Marxism And Indian Revolution

Marxism will have to be defended through its enrichment – Vinod Mishra

Inaugural Address by Comrade Vinod Mishra Dear comrades, I welcome you all in the Central Party School. As you are aware our party, over the years, has cultivated the habit of a comprehensive and creative study of Marxism-Leninism and all throughout 1980s, although working in underground conditions, we organised party schools from central down to the grassroots levels. In these schools both the study of Marxist classics and the socio-economic conditions of India were undertaken. This has been an important weapon in the hands of the party to integrate the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete conditions of India and thus enrich the party line and unite the whole party around it. This aspect of vigorous ideological-theoretical work undertaken by our party is little known outside and that is why outside observers are often baffled by the smooth transition our party has made from one stage to another. Many people don’t know that while conducting political activities through IFF, the party structure was kept intact from top to bottom, not simply as a scheme of work division but more importantly as the ideological-theoretical guide to the whole course of the movement. Those who maintained that the party has been sacrificed at the altar of IFF are at a loss to explain the present situation when party has taken over the entire political command without a hitch. A month...

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Challanges to Marxism Today – Introduction

Challenges to Marxism today — the subject can be approached at various levels. For one, we might choose to concentrate on the post-Soviet theoretical assaults. But already we have had some encounters with these in seminars, in Liberation articles and in Fifth Congress documents. Moreover, the two core ideas in these attacks, namely, that democracy has triumphed and that the communists are finished for good, have been proved false in Russia itself. This has compelled the cheer-leaders of capitalism to bite dust and admit that things are not that simple. Then there are challenges thrown up not by some theorists or ideologues, but by life itself. In the advanced capitalist countries there has been a marked decline in the relative importance of manufacturing industry and in the percentage of industrial workers; in developed as well as backward countries various non-class identities and conflicts such as those based on caste, religious/ethnic community etc. seem to dominate the scene; in a word, a lot has changed (in social structures and superstructures) since the times of Marx and even of Lenin. Thirdly, and in part as a reflection of the above changes, there is a plethora of “alternative” theories — old, new and renewed ones — which claim to dislodge mainstream Marxism from its pride of place. Here we shall be concerned with this third category of challenges. And that too, we...

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Trotskyism Revisited

For our present purposes, two questions — or rather two sides of the same question — are highly relevant. These are : the Stalin-Trotsky debate on “socialism in one country” and the Trotskyite theory of world revolution. It will be convenient to take up these questions one by one. “Socialism in One Country” After the death of Lenin, the most fundamental debate that cropped up in the CPSU(B) was: is it possible to build socialism in one country? Among the seven-member Polit Bureau, leaders like Stalin and Bukharin asserted that it is. And those like Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev opined that it was possible, and after the Russian revolution necessary, to start building socialism in a single country, but not possible to achieve full socialism at a national level. In those days, more than a theoretical question it was one of life and death for the young Soviet Republic, and naturally it generated a lot of heat and passion on both sides. Trotsky built his case on the Marxist-Leninist dictum that “the complete victory of the socialist revolution in one country alone is inconceivable and demands the most active cooperation of at least several advanced countries, which do not include Russia”.[1] This was an idea Lenin expressed several times both before and after the November Revolution. What Trotsky and his associates inferred from this notion was not that the...

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The Gramscian Framework

Before we embark on a critical examination of the key Gramscian concepts and their implications, certain points need to be kept in mind. In his heart of hearts Gramsci was an ardent follower of Marx and Lenin. He never tried to develop any alternative philosophy or theory. Even his most original ideas he sought to base on Marx and Lenin; how far he succeeded is debatable though. His publicist and political career comprised barely two decades — one in prison and the other outside — spent under fascist repression and severe brain ailments. He never got the opportunity to study some of the more important Marxist-Leninist classics or to test and develop his ideas in the course of his practice. Moreover, the constant concern to avoid any words and phrases that might be considered objectionable by the fascist censorship, and the unfinished fragmentary character of his Prison Notes which he could not prepare for publication and which were edited and published posthumously — these two additional factors which render a proper reading of Gramsci very difficult. With these qualifying observations let us now acquaint ourselves with the most salient features of Gramsci’s philosophical views. Problems of Philosophy and Methodology 1. Gramsci saw philosophy as a concrete social practice involving everybody rather than an elitist preserve; a popular-political affair involving not only the dissemination of ideas from above but also...

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Post-Modernism and Allied Trends

There can be hardly any theoretical discussion without an encounter with the theorists of “crisis of Marxism” or trends that come with a “post” prefix like post-Marxism or post-modernism. But ironically, preceding and to an extent prompting this phase was a period which witnessed a vociferous ‘return to Marx’ and the rise of trends like “structural Marxism”. Interestingly, it is in France that both structuralism and post-structuralism or post-modernism in general have found fertile grounds. Before we proceed with a critical examination of post-Marxism, let us briefly recall the period of structuralism and structural Marxism. As a methodological-theoretical trend, structuralism sought to understand society by studying not the conscious activity of the human subjects but the unconscious, objective structures these activities presuppose. It evolved from three basic streams: (a) The linguistic studies of F. Saussure and N. Jacobson who investigated the structure underlying language in general; (b) Levi-Strauss’ path breaking study of the structure of primitive societies; and (c) Jacques Lacan’s study of structures in psychology and the early Foucault’s study of the conditions of emergence of certain theoretical discourses like psychiatry, clinical medicine etc. The influence of structuralism in France led also to a structuralist reading of Marxism. The key figure in this trajectory was Louis Althusser. Jointly with associates like E Balibar and N. Poulantzas, he developed what came to be known as Structural Marxism. Its principal...

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On Programme Debate

Among the many historical weaknesses of the communist movement in India, perhaps the most crippling has been its inability to produce a full-fledged programme for the Communist Party till 1951. In other words, the Party virtually spent the first two to three decades of its life without any clear and comprehensive programmatic guideline. This compares pathetically with the formative history of either CPSU or CPC. Both these parties had come to acquire a solid programmatic grounding early in their revolutionary journey. In Russia, Lenin had produced his brilliant analysis of development of capitalism by 1897 itself, that is years before the Communist Party could take on a really organised mass character. Mao’s analysis of classes in Chinese society, too, marked an early theoretical breakthrough in Chinese revolution. In these two pioneering studies, the architects of the two greatest revolutions of the 20th century had already set out to accomplish what we call the creative integration of the universal truth or principles of Marxism with the concrete conditions of their respective revolutions. Wayback in 1899, Lenin had pointed out, “We do not regard Marx’s Theory as something completed and inviolable; on the contrary, we are convinced that it has only laid the foundation stone of the science1 which socialists must develop in all directions if they wish to keep pace with life. We think an independent elaboration of Marx’s Theory...

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Metaphysics of Two Paths

As we have already noted, despite two major all-India splits in the party, the debate has very rarely reached programmatic heights in our movement. A major-reason for this confusion has been the fact that the splits have taken place in the backdrop of a larger split in the international Communist movement. Interestingly, while the CPI(M) in the mid-60s always blamed the CPI for dismissing or underplaying the content of the split and instead presenting it as an extension of the Sino-Soviet split, the CPI(M) is guilty of playing the same mischief in relation to the subsequent CPM-CPI(ML) split. The CPC was accused of inciting the split and but for the CPCs open support, the CPI(M) argued, the split would have remained confined to minor cases of desertion or expulsion. Instead of joining issues with the new born party, the CPI(M) CC therefore chose to state “our differences with the CPC”. With slogans like “China’s Chairman is our Chairman” and an uninhibited exhibition of Chinese fetishism, the CPI(ML) too brought not little grist to the CPI(M)’s propaganda mill. Even before or apart from the Sino-Soviet rift and the Great Debate, the political-tactical debate in CPI and subsequently in CPI(M) has always been conducted within the parameters of Russian Path versus Chinese Path. The freezing of the focus on mere paths of revolution inhibited a deeper programmatic understanding of both Russian...

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Two Programmes: Two Foundations

It will be seen that there have really been two basic attempts at drawing up programmes for India’s democratic revolution – in 1951 and then in 1970. Though the 1964 CPI(M) programme effected some major amendments in the ’51 programme, it did not mark any fundamental rupture as we shall shortly see. This is of course not to deny the importance of the changes made in 1964 concerning the characterisation of Indian revolution (People’s Democratic revolution as opposed to the CPI thesis of National Democratic revolution), the nature of state-power in India (bourgeois-landlord alliance led by the big bourgeoisie as against the CPI thesis which excluded landlords from state-power and allowed only “considerable influence” to the big bourgeoisie) and certain other questions of strategic significance. But as we shall see, these amendments, while doing partial justice to the objective development of the situation and the surge in mass movements, could hardly transform the gradualist, collaborationist perspective it inherited from the CPI. These changes did nevertheless stand the CPI(M) in good stead in guarding it against the extreme right-reformist potential of the programme and saving the party from committing the kind of blunders the CPI and AICP or UCPI did. Similarly, the 1970 programme too had certain Left sectarian traits and the changes we have brought about over the last three Party Congresses have helped us in steering clear of...

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Basic Flaw in the 1951 Paradigm

Just as feudal remnants and the colonial legacy continue to retard and barbarise the development of Indian society, the post47communist movement too appears to be weighed down by the backlog of its pre-47 blunders and unfulfilled tasks. Instead of representing and taking care of the future in the present, the CPI and even CPI(M) seem to have been obsessed with settling accounts with their own past. India’s attainment of political independence in August 1947 could have had only one programmatic connotation — transformation of India from a colony to a semi-colony and a corresponding shift in the principal contradiction of Indian society. The contradiction between Indian nation and British imperialism was dislodged from its earlier position of centrality and replaced by the contradiction between feudal remnants and the Indian people. Yet recognition of this basic change remained conspicuous by its absence in the ’51 programme. The programmatic meaning of yeh azadi jhuthee hat was that the CPI continued to treat the contradiction with imperialism and that too with British imperialism for quite some time as the principal contradiction. The 1951 programme and tactical line did repudiate all earlier understandings on the question of path of revolution as one-sided and defective. The tendency to dismiss the political significance of August 1947 was also rejected — but the thesis of primacy of anti-imperialism as the central keylink continued. There was also...

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Unity with ‘National’ Bourgeoisie and Its Party

Because of this nationalist perspective, the CPI could always be seen looking for avenues of cooperation and unity with the national bourgeoisie. Peace movement was considered a crucial plank in this context. In February 1954, following the Madurai Congress (December 27, 1953-January 4, 1954) the CPI stressed the need to support Nehru’s foreign policy “without ifs and buts”. In April, the Central Executive Committee called for launching a united mass movement with the Congress around the points of agreement on foreign policy. In June, P Ramamurthy, the then Editor-in-Chief of New Age came up with his thesis of formation of a National Front, a broad national platform for peace and freedom, with the Congress. The Ramamurthy Thesis was soon sanctified by RP Dutt who wrote an article entitled “New Features in the National liberation Struggle of Colonial and Dependent Peoples” in the Cominform journal For A Lasting Peace, For A People’s Democracy (FLPPD). Dutt advised the CPI to line up behind Nehru against US imperialism and with the Soviet camp and shed itsearlier obsession with British imperialism, the tendency to judge the Indian government by its attitude to British capital and its continued participation in the British Commonwealth. The CEC appointed a Special Commission to go into the implications of Dutt’s advice and when the Commission got split into two conflicting positions the Party Centre swung into action and...

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Impact of the Thesis of Peaceful Transition

While the CPI was exploring avenues of cooperation with the national bourgeoisie, CPSU ideologues were busy developing the theory of peaceful transition. The theory acquired official prominence in February 1956 in the 20th Congress of CPSU. But the so-called “theory of world revolution in the atomic age” had started surfacing in Russia soon after the spate of People’s Democratic Revolutions in East Europe. The first outline perhaps emerged in the Conference of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union. In his key report to the conference, eminent Soviet Orientalist EM Zhukov discussed the various features of the People’s Democracies and also dwelt on the question of non-capitalist path and the problem of transformation of the National Democratic into a Socialist Revolution. After the 20th Congress, the CPSU leadership sought to internationalise their new-found enthusiasm for peaceful transition through two global gatherings of communist and workers’ parties in Moscow – first in November 1957 and then in Nov 1960. Thanks to the determined opposition of CPC, CPSU had to amend the 1957 draft to reckon with the possibility of non-peaceful transition and the need for overcoming the resistance offered by reaction through vigorous extra-parliamentary action. But even after these changes, the two statements still remained heavily loaded in favour of the Soviet world view and the CPC had to make several concessions out...

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CPI(M) Programme: Eclectic Corrections

The programme adopted by the CPI(M) at its 1964 Calcutta Congress drew heavily on both the 1951 programme and the Moscow statements of 1957and 1960. Instead of critically assimilating this inheritance, the CPI(M) only introduced some eclectic corrections in its new programme. Interestingly, while the CPSU ideologues were making no bones of the fact that their post-1956 formulations differed substantially from their earlier positions-in our case, the 1957 and 1960 statements and the Soviet prescriptions of peaceful transition through non-capitalist path virtually negated the perspective of protracted war and dogged resistance, of “hundreds of streams of partisan struggle merging with the general strike and uprising of workers in the cities” as envisioned in the 1951 Tactical Line – the CPI(M) adopted both the 1951 documents and the 1957and 1960 statements as its basic guidelines and continued to pay lip-service to the 1951 SOP alongside its 1964 programme. Let us now take a look at the major corrections. The CPI programme describes the Indian State as “the organ of the class rule of the national bourgeoisie as a whole, in which the big bourgeois holds powerful influence. This class rule has strong links with landlords. These factors give rise to reactionary pulls on the state power” (8th Congress, CPI, Patna). So according to the CPI, landlords do not have a direct share in state power and if the powerful influence...

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Capitulation to National Chauvinism

It is the CPI(M)’s refusal to identify the Indian big bourgeoisie as dependent and reactionary that serves as the biggest programmatic source of all its political opportunism. If this Indian big bourgeoisie is really interested in defending independence and sovereignty, how does the CPI(M) explain India’s increasing capitulation to the trinity of IMF-WB-GATT? Moreover, in the CPI(M)’s view, economy is not the main arena of imperialist intervention and nor are the big bourgeoisie and its principal party, the Congress, the foremost agency of imperialist penetration and pressure. Because that would not allow the party to get away with its vague thesis of dual character without bothering to identify the primary aspect in this duality. The two key channels of imperialist intervention according to CPI(M) are then located in Pakistan and in the secessionist and other national autonomy or statehood movements. In his critique of our Party in The Marxist in 1990, Prakash Karat pointed out that “the IPF-ML have to realise that to fight against imperialism in India today, the struggle against it has to focus on this keylink of imperialist aid to divisiveness”.[1] We were also accused of taking a “starry-eyed idealistic view of Pakistan”. We were criticised because when relations between India and Pakistan were tense because of the Kashmir developments, we directed the edge of our “propaganda against the war jingoism of the Indian ruling classes”....

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Ideological Subservience to the Bourgeois Scheme of National Unity

Just as the CPI(M) considers the transfer of power of August 1947 as the conclusion of the first stage of India’s democratic revolution, it may also consider the national question to have been resolved in the main. But the nationality problem is by no means a remnant or residue of the past. If it is a remnant, then like our feudal remnants it is also a live remnant acquiring new meanings and drawing fresh strength from every degree of capitalist development as capitalism develops not just in spite of but also through these remnants. The whole experience of Soviet Union or Eastern Europe would now seem to bear it out. Even in developed Canada we have a separatist movement raising its head. There is thus little possibility that people’s democratic or socialist India can escape the challenge of rewriting her national unity. For Marxists, the right to self-determination is not so much a question of nationalism as of democracy. In fact, as Lenin tells us, “the recognition of the right of all nations to self-determination implies the maximum of democracy and the minimum of nationalism”. “The proletariat”, says Lenin, “cannot be victorious except through democracy, i.e., by giving full effect to democracy and by linking with each step of its struggle democratic demands formulated in the most resolute terms … We must combine the revolutionary struggle against capitalism with...

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Multiple Routes of Class Collaboration

But just as mere acknowledgment of the big bourgeoisie’s leadership over the Indian state and strategic exclusion of this class from the People’s Democratic Front does not preclude class collaboration, it is also not enough to recognise the centrality of the anti-feudal contradiction. Some ninety years ago Lenin had pointed out in his article “Agrarian Programme of Russian Social Democracy”, “The demand for the eradication of the remnants of the serf-owning system is common to us and to all the consistent liberals, Narodniks, social reformers, critics of Marxism on the agrarian question, etc. In advancing this demand, we differ from all those gentlemen, not in principle, but only in degree: in this point too they will inevitably remain at all times within the limits of reforms; we, however, will not stop even at social-revolutionary demands. On the contrary, by demanding that the “free development of the class struggle in the countryside” be ensured, we place ourselves in opposition to all these gentlemen in principle, and even to all revolutionaries and socialists who are not Social Democrats … This condition is the fundamental and focal point in the theory of revolutionary Marxism in the sphere of the agrarian question”.[1] In the CPI(M)’s case, it is precisely this “fundamental and focal point” which constitutes the weakest point of the party’s programme in the agrarian arena. In his 1985 review of the...

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