Sunday, March 16, 2008

No. 1. March, 2008

In Lieu of an Editorial
Who thought on living questions... Christopher Caudwell
Few Notes on Aesthetisation
Marx Quote
Politics of Identity and the Political Agenda of Post-Modernism
(Context: World Social Forum and World Mountains People Association)
About Us...

In Lieu of an Editorial

‘To leave an error unrefuted is intellectual dishonesty.’ – Karl Marx.

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the entire bourgeois academia of the West wallowed in euphoric shrieks on the defeat of Marxism and Communism. The hired hack of the Rand Corporation, Francis Fukuyama, trumpeted the ultimate victory of liberal bourgeois democracy and thus the ‘end of history’. However, the period following the fall of the Soviet Union has been a witness to the increasingly crises-ridden and decadent capitalism. The world capitalist system is more prone to crisis than ever. The unproductive nature of capitalism has increased in an unprecedented manner and speculation and unproductive stock market investment rules the world economy. The excessively fragile nature of this terminally deseased system is demonstrated by the fact that now an individual broker-cum-speculator like George Sores can bring about a total collapse of the world economy and inaugurate a global slow-down. Evidently, capitalism has become more crises-ridden, moribund, misanthropic, and decadent than ever. And the bosses of the global capitalist order, in such a grave situation, can only give the people of the world, war, destruction, starvation, ecological disaster, unemployment and poverty. Even the bouregois observers have stopped talking about the ultimate victory of market economy and liberal bourgeois democracy because that will tantamount to making a fool of themselves. This volte-face can be smelled from the point made by Francis Fukuyama himself last year when he came to the India Today Conclave to deliver a lecture. Fukuyama expressed his concern that the greatest challenge that liberal bourgeois democracy faces today is not Islamic terrorism, but Marxism-Leninism-Maoism!

Apparently the think-tanks of the Western capitalism are deeply concerned about the resurgence of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and the rise of people’s struggles in the Third World countries, which, it is worth recalling, Lenin called the ‘weak links’ of Imperialism. A recent survey showed that the sale of Marxist literature has multiplied in the last decade. A BBC poll declared Marx to be the greatest philosopher of modern era. The NewYorker declared Marx to be the philosopher of the 21st century. The grave economic crisis together with the increasing inclination of the toiling masses and students around the world towards Marxism, has cased insomnia among the masters of world capitalism. The spectre of Communism is once again haunting the bourgeoisie of the entire world.

However, the Marxists all around the world are scattered and divided over the most crucial questions. The case of India is no different. One section of organized Marxist parties as well individual Marxist intellectuals is plagued by dogmatism, whereas, another section suffers from the disorder known as revisionism. A yet another section is a victim of "free-thinking" and eclecticism and has been drifting away from Marxism and succumbing to the pressure of the latest streams of anti-Marxist thoughts, like post-Modernism, post-colonial thought, etc., though the logics of these new schools of thought have nothing new and have been answered more than a century ago. In such a scenario, when Marxism is made a constant target of attack from various corners on account of being reductionist, dogmatic, axiomatic and mechanistic, we feel it necessary to free Marxism of these baseless charges; we intend to fight against the dogmatic understandings and revisionist distortions of Marxism, through meaningful debates and discussions among students, teachers and other concerned pro-people intellectuals.

After this brief background discussion, we can positively state our objective and intention behind initiating this journal. ‘Praxis Colloquium’ is an attempt to establish the true spirit of Marxism as a philosophy of praxis*, as a world-view, as a science and as an ideology.

Secondly, the aim of ‘Praxis Colloquium’ is to provide an open platform for debates and discussions on Marxism, problems of Socialist transition, Capitalist restorations in the erstwhile Socialist countries, anti-Marxist streams of thinking such as post-Modernism, post-colonial thought, etc., and on the questions of art, culture, literature, film, music, etc.

Marx in his ‘Theses on Feurbach’ said : ‘Hitherto philosophers have interpreted the world in different ways, the point, however, is to change it.’ In the light of this famous statement, we would like to clarify that we do not intend to run debates for the sake of debates. We intend to debate and discuss in order to wipe out the intellectual fog covering the most crucial problems of Marxism, clean the ash and dust of reactionary and revisionist slandering off Marxism and pave the way for initiating the process of revolutionary organization of sensitive, progressive, and rational students, teachers and intellectuals with a political and ideological clarity.

In this inaugural issue, we are publishing an article on the relation between NGO sector, identity politics and post-Modernism. We look forward to your criticisms, suggestions and comments.

* Praxis — Refers in general to action, activity and in Marx’s sense to the free, universal, creative and self creative activity through which man creates (makes, produces) and changes (shapes) his historical, human world and himself; an activity specific to man, through which he is basically differentiated from other beings. Also, the organized revolutionary activity of human beings through which they profressively change the conditions in which they live.

Who thought on living questions...
Christopher Caudwell


"A hero is a man whose life is such that instinctive equipment being what it is, and his environment being what it is, the effect he has on his environment is much greater than the effect it has on him. We may, therfore, say that he is a man who dominates and moulds his environment."

This exerpt from Christopher Caudwell’s essay ‘A Study in Heroism’ from his excellent but less known work, Studies in a Dying Culture, undeniably sums up the life of its author. Caudwell’s life, though short, was, however, a life worth living. He was beyond all doubt, a remarkably profound thinker. But more than that, he was a man of action, a man who believed in praxis. Whole of his life and his death too bear a witness to this fact. He died at the young age of twenty-nine, fighting against the forces of Fascism in the Spanish Civil War. However, before that, he had already have five text books on aeronautics, seven detective novels and some poems and short stories in his name. Apart from these, all of Caudwell’s major works were published posthumously. Illusion and Reality was in the press when he left for Spain; it got first published in 1937; followed by Studies in a Dying Culture which appeared in 1938, Poems and The Crisis in Physics in 1939, and Further Studies in a Dying Culture in 1949. While Illusion and Reality, one of Caudwell’s most stimulating and thought-provoking works, marked a new departure in literary criticism and dealt with some of the most fundamental problems of aesthetics from a Marxist perspective; Studies in a Dying Culture attempted to offer a critique of the contemporary, moribund bourgeios culture and civilization by investigating the works and ideology of some of its key contemporary figures, such as, G.B.Shaw, T.E.Lawrence, D.H.Lawrence, H.G.Wells etc. The book takes the form of a number of essays on bourgeois superman, heroism, love, liberty etc. No serious student can afford to ignore these provocative works by a brilliant mind.

And it was not solely to the world of books and intellect that Caudwell’s activity was limited. Certainly, he had almost something notable to say about everything under the sun from as diverse fields as aviation to poetry, to quantum mechanics, to literary criticism, to philosophy, to love, to psychoanalysis. As John Strachey puts it too, "We catch the impression of a young man possessed with creative energy; a young man turning out a flood of work, good, bad and indifferent; a young man, however, marked with one of the most characteristic and one of the rarest of the signs of promise, namely, real copiousness. He wsa a young man who not only warmed his hands before, but gave great hearty pokes at, the fire of life..." And this fire of life kept burning bright withing Caudwell till the very end. It was in 1935 that he joined the Popular Branch of Communist Party; the year before he had come across some of the Marxist Classics and had spent most of his time immersed in the works of Marx, Engels and Lenin. Meanwhile, the Spanish Civil War had broken out and before long, Cauldwell had got himself enlisted in the British Battalion of the famous International Brigade. And following was the explanation he offered to be there at the battle-front, "You know how I feel about the importance of democratic freedom. The Spanish People’s Army needs help badly; their struggle if they fail, will certainly be ours tomorrow, and, believing as I do, it seems clear where my duty lies." Caudwell was killed in action on the Jarama River on February 12, 1937. Such was the extraordinary life of an equally extraordinary man; a man who lived and died for the ideals he believed in.

Few Notes on Aesthetisation


— Things should not be made that beautiful and neither should they be adorned-embellished to the extent that they appear lifeless and inaccessible.

— Perfection is a myth. Not only is it beyond human but misanthropic too. It is antagonistic to this-worldliness. Neither the great leaders of the revolutions were flawless not the greatest revolutions immaculate. The idealisation or aesthetisation of revolutions make them other-worldly and induce people to think that revolutions are a thing beyond human ability.

— It is an extremely precarious task to turn the great revolutionary events into subjects of literary creation. The act of cleansing and wiping can turn the great originalities romantic and dream-like, which, otherwise, are smeared in violence, bloodshed, tears, betrayals, errors, human weaknesses. No magical illusion of revolution should be created in art.

— As it is, never has poetry or novel made a revolutionary out of anyone. From there one gets a pulsation of passion sifted from the moss of worldy affairs and then, the critical wisdom, sense of history and vision of life, extracted from the logic of incidents. The work of art must acquaint us with the realistic beauty of life and revolution; and with its coarseness-formidability-ugliness too.

—Refined chiselling and fine spinning — down! down!

— Cannot recall, but somewhere Brecht of Walter Benjamin has alluded to the following : ‘The aesthetisation of politics is a fascist enterprise.’ The politics of aesthetisation of culture is as anti-people as the culture of aesthetisation of politics.

— That who always thought of flying, had come to believe that the colour of his eyes was deep blue, like the ocean, or light blue, like the sky. However, there was a kind of dusty greyness in his protruding eyes--- indicating hysteria or madness.

— One day he will die hopping, however, hopping with etiquettes and manners.

— The question of the style of expression cannot be entrusted to spontaneity or naturalness, however, this basic truth should not be overlooked that every content has a form of its own which becomes spontaneously evident at the time of its genesis. The narration or content comes first, the task of polishing-chiselling its expression, making it effective and improving it comes afterwards.

— Unoriginal, quasi, hollow characters are usually formalist — in literature as well as in politics. Their attention, habitually, is turned to the fact that how beautifully and effectively they can put their thoughts across, even though they have a meaningful objective and thing to say. During this enterprise, their mind incessantly concentrates upon borrowing attractive, effusive and eloquest rhetoric and style and fashioning new ones and in the process they lose their remaining originality and power of experimentation too. The hollow, pompuous, over-ornate, artificial, affected, unoriginal personality and expression makes them isolated from the masses, "good for nothing", individualist to the extent of becoming despotic and excessively self-conscious. Ninety perscent of their energy is spent in concealing their weaknesses, inventing the arguments for self defense and playing to the gallery. They are cautious, devoid of self confidence and coward. They are individualistic and "humble" bureaucrats. However, the moment you puod or incite them, they instantaneously renounce all humility and measure swords with you or else will crumble away like a sand wall. Therfore, the psychology behind the over-insistence on polishing-chiselling, embellishing and beautifying must be examined.

— Be it an author or a political activist, not only the influential cultural values in the contemporary social environment operate behind the over-insistence on aesthetisation but also the personal history of an individual has a significant role to play. So as to be the hero-leader in the group of friends during the childhood and adolescence, to construct and maintain an image of "Sunday school boy" in our parents’ eyes, or else to simply negate any of our inferiority complexes, we polish and chisel a cosmetic-artificial personality and then donning the same dramatic costume of sham gesture and countenance, we end up ply-acting for an entire life-time. The whole of this intellectual-social life is in itself a market where the superficial pomp and show, playing to the gallery has a high market value; regardless of its use-value. This environment keeps conditioning our psychology and the obduracy regarding aesthetisation becomes our second nature.

— Solely the participation in the collective productive activities, merging wholly with the lives and struggles of the masses active in production and making oneself inseparable from the collective of co-travellers can liberate those individuals from alienation and self-exile who have fallen prey to the plot of aesthetisation.
— In the middle of the nineteenth sentury, when the whole of Europe, and especially France was going through a revolutionary upheavel, Marx was contemplating very agitatedly the fact that the sooner the "ugly" revolutions supersede "beautiful" revolutions, the better! By "beautiful" revolution and "ugly" revolution he meant the bourgeois revolution and proletarian revolution respectively.That which is "ugly" as per the hegemonic notion of the bourgeois society, will be called beautiful in future, that "ugliness" if liberating for the toiling masses, and therefore, to them, it is beautiful. We must comprehend the aesthetics of this "ugliness".

— The endeavour to make things beautiful to the extent of lifelessness and otherworldliness is an enterprise against the "ugly" revolution.

— The over-insistence on beautifying one’s personality too is a self-love, amour-propre, which turns a human being into an object or a thing. Or else an earth-worm. Or perhaps a clown enacting the farce of beauty and solemnity.

Marx Quote

‘What, then, constitutes the alienation of labour?
First, the fact that labour is external to the worker, i.e., it does not belong to his intrinsic nature; that in his work, therefore, he does not feel content but unhappy, does not develop freely his physical and mental energy but mortifies his body and ruins his mind. The worker therefore only feels himself outside his work, and in his work he feels outside himself. He feels at home when he is not working, and when he is working he does not feels at home. His labour is therefore not voluntary, but coerced; it is forced labour. It is therefore not the satisfaction of a need; it is merely a means to satisfy needs external to it. Its alien character emerges clearly in the fact that as soon as no physical or other compulsion exists, labour is shunned like the plague. External labour, labour in which man alienates himself, is a labour of self-sacrifice, of mortification. Lastly, the external character of labour for the worker appears in the fact that it is not his own, but someone else’s, that it does not belong to him, that in it he belongs, not to himself, but to another. Just as in religion the spontaneous activity of the human imagination, of the human brain and the human heart operates as an alien, divine or diabolical activity --- so is the worker’s activity not his spontaneous activity. It belongs to another; it is the loss of his self.
As a result, therefore, man (the worker) only feels himself freely active in his animal functions---eating, drinking, procreating, or at most in dwelling and in dressing-up, etc.; and in his human functions he no longer feels himself to be anything but an animal. What is animal becomes human and what is human becomes animal.’

— Marx (Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844)

Politics of Identity and the Political Agenda of Post-Modernism
Context: World Social Forum and World Mountains People Association

— Abhinav Sinha

(First Published in Hindi in Dayitvabodh, January-March, 2007)

The sixth annual session of World Social Forum recently got concluded in Kenya. Before that the five day carnival of the Indian chapter of World Social Forum – India Social Forum took place at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi during November 9-13, 2006. The fourth annual session of World Social Forum too was held in Mumbai during January 16-21, 2004.

Here, in this context it is worth mentioning that the World Social Forum was formed in 2000 at Porto Allegro (Brazil) and its first annual conference was held in January, 2001. The initiative of ruling Workers’ Party of Brazil, the platform for French NGOs’ A.T.T.A.C and the association of Brazilian NGOs was the leading force behind the formation of this forum. At present, in addition to the NGOs active in various countries of the world and organisations-intellectuals who employ the rhetoric of "New Social Movement" and "Civil Society" and indulge in jargoneering of identity politics, motley crew of Social Democrats, Trotskyites and revisionist parties too have associated themselves with the World Social Forum. Merely this fact is enough to clarify the content of this entire political enterprise that more than half of the constituent organisations of World Social Forum are NGOs run by Imperialist Capital and among its financiers include some of the biggest funding agencies of the world such as Ford Foundation, OXFAM, Heinrich Ball Foundation and Action Aid. Apart from these, the Forum is getting monetary aid through various channels from the World Bank, governments of France, Brazil and other countries and dozens of other funding agencies. Not only through the character of its financing, but also from the analysis of the structure and political activities of World Social Forum, this becomes clear as daylight to enlightened readers that the objective of this forum is not to organise the exploited oppressed masses to create a world other than the capitalist world but to deviate and disintegrate any such endeavour and to contain their struggles. In reality, this political enterprise is a part of internal modus operandi of world capitalism and has been constituted with the objective of controlling the inevitable explosive social consequences of the process of Globalisation as a counter-balance mechanism by the think tanks and policy-making institutions/bodies of world capitalism. If the independent logic of capital is allowed to develop with unobstructed motion, the explosion of social class-polarisation and radical social contradictions sooner rather than later will devastate the bourgeois system. To prevent this from happening, the bourgeois think tanks, the State powers, International Institutions and parties keep on constructing various "speed breakers" and "safety valves", have been erecting second-third defence lines for the protection of the system and have been forcing in all sorts of "Trojan horses" within peoples’ struggles. Earlier the Social Democratic and revisionist parties were effectively playing the part of second defence line, "Trojan horse" and "safely valve" of bourgeois system. Today the same task is being carried out by the so-called "new social movements", NGOs shouting loud the slogan of Identity politics and Civil society; and organisations and movements sponsored by them. Many so-called Marxist academicians and the representatives of revisionist parties are also lending their voices to this chorus of "new social movement" and civil society with much enthusiasm.

The objective of present article is not the analysis of the "character and countenance" of the World Social Forum (curious readers for its overall analysis can refer to "WSF : The new Trojan Horse of Imperialism", January, 2004 Rahul Foundation, Lucknow. For important material concerning NGOs refer to, "NGO : A dangerous Imperialist conspiracy", January, 2002, Rahul Foundation, Lucknow). Our intention here is to look into those central theoretical ideological formulae and slogans and to shed light on their internal workings which the authors and formulators of World Social Forum, NGO politics and the so-called New social movements present as their theoretical foundations. Principal among them are: Identity politics or Politics of Identity and slogan of Civil Society. While talking about Civil Society, the neo-Marxist intellectuals often cite reference of even Marx and Gramsci and thus create a lot of confusion. This again is a reason for discussing this point. In their carnivals and literature, World Social Forum talks about marginal identities. In the name of protesting against Globalisation and Western Imperialist aggression it eulogizes various "primitive" oriental identities. For this it employs phrases and terminologies such as "traditional knowledge", "oriental innocence", "indigenous community" etc. In its festivities, organisations representing (?) varied identities participate in large numbers such as dalit organisations, organisations of Mountain people, tribal organisations, eunuch organisations etc. The carnival of India Social Forum held at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi in November 2006 witnessed similar festivities and for five days indulged in celebration of indigenous culture. Civil Society Organisations were invoked for the creation of the "Civil Society". Various so-called Marxists were also singing along to the tune of this chorus.

Another such Organisation is World Mountains People’s Association (WMPA) which talks about the politics of Identity in similar terms. Last year from October 9 to 14, a five day conference of WMPA was held at Nagni, some 40 kilometers ahead of Kullu-Manali where people from various voluntary organisations working among the mountain people came together. Surprisingly they were using the same vocabulary as World Social Forum—"indigenous rights", "indigenous knowledge", "indigenous community" etc. Its focus was more centered. It merely talks about mountain identity. It says that the issues and problems of all mountain people across the globe are alike. This conference was attended by almost all so-called left intellectuals, reformist organisations, "left" organisations and "pro-people" writers. For five days discussions were held to frame such strategies so as to prevent people from turning to any radical politics or movements who are dissatisfied and angry at the displacement of mountain people caused by the infiltration of multinational companies. Much deliberation was done to make the Government consent to slow down the process of liberalisation-privatisation and handing over the land for research to various corporations in mountains so that there does not arise a situation of combating a unified/collective resistance which would then be difficult to control. This association is being run by few French Funding agencies and politicians.

Both these forums glorify indigenous identity, culture, language, knowledge, tradition, community etc and do a positive absolutisation. On the surface, they talk of opposing Globalisation but from such a ground that can never challenge Globalisation. This ground belongs to the past. The superiority of the antiquated communal knowledge is spoken about in uncritical terms and the things, technology and even thoughts coming from Western world are brushed aside as useless. What is useful to us is "our" knowledge, and the "Western" knowledge is "their" knowledge, knowledge of the Other, that spells ruination, causes desolation and displacement, that is why we need to preserve that which is "indigenous", because only that is our Truth. Taking a relativist position, we are told that we must preserve our "indigenous" so as to crush the cultural arrogance and vanity of the West. They shed many a tears over the destruction of primitive communities and the old modes of production of tribals and thus cry aloud to save them! They say that if even today any community in some far flung area lives by covering their bodies with bark of trees, then they should be preserved in such a state. WMPA says that mountain people should never leave mountains and settle in the plains. And it would be better if people from plains would go to hills only for vacations because these "outsiders" destroy their singular identity. Therefore every Oriental identity should be preserved. Hence they preach a kind of cultural protectionism. According to them, things produced in the West bring Imperialism. This is the cultural critique of Imperialism which is financed by Imperialism itself. Both these forums form and assist various such organisations that talk about preservation of indigenous technology, development of knowledge, knowledge and tradition of different communities. They sing eulogies and panegyrics in praise of community. That is the reason why in their carnivals, there are programmes like dances and cultural programmes of the tribals, and dances of primitive communities etc and various "Left" intellectuals from metropolis break into joyous ruptures and celebrate them with much frenzy and hysteria. Long Live Community! Long Live the Tribe! Long Live primitivism! Freeze them as they are! Freeze them as they are!

What is the thought and philosophy behind this? After all what do these forums want to achieve while talking about various identities? What is the real motive behind dividing the entire population on the basis of their fragmented identities? For this we will have to delve a little deeper and thus derive their philosophy from their slogans. The emphasis on identities says quite a lot about them. In a class society, a person possesses multiple identities. Every person has his language, his caste, his region, his nationality etc. But the identity that is overriding among all these identities is the class identity. We are not using this fact as slogan of any kind. Later on this will be substantiated with logic that why class identity is the overriding identity. For the time being, we will give an immediate reason so as to move forward in the direction of discussion of the philosophy behind the politics of identity and in course of this discussion we will positively put forward our position on class identity. Every linguistic, caste and regional identity is class differentiated. No genuine fundamental issue can be raised on the basis of linguistic, caste or nationalist identity. No matter which nation, caste, language or region it is, its people are class differentiated and there is a sharp polarisation amongst them. Raising or highlighting the class identity does not in any way mean to crush or destroy the uniqueness of other identities. The consolidation of class identity is in fact the advancement of class consciousness. And its objective is to organise the extensive poor population around class identity irrespective of the caste, religion, region, language or nationality they belong to. Even practically considering this fact will make it clear that the class identity is the identity which can lead to the most extensive possible organisation of the masses. But the irony is that this is the very identity over which the fiery slogans of World Social Forum and WMPA have assumed silence. To talk of class itself is class-reductionism to them or else they ask with much innocence that why only class-identity? We will raise community based identity. What is the ideology behind the over-underlining of communal identity? We will discuss their entire philosophy under few subtitles so as to get a clear understanding of their real agenda. First, it is important to understand the world material background of the rise of politics of identity. After this, we will try to understand the reality behind the various slogans and jargons these forums raise, for instance, "Civil Society", eulogy of community, Class-reductionism, "Small is beautiful", "fragments" etc. First and foremost we need to situate the forums like World Social Forum, WMPA etc and their politics of identity within Globalisation and the world after the disintegration of the Socialist camp.

After the beginning of the process of Globalisation, in those countries of the world where neo-liberal economic policies were implemented, many people got displaced, the unemployment increased with a rapid pace and discontent among the masses also increased many fold times. The class divide in society became extremely sharp and polarisation increased with a greater intensity. In such a scenario, NGO sector was launched on a large scale to douse the fire of terrible discontent thriving among the masses due to the impact of the processes of Globalisation. But in a very short span the slogans of reformism proved insufficient to accomplish this task. Thus arose the need for such forums which apparently use radical words like revolutionaries do, but do not provide any extensive and practical programme of social-economic transformation. Thus, World Social Forum does condemn war, plunder, exploitation, caste-based oppression, destruction of environment, women oppression etc in severest terms but it nowhere tells that who is responsible for this and against whom the struggle should be directed. On the contrary, this forum says that it will not undertake any kind of concerted action. It is just an open meeting ground for various Civil Society organisations where they will discuss and debate. They shut the door to all those revolutionary organisations who undertake armed struggles. That is to say if Vietnam war was going on today then the liberation fighters of Vietnam and all those people who take up arms in various parts of the world for their self defence and rights against imperialism would find no place on this forum. If the Spanish Civil War was still going on then militant intellectuals like Christopher Caudwell, Ralph Fox and David Guest would have found no mention here. Even the heroes of Nationalist freedom movements like Julius Nyere, Ben Bela, Amilkar Cabral would have been stopped at the gates of the carnivals of World Social Forum. It declares armed revolutions as undesired and says that this in itself gives impetus to the process of dehumanization continuing world over. But the representatives of the Government in Bengal which on one hand is inviting indigenous and foreign capital and on the other hand putting off the interests of workers are most welcome! Also representatives of all the revisionist parties are received here with open arms who have left no stone unturned in suppressing the struggles of people, rather have outdone the open Bourgeois parties at various instances. It solicits with great respect the representatives of electoral political parties which are responsible for the most abominable violence and dehumanization across the world. It is quite apparent where the social allegiance of this social (?!) forum lies!

This forum, in fact, aims at obscuring the class identity by raising either many or secondary identities. Its objective is to prevent any class-based unity rising consequently out of class division and polarisation sharpened due to the processes of Globalisation. By referring to Civil Society, it restricts the entire project of transformation within the confines of the discourse of bourgeois system. Even the World Bank presses this term quite often into service. In its report of 2000-2001 the World Bank clearly says that it will initiate dialogue with various Civil Society organisations (that is to say those organisations which remain within the scope/span of this society and safeguard this system through patchworks), promote discussions amongst them and besides will provide financial assistance to them. Along with this it makes use of such alluring phrase as "participatory democracy", "participatory development", "participatory budget" etc. In fact this democracy and development will be bourgeois democracy and development, with a "human face"! Participation from various Civil Society organisations will be solicited here, such as "dalitist" organisations, feminist organisations, environmentalist organisations, tribal organisations, organisations for displaced people etc. That which will not find a place here will be class organisations, unity based on class. The phrase that is employed in ample amount to accomplish this entire project is ‘Civil Society’. This conception finds a special place in their entire philosophy. Therefore it becomes necessary for us to cast a glance at the historical-philosophical development of this term and undertake a thorough analysis of its philosophy by reducing it to shreds.

Conception of Civil Society:
History, Meaning and Implications

The very yawns, sneezes and cough of the various good-for-nothing intellectuals, the masters of NGOs, the thinkers of the funding agencies etc reverberate with the sound of Civil Society. Everywhere people are engaged in critical appreciation, thorough investigation and discourse on Civil Society are ever concerned about its necessity and shed tears over its absence. What is surprising is that the so-called Left intellectuals are also joining in with full vigour and enthusiasm in this chorus of Civil Society, despite the fact that Marx, while critically analysing Civil Society had clearly said that for any Communist it is not the Civil Society but rather human society that is desirable (see, ‘Thesis on Feuerbach’). In their works, Marx and Engels have used the term Civil Society generally with two ways. In the first case, this term has been used to denote the economic system of any society, irrespective of the stage of the social development. It means the sum total of those material relations that determine the form of political and ideological superstructure. Its other meaning stands for bourgeois society. Marx has also used this term to refute the Idealism of Hegel. Hegel has used die burgerliche Gesellschaft or the term Civil Society for the domain of those people who have renounced the structure of family, enter the society for economic competition. This domain is autonomous of the State. This is a domain of individual interests and peculiarity and has an element of self-destruction. For Hegel it is undesirable and he talks about its counter-balancing by the State, because only State is that formation in which the universal interests can triumph. Whereas, before Hegel, Thomas Hobbes, Rousseau and Adam Smith believed that only Civil Society can represent the universal interests and that too when there is no State intervention. Marx criticizing Hegelian conception, put forth his conception of Civil Society. However, it would not be entirely justifiable to say that Marx has used the term Civil Society with two meanings. In fact, the meaning was one. What Marx actually meant was the development of Bourgeois Society. On one instance when he refers to the revolutionary role of Capitalism and the freedom of individual vis-à-vis pre-Capitalist formations; he employs the term Civil Society with a general framework. He uses the concept of Civil Society as a measure for the development of class society in the entire history. Marx writes that Civil Society is the theatre for entire history. This is the very platform through which the history has proceeded, irrespective of the stage. At some places Civil society has been used to denote the sum total of production relations of the society.

"The form of intercourse determined by the existing productive forces at all previous historical stages, and in its turn determining these, is Civil Society. The latter, as is clear from what we have said above, has as its premise and basis the simple family and the multiple, called the tribe, and the more precise definition of this society is given in our remarks above. Already here we see that this civil society is the true focus and theatre of all history, and how absurd is the conception of history held hitherto, which neglects the real relations and confines itself to spectacular historical events." (Page 57-58, German Ideology, Progress Publishers, 1976) (Here Marx is discussing the Idealist thought of History which sees history as a sequence of ideas.)

It is clear from the extract that Marx considers that conception of history to be correct that studies the history of society in form of the changes in its production relations and productive forces. If one reads here attentively then it can be understood that by Civil Society Marx meant class society. And the real Civil Society is the bourgeois society itself because even the class society assumes all of its meanings in the stage of capitalist society. Here it is important to remember the logic of Marx that it is the bourgeois society where class-divisions attain their completeness in true terms. Prior to capitalist society also there was class society but the actual, universal and completely polarized class society came into existence with capitalist society. Marx uses the term Civil Society in order to describe the development of this very class society. Civil Society in feudal society was the embryo of capitalist society, a stage in the process of concretization of that class-division whose zenith was going to come to the fore in form of a capitalist society. Therefore, even when Marx uses the term Civil Society in general terms, it means class society and in particular terms he uses it to portray the stage of development of society in form of a stage of development of bourgeois society. To sum it all up simply, Marx has used this term as a measure or scale for development of class society in the entire human history to its zenith or to the stage of bourgeoisification. Lets cast a glance on another such extract.

"Civil Society embraces the whole material intercourse of individuals within a definite stage of the development of productive forces. It embraces the whole commercial and industrial life of a given stage and, insofar, transcends the state and the nation, though, on the other hand again, it must assert itself in its external relations as nationality and internally must organise itself as state. The term "civil society" emerged in the eighteenth century, when property relations had already extricated themselves from the ancient and medieval community. Civil society as such only develops with the bourgeoisie; the social organisation evolving directly out of production and intercourse which in all ages forms the basis of the state and of the rest of the idealistic superstructure has, however, always been designated by the same name." (German Ideology, page 98, Progress Publishers, 1976, our emphasis)
Philosophers of the age of Enlightenment like Locke and Rousseau presented the concept of ‘Civil Society’ to clarify the condition of civil government as always different from natural society or State of Nature which was a progressive concept of that historical period. However, the moment the bourgeois state came into existence, the progressive content of this conception changed into its opposite in the same way in which all Enlightenment ideals of Eternal Law concretised as bourgeois law. In such a case, the concrete form of an "ideal" Civil Society could only had been the bourgeois society. Or else, the Enlightenment conception of Civil Society was the idealized form of the bourgeois society. This extract of Friedrich Engels helps to understand: "We know today that this realm of reason was nothing more than the idealized realm of the bourgeoisie; that eternal justice found its realization in bourgeois justice; that equality reduced itself to bourgeois equality before law; that bourgeois property was proclaimed as one of the most essential rights of man; and that the government of reason, Rousseau’s Social Contract, came into being, and could only come into being, as a bourgeois democratic republic. The great thinkers of the eighteenth century were no more able than their predecessors to go beyond the limits imposed on them by their own epoch." (Engels : Introduction to ‘Anti-Dühring’.) It is clear that the ideal that the Enlightenment philosophers presented that of Civil Society, its practicable form came to the fore in form of bourgeois society, because only this was possible. Now if someone talks of Civil Society within the bourgeois society then either he/she is trying to veil the reality of bourgeois society or else deviating the masses by creating a mirage of establishing justice and equal right within the confines of the existing social system. Marx in his later works used Civil Society as synonymous to bourgeois society and iterated in very clear words that the objective of any Communist force is the creation of a human society and not the Civil Society. Marx undertook a critical analysis of the conception of Civil Society. In the Post-Gramscian discourse, another charge that is leveled against Marx is that he has considered Civil Society and state as two separate entities which have a rigid division between them. For instance, Ann Showstack Sassoon in her entry on Civil Society in A Dictionary of Marxist Thought has attempted to show that Marx had separated the Civil Society and the state and it was Gramsci who liberated the mind and reason from this separation (see page 82-83, A Dictionary of Marxist Thought, Maya Blackwell, Worldview Publication, Indian Reprint, 2000). Though this is proved incorrect by the above given extract, nevertheless, we will spend a little more space to dismiss this claim. Another extract—

"To this modern private property corresponds the modern state, which purchased gradually by the owners of property by means of taxation, has fallen entirely into their hands through the national debt, and its existence has become wholly dependent on the commercial credit which the owners of property, the bourgeois extend to it, as reflected in the rise and fall of government securities on the stock exchange…Through the emancipation of private property from the community, the state has become a separate entity, alongside and outside civil society; but it is nothing more than the form of organisation which the bourgeois are compelled to adopt, both for internal and external purposes, for the mutual guarantee of their property and interests. The independence of the state is only found nowadays in those countries where the estates* have not yet completely developed into classes, where the estates done away with in more advanced countries still play a part and there exists a mixture, where consequently no section of the population can achieve dominance over the others. This is the case particularly in Germany. The most perfect example of the modern state is North America. The modern French, English and American writers all express the opinion that the state exists only for the sake of private property, so that this view has also been generally accepted by the average man.

"Since the state is the form in which the individuals of a ruling-class assert their common interests, and in which the whole civil society of an epoch is epitomized, it follows that all common institutions are set up with the help of the state and are given a political form." (German Ideology, page 98-99, Progress Publishers, 1976)
(*estates : term used to describe the pre-capitalist class-division.)

Marx while explaining the civil law further clarifies this point. But the lack of space is not permitting us to cite the entire extract. Interested readers can read ahead of the given reference.

It is clear that Marx considered Civil Society as class-differentiated society and did not construct any rigid separation between the state and Civil Society. Marx considered the bourgeois society as the purest and the highest stage of Civil Society and in his later works, Marx employs this term in form of bourgeois society. And in his subsequent works, he stops using the term Civil Society and only employs the term bourgeois society and exactly in the same terms as he had previously used in case of Civil Society.

"Society, as it appears to the political economist, is civil society in which every individual is a totality of needs and only exists for the other person, as the other exists for him, insofar as each becomes a means for the other. The political economist reduces everything (just as does politics in its Rights of Man) to man, i.e., to the individual whom he strips of all determinateness so as to class him as capitalist or worker." (Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, page 121, Progress Publishers, 1977, our emphasis)

At another place while giving an account of destruction of feudalism and development of bourgeois society, Marx says:

"Movable property, for its part, points to the miracles of industry and progress. It is the child of modern times, whose legitimate, native-born son it is. It pities its adversary as a simpleton, unenlightened about his own nature (and in this it is completely right), who wants to replace moral capital and free labour by brute, immoral violence and serfdom. It depicts him as a Don Quixote, who under the guise of bluntness, respectability, the general interest, and stability, conceals incapacity for progress, greedy self-indulgence, selfishness, sectional interest, and evil intent. It declares him an artful monopolist…

"It claims to have obtained political freedom for everybody; to have loosed the chains which fettered civil society." (Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, page 86, Progress Publishers, 1977)

Marx states in clear terms that the real champion of ‘Civil Society’ is capitalist class. The conception of Civil Society was developed by bourgeois thinkers. They stated that its development was analogous to the stage of development of private property. It was stated that the land-ownership system in feudal society was giving rise to a static kind of society and the moving property, the world of commodity production brought by the capitalism emancipated the Civil Society from all those ties and created a true Civil Society—that is to say, the society of moral capital and free labour. This entire conception declares the class formation of a capitalist society as natural formation. Initial materialist philosophers who considered man as a species-being gave birth to it. Man was not considered as part of a society but rather as a part of a species. Here, it would be appropriate to cite Marx:

"The highest point attained by contemplative* materialism, that is, materialism which does not comprehend sensuousness as practical activity, is the contemplation of single individuals in "civil society.
"...The standpoint of the old materialism is "civil" society; the standpoint of the new is human society, or associated humanity." (Thesis on Feuerbach, page 620, German Ideology, Progress Publishers, 1976)
(*i.e. Feuerbachian)

We think we have roughly placed here the thought of Marx on Civil Society. Now if in its light we look at the Civil Society chants of the so-called leftists, one thing becomes quite clear : either they are ignorant of the Marxist conception of this term or they are deliberately trying to maneuver it. In both the cases, either they are foolish and ignorant Marxists or else Pseudo-Marxists, who in the guise of Marxism are infact serving the Post-Modernist discourse.

It was Gramsci who further developed the Marxist conception of Civil Society according to the new conditions. In his Prison Notebooks, Gramsci at various places developed the conception of Civil Society, state and political society according to the instances of the history of Italy and other countries of Europe. We have already indicated the misunderstanding that Marx considered Civil Society autonomous of state and that Gramsci threw light on their mutual relations and put an end to the rigid division between the two. Marx in his conception of Civil Society emphasised its relative autonomy and also pointed towards the conception of citizenship that came with the advent of Civil Society in which in a way the fragmentation of the communal, linguistic, casteist identities of an individual were implcit. In this manner, Civil Society, as we have pointed out earlier also, breaks the inhibition of feudal society, breaks its segregation and endeavors to implement the idea of universal man. Capitalist system is a "homogeniser" and at the level of identity, it requires, to an extent, uniformity, though in its advanced phase and after the exhaustion of all its potentialities, it needs to revive all those dead identities against which capitalism waged a fight in anti-feudal struggle. There is always a tension between uniformity and differentiation in Capitalism. The need for uniformity at economic plane but the necessity to break that uniformity arising out of it, at social plane.

Like Marx, Antonio Gramsci never accepted the division between the State and Civil Society. Rather he studied in depth their relations. According to Gramsci, Civil Society is not merely a domain representing individual interests but organisational activities are more important in it. Individual interests are not separate and organise themselves in various forms. Gramsci says that it is a group of such apparatuses which is generally referred as "private" and where hegemony is established and a ‘spontaneous consent’ is taken. The difference between the Civil Society and the State should not be viewed mechanically. Perhaps Gramsci was trying to ward off the dangers of misreading Marx and the meaning and influence of Civil Society that various Marxologists get out of Marx’s writings confirms the fact that the apprehension of Gramsci regarding this was reasonable. Therefore Gramsci undertakes a detailed refutation of the mechanical understanding of the difference between Civil Society and the State. In the narrow terms of Government, the State is secure from the hegemony organised in Civil Society whereas the hegemony of dominant class is established through the coercive state apparatus. In Civil Society, the dominant class or the ruling-class through universalisation imposes its traditions and rules on the entire masses and in course of time these traditions and rules become the mode of establishing hegemony and generate a united pressure and the role of State is reduced to negligible in establishing hegemony. Gramsci considers that Civil Society to be completely developed Civil Society which acts as a ‘trench system’ and protects the State from grave situation arising out of economic crisis. Simply put, in which the complete hegemony of ruling-class is established and apparently it seems that the repressive role of state has disappeared. Gramsci while talking about the breaking of this rigid division also says that all the attempts of considering these two as one should be rendered unsuccessful. He states that these two are intertwined but not the same. Any such belief can take the road to Fascism. Garmsci draws our attention to the fact that when Marx was presenting the concept of Civil Society, not many mass-organisations had come into existence that could have organised the individual interests into class-interests. At that time Civil Society was an area of expression of individual interests after having unfettered itself from the Church and feudal ties and alongwith it was an open area for establishment of class hegemony. With the advent of the twentieth century that is to say by Gramsci’s time, such organisations had come into existence and to a large extent their role in organising class-interest and establishing the hegemony of dominant class was made clear.

Gramsci’s idea of Civil Society is unfolded quite clearly in this extract from his article, ‘Intellectual’:

"The relationship between the intellectuals and the world of production is not as direct as it is with the fundamental social groups but is, in varying degrees, "mediated" by the whole fabric of society and by the complex of superstructure, of which the intellectuals are, precisely, the "functionaries". It should be possible both to measure the "organic quality" of the various intellectual strata and their degrees of connection with a fundamental social group, and to establish a gradation of their functions and of the superstructure from the bottom to the top (from the structural base upwards). What we can do, for the moment, is to fix two major superstructural "levels": the one that can be called "civil society", that is the ensemble of organisms commonly called "private" and that of "political society" or "the state". These two levels correspond on the one hand to the function of "hegemony" which the dominant group exercises throughout society and on the other hand to that of "direct domination" or command exercised through the state and "juridical" government. The functions in question are precisely organisational and connective. The intellectuals are the dominant group’s "deputies" exercising the subaltern functions of social hegemony and political government." (Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, page 12, Orient Longman, 1998, our italics)

Gramsci further adds that amongst these functions, two functions are included—first "spontaneous" consent taken from the masses in favour of state power and dominant class; and second, to organise state as the apparatus of coercive power for those who do not consent actively or passively.

Gramsci in relation to Civil Society and State talks about another aspect. Gramsci says that the hegemony that dominant class establishes in Civil Society is primarily and essentially economic in nature. The superstructural elements come subsequently. Examine this extract closely:

"If it is true that no type of state can avoid passing through a phase of economic corporate primitivism, it may be deduced that the content of the political hegemony of the new social group which has founded the new type of state must be predominantly of an economic order: what is involved is the reorganization of the structure and the real relations between men on the one hand and the world of the economy or of production on the other." (Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, page 263, Orient Longman, 1998)

It is clear that Gramsci does not consider the hegemony established in Civil Society as merely ideological or cultural, rather he considers it to be a fundamentally economic phenomenon. Needless to say, that this economic phenomenon is expressed in culture, literature and language at superstructural plane. But their essence is economic phenomenon. Has anyone ever called Gramsci economic determinist?

The impertinence of the over-simplification of Gramsci’s entire conception of Civil Society will lead to something like this:

The Civil Society is an appropriate term for a class differentiated society in which the oppressed classes have been co-opted by the institutions of the State to a great extent. No doubt Civil Society is separate from the State and is autonomous too to a specific limit; however, there is no Chinese Wall between the State and the Civil Society. The hegemony of the ruling classes is established in the Civil Society, whose basis though is economic, however, expressions are other than that as well. The State is safeguarded through the means of this hegemony itself and in its turn the State too helps in maintaining this hegemony through its institutions. The hegemony, in the main, is expressed apparently in the form of that "spontaneous" consent, which the ruling-class takes from the common people for governance on the strength of its hegemony. The ruling classes have hegemony over the oppressed classes, however, hegemony does not merely mean dominance, it stands for domination through co-option. That is to say, the power endeavors to keep the exploited classes under this illusion that the system is functioning by dint of their consent and that it belongs to them. It is therefore, their civilian duty that once having given their consent, they should follow certain rules and forms so as to prevent anarchy in the society. And the civilized society comprised of such citizens is a Civil Society which infact is a class-differentiated society.

Anyway, lets return to the discussion on the Social Forum. During the India Social Forum, from the leaders of CPM like Subhashini Ali and Siatarm Yechury to the figures like Medha Patkar, all delivered speeches. The slogan of India Social Forum goes— ‘Another World is Possible!’ However they do not have any programme of as to how this world will be created. The charter of India Social Forum itself announces that it does not in any way provide a platform for collective concerted action; instead it is a "space" for "discussion and deliberation". Simply said, it would not do anything. However, it is doing much while doing nothing.

However, what is worth contemplation is that as to how the people at Social Forum talk about Civil Society and politics of identity in the same breath? Historically, the Civil Society was based on the negation of all other identities of people, except their identity as individual. In addition to the slogan of human-centric society it was the favourite rhetoric of capitalism directed against the firm hold of feudalism and the Church. Capitalism accomplishes a process of universalisation at the economic plane. The economic universalisation gives expression to universalisation in superstructure too. Capitalism leads to a universalisation of the identity of a person too and establishes his/her identity in form of a human being (‘species being’ for Fueurbach), as a free individual, at least temporarily it does so. However, in the phase of moribund capitalism, this universal identity becomes dangerous as it leads to class-polarisation on its own. In the society of disparate individuals, capitalism, for the first time, begets such sharp class-division. The class-identity is born. And this class-consciousness proves fatal to capitalism. Therefore, capitalism, devoid of all its progressive potentialities and heading towards its end, though requires universalisation on the economic plane, nevertheless needs fragments at the plane of superstructure. Hence, the necessity of forums like World Social Forum which accomplishes this task by the means of politics of identity. Well, honesty demands that forum should talk about pre-Civil Society. Because classical Civil Society rejects all discourses of fragmented identities whereas present-day Civil Society organisations and the constituents of World Social Forum lay much emphasis on preserving various communal identities of pre-Civil Society (or pre-bourgeois society) while talking about Civil Society.

All in all, this is the Post-Modern political agenda. The post-modern philosophy states that the period of metanarratives has come to an end. While donning its Orientalist garb, it says that the Western imperialism subjugates the Oriental world in the name of modernity, rationality etc. As a matter of fact, all these ideologies are part of a western conspiracy called Enlightenment. Modernity is undesired. Why is it undesired that we will see ahead.

Following the downfall of the Soviet Union in 1990, the hired hacks of capitalism had reached a state of intoxication and hysterical frenzy at what they thought was the final victory of capitalism. Francis Fukoyama made the proclamation about the ‘end of history’ by declaring capitalist system the ‘zenith of humanity’. Well, this was not something new. In fact, this was just a new cultural expression of a claim of the classical political economy. This was the claim of the capitalist system being the natural system. Marx had written on it much earlier in ‘Poverty of Philosophy’"Economists have a singular method of procedure. There are only two kinds of institutions for them, artificial and natural. The institutions of feudalism are artificial institutions, those of bourgeoisie are natural institutions. In this they resemble the theologians, who likewise establish two kinds of religion. Every religion which is not theirs is an invention of men, while their own is an emanation from God. When the economists say that present-day relations — the relations of bourgeois production are natural, they imply that these are the relations in which wealth is created and productive forces developed in conformity with the laws of nature. These relations therefore are themselves natural laws independent of the influence of time. They are eternal laws which must always govern society. Thus there has been history, but there is no longer any. There has been history, since there were the institutions of feudalism, and in these institutions of feudalism we find quite different relations of production from those of bourgeois society…" (‘Poverty of Philosophy’, page 105, Progress Publishers, English Edition, 1987, our italics). Thus, the claims made by Fukoyama have nothing new to them. The Bourgeois thinkers and theoreticians always make such claims about capitalism and why should they not!! However, what is it Mr. Fukoyama! Classical Political Economy too is a modern ideology that came into existence after the Enlightenment. So, while opposing modernity, you yourself got caught in the trap of modernity?

Lyotard had already commenced the agenda of post-modernism on the philosophical plane in the latter half of 1970s and the first half of 1980s. Subsequently, various ‘post-’ thoughts were appended to it such as post colonial thought, post-structuralism, post-Feminism, post-Marxism, post-Orientalism, post-….. Essentially, all these are the different parts, aspects or extensions of the post-modern thought itself. All of them have a whirlwind romance with the concept of ‘power’. The post-modernist thought says that power permeates everywhere and is decentralized. It is all-pervasive, present in every sphere of everyday life and internalised by the people. This is irresistible since any effective resistance, that is, which has the potential of social transformation, generates new forms of ‘power.’ Therefore, all the struggles for social transformation are undesired. Then where does the solution lie? Here, the pos- colonial arm comes into force. The post-colonial thought says that solution lies in those structures which have not been contaminated by the influences of power. It states that colonialism and imperialism are the same form of power. They were resisted in the anti-colonial struggle from the standpoint of Nationalism. However, Nationalism too is a modern philosophy which has its roots in the West. Therefore, inherent power structures are present in it too; hence post-colonial statepower that came into existence after the successful struggle of Nationalism too, in fact, is the modernist statepower. Today, Imperialism cannot be opposed from a modernist standpoint because dominance and power are irresistible. Therefore, we must look for those structures that are pre-modern, that is, untouched by power, untouched by Western influences. And what can these structures be?—All pre-modern identities, all primitive identities such as, tribal, dalit, woman (particularly within the household!), etc. Here, the Western thought means all thought after the Enlightenment. According to the post-modernist thought, Enlightenment, scientific revolutions, rationality, humanism etc are part of the designs of the West for global domination. Their refutation is imperative because they are reductionists, universalists, singularists, homogenisers etc. And amongst all, Marxism is specifically targeted. Marxism too is dismissed as the part of the Western conspiracy of establishing the global domination of Enlightenment. Marxism and all ideologies that talk about social transformation are declared as the conspiracy of the West and it is said that we must preserve small fragments that is community, caste, domestic woman space etc. We are enlightened that these are space autonomous of the power structures. There exists two places — place of domination and place of autonomy. Domination is invincible, therefore expand the space of autonomy and do with it! The period of class struggle, revolution, social change has long gone. This is post-modern period and in the post-modern period, in the words of Lyotard himself, metanarratives are incredible (The Post Modern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, 1979). Therefore now the time is of petty marginal struggles. The struggles of caste, the struggles of women, struggles for environment etc. One has to create space for these marginal identities while staying within the framework of this system.

Marxism versus Economic Determinism and Class-Reductionism

To our post-modernists, talking about class in any form appears class-reductionism. Forums like World Social Forum and all post-modernist thinkers accuse Marxism of Economic Determinism and class-reductionism. This rotten moth-eaten allegation is leveled against Marxism by all, from post-modernists to petty hacks of no worth. This is factually incorrect. This is a fact of history that Marxism had launched a lengthy struggle against Mechanical and distorted Materialism in the field of Philosophy, against economic determinism in the field of Political Economy, against class-reductionism in the field of politico-sociological analysis, against positivism in the field of philosophy of history and against naturalism in the filed of art-literature-aesthetics; and in this process was further developed. The philosophical interior of all these struggles was society. The criticism that Marx made about classical political economy had the criticism of economic determinism too as one of its significant intrinsic part. Marx-Engels, Lenin and Mao have criticized various forms and expressions of economic determinism at many instances. The Marxist conception of class too is not in any way a reductionist conception. Extensive material is to be found in the writings of Marx-Engels themselves against Economic determinism and class-reductionism. Here, it is not possible to go into their detail. However,, merely by reading three letters by Friedrich Engels can anyone know their viewpoint, approach and methodology on the question of economic base-superstructure and class. These letters are: Letter to J.Bloch (Septmber 21-22, 1890), Letter to W.Burgeois (January 25, 1894), Letter to Conrad Schimt (October 21, 1890) (see Marx-Engels: collected works, volume 3, page 487-490, page 502-504 and page 489-495 respectively, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1977, English Edition). The conception of social class, though is present in a clear form in the writings of Marx-Engels, however, if an attempt is made to look for a concrete, precise and concentrated definition of class in the entire classical Marxist Literature, then it is obtained from Lenin. According to Lenin, "The large groups of people are called classes, which in view of their places in the historically determined method of social production, in view of their relations towards the means of production (in most of the cases, determined and legislated in laws), in view of their role in the social organisation of labour and consequently in view of the manner and size of obtaining their share of social wealth differ from one-another. Classes are those groups of people in which a group, by virtue of its place in the definite method of social economy can seize the labour of other group." Class is a relative concept, as is clear from this definition as well. Class is not merely an economic phenomenon. It gets expressed in many forms in culture, literature, society. The accusation of class-reductionism and economic determinism against Marxism is an ill treatment of facts and any serious reader of the writings of Marx and Engels can understand this well.
This question is raised many a times from one quarter or the other that why only class-identity? The existence of class identity is recognised, however, enumerating it with various other identities, it is asked that why should that much emphasis be laid on class-identity only? We have already answered this question in the article. The class identity is the identity that divides all other identities. Class division can be seen in all other identities, whether it is based on caste, gender, region, language or nationality. The largest possible mass mobilisation and mass organisation can be formed around this identity. It is a modern identity which covers all primitive identities. Only this identity can procreate a progressive mass mobilisation. Therefore, a Communist organises people in the society around class-identity. However, this itself is not class-reductionism.

The discussion on the struggle of Marxism against class reductionism and economic determinism demands a separate article. And there is definitely a need to write about it in future since amidst the haze and fog of reactionary, reformist and postmodernist propaganda, many people fall prey to this misconception that Marxism infact suffers from these deviations. This is quite ironical. This situation must be altered.

The Post-Modern agenda and Subaltern Studies in India.

In the intellectual world of India, the task of applying the post-modern agenda has been carried out most effectively by the historians of Subaltern Studies. Initially after roughly remaining within the framework of Marxist terminology and Marxist analysis, a linguistic turn came into Subaltern Studies which was the clear influence of Lyotard, Said and Foucault. In the Subaltern Studies, it is Partha Chaterjee, Dipesh Chakrobarty, Gyanendra Pandey and Gyan Prakash, in particular that are implementing this agenda with great competence. The subsequent Subaltern Studies has been oscillating between the ‘derivative discourse’, indigenous ‘community’ and ‘fragments’, all three of which are the categories of post-modern discourse. In his book, Nationalist Thought in a Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse?, Partha Chatterjee states that the intellectual class of India has come under the hegemony of colonial power-knowledge and therefore, is capable only in holding forth derivative discourse. Similarly, during the Nationalist Movement, the middle class intellectual world was completely captured by the modern thought (which is quite bad!!). It did not have any agency. Beyond this intellectual world, which has been contaminated by the permeating structures of power, is the world of communal consciousness which is pure, primitive, sacred and thus must be exalted. Partha Chatterjee relates this to peasant consciousness in India which is free from the Western hegemonic influence. Gandhi is spoken of as its symbolic figure, how? Nobody knows! Gandhi was a modern thinker. His humanism, despite its religious-spiritual covering, language and touch, was essentially a bourgeois humanism. No attention is paid to the fact that how the indigenous structures were co-opted by colonialism and were pressed into the service of colonial exploitation. And these indigenous structures were not maneuvered because of their Oriental innocence, with which Ashish Nandy is greatly enamoured, rather were used because of their vested interests.

After the publication of this book, Selected Subaltern Studies got published from New York in 1987, whose preface was written by Edward Said and editorial comment by Gayatri Chakravarty Spivak. And with this the emphasis on fragments and community increased all the more. We were told that the modern post colonial statepower is the part of the project of Enlightenment of Western cultural domination. This statepower came through Nationalism which is nothing else than a derivative discourse of colonial discourse. ‘Community’ and ‘fragments’, decontextualised from their socio-economic perspective, were much exalted and eulogized.

With the publication of Parth Chatterjee’s The Nation and its Fragments in 1993, Subaltern Studies achieved its logical nirvana. Chaterjee separately discusses dalits, women etc as the fragments of Nation. They can never have a common agenda and that all these fragments are reified which can never be joined together. According to Chatterjee, during the Nationalist period, the expression of the initiative or autonomy of women can only be found inside the household or else at the most in autobiographies! How incredible! And what about all those political activities and political associations in which the women participated with full gusto during 1920’s? This book assumes silence on the question of caste-based movements too. Chatterjee goes on to say that which is outside, undomestic and masculine is ‘material’ and that which is inside, domestic and feminine is ‘spiritual’. The colonial subject maintained its autonomy in the spiritual world and was being co-opted by the Britishers in the material world. For instance, Chatterjee considers the issue of equality before law that came up at that time co-option by the Western hegemonic project. According to Chatterjee, this is infact getting co-opted in the discourse of Enlightenment itself. That is, there should be no equality before the law! The Western project of establishing the modern state, that imperialism could not accomplish, was undertaken by the Nationalists. All resistance to imperialism, that was carried out through modern means, through secular means and with an economic critique was infact, surrendering before the hegemonic Enlightenment project of imperialism. That is all the struggles that Nationalism fought, was co-option by imperialism. Did somebody hear the resonance of Golwalkar?

Dipesh Chakabarty has pushed back new frontiers in this opposition to modernity. In ‘The Difference-Differal of a Colonial Modernity: Public Debates on Domesticity in British Bengal’. Chakrabarty says that the domestic glorification of Bengali women, for instance ‘kul’ and ‘Grihaluxmi’ are irreducible categories of "beauty", these are means to talk about the construction of ideas of pleasure, feelings and good life associated with the models of non-autonomous, non-bourgeois and non-secular individuality. This celebration of the non-autonomous, non-bourgeois and non-secular individuality is in fact the subversion of the resistance by women and is a form of perversion caused by the sense of defeat against imperialism.

Chatterjee’s work (The Nation and its Fragments) in the end talks about the contradiction between community and capital instead of the contradiction between the labour and capital, as if the upper strata of community are deprived of capital. By community, Chatterjee mostly means peasant consciousness. He himself accepts peasant society is an unjust and unequal society, nevertheless it must be celebrated because may God save from modernity!

Similar position is adopted by Ashish Nandy in the sociological world. In The Intimate Enemy, Ashish Nandy writes that his intention is to champion and preserve that innocence which opposed Western colonialism. Here too, the import is to glorify the community. According to Nandy, Hindutva is a post-colonial modern ideology and because of its secular nature (here, by secular it is meant this-worldly), it is more dangerous. Enlightenment, modernity and modern state are responsible for the secular nature. Well, as per Nandy, this-worldliness is dangerous and becomes all the more dangerous with religion, therefore, all secular ideas should be abandoned; and tolerance can only be anti-secular since it turns religion in a belief. The term secular has deliberately been used at some instance as this-worldly while at others implying ‘dharma-nirpeksha’. Ultimately, it is rationality, atheism and Enlightenment which is made the target—whichever meaning is implied. While treading the same road as Nandy, Chatterjee declares that the community has definite lines of demarcation and there can be separate representation in it. He goes on to say that arrangement should be made for the legal autonomy of religious communities as this will lead to the end of intervention by the modern state in the community. That is, if any member of any religious community takes the permission of the community for any ritual or ceremony of that religious community, then the state would have no right to intervene in its observance. That is, if any representative of Hindu society (??) takes the recognition of the community for enforcing the practice of sati, then it would be implemented unobstructed because the state cannot intervene—the damn modern state!! Now link it to the agenda of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and the BJP. There is no need to make such an effort, all this gets itself linked to communal Fascism. And this is the real agenda of postmodernism which can be seen directly standing sometimes in favour of Fascism, at others with imperialism and neo-liberal capitalism.

The real target of this entire assault on Enlightenment and modernity is Marxism; Marx himself never made an uncritical assessment of the Enlightenment. However, if Enlightenment is proved to be bad and undesired; and if it is termed as the cultural project of imperialism and Marxism as the part of this conspiracy, then people, particularly advanced pro-people intellectuals and students-youth can be prevented from being attracted to it. It is not without reason that Lyotard in his critique of metanarratives, repeatedly target political economy and economic analysis. Its objective too is to attack the recruitment centers of Communist movement in its initial phase. That is, the same objective as that of the NGO sector.

The whole of the NGO sector gets linked to this thought. World Social Forum and WMPA too are a part of the same conspiracy which while celebrating the community and fragment, wants to blunt the class-consciousness of the masses and prevent the class-based unity of people. This task is being accomplished by the post-modernists, post-colonialists, post-Marxists, post-Orientalists, post-Feminists, post-environmentalists and Subaltern historians on the ideological plane. They are misleading the advanced sharp and bright youngsters of the society at academic centers themselves. We must understand the graveness of their conspiracy. They must be vanquished ideologically at every step, their truth must be revealed to the youth equipped with revolutionary vigour. And while undertaking reform activities in a revolutionary way, one must unite with the extensive toiling population, evolve an impregnable social base amongst them and step by step take forward their political struggle. In this process, the non-government and voluntary organizations must be exposed and dislodged amongst the common working people. Today the struggle of unmasking their ideological, political and cultural agenda should be our priority. This would be setting aside a great hindrance in the path of establishing the ideological authority and hegemony of Marxism amongst the advanced elements in the initial phase of revolutionary party building. And as Gramsci has argued somewhere, unlike military struggle, in ideological struggle we attack the strongest point of the enemy in the first instance.

Readings :
Marx, K., German Ideology, Progress Publishers, 1976
Marx, K., Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Progress Publishers, 1977
Marx, K., Poverty of Philosophy, Progress Publishers, 1987
Marx, K., Engels, F., Selected Letters, Rahul Foundation, Lucknow, 2008
Marx, K., Engels, F., Collected Works, Vol-III, Progress Publishers, 1977
Engels, F., Anti-Duhring, Progress Publishers
Gramsci, A., Selections from the Prison Notebooks, Orient Longman, 1998
Spivak, G.C., (ed.), Selected Subaltern Studies, New York, 1987
Chatterji, P., The Nation and its Fragments, 1993
Chatterji, P., Nationalist Thought in a Colonial World : A Derivative Discourse
Chakrbarty, D., The Difference-Differal of a Colonial Modernity : Public Debates on Domesticity in British Bengal
Nandy, A., The Intimate Enemy
Said, E., Orientalism, Penguin Publishers
Lyotard, F., The Post-Modern Condition : A Report on Knowledge, 1979.
Fukoyama, F., The End of History and the Last Man
Bottomore, T., Miliband.R., Kiernan, V.G., A Dictionary of Marxist Thought, Maya Blackwell, Worldview Publication, Indian Reprint, 2000.
Singh, A., Mishra, V., NGO: Ek Khatarnaak Samrajyavaadi Kuchakra, Rahul Foundation, Lucknow, January 2002.
Singh, A., Varma, S., WSF: Samrajyavaad ka Naya Trojan Horse, Rahul Foundation, Lucknow, January 2004.

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We are an independent Marxist Study Group formed by students and independent individuals who believe that Marxism is a guide to action and only those can be regarded as Marxists who apply it as a philosophy of praxis. We are opposed to any kind of dogmatic or revisionist understanding of Marxism and find ourselves committed to fight against all distortions of Marxism, whether done by its opponents or by its so-called followers. We believe in the need to free Marxism of empty-talking "free-thinking" as well as reductionisms and determinisms of all kinds. However, we believe in open-ended argumentation because that is the spirit of Marxist science and we are not rigid or closed-ended about any of our beliefs or convictions.
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