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A Few Lessons on Marxism and Politics

April 30, 2011

“At a certain point in their historical lives, social classes become detached from their traditional parties. In other words, the traditional parties in that particular organizational form, with the particular men who constitute, represent and lead them, are no longer recognized by their class (or fraction of a class) as its expression” – Antonio Gramsci, Prison Noteboooks, International Publishers, New York, 1971, p. 210. Emphasis added)

This is how Gramsci, sitting inside Mussolini’s fascist prison, began his now celebrated discussion of the ‘crisis of hegemony’. I cite this here apropos of the discussion that has gone on some of the previous posts by Monobina Gupta, Sankar Ray and myself on the CPM/Left in West Bengal, in the course of which, I have been accused of ‘coming out’ as a supporter of the Trinamool Congress, which some have also termed as a fascist or even ‘super-fascist’ organization! Clearly, these gentlemen neither know the history of fascism nor indeed of Marxism. Fed on pamphlets of a certain marxist catechism, they have learnt only one thing: the division of the world into two camps where ostensibly, battle lines are permanently drawn between parties that apparently have a ‘mandate from heaven’ of bearing a particular class character, either bourgeois or working class. I hope none of those who have learnt their ‘dialectics’ or their ‘historical materialism’ from marxism-made-easy pamphlets of Emile Burns, Maurice Cornforth and Stalin will jump to pronounce Gramsci a postmodernist who denies this supposed ‘class essence’ of parties . (I am told though that these too are passe now; ‘cadres’ these days are not meant to read beyond party resolutions and ‘theoretical’ essays of Prabhat Patnaik, whose own world has stopped with Michal Kalecki).

And though Gramsci here was talking of the crisis of hegemony in the context of the traditional bourgeois parties, his discussion makes it clear that he was thinking of much more than that. There is no permanent relation of any party with the class or classes it claims to represent. Simply because a party that has ruled for thirty four years still has a signboard of a communist party does not mean it represents the working class or peasantry in perpetuity. It is patently clear from all evidences coming from West Bengal that the party there represents the interests of a combination of the real estate and builder mafia, corporate capitalists and a self-perpetuating party machinery.

Gramsci further suggests that “When such crises occur, the immediate situation becomes delicate and dangerous, because the field is open for violent solutions, for the activities of unknown forces, represented by charismatic ‘men [and women, we may add] of destiny’.” Shades of Mamata Banerjee here, one might say. Under such conditions, the ‘passage of troops’ of many different parties under the banner of a single party, which better represents and resumes the needs of an entire class, is an organic and normal phenomenon, continues Gramsci (p. 211). And here Gramsci touches upon what is most critical in the present case of the CPM in West Bengal: “This order of phenomena is concerned with one of the most important questions concerning the political party [Note the generic term 'political party']- i..e the party’s capacity [or incapacity - AN] to react against the force of habit, against the tendency to become mummified and anachronistic.” One could go on and on, with how Gramsci and others – the more creative thinkers in the history of marxism – were reflecting upon the tumultuous politics of their times. One is struck by how profoundly they engaged in analyzing and reflecting upon their times, compared to the empty rhetoric of the kind that ones witnesses among the representatives of the ‘mummified and anachronistic’ Left. Notice the absolute silence regarding any analysis of the rise of the Mamata phenomenon – apart from blaming others on the Left. In ordinary English, shoot the messenger who brings you bad news!

Let us assume for a moment that Mamata is a fascist and Trinamool Congress a dreaded fascist force. Can those who claim to be Marxists absolve themselves of the responsibility of explaining its disastrous rise? I am deliberately not putting ‘disastrous’ in quotation marks because, I do think, that at one level, this is a disaster. For, three and a half years ago, I had written, right here on Kafila, on the need for an alternative Left platform in West Bengal. That would have been a preferred alternative for many. But it was not to happen. It was not to happen because of the lack of moral courage and audacity among various Left forces – including the other partners of the Left Front. And so the ‘inevitable’ happened. And now that it has happened, we are told that this is the rise of fascism – and that it is the result of a massive conspiracy – involving all and sundry from ‘US Imperialism’ to Sumit and Tanika Sarkar! If the rise of fascism in Germany or Italy was a result of the crisis of hegemony and the mummification of traditional ruling class parties, and if according to all analyses from Gramsci, Trotsky and Dimitrov to Poulantzas (though I do not agree with all these analyses in toto), the rise of fascism cannot be thought apart from the crisis of traditional party representation and the crisis of the Left, what is the analysis our critics have of the rise of this novel kind of fascism in West Bengal? Absolutely none!

In response to some of our criticisms of the misogyny, sexism and crass political cynicism in the CPM, our critics have only one, rather pathetic response: Trinamool Congress also does it! Great! These gentlemen revolutionaries who want to create a New Man, no less, have to justify their degeneration by pointing to the TMC! So, as long as that is clear, if we agree that we must judge both parties with the same yardstick – we must then also agree that they are really parties of the same genre. Our not condemning such behaviour on TMC’s part is simply because we do not and never had any expectations of the TMC, for there is no larger claim there about representing the ‘working class’ and about being the agents of ‘World-History’!

Finally, some of the commentators have also patronizingly suggested that I am a ‘disillusioned’ communist, which is why I write what I do. Indeed, I have no desire to make a personal response on this – except to say this is the standard tactic: nobody can disagree with you; they can only be ‘disgruntled’, ‘disillusioned’ or ‘cynical’. But there is one theoretical/ conceptual issue involved here in this welter of accusations: I have no connection with mass movements, so I have no right to speak.

Once again, I will not respond to the personal part of the accusation for I do not need any certificates from anyone on this – not the least from those whose party membership entitles them to the club of the privileged few of history. What I do want to underline is the completely farcical understanding of Marxism itself that underlies it. Generations of marxists – of a certain brand of marxists – have chewed the cud over the eleventh thesis on Feuerbach without ever understanding its import: Philosophers have only interpreted the world so far; the point however is to change it. The Theses, as we know, was written in 1844-45. Thereafter, Marx did not jump into organizing the working class but immersed himself in the next couple of decades to the writing of Capital. He was thereafter only found either in the British Museum Library or other libraries. The eleventh thesis was, as many have pointed out, not a denigration of intellectual work but a critique of philosophy – that is to say, speculative philosophy including materialist philosophy of that period. Marxism, to the best of my knowledge, always sought the ‘unity of theory and practice’ and not extolling one at the cost of the other. For, Marx understood one thing clearly, which his followers cannot: if he had surrendered to the eternal blackmail of current politics of choosing from given options, no new vision would ever have emerged. Sometimes, he knew, some people had to decisively reject this blackmail. At some level, it is Marx who remains our inspiration.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. RaHy permalink
    May 1, 2011 2:11 AM

    Comrade Y: “Ah, that’s a dillusioned Marxist you see? He draws inspiration from Marx, but denies historical materialism.”

    Comrade B: “He is a patriarchal CIA agent. Soon we’ll have a Wikileaks cable on him.”

    Comrade K: “Megalomaniac. Aarey, from when does Delhi publik library resemble the British library?”

    Another comrade B: “Whatever. The police firing at Nandigram was a mistake, and I apologized, and we are going to win.”

    Comrade P: “And did you see how he contradicted circular cofgut678 and especially the central committee circular ongy876 that I wrote on bourgeois reaction?”

    Comrade AB: “The one in which we were to relate the Sheila song in our election camp pains? We did it: it can be seen on the walls everywhere in West Bengal. And I emphatically…”

    Comrade B: “Shut up, you fool. I apologized, it was a mistake, and we are going to win.”

    Comrade P: “No, no. It was the circular in which I lifted straight out of Emile Burns: ‘To those who see in Marxism a series of rigid dogmas, it may appear difficult to reconcile the theory of working-class revolution with participation in a democratic struggle in which the leading part was played by capitalists and various sections of the ‘petty bourgeoisie’ or middle classes.’ He is a bloody reaktionary. He read that book!”

    Comrade Y: ” You mean, he actually read it?”

    Comrade P: “Bloody yes. That leaves me with no sources but to assert….you know ‘The Marxist doctrine is omnipotent because it is true’. It’s really a trouble communicating after sending so many circulars in quick successionto West Begnal, Kerla, and Triupra, especially West Begnal.”

    Comrade B: “”That’s it. I apologized, it was a mistake, and we are going to win.”

  2. Ritaja BasuMullick permalink
    May 1, 2011 9:23 AM

    Do’s & Dont’s of ‘alternative’ Left ‘intellectuals –

    1. Always criticize CPI(M)
    2. Criticize CPI when it supports CPI(M) but quote A.B Bardhan when he goes against Left government’s policies & programmes
    3. vehemently protest if Trinamool is portrayed as a semi-fascist outfit & ignore evidences against them.
    4. Criticize, condemn, lambast when CPI(M) kills Trinamool but remain silent when Trinamool kills CPI(M)
    5. Anuj Pandey & Laxman Seth are rougues but Subhendu Adhikary & Mukul Roy are angels
    6. Plan visiting Singur every fortnight when mamata was there protesting against land acquisition but conveniently forget the plight of landlosers since the issue is no longer alive.
    7.Criticize CPI(M) leaders when they make personal attack against their political adversaries but resort to the same tactics when someone questions the logic of alternative left (‘you must be a card-carrying member of the CPIM etc etc)
    8. Talk about intolerance of the CPI(M)but show even greater intolerance in the face of criticism.

    I only remember one Sumita mandal, a teenager in nandigram, who has been raped by TMC cadres for belonging to a CPIM family and hanged from a tree. Sumita mandal is forgotten since she belonged to a CPI(M) family and hence does not fulfill Sankar ray’s agenda of personal villification.

    • Garga permalink
      May 1, 2011 11:39 AM

      Your addendum ,you see, to “only” remember Sumita Mandal and not Tapasi Malik ( http://pratyush.instablogs.com/entry/cbi-arrests-cpm-leader-in-tapasi-malik-murder-case/ ) makes
      your set of “only this but not this” sort of formulations sound sordid and comical.
      Sumita Mandal and Tapasi Malik are to be remembered and many others like them. And when the choice is starkly among the two, one may chose the one which has killed lesser numbers than the other , at the cost of being called fascist or super-fascists.

  3. sympathy sans support permalink
    May 1, 2011 10:25 AM

    I am no fan of CPI(M).Still today a defeat of LF in west bengal and LDF in kerala will weaken the left in india, including the two fronts, ML movements and the left groups that are not attached to CPI(M)/CPI/ML groups.Neither TMC nor UDF is a better choice.If the choice is between bad (LF/LDF) between worse(TMC/UDF) better to go for bad than to support worse. Criticise CPI(M) but dont support TMC/UDF as an alternative as this cure is worse than the disease. The harsh fact is India, particularly the working class needs a democratic, pragmatic left that can identify the issues and needs of the people and forge a nationwide left led mass movement that can challenge both NDA and UPA. But left is getting more fragmented and may end up like the erstwhile Janata Party/Janata Dal which frittered away all the chances to emerge as a credible alternative to both congress and BJP. The fall and decline of CPI(M) and CPI is not likely to result in a robust growth for the nonCPI(M)/CPI left in India.So polemics is fine but have a sense of the reality too. Assess the reality and challenges ahead even as you call Gramsci as witness for your side.
    ‘ For, Marx understood one thing clearly, which his followers cannot: if he had surrendered to the eternal blackmail of current politics of choosing from given options, no new vision would ever have emerged. ‘
    True but Marx was also a brilliant commentator of the current affairs of his times and did
    write articles as a journalist/correspondent full of wit,sarcasm and excellent analysis.

  4. Debraj Bhattacharya permalink
    May 1, 2011 11:37 AM

    Agree with sympathy sans support. Different shades of Left needs to find a common minimum programme. Otherwise Marxism in India will get fragmented and destroyed. It seems that we are moving in that direction.

  5. upal Chakraborty permalink
    May 1, 2011 2:37 PM

    At long last I can heave a sigh of relief .Aditya has clearly segregated himself from sections of the Ultra-Left – who have consistently told us to support and vote for TMC – by characterisng the advent of TMC a clear disaster (and not within quotes).
    It is my turn to apologize. I might have sounded anti-Theoreticians through my sarcastic comments against his remaining aloof from effective mass movements.
    That was clearly not the intention. Faced with the prospect of a clear capture of power by “super-Fascists” ( a term used by me) , I somehow got carried away .
    Creative enrichment of Marxist theory is as much a neceesity as praxis and there we look forward to individuals like Aditya . No second thoughts.
    However that cannot be at the cost of analyzing a live situation where a “disaster” awaits us just 12 days from today and no amount of grand-standing will help us.
    I would also like to propose the following formulations . I can be contradicted but would expect pointed responses rather than generic ones .
    The LF has the following positives to offer in today’s context :
    1. Opposition to neo-liberalism at the all-India level on many , if not all, issues.
    2. In West Bengal, it has not only defined but implemented an alternative model charactersied not just by panchayati raj , decentralization , and Land Reforms but also by the encouragement provided to small-scale industries and self-help groups.
    A recent report of the Union Government has revealed that West Bengal is in the highest rung as far as implementation of Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme is concerned. Self-help groups will increase from 9.29 lakh to 10.46 lakh in the current fiscal year itself
    3. It is not a Fascist Party though it has displayed some authoritarian tendencies.
    4. It is required as a bulwark against the policies of the Central Government as well as neo-liberalism supported by Global Imperialism.

    On the negatives,

    1. It has fostered a Party-Society where there are innumerable instances of the overbearing presence of the cadres especially in the sphere of community relations , recruitment and so on.
    2. The actions in Netai and Nandigram against subalterns and the peasantry deserves unequivocal condemnation.
    3. Though there is some merit in its argument that one State cannot be insulated from Capitalist (even US) investments when operating under a bourgeois structure, its recent attempts to attrract the same at any cost cannot be supported.

    Given the above, he pragmatic course of action for the Left in West Bengal can be laid out as follows:
    1. Support the LF today when faced with an onslaught and revival of Fascism of the worst Lumpen variety.
    2. As Aditya has rightfully stated, encourage the growth of an Alternate Left which shall support the LF when faced with the onslaught of the Right-Wing at the same time acting as a pressure-group which will agitate when required as in Nandigram.
    3. Aim to dislodge the LF if it does not mend its ways in 2016 failing which by 2021.

    Let us not forget Gramsci’s historic speech before the Italin Parliament in 1925 against the proposed legislative action against the freemasonry – supposedly the representatives of the Italian bourgeois .
    “We are among the few who have taken fascism seriously, even when fascism seemed nothing more than a blood-stained farce, when fascism was discussed in the common terms of “war psychosis,” when all parties sought to soothe the working population presenting fascism as a superficial phenomenon, of very short duration.
    In November 1920 we predicted that fascism would take power – a thing then inconceivable to the Fascists themselves – if the working class did not take up arms in time to block its blood-stained advance.” Sounds relevant ?
    For him, the rantings against the dominant section of the Italian bourgeois , represented by the freemasonry, was superfluous – aimed at a regressive understanding with semi-feudal forces while compromising with the bourgeois – but actually aimed at the working class represented by the Communist Party and other parties to the Left.
    History proved Gramsci right.

    Upal

  6. rahul permalink
    May 2, 2011 4:43 AM

    One problem with this piece is that it doesn’t foreground the very ground on which CPIM took to parliamentary politics and the need it feels to preserve it at this historical juncture. Implying a prejudice right from the start and using some concepts of Gramsci, and others, in idealistic way doesn’t answer the very questions that the author wants to answer. Then who else exists to represent the working class. I only remember that 2 lakh(conservatively put) strong labour rally in Delhi two months back on price rise.

    The relevant questions should be why there is a total absence of political movements in India on directly class lines for the past 30 odd years. The OBC movement did not turn out to be what it offered. doubts rise ever on dalit politics. The messiahs like Tirumavalavan have been well coalesced in to the system.

    What are the answers one gets from the anonymous CPIM cadre-leaders Nigam often quotes–what are they? authenticity? fictive?
    Why have non-parliamentary(Maoists/NGOs), semi-parliamentary(CPIML) groups have not fared to any length in building their party. Nigam has huge following in this section. and he himself has supported some of them over CPIM.

  7. PRATUL BANERJEE permalink
    May 2, 2011 5:14 PM

    Left Front Government did their best in Bengal during their early years in successfully implementing the land reform and the Panchayeti Raj programme. Their state character analysis of India being a semi-feudal and semi-colonial was absolutely correct. Their original strength in the area of militant trade unionism gave them the committed cadres to carry the flag not only against the comprador character of the bourgeois, they also helped take the flag to the rural mass in the agrarian sector and help them imbibing the missing self esteem. Farmers, share croppers and landless labor all were mobilized under the umbrella of people’s democratic movement. Success bred success till the second term. Power consolidation was complete by then with all state government institutions were run with the Left diktat. Private capital started their flight out of the state . Left did not care much. So long the agrarian economy did well, Left was happy. After all, India is an agrarian economy. It may be just incidental that vote bank also heavily skewed at the rural sector.
    But this could not last for long. Workers started sulking and became more militant and desperate with the factories closing one after the other. Left had to counsel their trade unions to go mild and they started losing significance. The flourish of agrarian economy was not big enough to spill over and compensate for the poor show at the industrial sector. Also came the natural erosion within the party organization; absolute power brought absolute corruption. The Bureaucrats, the Police , the Teachers became party oriented. Then the worst things started happening: the cadres, many of them might be from the erstwhile trade unions, started doing their job against gratification. For the majority, the Mantra was to hold on to power and self gratification. Higher-ups in the organization kept their eyes closed since they did not know what more they can offer to their cadres; no more frontiers could be open for further win. International scenario was very much in the doldrums: Soviet system broke down; market economy was making its headway, Deng’s policy of state governed capitalism was showing results in China . Jyoti Basu, in a moderate way, and then Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, in a more frantic manner, were trying to woo national and international capital for the state . It eventually landed in its worst confrontation with the people of the state in the land acquisition issue at Nandigram and Singur.
    It is however possible that the changing dynamics in the national politics had a major role in the poll results against the Left. All along the history of modern India , the Left remained aboveboard in the question of its secular character. Of all the national parties, it has handled the issues related to Muslim or Sikh nationalism best. Its nonchalant fight against the communal and fundamentalist forces in the country gave it a power of strength during the BJP era. From this position, Left could not only support the INC in making a stable UPA government, it could also bargain for a few things in its socialist policies of poverty eradication and rural development and in stalling several pro- corporate issues by the Union Government like disinvestment of several public sector units and the management of public provident fund. Many of these hard fought issues of the Left have done immense service to the country in general and to the poor of the country in particular. But the electoral as well as image benefits of these policies were accrued on the performance record of INC and UPA, nothing benefiting the Left in their state vote bank. Then came the biggest blunder by the central leadership of the Left. It came out of the last UPA and challenged it with a no-confidence motion on the issue of Nuclear Treaty with the US . INC not only handled this biggest showdown very well, it also pushed the Left to a comically unrealistic Third Front before the 13th Lok Sabha Election.
    With this move at the Central politics, Left suffered its worst blow in Bengal state politics when INC made its electoral alliance with TMC, Left’s staunchest local enemy. Prakash Karat and his Polit-Bureau did not know much of the reality about the erosion of Left’s functioning at the grass root level. The surviving beneficiaries of early Left period of rural development knew that Left has nothing much more to offer. Also their grand children have not seen any differential functioning of the local governance as compared to other possibilities. Thus, when Mamata’s single track pursuit of Left bashing caught media interest that the general public woke up and started questioning the actual extent of service and governance that they received during the last three decades’ monolithic rule by the left. As if, people woke up from its slumber of a monotonous Left rule lullaby and jumped into the noisy band wagon of the other alternative. TMC, though not with any credible past record, had to do nothing but to make just sufficient noise to send the wake up signal.
    Now what? What can Left do about it? Perhaps sweet nothing but keep its flag high! It can certainly offer improved governance where ever it is holding its base but that is only for a possible bench mark for future judgment of the people. The wheel has turned already. There will be a non-left government in Bengal in 2011; whether for better or not, only time will tell.
    Left has been doing a great job for the country. Right from Nehru’s time, the left of centre policy of the country in macro and micro economic is in place due to sustained demand and pressure from the Left. Its macro-economic policies in fighting against market economy and PSU disinvestments have already saved the country from many blushes during the recent period of global recession. Its challenge against the communal and divisive forces made the country the way it is today. History of independent India has shown that the good governance in the Union Government is best done with Left’s counseling and support.
    It is possible that Bengal electorate will also learn to vote for the state government and the Lok Sabha representative separately with different priorities. Let them get the feel of alternative governance at local level by a locally relevant party. And they should send the best of their political leaders with secular and democratic mind of the leftists to the Union Parliament to counsel the then authority deciding the course correction of union policies for the benefit of the whole nation.

  8. miao permalink
    May 3, 2011 1:51 PM

    Invocation of Gramsci is quite apt and brilliant, I must say. But what makes me uneasy is the argument that we don’t criticize TMC because we don’t expect much from them.

    As a legitimate political force, TMC has to be judged by the same yardstick (albeit a non-Marxist one, agreed) which we use for any other non-left political party. Everyday we judge Congress or BJP though “there is no larger claim there about representing the ‘working class’ and about being the agents of ‘World-History’”. Can’t understand as a part and parcel of the ruling coalition, why should TMC escape such scrutiny?

    In fact, it can be quite a bizarre scenario if we adopt the principle of not criticizing someone from whom we don’t expect anything good. Then Trotsky should have only criticized Stalin, but not Hitler. Closer home, it should have been only a debate between Gandhi and Tagore, none of them uttering a word against the British.

    However there’s always another way of looking at things- a left-handed compliment, or probably an incorrigible optimism in refusing to judge TMC and the mainstream left with the same yardstick. :-)

  9. May 7, 2011 1:59 AM

    Any attempt to rebuild the Left, actually the revolutionary transformative politics of the working class, must necessarily be driven by a politico-theoretical programme to reconceptualise the communist subjectivity and its organisational embodiment — the communist party. And to do that one must, I think, seek to grasp the working class, its revolutionary subjectivity as class-for-itself and its concomitant organisational form (the communist party) in continuous and, at the same time punctuated, formation in the hurly-burly of the empirically given (Lenin’s “concrete situation”) field of politics. A field where all sorts of ideological tendencies are in play and wherein a real communist intervention will have to mean an encounter with all the tendencies, including even the non- and anti-communist ones, if only to critically slice through the ideological integuments of those socio-political subject positions to grasp their inverted immanence and, in the same, movement, rescue that immanence from the prison of its cathected meaning. By the same token, the various fetishes of communist politics, wherein the party-as-movement-form has lapsed into party-as-state-form, will also have to be encountered with an equal measure of critical good faith. And it’s here that one must, I believe, take ample care to distinguish between the two different historico-logical trajectories of restoration of capitalist class power: one in which the revolutionary working-class potential of an empirically given struggle comes to be articulated, right from its start, by one or more of the hegemonic ideologies; and the other, in which a movement that begins by consciously advancing towards revolutionary working-class politics degenerates into the capitalist logic of competitive politics due to it being forced, by a combination of the changing objective situation and the concomitant lack of subjective class capacity, to fight a “war of position” without being able to simultaneously and dialectically transform that into a “war of movement”.

    Be that as it may, the crux of the matter is that only through a critically engaged process of grasping the inverted immanence — a process where critique is not a bunch of rejectionist polemics — that the actualisation of the immanent communist axiom into a communist subjectivity can become possible. It’s precisely such a manoeuvre that would be constitutive of the communist party as a form that is the true measure of itself only in the intermediacy of its dialectically unstable existence as a transit-form in between its generic (and thus philosophical) theoretical status and its historically actualised and thus tangible state. And in order to conceptualise this form of the (communist) party — which, so to speak, constantly wills itself into existence only to constantly will its own disappearance — one must return to the Marx of Capital, Volume I, to rigorously follow his conceptualisation of the interrelationship between value/value-form and use-value/and its form, as also his explication of the inversion and transformation of the Hegelian dialectic in terms of the mutually entwined interelationship of abstract and concrete labours . Now, to come back to the question of the communist horizon. This horizon of continuous formation, constitutive of the logical tendency of the synthetic-singular, is radically antagonistic to the anarchist and/or radical republican horizon, which is also on the face of it a horizon of process but where processuality is constitutive of the logical tendency of duality, non-antagonistic contradiction, and thus representation and abstract labour. In short, the latter political horizon is the horizon of capital as a logic of social relations and power. Therefore, the horizon of continuous, though punctuated, formation — which is radically antagonistic to and perpetually irreconcilable with the horizon of duality and non-antagonistic contradiction — must be grasped and envisaged in its dialectical logic. That, in the inescapable determinateness of concrete historicities, will be embodied and thus actualised as a continuous process of formation-deformation-formation ad infinitum.
    Clearly, envisioning the anti-dialectic of perpetual opposition between the synthetic-singular horizon of continuous, though punctuated, formation and the capitalist horizon of duality and non-antagonistic contradictions is the key to the actualisation of the communist subjectivity and its organisational form. But the actualisation of this anti-dialectic is, paradoxically, contingent on the grasping of the dialectical logic immanent in the contradictory social reality of capitalism. Only when this anti-dialectic of perpetual opposition of the two systemic horizons –something that Marx conceptualised as “revolution in permanence” in ‘The Class Struggles in France” and (with Engels) as “the real movement” in ‘The German Ideology’ — is produced through dialectics will continuous democratisation — the diesel of working-class politics — cease being the civil-societal form of cooptative ‘democratisation’ it is today to become uninterrupted revolution.
    The radicalness of the agenda of so-called continuous democratisation posed by (civil) social movements — of which even our communist outfits, including some of the most radical tendencies — are also a part, is no more than the radicalness of their popular-republican agenda. To put it more plainly, the agenda of so-called continuous democratisation posed by disparate, and often seemingly mutually opposed, politico-ideological forms of radical republicanism is nothing but the articulation of genuine democratic aspirations by the late capitalist (neo-liberal) ‘ethic’ of perpetually expanding competition.
    Continuous democratisation can become an agenda of working-class politics only when it confronts the discourse and practice of ‘democratic’ politics articulated by the sociological-juridical tendency of sociality as stabilisation with a discourse and practice of democracy that embodies the tendency of sociality as constant mutation and flux. That, after all, is precisely the logical terms in which Gramsci’s conception of proletarian counter-hegemony as an alliance of disparate and diverse historical blocs is distinguishable from his understanding of (bourgeois) hegemony as an alliance among the same historical blocs. Their phenemenological similitude notwithstanding, the counter-hegemonic alliance that Gramsci affirms is conjunctural and constellational, and thus perpetually dynamic, as opposed to the aggregative and static coalition of bourgeois hegemony he seeks to challenge. It’s precisely this fundamental difference between Gramsci’s concept of counter-hegemony from what he termed as hegemony of the bourgeoisie — in terms of their very different logical constitutions — that political theorists such as Laclau and Mouffe fail to understand. And it’s precisely this failure that has led them to envisage Gramscian counter-hegemony as a multiculturalist, rainbow coalition of sorts. In such a situation, the task before working-class politics is to reclaim Gramsci from such Gramscians in order to restore to the discourse and practice of counter-hegemony its original radicality. Something that will make the concept do what it was originally meant to do: drive the building of the communist party as a process of perpetual and infinitely open formation against both its variously fetishised sects and the multiculturalist politics of democratisation as competition.

  10. Aditya Nigam permalink*
    May 7, 2011 7:11 PM

    Jesus Christ, I shudder to think of such a revival of ‘communist subjectivity':)

  11. May 7, 2011 10:32 PM

    Its important to remember that Lenin’s injunction to be concrete did not mean saying c0ncrete over and over again.

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