Saturday, June 05, 2010

Communism and Kerala -ii

My previous post discussed how true Marxist philosophy, which at the core envisaged a class struggle by urban workers against the bourgeoisie, never really materialized. As Maju pointed out wherever it had succeeded (Russia and China) the class struggle was against the feudal system.

When Karl Marx had come up with his theories, his reference society was a bourgeois society. His society had already moved from the feudal economy (which was broken by the bourgeoisie) to the capitalist economy. His theories, though not intended, became successful in feudal societies. Kerala was not different in this respect.

However, it's tough to call this as a success of Marxist ideology. First of all, his(Marx's) fundamental theory about 'alienation' has no meaning in these societies. A peasant or an independent artisan (who still would form the bulk of these societies) weren't the true alienated people. The movement that happened had Marxism in name but not in essence. Therefore, we must conclude that the communist movements in any feudal societies were devoid of any ideology. But that stand needs to be corrected after 'Maoism'.

 Mao Ze Dong, in fact , gave clear ideological base for a communist revolution in the feudal societies. In this ideology cadres are peasants and not urban workers. Therefore, alienation is irrelevant. It's also called 'Agrarian Sociology'. Even though Maoism is probably the much later ideology, we can extrapolate it to Indian communist movements and consider Indian communists of Kerala and Bengal were following the ideology of Mao. I suppose, main communist party of India which calls itself Communist Party of India (Marxist), should rename itself to Communist Party of India (Maoist). The ideology that best describes it is Maoist and not Marxist.

Now, this also explains why a Marxist economy failed absolutely in Mao's China or Kerala and West Bengal. The creation of new economy in Marxist sociology was based on a worker who felt alienation in a Capitalist society. However, psychology of feudal society people is entirely different. The socialist economy model is not for these people. Now, it also explains the post-Mao China. We need to bear in mind that Marx's reference society had moved from feudalism to capitalism. This gives us clue for the natural course a society should take. One should bring down a feudal society and then create a capitalist society in its place. China is exactly moving towards Marx's reference society. Since Marx's reference society mostly moved from  capitalist to socialist-capitalist (centrist...capitalism with insurance and social security) economy instead of pure socialist economy and this would probably be the case with China too. Urban worker would probably remain alienated as long as he has leisure to think about it.

Now, there is another movement in India which though calls itself Maoist is nothing but that in its orientation and essence. The Naxal cadres are mostly tribals. Now, the tribal life is entirely different from a civilized human life centred around labour. Also, tribals don't live in feudal society but a free society of their own. Their problem is that they are exploited by non-tribals. But there is no ideology that defines their movement. It's totally chaotic. The scope of the movement has nothing to do with true aspirations of people it represents. And I'm sure their economic model would be catastrophic.

But does that mean the state need to help creating a feudal society among these tribals hoping that they would someday bring it down and create a capitalist society and then move to a centrist society?


bachodi said...

Well researched post.

Apologies for cracking a stupid question for a serious post :
Leading party in Kerala is Left democratic front. Question is how can a left party be democratic. If any one names his party as democratic, how can he be communist ?

Maju said...


Democracy in Leninist discourse means people power on the economy rather than bourgeois parlamentarian democracy which actually tends to deny this economic democracy in the name of "freedom" and is called by Lenin bourgeois class dictatorship. Lenin also uses the term proletariat dictatorship and people's democracy interchangeably.

Notice anyhow that in Lenin's times most "democracies" did not allow universal vote, a recent conquest in most cases, largely thanks to the working class struggle, Marxist or not, but only owners could vote.

The key issue in all this discursive confusion is whether democracy can also be applied to the economy (banks, companies, markets) or is restricted to chosing once every few years between two normally very similar bourgeois options.

Things have evolved since Lenin's time and even more since Marx' times. A key principle of Marxist theory is Dialectic: or how the struggle of the opposites (thesis and antithesis) creates new synthesis. In general Marxism has been part of the antithesis and I'd say that neither Marx nor Lenin nor Mao really could predict the exact outcome of this Dialectic alchemy.

Nor can we at this moment surely. But for sure that Dialectic is still working and making things change.

manju said...

A key principle of Marxist theory is Dialectic: or how the struggle of the opposites (thesis and antithesis) creates new synthesis.

I suppose this works where there is only one anti-thesis(or only tow opposing views).What if there are multiple anti-thesis. When these multiple anti-thesis which are anti-thesis to each other, does dialectic have any meaning?

Maju said...

I'm not an expert in the matter but I think you are just adding a new twist to the basic scheme.

I can hardly think anyhow in any such scenario, all I can think of are variants of pro-thesis or pro-antithesis factions, such as conservative Christians vs. conservative Muslims, or Stalinists vs. Anarchists... but they don't represent really the materialist conceptualizations of Marxism but rather idealizations.

Maybe a more clear case could be when there are parallel dialectics such as class struggle and gender struggle, in both of which the subjects are objective albeit different, are you thinking of this?

manju said...

Let us consider gender inequality because of religion. These are interrelated.
- Belief in all powerful male god
- Belief in god's unequal creation of man and woman

Now there can be two anti-thesis for this.
1. God doesn't exist therefore anything because of his will doesn't exist

2. God exists but he didn't create man and woman unequal

Can these two groups work together? I think not, as anti-thesis (1) can easily claim anti-thesis (2) in fact rationally supports thesis.

Maju said...

You are describing the dialectic in Hegelian terms, which IMO are merely decorative: a rationalization of materialist (Marxist) true dialectics.

Both rationalizations are the same antithesis in the material plane, as far as I can see, because they argue for the same material resolution: gender equality, even if they disagree in how they articulate that opposition to the traditionalist thesis.

manju said...

antithesis (2) is clearly subjective. This will result in multiple possible syntheses. Therefore, truth is not reached. However, antithesis (1) is the negation of thesis. Therefore, no synthesis is possible. And this is what is required. Because that gives the room for science to prove the absolute truth. Therefore, group supporting antithesis (1) cannot work with group supporting antithesis (2). Antithesis (1) removes the mysticism by bringing in science and antithesis (2) brings only confusion.

Hegel's dialectics are applicable in the places where science is capable of explanation. And gender equality is one of them.

Maju said...

Well, if you ignore the factor "God", which is a mere ideal notion, it seems to me that your whole reasoning falls down. With or without "God", the real, materialist, factual, dialectic is between two different potentials for the status of women.

I think that, like Hegel, you seem trapped in idealism.

For me the dialectic you formulated can be told as follows in materialist terms:

Thesis: women and men are unequal

Antithesis: women and men are equal (or equivalent if you wish)

Whether God exists or not is trivial: an immaterial, idealist debate, and hence pointless from a factualist point of view.

Maju said...

Also the truth is not necessarily what comes from materialist dialectics, except in the sense that it is a new truth, a new reality (the synthesis).

What materialist dialectics generate is new realities with new ideological paradigms of course but not necessarily one single uniform ideological conclusion.

Also the synthesis becomes the new thesis and this is confronted by new antithesis... and so on. While communists propose an earthly paradise (at least in theory) that's not what Marxist dialectics really says will happen.

In the immortal words of Subcomandante Marcos: "Struggle is like a circle, you can start at any point but never ends".

manju said...

Hegel? I thought my arguments are similar to Popper. Anyway, I suppose I try to follow common sense arguments and then try to check whether they overlap with any of the philosophical positions.

What do you mean by 'god is a mere ideal notion'? First of all, Marxist leaders were/are generally atheists thus it is impossible to imagine they all being believers and fighting for Communist revolution. Without the notion of god I wonder if the feudal thoughts could have endured so long. The powerful position of god in material word was responsible for the confusion(and many a time acceptance) among victims about their position in the society.

And what about this 'new reality'? Isn't that a notion?

From my observation, Marxist synthesis (which became thesis) hasn't produced a new antithesis. In fact, either the society has reverted back to old thesis or they have found a mixed synthesis. However, none of these could be called new antithesis in the same breath as Marxism can be called antithesis of Capitalism or Maoism can be called antithesis for feudalism.

Maju said...

"Hegel? I thought my arguments are similar to Popper".

Sorry, I thought you were still talking dialectics here.

Not sure if Popper ever addressed this issue at all. I read something about him when a teen and found him uninteresting. He's very famous but mostly seems because he is an ideologue of Neoliberalism, what gained him the favor of the media, right?

"What do you mean by 'god is a mere ideal notion'?"

My whole argument is that Dialectic, at least the interesting part of it, is material (as within Marxist philosophy), so ideal concepts such as "God" are pretty much irrelevant, distractions from the central facts (or rather the only facts, as nothing meaningful can be said about "God" other that is undemonstrable and undemonstrated from a scientific viewpoint and hence irrelevant to the factual reality).

Sure, most Marxists (but not all) were/are atheists ("God" does not exist) but most importantly they are ALL secularists ("God" is pointless, maybe good for a tavern debate in a boring day but not the crux of our problems at all, rather a cover up: a distraction). I'd dare say that secularism is even more disdainful to religion than atheism and hence even more powerful. But again we are discussing ideology rather than facts.

"... it is impossible to imagine they all being believers and fighting for Communist revolution".

Have you ever heard of Liberation Theology ("Jesus was a revolutionary" theory and consequently we must be so: it's very extended in Latin America). We have already commented once on Tolstoi, the Christian Anarchist and forgotten inspiration of Ghandi. You may agree or not with them (I rather do not) but they are still on the good side of the barricade.

Inversely you can perfectly be an atheist and an exploiter (reasoning: as there's no afterlife and no divine justice, I can do as I please and be merciless without any fear nor remorse). In fact probably the vast majority of elite members, including priests, popes, imams, etc. are hypocrite atheists who preach a religion they do not believe in at all but that serves their private goals of power and wealth. At least that's what I suspect.

"Without the notion of god I wonder if the feudal thoughts could have endured so long".

The Metal Ages were pretty much like the Middle Ages but their religious concepts were pretty different. They mostly revered gods that were indifferent to humankind and who offered no or little promise of a better afterlife. Those gods were not even creators themselves (I'm taking the IE gods as reference) but mere puppets of Destiny ultimately, just like people. And there was not even a clear moral reasoning about Destiny, nothing like Karma in Western religious thought, just a general perception of some superior beings doing their caprice and walking the convoluted and mysterious paths of Destiny like everybody else.

If there was a moral in all those beliefs it is not obvious at all. The closest I have found is "gods like winners", which is anything but moral or ethic. And the rewards of the winners are mostly material, earthly, of course.

There are variants, like Nordic Valhalla, which was sort of a heaven for warriors only (the rest went to Hela, the Nordic equivalent of Hades and the origin of modern English word Hell). But it's anyhow a "moral" for warriors and conquerors, not for subjects. They never seem to have conceived such a "moral" doctrine for the women, slaves or peasants: they were essentially subdued by force and material means, not so much by indoctrination.

Basque religious thought was probably different but was not really widespread anymore in protohistory and early history anymore.

Maju said...

"And what about this 'new reality'? Isn't that a notion?"

It is a factual notion, a verbal expression of a fact. If the new reality after the French Revolution was a bourgeois society, economy and politics, that's a fact that must be described somehow. Totally different than God, which is nowhere to be seen, smelled, tasted, touched, heard (unless you're schizophrenic maybe).

"From my observation, Marxist synthesis (which became thesis) hasn't produced a new antithesis. In fact, either the society has reverted back to old thesis or they have found a mixed synthesis".

So you think that modern Russia is the same as Tsarist Russia? No way. Of course the pendulum (Deleuze and Guattari's version of the Marxist Dialectic) is in its reactionary mode but such alternate cycles are to be expected and in the last three decades or so not only Russia but the whole world has been in reactionary mode. However reaction is powerless to do what it'd like to: revert to the past. They just push breaks that don't seem to work, revert something maybe but never the whole of reality.

For Marxism, and specially for the Situationist interpretation of D&G Capital is in fact a revolutionary drive. For D&G it is a schizoid tendency that uses and corrupts every single instance of the old order, throwing them to the trash bin after that. In the process the whole old order is destroyed but Capital is unable to create its own new order because of its parasitic nature in all dimensions so this dynamics, driven by money and market economy, can and does only push us to a vaccuum, a dead end that will have to be filled somehow but not by Capital but by Humankind.

In this context of accelerated disintegration of all structures, institutions and values that held societies traditionally together, it is only logical that there is a reaction that tries to reorganize the broken pieces of the old regime. But the old regime cannot really be brought back to life, they are slaves of money, of Capital, so reaction eventually is destroyed by Capital again. As such cycles happen the old order is less real and more a mere romantic fantasy.

Deleuze and Guattari's "Anti-Oedipus" was a total revelation for me and, IMO, is a must read, though it is also a very dense essay that requires at least some basic knowledge of Freudian Psychoanalysis (so en vogue in the 60s though not really the crux of the book, more like the code used to describe reality).

But the key in this reading is not that the Dialectic is Work vs. Capital (also but not the main one maybe) but rather Capital vs. Feudalism (or its remnants, recycled into fascism, into fundamentalism and even maybe into Stalinism).

However the final result is open. The only clue is that once Capital has finished all the old system, there will be nothing that holds society together and hence we will have to build from scratch, with only one surviving tool: humanity.

In places like West Europe there's really not much of the old system left anymore already. If it's not yet shaking it is only because the people is being bought with welfare, relatively high salaries and other such privileges. But when that is gone (already happening), then what will sustain society? What will make worker-citizens loyal to Capital anymore? Religion not as most are agnostic or atheist and even those who have still some faith don't really think of themselves obliged to follow any rule but their own conscience.

Even the replacement indoctrination machine, mass media, are declining fast. What will hold people together then when they are again reduced to poverty and hope is not anywhere anymore?

Only a radical Humanist revolution can. If anything. And there's no Humanism left but genuine Socialism. At least not here.

Maju said...

Also I don't think that "Marxist" processes in underdeveloped areas are essentially different from bourgeois ones, just that they are ideologically more advanced but their central aim, as you have wisely identified, is to destroy the old regime and install instead a version of Capitalism.

The time of Socialism has not yet arrived... but almost there probably. However I cannot conceive clearly how that synthesis will be in detail.

manju said...

Okay, let me stop Hegel, Popper dialectics. I have never read them deeply and if you weren't going to assign my thoughts to Hegel I wouldn't have bothered about them.

I don't think it's necessary to dwell much into philosophical positions. I consider thesis + antithesis -> synthesis a hypothesis and try to apply them to my observations. My logical conclusions are not sophistry or based on any analogy but on my interpretations of the events that I know of.

And anyway I'm not sure if I need to give much importance to all those philosophers that you mentioned. I agree with Bertrand Russell that they are mostly mystical thinkers and unconnected to reality.

- No, I haven't heard of 'liberation theology'. We do have sects by non-brahmins that are revolutionary in nature in the context of the caste system. However, in the end they have kept people backward in all other matters. Even anti-casteism has dual face among the followers of these sects. Some of them reject caste identities and others are "proud" of their identities which they feel they lacked(pride) in the past because of Brahmin domination. It's tough to discuss the irony of the whole situation.

- If Marxists considered religion is so irrelevant, why did they feel the need to suppress it wherever they ruled? I'm taking 'god' as a concept that has practical implications in a society.

- Anyway, there are too many doomsday predictions in your comment. Since all these belong to future I don't know how to address them. Also, I don't know how they apply to my society. Is it not possible when Europe goes into poverty India becomes a big market for German cars?

Also I don't think that "Marxist" processes in underdeveloped areas are essentially different from bourgeois ones, just that they are ideologically more advanced but their central aim, as you have wisely identified, is to destroy the old regime and install instead a version of Capitalism.

Well, this is indeed interesting. Can you elaborate more on what you mean by 'a version of Capitalism'?

Maju said...

Long reply follows in several comment blocks.


"I consider thesis + antithesis -> synthesis a hypothesis"...

I'd say it's a method of analysis, of sociopolitical analysis specially - as I'm almost only interested in materialist dialectics as tool to understand class struggle and other human liberation struggles (feminism, self-determination...), which are or at least can be understood in terms of dialectics.

"If Marxists considered religion is so irrelevant, why did they feel the need to suppress it wherever they ruled?"

Different Marxists applied different approaches to religion, I guess. If you had watched "Reds", you would know that the main character (a historical US communist who migrated to USSR ) ended up discovering that the Stalinist bureaucrats were "translating" his atheist and revolutionary discourses in Central Asia into "praise Allah" stuff. Which is one of the most comical and also dramatical moments of the film.

In Eastern Europe, excepting Maoist Albania, religion was never really suppressed and even occasionally was used to support the state, particularly in WWII. Some churches were recycled but the Soviet constitution guaranteed freedom of religion (and freedom of criticism of religion) and, while it was not encouraged by the system, it was not really persecuted either. Even in China there is mostly freedom of religion, with some caveats maybe.

Just that the Christians weep a lot. The only case I know where religion was really eradicated (for good) was Albania, where it was official that 99% of the people were atheists and to some extent it seems to have been petty successful, up to the point that today Albanians are not mostly Muslim (nor Catholic) anymore. Instead look at Poland: probably the most fundamentalist Christian country of Europe, sociologically speaking - even more than Ireland or Italy nowadays. Look also at how easy was to revive religious sectarianism in a Yugoslavia, at least as a socio-political fashion, after Titoism on the grounds of ethnic nationalism.

Religion was not much persecuted in most cases, even if the regimes were officially atheist.

Maju said...

"I'm taking 'god' as a concept that has practical implications in a society".

I won't deny this but rather than the idea of god/s, I think it is the religious structures (a power on their own right) and the feeling of powerlessness and resignation to "destiny" (oppression, injustice) imbued by religions (at least most variants), where the problem really lays. You can have 'godless' religions such as Buddhism and still have the same effect on the masses because they typically preach the impossibility of salvation in real life and the need to obey the hierarchies, which are nothing but the organization of the oppressors.

But now and then some sects and currents have held that earthly salvation and transcendental one are the same or deeply intertwined. The Quakers used to be one, though they have evolved towards apolitical AFAIK, Liberation Theology within Catholicism is another. They are limited IMO but they are not right aways enemies of the revolution and they can even support it actively "in the name of Divine Justice" or whatever.

Maju said...

"Is it not possible when Europe goes into poverty India becomes a big market for German cars?"

In pure contemplative theory it might be but the chance is very slim. One of the reasons is that one of every six people or so is Indian. So it would require the total demise of not just Europe but all the "Western bloc" and China. It'd be a case where India would have miraculously taken the place of all the First World and that would mean that not just the First World but also all the rest of World would be your "colonies" (in practical economical terms).

It's a practical impossibility and that's why India and China practice "internal colonialism", which benefits large sectors at the expense of others.

We have to consider that under Capitalism, wealth is not distributed equally but it's a pyramid where a few oligarchs get most, a larger but still limited fraction of lackeys and key specialist workers get some and the vast majority get just to pay for their most basic needs, if at all.

What you suggest is that India, or more precisely its elites (but by extension at least a good deal of other Indians as their lackeys and expert workers) would take the position at the top of the pyramid. Everybody on top is simply not possible within Capitalism because it would effectively mean Socialism (egalitarian distribution) and that's not what the mega-scam is about, not at all.

The illusion of an affluent "Capitalist World" is based only on a selective impression of its metropolis (you think in, TV shows you, the cars and luxuries of New York but seldom in the homeless and the huge districts of impoverished workers and lumpenproletariat) in particularly good times.

People seems easily mesmerized by what they don't have and tend to have blind spot for those who are not well off. Everybody hopes to win the lottery but their chances are nearly zero. The system feeds on that instinct of success and produces propaganda accordingly. Capitalism is identified with Beverly Hills, not with the Bronx, with Bollywood and not the endless slums of Mumbai, with success stories such as the Google boys and not the infinitely more common failure or at best dark grey stories of most real people's lives.

This illusion is much more the religion, the opium of the masses of our time than religion as such, which is in overall decline, even if bumpy. Religion is in decline because the media have taken its brainwashing role.

India (or China, Brazil...) have not the power to place themselves on top as the West did. They can cut corners in they favor, reduce their historical role as pillars of the pyramid and that way help erode the power of the, essentially Western, global elite. The costs of this "emancipation" of the "colonies" are now being redirected to the formerly semi-privileged working classes of West. In a nuclear World it's impossible to solve these contradictions by means of generalized war, as happened in the past (what was the not-so-mad dream of Hitler but to conquer an "India" for Germany in Russia?)

These Western working class sooner than later will revolt. However "soon" may take a few years because people still have some hope that the problem is circumstantial. They are used to see relatively good times and think this is just a temporary exception.

But they are very wrong. There's no way to restore the imperial status quo. The very US Empire is clearly it its last moment in spite of no other rival even approaching its power at this moment... nor in the foreseeable future. They can invade Iraq, maybe even Iran... but there's no way they can invade India or China... much less keep control of any large conquest at low cost.

Maju said...

"... there are too many doomsday predictions in your comment".

Am I a doomsayer? I think I am just a factualist. Immense material power, not just nominal money but actual technology and huge interconnected hierarchical organizations are concentrated in the hands of very few people. The power to annihilate humankind not once but several times, the power to project illusions, spread plagues, coerce people to produce useless merchandises instead of what they really need.

This power has bee organized by Capital but created by the Working Class of all Earth in complex networks. That's what the Marxists and Anarchists talk about in fact: of who is to organize this power, how and what for. The goal of Capital is nothing but its own self-perpetuation as power organization, the systematic robbery of all those who are out of the elite cliques that make the decisions.

But they have reached all their limits (economical and ecological) and things will have to change. Now they are nothing but the old sorcerer whose power is bound to being able to "command rain"... but rain does not obey.

Our "rain" is the economy (including ecology) and their command is irreversibly broken.

I'm talking about the present day. It's grim but it's also a huge opportunity to change things. We just need to change things. I don't know how exactly but I know that it is happening now. The train of radical change is heating engines; at the moment it moves still very slowly but that will change soon.

However I'm not any genius social engineer nor "God", so I cannot predict the exact process. I doubt anybody can because the characteristic of change moments like these is unpredictability, chaotic nature.

Maju said...

"Well, this is indeed interesting. Can you elaborate more on what you mean by 'a version of Capitalism'?"

Bourgeois nationalism with a red banner. Today's best example is probably China but also in Latin America. In the past it was the USSR. These countries are developing bourgeois revolutions (late ones) under ideologically post-bourgeois direction, at least nominally. It's difficult sometimes to differentiate them from other peripheral bourgeois movements such as fascism and bonapartism (generic term for populist semi-revolutionary and semi-reactionary processes like those of the Napoleons of France) but there is a meaningful difference in that they at least claim to follow a post-Capitalist model.

Oddly enough Socialism is very successful, even if often just in discourse. Whether the nationalist elites are bureaucratic or bourgeois in nature (or a mixture of both), they need this discourse to persuade the people in many cases. And they also need to deliver some of it. Delivering is of course costly for them but it's a condition for social and political stability, without which no elite can rule for long.

I really can't tell how exactly this peripheric "nationalism with red banner" will evolve in the future but things should change a lot once the central countries experience a genuine and almost unprecedented socialist revolution. However it is very possible that in Latin America and Southern Asia some countries at least if not whole regional blocs may advance at times faster than the center (the West and Japan).

But the key change will happen most likely as predicted in the central countries, as reaction for the greater and greater loss of life quality caused ultimately in great part by the imperfect emancipation of the peripheral countries, not willing anymore and each time more capable of challenging Western imperial supremacy in their territories at least.

However I don't discard surprises because, the same that (r)evolution into Capitalism was favored locally by what can be called underdeveloped Feudalism (presence of free peasants with small-medium property and artisans), the (r)evolution into Socialism or whatever the future will bring, may be favored by locally some similar "underdeveloped" factors. The main difference however is that today all processes are pretty much global since the beginning to the end, so thinking locally only may not provide a good perspective.