Marxist Theory


We publish here an article by Murzban Jal, as a significant discussion document regarding the issues facing the Indian left.
Administrator, Radical Socialist Website



When the “red specter”, continuously conjured up and exorcised by the counter-revolutionaries, finally appears, it appears not with the Phrygian cap of anarchy on its head, but in the uniform of order, in red breeches.


Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.




On the Dialectic


It seems to be very simple: abolish commodity production and the state immediately. Yet what seems to be the simplest becomes the most difficult. And since commodity production and the state were not buried after 1917—in fact resurrected in full form by the Stalinist counterrevolution—both commodity production and state continued their march past all over the world. It did not grip merely the Stalinists. It tempted Mao. From Stalin onwards one did not have the Marxist program of the immediate smashing of the state. In fact, one learnt from the Stalinist School of Falsification, that Marxism had to create a state more dreaded than the ones created by the Tsars. State capitalism and Stalinist revisionism became the dreaded reality and the specter that haunts the world communist revolution even today.

Quite recently two prominent thinkers, Javeed Alam and Prabhat Patnaik, had raised important points with regards communist politics and the emergence of a distinct kind of a crisis in left politics[1], followed by the stubborn empiric, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary’s response in the form of Stalinist rhetoric. These essays by Alam and Patnaik were directed to the questions of political organization and the agrarian crisis. Yet the General Secretary almost refused to understand what was being said. For Alam, “democratic centralism” has been reduced to non-democratic and authoritarian practices of the communist parties. Alam goes back to Lenin’s What is to be Done? to point to the genesis of the problem of authoritarianism and the nature of inherent elitism that was born from the Kautskyite formulation of revolutionary consciousness being manufactured by the bourgeois intellectuals of the party. Alam does not refer to Rosa Luxemburg’s and Leon Trotsky’s critique of this thesis. Nor does he refer to the general critique of the concept of the vanguard party itself. But in identifying the problem of organization (I will say Stalinist organization), Alam’s essay turned out to be a critical moment in left politics.

But the most important nodal point articulated in communist politics turned out to be the one articulated by Raya Dunayaevskaya, a thinker-activist of the Marxist-humanist genre and one time secretary to Trotsky, who had talked of a deep-rooted theoretical crisis that emerged after the death of Lenin, a crisis that plunged international communism in a convulsion that it could not immediately recover from[2]. The crisis was not merely due to some tactical problem or due to a certain type of leadership. It was primarily a theoretical crisis that had to be located in the cranium of philosophy, located especially in the inability in articulating Marx’s philosophy of liberation. The fall of the Soviet Union was a logical outcome of this crisis, where human emancipatory interests were displaced for the interest of Slavic state capitalism. According to Dunayaevskaya, none of the activists from what she called “established Marxism” could handle this crisis. To this list is also added the names of the Western Marxists: the Frankfurt School, Jean Paul Sartre, Louis Althusser and company, who could not deal with the hegemony of Stalinism and the state capitalist model that disguised counterrevolution as revolution. Since the crisis is imminently theoretical, or one may dare say, philosophical, one had to go to the roots of this philosophical repertoire—namely the understanding of dialectics, especially the understanding of Hegel’s dialectics as “the algebra of the revolution” (Alexander Herzen).

Revolutionary dialectics confronts capitalism. It does not wait for so-called “inevitable” revolutions. It is not cowardly like Stalinism. It utterly disbelieves in the counterrevolutionary thesis of socialism-in-one-country. It is praxis oriented. Unlike the Stalinists who are contemplative, it deals with active organization for the overthrow of world capitalism. Unlike the Indian left (who in their pretentious opposition to imperialism) it does not support Third World reactionaries and fascist mullahs. Being internationalist it participates in the movements both inside and outside India. It thus fights with the Iranian masses and calls for the overthrow of theological fascism.  Similarly it fights with the Kashmir people, the Palestinians, the Kurds, etc. The source of this Revolutionary Internationalism is the dialectic. Truth for this revolutionary dialectic is the “whole”, i.e. the world historical revolution.

It is only when this core philosophical question is addressed, only when one understand how the philosophy of praxis can become a realistic program, then and only then, can revolutionary praxis be possible. In this sense the understanding of the dialectic is the core question that is able to analyze the conditions of the possibilities and necessities of the revolution. For the time being one will call this dialectic (after Gramsci) a historicism and humanism. When one understands this historicism and humanism then authentic left-wing politics realizes itself as the freedom and the will of the radical classes. In this humanist problematic there is not General Secretary that would serve as the vanguard of the revolution.

One goes directly into the heart of the contemporary problem in Indian left politics. The neo-liberal Indian state has become brutal in their implementation of their pro-corporate, pro-imperialist programs. One way of so-called resistance is the Maoist kind of “resistance”. But Maoism involves more of a spectacle and a phantasmagoria. To the lifelessness and the practico-inert that emerges from the domination of finance capital, the Maoists responds with a kind of phantasmagorical action that is more reminiscent of Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov—the character in Crime and Punishment whose “messianic” action is the murder of an old lady. Sometimes the Maoists are said to be ‘Gandhians with guns’, sometimes they playact the nineteenth century Russian anarchists (the Narodnikis). Since they can be neither postmodern Gandhians, nor nineteenth century anarchists they prefer to play the tragic role of martyred messiahs.

But since Marxism is not messianic one will have to turn away from the spectacle of the metaphysics of violence to more serious problems. The politics of the Revolutionary Communists in India, the Party that is dressed in red breeches, profound in both theory and practice, a profound character that is not bewitched by parliamentary cretinism nor in the least swayed by the George Sorel inspired anarchic action of the Maoists has to understand the following points: (1) the Asiatic mode of production (one will have to insist that this is completely ignored by the Indian left) combined with the peculiar caste-based social stratification, (3) the necessity of rigorous theory that lays stress on the primacy of Marxist philosophy of liberation and the revolutionary dialectic of the active overthrow of world capitalism (the philosophy of praxis), and (4) the necessity of Revolutionary Internationalism that heralds stateless, classless and nationless societies.

Since pre-capitalist social formations along with the politics of caste stratification comprise the core of the Indian mode of production as well as its ideological superstructure—and harnessed by all bourgeois political parties—one will have to start with the question of pre-capitalism and that of the dialectics of caste hegemony and its radical subversion. Probably one of the greatest errors committed by the Indian Marxists is to ignore the radical anti-caste politics of Jyotirao Phule and Babasaheb Ambedkar, thus leaving a void in revolutionary democratic politics. With regards the Asiatic mode the most important point to be grasped is the complexity of the caste-class dialectic and that the politics of the annihilation of castes is directly related to the communist revolution. Castes and classes are not two entities. Instead they have to be understood as social historical processes directly related capital accumulation. The annihilation of castes is related to the overthrow of global capitalism. The contemporary caste system does not exist independent of global capital accumulation.

The second lack in the communist movement in India is the lack in the study of Marxist philosophy, especially the lack in the reading of the original works of Marx, thus leaving a treble lack in the understanding of (1) Marx’s theory of multi-linear history governed by the dialectics of combined and uneven development, (2) the relation between Marxist philosophy of praxis and the nature of class struggles and (3) the relation between the philosophy of Marx with that of Hegel in particular and the history of philosophy in general. From this lack of understanding of Marxist philosophy and its relation to political economy, the Indian communists (following the mistakes of Stalin and Mao) did not understand the cell science of Marx—namely that value as the cell of the capitalist mode of production is directly related to class formation. The Indian comrades consequently forgot that one cannot have ‘socialist’ commodity production. This blunder has left an understanding that the Soviet and Chinese forms of socialism had a “socialist” character. One must insist that Marx calls value a ghost, a magical and necromantic monster and an apparition that devours humanity. How could communism let this ghost-monster-apparition enter its own field of operation? How could the commodity, that the Soviets and Chinese embraced wholeheartedly, be split from the general law of capital accumulation and the crisis emerging thereon? What the Soviets and Chinese did was to have capitalism without the capitalists. But since this rather strange mode of production that leapt from the minds of the prophets of left-wing capitalism (Stalin and Mao) was an impossibility, the Party itself went through a metamorphosis and became a monopoly capitalist. 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet bloc of nations was a rebellion against this form of Slavic monopoly capitalism.  One will then have to be very careful that one does not imitate authoritarian state capitalism.

In contrast to Stalin and Mao’s attempts to tame the commodity, let us look at what Engels had to say:


Once the commodity-producing society has further developed the value-form, which is inherent in commodities as such, to the money form, various germs still hidden in value break through to the light of day. The first and most essential effect is the generalization of the commodity form. Money forces the commodity form even on the objects which have been produced directly for self-consumption; it drags them into exchange. Thereby the commodity form and money penetrate the internal husbandry of the communities directly associated for production; they break one tie of communion after another, and dissolve the community into a mass of private producers.[3]



The third lack is that of Revolutionary Internationalism, an Internationalism that argues for not only World Communism, as against the moribund Stalinist and Maoist nationalisms, a New Internationalism of the Human Essence (das menschliche Wesen) that is devoid of bureaucratic committees, but also a New Internationalism that practices (what is known in the Hegelian-Marxist repertoire as) the Aufhebubg (transcendence) of private property and the state. This Aufhebung is not for some distant future, but is one for the here and the now. What one calls “liberated areas” are the areas of humanity that are liberated from private property and the state. It is in this way, that the communists can make public their views, as to how the party is not an agglomeration of committees, but the realization of the human essence. Clearly the Indian Marxists have forgotten this. They definitely have not read their Marx in the original German. They then, could not understand what this human essence (das menschliche Wesen) means. They could not understand how this das menschliche Wesen could be related to the Marxist idea of political organization.

Due to this lack of Marxism with our so-called Marxists, there seems to be no difference between the bourgeois politics of the Congress and the BJP and that of the Left Front parties. Seems strange that Marxism has to play the role of the talisman of the bourgeois nationalists and not be able to break the stranglehold of the international finance capitalists who, with their ink seeped in blood, define national boundaries. One has to stress how this ink-blood combine define not only the petty territorial row between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, but also the ethnic blood bath in Sri Lanka, the holy warriors of god set up by the CIA and the march-past of American imperialism over West Asia. To counter this blood bath, one has to create a Popular Front for the Liberation of Asia, a front that is nationless, stateless and classless.

It is because of these lacks that the Marxists bewitched by social democracy can at best shout in the parliament—they forget what Lenin said: “parliament does not eliminate, but lays bare the innate character even of the most democratic republics as organs of class oppression”[4]—or in the Maoist variation construct a metaphysic of violence. Clearly both, the parliamentary form of “socialism” and the anarchist-Maoist type are wrong. One has to go beyond both these in order to understand the nature of the revolution in India, Asia and the world. The nationalist leftists in India will probably have recognized by now that (alongside South America) Tehran in particular and West Asia in general will be playing the role of what once Paris and Petrograd played. Iraq and Afghanistan are fighting for liberation. But the fight has to be an internationalist one.  After all, how can one fight global finance capitalism and the war economy with nationalism? Clearly the dress of nationalism is directly in contradiction to world history. But it is also equally clear that imperialism will recall the ghosts of the past—the Taliban, the Shiite imams and the caste system to fight the world revolution.



The Spectral Unconscious.


In Capital, Vol. I, Marx says, that under the capitalist mode of production, humanity is plagued not only by “modern evils”, but also by “a whole series of inherited evils” which oppress us[5]. These modern evils, so Marx continues, arise from “the passive survival of antiquated modes of production, with their train of social and political anachronisms”[6] The most celebrated statement of Marx rings out:


We suffer not only from the living, but from the dead. Le mort  saisit le vif! We are seized by the dead![7]


Just as Hamlet was plagued by the specter of his dead father, so too humanity is plagued by the ghosts of the gods and the prophets, the liberals and the Stalinists. The capitalist mode of production, the most modern of all societies, is also the most backward. Instead of projecting a radical future, it merely recalls the ghosts of the past. The ghosts of the past thus refuse to leave us. For us, modern Indians, it is not so much the prophets that haunt us (unlike the hauntology in Iran), but the ghost of the caste system that rings out again and again. Once it was thought that modern industry would come and spell the doom of this terrible social system. But modern industry came and went. But caste refuses to go. Just as Buddhism, Islam and Sikhism (like a number of anti-caste subaltern struggles) failed in its struggle against caste, so too modernity as bourgeois modernity, has failed. And what have the communists (as both the social democratic Left Front, and the Maoists) in India done? Turned a blind eye to it. And why is this so? Because they have not read Marx properly.  Most certainly they have not understood that it cannot be a European historico-logical system that can be imposed onto Asia in a metaphysical fashion where caste seemingly would “automatically” vanish with the development of productive forces. Marx words rings out: one cannot have a “ready made system of logic” that can be randomly applied anywhere.[8] Elsewhere he talks of how:


The chapter on primitive accumulation does not claim to do more than trace the path by which in Western Europe, the capitalist economic system emerged from the womb of the feudal economic system. It therefore describes the historical process which by divorcing the producers from their means of production converts them into wage workers (proletarians in the modern sense of the word) while it converts the owners of the means of production into capitalists. In that history “all revolutions are epoch-making that act as levers for the capitalist class in course of formation; but, above all, those moments, when great masses of men are forcibly torn from their means of production and of subsistence, suddenly hurled on the labour market. But the basis of this whole development is the expropriation of the peasants, England is so far the only country where this has been carried through completely…but all the countries of Western Europe are going through the same development”.[9]


It is necessary to understand that the impact of “this historical sketch” on non-West European countries implies firstly the transformation of the peasantry into proletarians and then being caught in “the whirlpool of the capitalist economy”.[10] But Marx warns that it is not possible to transform the historical sketch of the genesis of capitalism in Western Europe into “an historico-philosophic theory of the general path of development prescribed by fate to all nations,…(One should not use) as one’s master key a general historico-philosophical theory, the supreme virtue of which consists in being supra-historical.”[11]

Now it seems that this idea of Marx was forgotten and the metaphysics of history—a very bad form of teleologism—was applied. The result was taking the model of the transformation of feudalism to capitalism in Europe as a general model for a supra kind of history in general. The main thing was the delinking of pre-capitalist social formations and the dialectics of caste from the mode of production and the forgetfulness of the Asiatic mode of production. There are two contradictory motifs developing in the articulation of the Asiatic mode. The first develops following Marx’s Ethnological Notebooks. Here one locates property relations—the ager publicus (public lands)—which are in hostile contradiction to capitalism and which are suited for direct communist transformation. Marx’s understanding of the Iroquois and the Russian commune are examples of this radical and non-linear way of looking at world history. It directly challenges the theory that socialism can emerge only from the womb of capitalism. Marx’s reading of Louis Henry Morgan, J.J Bachofen and Maxim Kovalevsky and his letters to Vera Zasulich are proof of this non-linear reading of history. In fact, as we all well know, (and has usually been forgotten) the 1881 draft letters of Marx to Zasulich (discovered by David Ryzanov after 1917) suggest that the “historical inevitability” of primitive accumulation of capital need not apply with regards the Russian commune where the latter was seen to be “inevitably” destroyed by the onslaught of capitalism. In fact Marx suggest the “skipping” of the capitalist mode in Russia and the preparation of direct communism based on the Russian commune. The immediate effect of this observation is felt in at least two places of the contemporary world: South America and India where the ager publicus (public lands) serves as the main force-field for the communist revolution. This force-field we call “non-capitalism”. It is charged with the dialectics of negativity and linked directly with the world revolution. In this sense there is no New Democratic Revolution that precedes the Communist Revolution.

But there is also a second motif to the understanding of pre-capitalist societies. This is a reactionary motif. It deals with the breakdown of the ancient gens, the class formations developing from this breakdown, along with the growth of patriarchy, organized religions and regular armies for warfare. It is also from this breakdown that we understand the origins of caste stratification in India with the invasion of the Indo-Iranian Rg Vedic people and the consequent domination of the Brahmin and the warrior Kshatriya communities over the indigenous Indic population whose insipid urban civilization was both destroyed by these raider invader communities and then hailed as holy ideology.[12] In every possible way, caste and caste ideology are reactionary baggage with their cult of invasion, ritual and magic. Likewise caste and the consequent culture of the caste system are directly related to the political economy of underdevelopment. Here I would beg to differ with the poststructuralists and the postmodernists who see caste as a “colonial construct”.

It has to be pointed out that this caste-ideology that is made to sink so deep into the unconscious of the masses that it draws three ontological lines of demarcations that fracture every possibility of the unity of the popular classes. They are firstly the line drawn between the castes, each made to live the life of a psychotic Robinson Crusoe—I can recall Ambedkar who said that:


Hindu society is a myth….Hindu society as such does not exist. It is only a collection of castes…A caste has no feeling that it is affiliated to other castes except when there is a Hindu-Muslim riot. On all other occasions each caste endeavors to segregate itself and distinguish itself from other castes. ….Indeed the ideal Hindu must be like a rat living in his own hole refusing to have contact with others. There is an utter lack among the Hindus of what the sociologists call ‘consciousness of kind’. There is no Hindu consciousness of kind. In every Hindu the consciousness that exists is the consciousness of his caste. That is the reason why the Hindus cannot be considered to form a society or nation.[13]



The second point is the line drawn between genders, and the third line made is between the material and spiritual worlds, the body and the mind, the former stated to be maya, or illusion.  Yet it has not been understood as to why Indian popular classes have internalized this ideology of division made by the Ur-invaders as the religion of ‘nationalist’ India. Here one could draw from It has also not been understood as to why the communists have not taken the weapons of criticism against this schizoid world and thrown it off lock, stock and barrel.

Since caste is yet an important feature in Indian society, and possibly one of the biggest impediments to the socialist revolution, an understanding of it is necessary. At one level it signifies (not only the political economy of exclusion, but also) an Indian form of racism where stratification is on race lines—the invading Indo-Iranian people (the Aryans) are the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas, whilst the subjugated people are the merchants and the peasantry. The first marker of this is found in the tenth mandala of the Rg Veda. Clearly race and division of labour are intrinsically intertwined:



The Brāhman was his mouth, of both his

arms was the Rājanya made.

His thighs became the Vaiśya, from his

feet the Śūdra was produced.[14]


I am saying clearly that the racial division is marked, for it has also been thought that this first probable marker of caste suggest an economic division of labour devoid of racial overtones. This is what Irfan Habib said, the “original statement for the four varnas, is more a description of social classes than of castes: the rajanyas, aristocracy, the brahmanas, priests, the  vis, people at large (mainly peasants), and the sudras, springing from the dasyas, servile communities. There is no hint in Vedic times of either a hereditary division of labour or any form of endogamy. The varnas thus initially presaged very little of the caste system that was to grow later.”[15] But what Habib does not point out are the fierce class wars fought between the raiding warrior communities (rathēšhtra in Old Persian or the Indian Kshatriyas) and the pastoral and agrarian communities (vāstryō-fšuyan in Old Persian or the Indian Vaiśya) .[16] Dwelling on the relation between the separating Rg Vedic and Avestean people may be a digression. One will merely have to point out that there is strong evidence of violence between peasant and warrior communities that left behind the race-inspired marker which simply cannot be ignored.

One cannot merely say that the fetish of “purity” existed only in this Aryan past. The strongest fetish is found in Brahminical Hinduism (the separation of society between the “pure” and the “servile” communities and the consequent degradation of humanity). But this fetish of purity is also present in communities of Indo-European descent—one only has to think of Nazism and the holocaust; but besides the fascist version of “purity” one also includes the Zoroastrian Parsis and the Shiite Iranians who practice a racial form of alleged “purity”.[17] What I would like to state is that if this fetish of caste segregation (in whatever form) is so deep that the first struggle for democracy has to focus its attention on it. Just as the European Enlightenment had to wage a just war against the reactionary Catholic Church, in India one has to wage a war against this fetish. One needs an Indian Enlightenment to root out this specter of caste. And yet (one must note) this segregation is not parallel to the European type of apartheid. Instead it takes the form of atomistic idyllic communities in their respective monadic oblivion. Marx had characterized the Indian life-world as:


idyllic village communities, inoffensive though they may appear, had always been the solid foundation of Oriental Despotism, that they had restrained the human mind within the smallest compass, making it the unresisting tool of superstition, enslaving it beneath traditional rules, depriving it of all grandeur and historical energies. We must not forget that the barbarian egotism which, concentrating on some miserable piece of land, had quietly witnessed the ruin of empires, the perpetuation of unspeakable cruelties, the massacre of the population of large towns, with no other consideration bestowed upon them than on natural events, itself the helpless prey of any aggressor who designed to notice it at all. We must not forget that this undignified, stagnatory, and vegetative life, that this passive sort of existence evoked on the one part, in contradistinction, wild, aimless, unbounded forces of destruction and rendered murder itself a religious rite in Hindustan. We must not forget that these little communities were contaminated by caste and slavery, that they subjugated man to external circumstances, that they transformed a self developing social state into never changing natural destiny, and thus brought about a brutalizing worship of nature, exhibiting its degradation in the fact that man, the sovereign of nature, fell down on his knees in adoration of Hanuman the monkey, and Sabbala, the cow.[18]


It is surprising that Marxists have not taken this very seriously. Instead, the Indian Marxists (with their uncanny partnership with the poststructuralists, Edward Said, is one example) debunked this very Marxist thesis as the imagination of Euro-centrism. If Marx thought that the French peasantry that rallied behind Louis Bonaparte (the prince of the lumpenproletariat) were a “sack of potatoes”[19], then one would have to reinvent a better term for the Indian sack of the dominant classes. Since Indian imagination is said to be focused on the past, we too will have to fly like Walter Benjamin’s angel of history with our gaze to the past, despite the fact that the great storm of history is blowing us forward.[20] Let us thus have a look at this spectral unconscious. But before looking there, let us see what else is happening.

The crisis plaguing late imperialism is paralleled by another crisis—the lack of an authentic revolutionary Marxist movement that openly confronts world imperialism. It needs no deep reading of Marxism to know that neither the parliamentary form of Marxism led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), nor the adventurous-anarchist forms of ‘revolutionary’ terrorism of the Maoist variation have any bearing on the revolutionary movement.  To understand the revolutionary core of history one has proceed to Lenin, who in the midst of the First Imperialist World War wrote:


It is impossible completely to understand Marx’s Capital, and especially the first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel’s Logic. Consequently half a century later none of the Marxists have understood Marx!![21]


But what is so specific to the knowledge of the Hegelian logic without which one cannot understand Marx? One interpretation follows Engels’s Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy that one has to learn to differentiate the Hegelian method (which is revolutionary) from the mystical system (which is wholly reactionary). But what such a reading failed to understand is that the understanding of this mysticism of Hegel was of utmost importance since it, in a nutshell, contained almost all the mysticism of world philosophy. In one term this mysticism could be defined as the “spectral unconscious”.

Now those who have read Marx in the original German would easily recognize that the idea of the specter (Gespenst) and the theme of haunting are central to his repertoire. There is the first specter that Marx heralds in the Communist Manifesto: “A specter is haunting Europe—the specter of Communism.” (Ein Gespenst geht um in Europa—das Gespenst des Kommunismus). But this specter, as specter, is a concoction, a “nursery tale”, maybe even a “horror tale” (Märchen) made up by the members of the ruling classes. It is not a specter, but a living reality, but so dreaded are the ruling classes that they are bewitched and terrified by it. Thus all the “Powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise the specter: Pope and Czar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police spies.”[22]

But there is another specter in Marx’s works. Those who have read Marx in English, and not German will not notice this. In Capital, Marx says that the essence of the capitalist mode of production is a spectral reality (gespenstige Gegenständlichkeit).[23] The English reader gets in rather incorrectly—gespenstige Gegenständlichkeit is translated as “unsubstantial reality”[24]. Strictly speaking this is entirely wrong. But this error is not merely of philological significance. For Gespenst, as the specter and ghost, stands central to Marx’s imagination. Its first significance is that of the political unconscious. Its second is of being haunted. We humans live less in the present, but more in the past. We are thus perpetually haunted. We are all little Hamlets, little princes with and without our little Denmarks.

And since Hamlet was troubled more by ghosts than with revolutionary philosophy, any possibility of him becoming revolutionary has to be discounted. The same would be for the new Hamlets—the Soviets and the Chinese, both who started the revolution but could not continue it, leave alone complete it—who would be struck by the two deadly ghosts: value and the state, and who would totally succumb to the deadly pleasures of these fetishized ghosts. If capital creates a world after its own image, then the image of capitalism with its oppressive state would be found both in Eastern Europe as well as in China. It was thus a total lack of radical philosophy and an authentic intellectual tradition which led to the weakening of international communism in the onslaught of the rise of American led global capitalism. And it is to this revolutionary tradition that we must turn to. One must turn to Hegel, Feuerbach and Marx. But one must also read all the classics, not only Lenin, Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, Bukharin and the revolutionary Bolsheviks but also the genre of philosophy and social theory from Aristotle to the Indian, West Asian, and French materialists, from Spinoza to Morgan and Bachofen, and then culminating in Freud, Gramsci, Lukács and the Frankfurt School.

Then one does not merely have to read and understand Marx’s Capital, but read it in an authentic humanist genre where both the individual and the masses (and not the abstract “laws” propagated by the party bosses) become the point of departure of revolutionary Marxism. It is in this humanist genre that one reads the critique of reification (Verdinglichung: literally how humanity has been converted into things) and thus radically critique capitalism at its deepest roots. But clearly the party comrades have never understood this radical view, leave alone practice it. In contrast to the party comrades, one has to claim that it is from this critique of reification-thingification that emerges two fundamental critiques: the first of the capitalist mode of production and the second of the state. Since the Marxists in the form of the social democrats have mistakenly embraced not only the politics of the bourgeois state but also capitalist political economy, they have lost all possibilities in evolving into any form of an alternative to the right-wing political economy as chartered by the liberal Congress and the conservative Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP).

But if the image of the proletariat—the class devoid of nations and all such fetishes—as the dialectical negativity is central to Marxism, so to is another image—the domination of pre-capitalist communities bewitched by caste and slavery, and along with this enslavement, being in thrall of the state. Caste based communitarianism prevails so much in India (along with regular honour killings, Taliban style) that one is tempted to recall Marx’s  idea that  murder itself has become a “religious rite in Hindustan”.[25] To theorize on Marxism and the state in India (as in the region of entire South East Asia) is to firstly understand the mode of production of truncated capitalism that emerged from colonialism and the caste based Asiatic mode of production. But if the Indian Marxists continue to debunk the Asiatic mode of production  and march alongside Edward Said, then it is not surprising that ‘Indian’ Marxism  can make the same charges against Marx[26], as the anti-Marxists. Here we have to insist that the debunkers of the Asiatic mode took only two or three of Marx’s ideas—the so-called absence of private property in land and the domination of a despotic state who ruled as an alleged rent-collector. For Habib, “Oriental despotism, in Marx’s analysis, is therefore essentially rent-receiving sovereignty and stands practically divested of other political features assigned to it in European liberal thought, such as arbitrary and absolute monarchy”.[27] He further tells us to, “Compare Macaulay who, in his obituary of Lord William Bentinck, contrasted ‘British freedom’ with ‘oriental despotism’”.[28]

This of course can be a very simplistic reading of Marx. For Marx, the idea of oriental despotism was linked to the specific type of history and the peculiar kind of class domination, and was not a question of East vs. the West, or a question of a metaphysic of a morality of nations, where the bad West debunked the innocent and the good Eastern world. For one forgets that Marx opposed Oriental Despotism to European Despotism[29]. Whilst it is true that the term Asiatic mode of production is a generic one, and (for example) that the Iranian type cannot be confused with the Indian type, the concrete generic type is valid.  For one, the nature of class and ideologies in Iran and India, seem to have little in common. Iran had a conscious nation-state building process starting in 550 B.C., whilst in India it has probably not yet begun; in Iran there was a communist upheaval starting sometime in the fourth century A.D. consciously directed against private property and the family system which led to a blood bath, but in India a consciously directed struggle against property is yet to be seen. So when one talks of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Asia, it is a combined and uneven struggle, a struggle not merely against Anglo-American imperialists, but also the struggle against the West Asian petro-capitalists dressed as prophets and missing imams as the vanguards of counterrevolution and the struggle against the neo-liberals and necons in India as the vanguards of regressive politics in the struggle against alienation, social stratification, underconsumption and underdevelopment. For Asia in general, the struggle against religion (the tool of the oppressor) has to start.  For socialism emerges only from radical secularism. As one knows, if not the prophets, then at least the priests have intense dislike for socialism.

But besides the forgetfulness of the Asiatic mode of production and the remembrance of the terrible prophets and even more terrible priests, there is another error amongst the Stalin inspired Marxists, especially in India, namely that they did not take the activist understanding of the superstructure and merely wished it away as a mere epiphenomena or a ‘reflection’ that disappears as soon as the real object is made to vanish. But Marx had it otherwise—religion is itself is a mode of production (with its well constructed factories and outlets), where the categories of production, circulation, distribution and consumption are present. Thus there is the production of the gods and the devils, and the consequent consumption of these ethereal forces by the masses. Yet this industry of religion—recall the Frankfurt School’s notion of the Culture Industry—is directly related to the capitalist mode of production and the reproduction of private property. Its chief function is to reproduce the deadly triumvirate of family, property and state, and along with this, to reproduce regressive thinking:


Religion, family, state, law, morality, science, art, etc., are only particular modes of production, and fall under its general law (i.e., the law of estrangement and private property. My insertion: M. J.). The positive transcendence (Aufhebung) of private property as the appropriation of human life, is therefore the positive transcendence of all estrangement—that is to say, the return of humanity from religion, family, state, etc., to his human, i.e., social existence. Religious estrangement as such occurs only in the realm of consciousness, of humanity’s inner life, but economic estrangement is that of real life, its transcendence (Aufhebung) embraces both aspects.[30]


It is on this site of private property and alienation, that one will have to let these little ruling classes dressed as Robinson Crusoe, celebrating human alienation and the dreaded caste-system, enter the scene of Indian history. Benjamin’s angel is now viewing these petty triumphs and even pettier dreads. Where will the storm of history push it?




On India


If the beginning of all criticism is the critique of religion and if socialism and humanism have to walk on earth, then one cannot (like the good liberal) be satisfied by turning away from the burning questions of the day. Most importantly one cannot be smug and claim that Marxism deals merely with the economy and that the ideological superstructure will automatically wither away. Instead one has to probe into the deep recess of history. It is here that one engages the twin questions of caste and the Asiatic mode of production. Probably there has not been a greater fetish that India has to bear than that of caste. Caste is not merely a social formation. It is a neurosis of Indian civilization. In order that India becomes democratic, one firstly has to cure this neurosis. The Marxists (to recall Lenin), who have not understood Marx, have hitherto refused to engage with this form of the politics of the unconscious.

One clearly sees two diametrically opposed paths: the one that marches backwards (the caste based sack of potatoes), the other (the militant proletariat) refusing to look behind. Take two cases—the works of Marxism and those related to caste—and one finds this glaring opposition. Works like Lenin’s Philosophical Notebooks and Herbert Marcuse’s Reason and Revolution (for instance), both works in Hegelian inspired Marxism, that conceive Marxism as the culmination of both the European Enlightenment and the dialectical philosophy of Hegel, stand directly in opposition to the fundamental problem in India—caste stratification with its truncated social formation and along with it, its ideological representation—the entire ideological superstructure of India, namely the religion of Hinduism. The first genre (Lenin, Marcuse) understands history as a forward moving process, the latter has no idea of history whatsoever. In fact Nietzsche’s notion of the eternal recurrence could well be applicable to the latter. Now those who have read Freud know that the eternal recurrence is directly related to neurosis: the self-same trauma repeating itself. One can never escape this trauma. Anyone who intends to be part of the democratic process in India has to understand this idea of caste as neurosis. One thus has to go far beyond the debates of “Indian feudalism”.

Now it seems that the Indian Marxists (the best to understand the trauma of India history) probably never encountered this strategic idea. One definite reason is that the Indian Marxists (in the thrall of Stalin) never bothered to understand Marx on the Asiatic mode of production. Instead, they, like Edward Said, castigated Marx for his alleged ‘Orientalist’ ideas. Marx, we are told, is nothing but the continuation of the old Orientalist, Hegel.[31] There is nothing called the Asiatic mode of production. Period! Marx was wrong (so we learn from those who refuse to read Marx) in running with the European hounds and calling the Indian ruling class, “Oriental Despots”. Instead, so we learn from the Indian Marxists, that one has to understand India within the same historical genre of European history—slave society-feudalism-capitalism. That this was, anyway, the ideology of the Stalinist oligarchy, which did not want Asia its own chart for the socialist revolution, should not be forgotten. One should not forget that this forgetfulness of the Asiatic mode of production was not one of mere amnesia. Soviet theoreticians who championed the Asiatic mode of production, like M. N. Kokin (1906-39), became victims of Stalin’s infamous purges.

To theorize on Marxism and the socialist revolution in India (as in the region of entire South East Asia) is to firstly understand the mode of production of truncated capitalism based on alienated labour that emerged from colonialism and the Asiatic mode of production, and then understand the dominance of imperialism in Asia. That is why we insist that the Asiatic mode of production is probably the least theorized of Marxist concepts. In contrast to these rather ‘nationalist’ readings one must point out that when Marx talked of the idyllic non-changing system in India he was referring to the dominant classes as well as the caste system[32]—a system that is devoid of rationality—a system  of “self-sufficient communities that constantly reproduce themselves in the same form”, and like the neurotic, “when accidentally destroyed, spring up again on the spot and with the same name”, this neurotic simplicity supplies the key to “the secret of the unchangeableness of Asiatic societies, and the never-ceasing changes of dynasty”.[33] The structure of the economic elements of society, like the neurotic, “remains untouched by the storm-clouds of the political sky”.[34] Maybe the Indian Marxist now bathed in the stream of Indian nationalism will not agree with Marx, but most probably a certain thinker who has always been said to be antithetical to Marxism would agree. Consider Ambedkar, who because of his recognition of the neurotic character of caste, said that “Hindu society had its morals loosened to a dangerous point”.[35]

There is yet another reading. It seems that the Indian Marxists again forgot Hegel. For Hegel, the Indian life-world with its caste based communitarian type of Gemeinschaft could only produce an authoritarian figure of the hero—Krishna—who teaches his student the politics of caste-stratification and then the moral-politics of annihilation of the enemy. The first thing is the binding of the individual to the particular caste and then the claim that morality is to obey the caste law. Thus for Hegel, “Arjuna’s mentality is attached to family-ties”, but these ties are not based on “moral sentiment”, as say, in Kant’s categorical imperative where the individual is a member of the kingdom-of-ends (albeit even a fictious kingdom), but where the individual is tied to the political economy of caste. Arjuna, for Hegel, is reluctant “to lead his relatives to the slaughter. We would commit crimes, (so Hegel continues, my insertion. M.J.) he says, if we would kill those robbers (Wilkins: tyrants); not in the sense that killing them as relatives (the teachers always included) would be in itself the crime, but the crime would be a consequence, namely through extinction of the generations the sacra gentilitia, the duty-bound and religious performances of a family would be destroyed. When this happens, lack of godliness affects the whole tribe.. .….In that way the noble women-folk…..will be defiled, from which results varna-sankara, the mixture of castes (the spurious brood). Yet the vanishing of caste distinctions leads to those who are guilty of the extinction of the tribes and the tribe itself to eternal ruin….for the ancestors drop down from the heavens because in the future they will be devoid of cakes and water, no more receiving their oblations, for their descendents have not preserved the purity of their tribe….If the dead do not receive such offerings then they are condemned to the fate of being reborn as impure beasts”.[36] Hegel is here dead right. For even in the twenty-first century, what matters more than anything else, is the idiocy of caste and the desire for the transcendental cakes in the netherworld.

Three probable defects amongst the mainstream Indian left—from E.M.S. Namboodripad and Habib to R.S. Sharma and Mukhia (with the exception of D.D. Kosambi)—is that they did not (1) study sufficiently the dialectics between the base and the superstructure, (2) did not take the understanding of the political and ideological superstructure of India seriously and (3) tried decoding the nature of the mode of production in India on the economist analysis of agrarian relations based more on the European model of the transformation of feudalism to capitalism. They does did not understand what Marx calls the “estranged mind”[37] and “real individuals”[38]. The most glaring error is that caste almost escaped their epistemic net. Both the idea of “Indian feudalism” as well as the understanding of the contemporary mode of production would become problematic. For one, did India have feudalism? And can contemporary India be classified as a capitalist mode of production? Or is Indian feudalism a subset of the Asiatic mode of production? Let us have a look at Marx’s reading of the prerequisite of capitalism:


One of the prerequisites of wage labour and one of the historic conditions of capital is free labour and the exchange of free labour against money, in order to reproduce money and to convert it into values, in order to be consumed by money. Another prerequisite is the separation of free labour from the objective conditions of its realisation—from the means and material of labour. This means above all that the worker must be separated from the land, which functions as his natural laboratory. This means the dissolution both of free petty land ownership and of communal landed property, based on the oriental commune.[39]


Since the caste-based Gemeinschaft is the basis of the mode of production in India (with the retardation of ‘free’ labour), one could possible argue that India does not have full grown capitalist relations of production, because “free labour” is absent, or yet stunted. In this sense, so the argument goes, the capital/wage labour relation is not the fundamental contradiction. Instead one has, as the dominant mode of production, a society where, “members of a community, who at the same time work. The aim of this work”, as Marx claims, “is not the creation of value—although they may do surplus labour in order to obtain alien, i.e., surplus products in exchange—rather, its aim is sustenance of the individual proprietor and of his family, as well as his total community. The positing of the individual as a worker, in this nakedness, is itself the work of history.”[40] But “free” labour (note Marx’s ironical use of the word “free”) implies—as he notes from his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and Capital to the Ethnological Notebooks—almost a type of genocide, where this “freedom” is based on the expropriation of the peasants from their lands, and the consequent loss of their means of production and subsistence, and the consequent emergence of wage-slavery to serve the inherent colonizing nature of capitalism. Here, “free” labour arrives alongside capital which “comes dripping”, as Marx had once so famously said, “from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt”.[41]

To wait for “free” labour and the European version of the proletariat to come is like the Samuel Beckettean situation, where one is left waiting for the missing imam. Capitalism becomes like the Iranian imam—perpetually absent. But another less theological way of looking at the emergence of capitalism in India is to note that this “unfree” labour is an inherent part of global capital accumulation where there is an interlocking of pre-capitalist societies with capitalism of the centre. Consider Rosa Luxemburg’s argument that the capitalist centre necessarily needs non-capitalist peripheries in order to realize the surplus value of the capitalist centre:


Capital accumulation as the historical process develops in an environment of various pre-capitalist formations, in constant political struggle and reciprocal economic relations. How can one capture this process in a bloodless theoretical fiction, which declares this whole context, the struggle and the relations, to be non-existent?….

Capital accumulation can take place in so far as customers can be found beyond capitalists and workers, in which case sales in non-capitalist strata and countries are the pre-condition for accumulation.[42]

Now there are at least two immediate consequences following the argument that pre-capitalism (of both the economic base as well as the ideological superstructure) is dominant in India: one is the Maoists idea of the peasant revolution and the other is the very important subaltern idea of India that has been formulated by Jyotirao Phule and Ambedkar. And because Maoism in India is now devoid of any intellectual philosophy (caught up in mindless anarchist violence reminiscent of the nineteenth century Narodnikis) one can in no way expect any possible democratic politics from them.  And since left politics of the parliamentary sort have ceased thinking that the point of departure of communist politics are “real individuals” who deal with the “real movement (wirkliche Bewegung) which abolishes (aufhebt) the present state of things (jetzigen Zustand)”[43]; and not an abstract intellectual party boss who (like Krishna and the biblical prophets) has come from the outside bringing consciousness “from without” (von aussen Hineingetragenes)[44], thus alienating the masses; we are compelled to look elsewhere—to the masses and to the original repertoire of Marx.  One can only shout: “The Party is dead! Long live the Party!”

There are two fundamental errors plaguing the Marxists in India—one of economic reductionism and the other of political idealism. Whilst the CPI(M) is plagued by the first, the Maoists are plagued by the latter. Both have not understood Marx’s theorem: the economic base determines (bestimmte) the political and ideological superstructure. Both have not understood that the idea of dialectical totality stands at the centre of revolutionary Marxism. In this dialectical reading, the economic base is joined by the political superstructure, mediated by the notion of determination (Bestimmung). So when we have said that historical materialism is organic and what Marx calls “determination (Bestimmung) or formation (Gestaltung) are living sites operating in real history, then we are stating that it is real dynamic history that we are encountering, a real history where the superstructure is as important as any other feature of society.

But besides this radical new reading of Marxism—the base-superstructure is a constellation and cannot be broken—there is another reading where the economic base determining the superstructure is re-written as the reified base determines the estranged superstructural mind. Now those who have read Marx’s Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 in German as also Lukács’s History and Class Consciousness, then one will know that what Marx called the “estranged mind”, or what Lukács called “the reification of consciousness” stands at the centre of bourgeois society.

And so if Lenin said that without revolutionary theory there can be no revolution, then it is to this production of revolutionary theory that one must focus our attention. One does not know if one can be as bold as the nineteenth century reformist Phule and go thus so far back into history. For Phule, the very world-view of Hinduism—Brahminsim is a better term—is not only exclusivist, but imperialist as well. Remember for Phule the Brahmins are expelled Iranians who actually raid and plunder India (there is enough evidence in the Rg Veda and the Iranian Avesta) and then the same colonizing Brahmins claim that their form of ‘Indianess’ is authentic. We, even in the twenty-first century, are colonized by this form of nationalism. These nationalists forget that there can be no morality in this violent and offensive character of primitive colonization. Consider Phule who ridicules the idea of ‘Indian’ society of the Purusa Sukta from the tenth mandala of the RgVeda: If the Brahmins were created from the mouth from where was the mother of the Brahmins created? Or are the Brahmins motherless? And what about the Europeans? If the Brahmins were created from the mouth, then the mouth becomes a womb for the Brahmins.[45] But then when the mouth turned into the Brahmanical womb menstruates then how did the Brahmanical mouth-womb absolve this pollution? [46] And if creation emanates from the bodily différance then each of these estranged parts are to be affixed with vaginas in order that procreation to take place, and the period of menstruation for Brahma increases.[47] Also: Savitri was Brahma’s wife. According to Phule he took upon himself the cumbrous responsibility of carrying the foetus in his mouth for nine months, and also of giving birth to it and brought it up. But he is also depicted as seducer of his own daughter—Saraswati (the goddess of wisdom).  Phule would then conclude: “If Brahma, indeed had four mouths, then he ought to have had eight breasts, four navels, four urethras and four anuses.[48]

But if mythology is the dominant factor of the elites then the subalterns could also not escape it. Since the politics of the subalterns in India has been hijacked by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the so-called ‘socialist party’ or the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the voices of the Other Backward Castes—not surprisingly since, the memory of pre-capitalism is harnessed by them and totally ignored by the mainstream left—one ought not to be alarmed that its politics becomes mythical and anti-humanist to compete with the politics of the ruling Indian elite. But if Brahmanical hegemony is veiled in myth and harnessed by the Ideological State Apparatus, then what does one do with the memories and counter-myths of the subaltern castes? Consider the politics of the cultivation of memory where the Mahars, the lowest ranked of the castes even in the hierarchy of the ‘untouchables’, have a myth of creation which depicts their ‘fall’. Unlike the Biblical myth which states the fall of entire humanity, the Mahar myth recounts the fall only of the Mahars. Like the Biblical myth it has the taboo of eating forbidden food at its epicentre. There were four cow born brothers, according to this myth, who were asked by the mother how they would treat her after she died. The first three said that they would worship her; the fourth said that he would bear her inside his stomach just as she had borne her children. This fourth child of the cow becomes the exemplaric sinner and the ancestor of the carrion eating Mahars, for it is he who puts the dead cow in his stomach.[49] Memories, if not, Ghosts—even in subaltern form—refuse to leave us! What should one do with them? Consider Marx;


Earlier revolutions required recollections of past world history in order to drug themselves concerning their own content. In order to arrive at its own content, the revolutions of the nineteenth century must let the dead bury the dead.[50]


But if there was the myth of the fall, there was also the myth of the Mahars as the vanquished tribes, subjugated by the Brahmins. Mahar leaders had used other forms of folklore to stimulate caste pride in the fellow Mahars: that the Mahars are the original inhabitants of Maharashtra destroyed and enslaved by the invading Aryans. Ambedkar would late in life (1948) in The Untouchables bring the thesis that the Mahars were former Buddhists who were defeated by the deceiving Brahmins in the fourth century A. D.[51] The heroic image entered the Mahar consciousness. From henceforth the Mahars would have a heroic leader Ambedkar himself and by 1956 (the year of his death) a new ideological discourse, Buddhism. But sadly, neither could the subalterns meet the Marxists, nor the Marxists be able to meet the subalterns.

To understand the importance of the understanding of caste (and not parrot meaningless phrases in the abstract about class) we need to recall Lenin who had said that capitalism and imperialism signify multiple subject positions, each non-reducible, and that the rights of all oppressed people for self-determination are of central concern for the world communist movement. The central concern is democracy—the abolition of the class system (to recall Lenin again)[52]—where the rights of all people for self-determination, based on the labour or the proletariat realizes itself. It is this idea of “all people”, which has to be understood, the idea that Marx had summed up in his statement—the human essence (das menschliche Wesen).



The Human Essence and the New International


Distinctly two superstitions plague the Marxists in India—the first is that of the communist intellectual who is  said to bring consciousness “from the outside” (a distortion of Lenin’s thesis from What is to be Done?”) and the second superstition is the absurd thesis of socialism-in-one-country.  In contrast to this absurd national-socialism let us recall Marx who had said that the revolution in Russia could be successful only if it became “the signal for the proletarian revolution in the West so that both complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for communist development”.[53] But for this to happen in India and South East Asia, the individual has to be emancipated and made independent both from the idyllic-neurotic community and the rites of the estranged mind.

For this to take place a direct confrontation with the state has to take place. One recalls Lenin’s State and Revolution. Since this very important Marxist idea has been forgotten, namely that the state exists only to perish and that one does not negotiate with the state, it is important to highlight some important ideas. This Leninist understanding of the state is built on Marx’s idea of the “Aufhebung of the state”, usually translated as the “transcendence and abolition of the state”. Since post 1917 the Soviets and post 1949 the Chinese did not merely build a state mechanism, but literally perfected the state apparatus, it has been felt, and rightly so, that both the Soviets and the Chinese betrayed the revolutionary ideals of Marxism. There are three points that need being raised that deal with the historicity of the state. Firstly is Marx’s statement that the proletariat “cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made-state machine and wield it for its own purpose”.[54] Secondly one disbands standing armies and the entire repressive state apparatus.[55] And thirdly since one does not take the state mechanism (of not only the liberal state, but of any state), one has to smash the state.[56] Now since this smashing of the state (which Lenin famously stressed on) was contrasted with the wrong reading of Engels’s idea of the “withering of the state”, the parliamentary democratic notion was emphasized on. The withering away was said to supplement the smashing of the state.

Now with the dominance of this idea, not only was the idea of the state being smashed and being replaced by the dictatorship of the proletariat sidelined, but so also was the entire idea of revolutionary Marxism. Revolutionary Marxism was replaced by the reactionary evolutionists (Bernstein and Kautsky). One stresses on both the Kautskists and the Stalinists because both Kautskism and Stalinism are alive in the Marxist movement even today.  In contrast to the revisionists, we have the Marxist idea of the proletarian insurrection against class societies, which remains the chief force of revolutionary and critical thinking, there are a number of points that we need to emphasize. Firstly we raise the notion of the proletariat as the negative element of capitalism—the element that essentially wants to dissolve and emancipate itself as well as the whole of society.

The proletariat is the class that makes history. It is also the class that is emancipated from its pre-capitalist past. It is thus free from its own miserable piece of land and its equally miserable and neurotic caste-based past, as also the past that is bewitched by the prophets and the priests. But then it also a class that is emancipated from national superstitions, as also freed from the family, private property and the state. For, it is the class that is educated in “the steeling school of labour”[57]. In its compulsion to emancipate itself, it emancipates the whole world. It now takes the position of what Hegel once called the “Concrete Universal”. After all the proletariat is what Lukács had famously called “the identical subject-object”—the radical subject armed with labour in perpetual war with capitalism.  Now in being this labouring identical subject-object of history it is firstly at continuous war with private property. What Marxism has to understand is this state of negativity, this state of continuous war, this state of the permanent revolution. The main residence of the proletariat is not only the factory. It is also the barricade. The proletariat is perpetually erecting the barricade in its unconscious. The communist has to activate this unconscious:


By proclaiming the dissolution of the hitherto existing world order the proletariat merely states the secret of its own existence, for it is in fact the dissolution of that world order. By demanding the negation of private property, the proletariat merely raises to the rank of a principle of society what society has made the principle of the proletariat, what, without its own co-operation, is already incorporated in it as the negative result of society…..

As philosophy finds its material weapons in the proletariat, so the proletariat finds its spiritual weapons in philosophy. And once the lighting of thought has squarely struck this ingenuous soil of the people the emancipation of the Germans (should be read now as the whole world, my insertion, M. J.) into human beings will take place….

The emancipation of the German (i.e., the world, M. J.) is the emancipation of the human being. The head of this emancipation is philosophy, its heart is the proletariat. Philosophy cannot be made a reality without the abolition of the proletariat, the proletariat cannot be abolished without philosophy being made a reality.[58]



One gets a distinct contrast between the atomistic pre-capitalist caste-based societies and the proletariat. Now what revolutionary Marxism in attempting to understand the nature of the proletariat needs to do is to understand what the proletariat demands. One has to understand that the inherent and spontaneous demand is the demand for “the transcendence of alienation”[59] and “the appropriation of the human essence”[60]. The demand is not in accordance with what the transcendental-intellectual brings from the outside. Clearly this idea of bringing consciousness from the outside which demarcates the two worlds of the bourgeois intellectual (the party boss) who has, for certain mysterious reasons, achieved revolutionary consciousness, whilst the working class is doomed to the site of trade unionism is a false reading of Lenin’s What is to be Done? and closer to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Such sort of a reading is wholly metaphysical and abstracted from the historical context. Instead the demand that Marx outlines above is a demand that is internal to the nature of the proletariat. The emancipation that the proletariat demands is thus not a mere political emancipation, but the demand to abolish private property and the state. The idea of the reading the difference between partial emancipation from universal emancipation is the condition sine qua non of Marxism.  Both Marx’s 1843 On the Jewish Question and the 1843-44 critique of Hegel are based on this difference whereby the conditions for the possibilities and necessities of general human emancipation are drawn. The communist must point out that the idea of emancipation is not a partial emancipation, neither is it a functional emancipation. On the contrary, the communists should write on all walls of cities and villages, that it is a structural and historical emancipation, a global emancipation that declares the end of all class dominations because it declares the end of class society itself. So, what is the positive possibility and necessity of permanent revolution and general human emancipation? Marx answers:


In the formation of a class with radical chains, a class of civil society which is not a class of civil society, an estate which is the dissolution of all estates, a sphere which has a universal character by its universal suffering and claims no particular right because no particular wrong but wrong generally is perpetuated against it; which can no longer invoke a historical but only a human title; which does not stand in any one-sided antithesis to the premise of the German state (rather ‘world state’, M. J.); a sphere, finally which cannot emancipate itself without emancipating itself from all other spheres of society and thereby emancipating all  other spheres of society, which, in a word, is the complete loss of humanity and hence can win itself only through the complete winning of humanity. This dissolution of society as a particular estate is the proletariat. [61]



But when Marx talks of the proletariat as dissolving society, it concretely implies firstly the abolishing of all nation states. The point of departure is the dissolution of the nation states from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka to Iran and Iraq, etc., and to alternatively create a Union of Soviet Asian Republics that concretely confronts late imperialism. The crises affecting late imperialism will be heightened with the formation of the Asian Soviets and it would be impossible for capitalism in Europe and North America to reproduce itself. There is thus a political advancement of the thesis of general human emancipation and it is militant activism. The red specter[62] that Marx had talked of would turn out to be true:


After expropriating the capitalists and organizing their own socialist production, the victorious proletariat of that country will arise against the rest of the world—the capitalist world—attracting to its cause the oppressed classes of other countries, stirring uprisings in those countries against the capitalists, and the case need be using even armed force against the exploiting classes and their states. [63]


Clearly this is in direct contradiction to the talk shops set by the parliamentarians. This step of militant praxis of the Asian Soviets leads to another one—the abolition of all classes and the transformation of the capitalist means of production into common property.[64] But this also implies that commodity production and along with it value and exchange value (the mind, soul and ghost) of the capitalist mode of production are all abolished.  Money, and alongside money, Monsieur Capital will have to retreat into pre-history. But the biggest error would soon follow, namely the attempt to tame value. Recall Stalin’s notorious statement: commodity production and value are not bad things[65], as also Mao’s revisionist statement: “commodity production will serve socialism quite tamely”[66] Clearly both Stalin and Mao had forgotten Marx for whom the commodity was akin to a pagan idol which abounds in “metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties”[67]. It evolves, as Marx continues, “from its wooden brain grotesque ideas far more wonderful than ‘table turning ever was’ (Marx is here referring to the evoking of the spirits of the dead, a game that was becoming a rage amongst the aristocratic circles of Europe. My insertion. M. J.)”.[68] In this sense, if Marx had said that commodity production is akin to theology, necromancy and magic, how could this magic be incorporated into socialism? Clearly this theme of the taming of value and the conversion of the commodity into the good religion of Russian and Chinese socialism is directly in conflict with Marx’s idea. There is, as Engels said, a radical difference between the “roundabout way” and the “direct way”, the path of the capitalists and the path of the communists[69]. Remember that Marx had said that capitalist production works in a “round about way”.[70] The bourgeoisie are the ‘roundabout people’. The comrades will have to choose for themselves, than letting Stalin and Mao think for them. Consider Marx:


Within the co-operative society based on the common ownership of the means of production, the producers do not exchange their products; just as little as the does the labour employed on the products appear as the value of these products, as a material quality possessed by them, since now, in contrast to capitalist society, individual labour no longer exists in an indirect fashion but directly as a component part of the total labour…..

What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally and intellectually, still with the birth marks of the old society from whose womb it emerges. Accordingly, the individual producer receives back from society—after the deductions have been made—exactly what he gives to it. What he has given to it is his individual quantum of labour……The same amount of labour which he has given to society in one form he receives back in another.[71]


Now it is well known that this very basic demand was not only ignored but also brutally crushed. Stalin’s Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR and Mao’s Critique of Soviet Economics are statements of this brutal crushing and documentary evidence of the capitalist counterrevolution that advocated socialist commodity production. What happens in the left movement especially in India is that the Bernstein-Kautskyist revisionism is married to the Stalinist counterrevolution. For the Indian left nothing seems to be wrong with commodity production. What is wrong (and here they would share the illusions with Proudhon and the utopian socialists) is the distribution of commodities. And who would do this so-called ‘just’ distribution of commodities? The politics in command, they would answer. The Platonic philosopher-king now returns as the central committee. The three-cornered hat worn by Bonaparte would now be seen on the heads of the central committee.

And to this very issue of the counterrevolution we raise the very important question: “why do the masses join the fascist parties?” Now it is well known that Clara Zetkin had said that fascism emerges when there is a socialist lack. The issue is thus not that the flag is saffron, but that the flag is not red. The being of fascism is due to the non-being of revolutionary communism. Recall Lenin again: one simply has to understand Hegel. The proletariat does not join the left merely because of the immaturity of the working class movement, but because it knows that its demands and the demands of the revisionist left are directly antithetical. The working class knows that socialism does not arrive in a Nano car. We are, for too long, driving the vehicle of capitalism. It is high time the comrades start thinking with their own minds, than borrow from the Ideological State Apparatus of the bourgeoisie.

Both the capitalist mode of production and the state, for Marx, are fetishes, unnecessary things and burdens weighing over humanity. Revolutionary communism will have to totally bypass both the path of the capitalist mode of production and the pretentious path of the liberal welfare-state. In direct contrast to this double-fetish, are the radical ideas of humanity that desires revolution spelt out as Gattungswesen (species being) and das menschliche Wesen (the human essence). When it had once so wisely been said that the fundamental focus of the communist is party work in the masses, it implies the realization of the species character of communism. Species being is the home of the masses. When the Communist Party realizes this species character, then the Party will be the home for the masses. The class war for human emancipation that Marx, Engels, Lenin and millions of fighters for social justice fought; was for the recovery of this human essence from the debris of class societies, imperialism, the warfare economy and plunder of humanity.

Then the human essence will be seen walking on the horizons of revolutionary history, not with the book of constitutional propriety in hand, nor with the cap of anarcho-Maoism, but appearing as the “red specter” dressed in red breeches.[72]



[1] Javeed Alam, ‘Can Democratic Centralism be Conducive  to Democracy?’, in Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. LIV, no. 38, Sept. 19, 2009; Prabhat Patnaik, ‘The Crisis of the Left’, in Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. XLIV, no. 44, Oct. 31, 2009.

[2] Raya Dunayevskaya, Philosophy and Revolution (New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1982), Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1991). Also see Kevin Anderson, Lenin, Hegel and Western Marxism. A Critical Study (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1995).


[3]Fredrick Engels, Anti-Dühring (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1978), pp. 376-377.

[4] V.I. Lenin, ‘Marxism and Revisionism’, in Lenin. Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977), p. 29.

[5] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol, I, trans. Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1983), p. 19.

[6] Ibid. The Moore-Aveling translation has the word “inevitable” in this sentence which is absent in Marx’s original German.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Karl Marx, ‘To Fredrick Engels in Manchester, Feb, 1, 1858’, in Marx. Engels. Selected Correspondence (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), p.95.

[9] Karl Marx, ‘To the Editorial Board of the Otechestvenniye Zapiski, London, Nov., 1877’, in Marx. Engels. Selected Correspondence (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), p. 293.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid., pp. 293-294.

[12] Sacred Writings. Hinduism. Rg Veda, trans. Ralf  T. F. Griffith (New York: Quality Paperback Books, 1992), pp. 36, 637, 638, 641, 642.

[13] B.R. Ambedkar, ‘Annihilation of Caste’, in The Essential Writings of B.R. Ambedkar , ed. Valerian Rodrigues New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 267.

[14] Sacred Writings. Hinduism. Rg Veda, p. 603.

[15] Irfan Habib, Essays in Indian History. Towards a Marxist Perception, (New Delhi: Tulika, 1997),  p. 165.

[16] Gherardo Gnoli in Zoroaster’s Time and Homeland. A Study on the Origins of Mazdaism and Related Problems (Naples: Istituto Universitario Orientale, 1980), p. 186

[17] See Shaual Shaked’s From Zoroastrian Iran to Islam (Hampshire: Ashgate Publications Ltd., 1995), p. 150 for the idea of purity in Shiite Islam. Likewise Ali Shariati in his Sociology of Islam thought that the most precious jewel of the “Aryan nation” was Salman Farsi. Iran is a derivation of the term “Aryan”.

[18] Karl Marx, ‘The British Rule in India’, in On Colonialism (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976), p. 40-41.

[19] Karl Marx, ‘The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte’, in Marx. Engels. Selected Works, p. 170.

[20] Walter Benjamin, ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, in Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn (Glasgow: Fontana/Collins, 1979), pp. 259-260.

[21] V.I. Lenin, Collected Works. Vol. 38. Philosophical Notebooks (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1980), p. 180.

[22] Karl Marx, ‘Manifest Der Kommunistischen Partei’, in Die Frühschriften (Alfred Kröner Verlag: Stuttgart, 1964), p. 525.

[23] Karl Marx, Das Kapital, Erster Band, p. 52.

[24] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol, I,, p. 46.

[25] Karl Marx, ‘The British Rule in India’, in  Marx. Engels. On Colonialism, p. 41

[26] Irfan Habib claims that Marx’s idea of the element of the “unchanging” in the Asiatic mode was unjust, and that Marx’s idea of the village community was “highly idealized”. See Irfan Habib, Essays in Indian History. Towards a Marxist Perception, (New Delhi: Tulika, 1997), pp. 35, 234. Also see his introduction to Marx’s articles on India: ‘Introduction: Marx’s Perception of India’, in Karl Marx on India. From the New York Daily Tribune (New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2006).

[27] Irfan Habib, ‘Marx’s Perception of India’, p. XXVII.

[28] Ibid., n. 46.

[29] Karl Marx, op cit, p. 36.

[30] Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1982), p. 91.

[31] Irfan Habib, in ‘Introduction: Marx’s Perception of India’, in Karl Marx on India, ed. Iqbal Husain New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2006), p. XXI says that “Marx repeats, giving an identical description for which he quotes in extenso from what was probably Hegel’s authority…”

[32] Irfan Habib claims that Marx’s idea of the element of the “unchanging” in the Asiatic mode was unjust, and that Marx’s idea of the village community was “highly idealized”. See Irfan Habib, Essays in Indian History. Towards a Marxist Perception, pp. 35, 234.

[33] Karl Marx, Capital. A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. I, trans. Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1983), pp. 338-339.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Babasaheb Ambedkar, Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah (Bombay: Thacker & Co., Ltd, 1943), p. 30

[36] G. W. F. Hegel, On the Episode of the Mahabharata known by the Name Bhagavad-Gita by Wilhelm von Humboldt, ed. and trans, Herbert Herring (New Delhi: Indian Council of Philosophical Research, 1995), p.51.

[37] Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1982), p. 129.

[38] Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels, The German Ideology (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976), pp. 36-37.

[39] Karl Marx, Pre-Capitalist Economic Formationss, trans. Jack Cohen, edited with an introduction by E. Hobsbawm (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1964), p.67. See also Karl Marx, Grundrisse, trans. Martin Nicolaus  (Middlesex: Penguin, 1974), p. 471.

[40] Ibid., pp. 471-472.

[41] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol I, p. 711-2.

[42] Rosa Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1951); Rosa Luxemburg and Nicolai Bukharin  Imperialism and the Accumulation of Capital , trans. Rudolf Wichmann (London: Allen Lane The Penguin Press, 1972), pp. 61-62, 77.

[43]Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels, The German Ideology (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976),  pp. 36-37, 57.

[44]V.I. Lenin, What is to be Done? (Moscow Progress Publishers, 1978), p. 41.

[45] Jyotirao Phule, Slavery, trans. P. G. Patil (Bombay: The Education Department, Government of Maharashtra, 1991), p. 2.

[46] Ibid., p. 2-3.

[47] Ibid., p. 3.

[48] Ibid.

[49] See Eleanor Zelliot, From Untouchable to Dalit. Essays on the Ambedkar Movement (New Delhi: Manohar, 2005), p. 54.

[50] Marx, ‘The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte’, p. 98.

[51] Ibid., p. 59, 72.

[52] V. I. Lenin, ‘State and Revolution’, Lenin. Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977)p. 333.

[53] Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels, ‘Preface to the Russian edition of 1882’, in Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 19877), p. 14.

[54] Karl Marx, ‘The Civil War in France’, in Marx. Engels. Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), p. 285.

[55] Ibid., p. 290.

[56] Karl Marx, ‘To Kugelmann’, in Ibid., p. 670.

[57] Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels, The Holy Family (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), p. 47.

[58] Karl Marx, ‘Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Introduction’ , in Karl Marx. Early Writings, trans. Rodney Livingstone (London: Vintage, 1975), p. 187.

[59] Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, pp. 90, 91, 109, 132, 143.

[60] Ibid., pp. 90, 94, 109.

[61] Ibid., p. 187.

[62] Marx, ‘The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte’, p. 115.

[63] V. I Lenin, ‘On the Slogan  for a United States of Europe’, in Lenin. Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977), p. 155.

[64] V. I. Lenin, ‘State and Revolution’, in Ibid., p. 333.

[65] J.V. Stalin, J. V. Stalin, ‘Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR’, in J. V. Stalin. Selected Writings, Vol. II (Calcutta: National Book Agency, 1976), p. 301.

[66] Mao-Tse-Tung, Critique of Soviet Economics (London: Monthly Press, 1977), p. 144.

[67] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I, p. 85

[68] Ibid.

[69] Fredrick Engels, Anti-Dühring, trans. Emile Burns (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1978), p 375.

[70] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I, p. 57.

[71] Karl Marx, ‘Critique of the Gotha Programme’, in Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels. Selected Works, p. 319.

[72] Marx, ‘The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte’, in Ibid., p. 115.