diverse section of the big powerful bourgeoisie is keen on grabbing the opportunity to exploit the domestic market and unitedly putting their weight on the govt to create pressure for the domestic policy of “Privatised Keynesianism”. But this policy of the Govt is going to face popular resistance from the masses including the middle classes because this will not only fail to address the systemic crisis but also aggravate the crisis. The certain belated gesture of addressing the grievances of migrants and popular classes through a small bit by bit measures is the sign of vulnerability of the powers-that-be too, but it is logical to conclude that these positive gestures will revolve around the domain of dominant paradigm and will be reversed in case the increasing pressure from the masses challenges the very foundation of the dominant paradigm itself.  The rhetorical stance of the Govt by delineating this policy as “vocal for local” and “country going global” instead of the Nehruvian model of import substitution actually bears the essence of this “privatized Keynesianism” with an eye on FDI in future with a focus on export. Will the popular resistance transform itself into a political struggle for radical change under the pedagogic guidance and leadership of a proletarian party?

Critique of revisionism and Marxism
For this to happen, a ruthless critique of both capitalism and revisionism needs to be launched while leading the proletarians for the broadest popular unity. To achieve this broadest unity of the masses, we must also understand that like combined development (in the center and periphery), the uneven development is ingrained in capitalism and the unevenness is ubiquitous throughout the system. The unevenness is accentuated when capitalism reached its imperialist stage of exploitation. This unevenness is marked by the presence of pre-capitalist relation which is moulded and shaped by the combined development under capitalism to ensure its profit and accumulation.

Karl Marx dwelt on the dual nature of labour under capitalism. On the one hand, argues Marx, labour is abstract labour, involved in producing commodities for the market, objectified as value, expressed in the exchange of commodities for money, from which capital extracts profit. On the other hand, labour is also involved in the production of use-value, concrete labour, both individual and social. Under capitalism, the two forms of labour are, he argued, in constant tension with each other. The creative, purposeful activity is subordinated to labour disciplined for the maximisation of profit. According to Marx, capitalism encounters an extreme variety of forms of land ownership, such as feudal, clan, communal (and primitive), state, etc., when it makes its appearance on the historical scene. Capital subordinates to itself all these varied forms of land ownership and remoulds them after its own fashion. If one is to understand, evaluate, and express this process, the contradictory movement of acceleration and retardation must be the starting point in understanding the development of capitalism in India in the era of imperialism.

Contradictions and revolutionary party
we can delineate the different contradictions which are at play in the present Indian society. These are (1) Capital vs labour & nature (1) Imperialist domination vs. nation (2) Competition within the compradors. (3) Compradors vs the people (4) Comradors vs the regional bourgeoisie (5) Landed gentry vs. the peasants. (6) Upper caste vs lower castes (7) Men and women (Patriarchy). But at a moment of time, one contradiction manifests itself as a principal contradiction. The Pandemic and the lockdown have changed the polity in such a way that the contradiction between Indian comprador bourgeoisie vs. the people has emerged as the principal contradiction which can be resolved in favour of the people only under the leadership of a proletarian party leading the masses.

This leadership emerges from a paradigmatic shift to bring the Marxism as a revolutionary doctrine which also underlines the importance of praxis to establish the rights of the working class and their class empowerment through workplace democracy, organize the peasantry through peasant productive and organisational association for grassroot democracy and to ensure people’s participation through popular resistance movement and all these must be spearheaded with a vision to transform the working class into a ruling class, the idea of which becomes a material force when it grabs the masses. The migrants by their passive rebellion have sent a message loud and clear that this is the moment of history when the working class rises from the slumber for revolution by the slightest of internal or external shock riding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew. The migrants by dint of their migration interacted with the world around them and unconsciously came out of the petty domestic wall of caste-community and language barrier. Are they destined to fail, or the communists will fail them? The History will answer in a decisive way.

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May 20, 2020

Arup Kumar Baisya

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