Articles posted by Radical Socialist on various issues.

Russian anti-fascists appeal for solidarity

An unexpected, unthinkable, yet - concerning current circumstances - quite expectable and natural thing has occurred yesterday night. Three public social activists that have always expressed a consistent antifascist attitude and shunned civil indifference have been detained.

Alexey Gaskarov, Denis Solopov and Maxim Solopov had remained in Top 10 users in far rightist forums as main enemies of fascism for a long time because of expressing their anti-neonazi attitude boldly and openly. Antifascists look on them as their friends. Fascists reckon them among their main enemies (and actually their targets). Sometime ago this "Top 10" included Khutorskoy, an activist, Chuvashov, a judge, and Markelov, a lawyer. Yesterday night Alexey, Denis and Maxim were taken into custody.

They were arrested on the charge of participation in events near Khimki region administration. It was an outstanding action on the part of this country’s young citizens that are fed up with bearing lawlessness and impunity of authorities demonstrated during deforestation of Khimki forest for the highway.

Why have civil rights activists been detained? On what account have they been put under investigation? What means of fetching useful information are applied to our comrades? We don’t know. We demand their release for lack of components of crime.

An uncompromised, straight civil attitude have not once been outside the law in history. In Chili. In Nazi Germany. In Iran. Where else has a man become a victim of anti-State accusations for expression of civil attitude? We know, and we remember well.

We demand immediate release of our comrades, consistent antifascists Alexey Gaskarov, Denis Solopov and Maxim Solopov.

You can find a video of this action here

Islam, sexuality, and the politics of belonging in the Netherlands

Paul Mepschen

Sex seems to play a key role in the Dutch politics of belonging. Sex – especially homosexuality – is instrumentalized by the nationalist right who uses it to represent immigrants as ‘strangers’ who threaten tolerant, modern, Dutch society. Tolerance, power, and xenophobia come to be increasingly entwined in the Netherlands. A plea against ‘tolerance’ as the foundation for political and social struggle.

The Slovenian philosopher and sociologist Slavoj Zizek argues that tolerance constitutes a mystifying discourse veiling what is really at the heart of political and social struggle. There is good reason, Zizek argues, that someone like Martin Luther King didn’t make use of the concept. The struggle against racism is not a struggle for tolerance, but for social, economic, political, and cultural rights, and for changing unjust and undemocratic power relations. Zizek makes a parallel with feminism, asking if feminists struggle to be ‘tolerated’ by men. Of course not – from this perspective the concept of tolerance even becomes rather ridiculous.

Tolerance, in other words, does not work as an imperative for political struggle. As the American left political philosopher Wendy Brown argues, tolerance is a discourse of power which possesses a certain “magnanimity”and plays a key role in dynamics of in- and exclusion in liberal societies. Moreover, holding on to tolerance as the foundation for one’s engagement in struggle is what may keep the lgbt-movement from reinventing itself in an era in which globalization, the global spread of neoliberal capitalism, and the rise of Islamophobia, are radically changing what is demanded of our movements; how our struggles relate to other struggles; to the state; and to dominant liberal discourses. While the situation in the Netherlands provides perhaps the most cardinal example of the entanglement of lgbt-politics with racism and Islamophobia, the challenges we face in the Netherlands because of this strange co-optation of homosexuality by nationalists and Islam-bashers are mirrored in other parts of the world and cannot be understood without taking into account the ideologies embellishing the global onslaught against Islam.

The El-Moumni affair and beyond

In the Netherlands, lgbt-politics has largely come to be reduced to the question of a perceived lack of tolerance toward homosexuals among Muslims. The discourse that is put forward is one in which native Dutch citizens are construed as tolerant while society’s cultural ‘others’, especially Muslims, are represented as intolerant. Homophobia is construed to be alien to Dutch, modern, secular, society. The structural heteronormativity of society has almost completely disappeared from the movement’s discourse and from the struggle, while the question of Islam and tolerance has taken front-stage.

What could be wrong with tolerance? Would I perhaps prefer intolerance? Of course not, but if we would take a harder look at the concept and the way it was employed, we would be able to see that tolerance has a paradoxical meaning in present day society. It is accompanied, in fact, by virulent forms of intolerance and exclusion. To illustrate, we may have a look at the debate about Islam in the Netherlands starting in 2001. The Rotterdam imam El-Moumni, of Moroccon descent, in May 2001 made comments on national television arguing that homosexuality was an illness threatening reproduction and thus society in more general terms: classic patriarchal views. The comments caused enormous upheaval in Dutch society, in which people especially took offense because these views came from a cultural other, from ‘the outside’. The imam’s expressed views were taken to be comments on Dutch secular and modern society. In fact, only three years earlier, in 1998, during the Gay Games in Amsterdam, public homosexuality was fiercely debated in the Dutch public sphere. Several Dutch conservatives participated in that debate, arguing, among other things, that homosexuality was shameful and that they felt uncomfortable or offended by the public display of homosexuality during the games. Interestingly, Muslims played no role in this debate, and neither did the question of Islam in more general terms.

In 2001, on the other hand, the comments of El-Moumni were framed as ‘intolerant’, diametrically opposed to Dutch values, and construed as symbolic of the lack on cultural integration of Muslim communities in Dutch societies. The imam’s views, characteristic of conservative views on homosexuality in orthodox religious circles, were framed as representative of the whole of the Muslim community instead as the views of a specific, radical, current in Islam (El-Moumni belongs to a notoriously conservative mosque in Rotterdam). In public discourse, Islam became construed as completely and utterly antagonistic to modern, tolerant, Dutch ‘values’ and all the imams active in the Netherlands – including imams from the liberal Alavite community who have nothing whatsoever in common with orthodox figures like El-Moumni – were ‘invited’ for a lesson in tolerance by the liberal democratic minister of ‘large cities-affairs’. One of the prime participants in the attack on public homosexuality in 1998, the conservative columnist Van der List, who called homosexuality disgusting, in 2001 embraced the homosexual community that now needed protection against the horrible Muslim hordes who were a threat to liberal, tolerant, Dutchness.

A visibly uncomfortable prime-minister Kok spent the full ten minutes of his weekly interview on national television explaining to Muslims that they were to tolerate homosexuals, as this “was the Dutch way”. In a poll on the website of the largest Gay magazine, the mainstream, liberal populist Gay Krant, 91 percent of participants agreed with the statement that “Muslims should accept our tolerance or leave”. The widely read right-wing daily Telegraaf spoke of ideas coming from “the medieval deserts of Northern Africa” and gay members of the conservative liberal party VVD in Amsterdam published a pamphlet arguing that Muslims were threatening the liberal freedoms that were so characteristic to Dutch society.

Aesthetics of homosexuality

The message was clear: to be Dutch meant to adjust to certain ‘norms and values’ and to assimilate into the moral universe that constituted modern, tolerant Dutch society. Tolerance became one of the prime markers of ‘autochthony’. Helped by the events of 9/11, the single most successful right-wing populist in Dutch history, Pim Fortuyn, who as the reader may recall was brutally killed in 2002, instrumentalized this discourse of tolerant Dutchness to make his spectacular political staging possible. As a columnist, publicist, and public speaker, Fortuyn had tried for many years to get the Islamophobic, xenophobic, and nationalist view across that Muslims were retarded, that Dutch identity and modernity needed to be reappraised, and that the borders needed to be closed to immigrants, especially Muslims. For a long time, his views were seen as rather ludicrous and marginal, but during the 1990’s they slowly moved from the far right margins to the center of Dutch politics.

The right-wing populist party Livable Netherlands catapulted Fortuyn into the political arena in 2001. Fortuyn combined a personal, almost erotic, political aesthetic and charisma with neonationalist and Islamophobic political ideas and fulfilled a deep desire for belonging, meaning, direction, a closed and clear identity, and an ever more strictly defined definition of ‘the other’. Fortuyn wanted to embody the modern, free, tolerant, Dutch nation and did so by liberating the sexual norms and the aesthetics of part of the international and Dutch gay male community from the gay ghetto and bringing them into the Dutch public domain. As an essential part of this political discourse, Muslims were represented by Fortuyn as the exact opposites of the free, liberal, modern Dutch person. The former were represented as intolerant, primitive, and traditional, a triangle of alterity that made them quite incongruous with Dutch society. Obviously, the mass mediation of the homophobic comments of various orthodox Islamic figures in Dutch society like El-Moumni, and various affairs concerning visceral forms of homophobia in Muslim circles, helped Fortuyn greatly by reinforcing his point. Fortuyn’s recipe against what he dubbed ‘the agrarian backwardness’ of Islam: getting Dutch society back on the path of modernity and secularism through harsh integration policies and closed borders. Power and tolerance became completely entangled and emerged as a weapon in the hands of the populist and Islamophobic right.

Everyday homophobia

Would we turn our attention to the nationalist right in the Netherlands today, the politics of Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party or several populist right-wing media and Internet publications, we would see that tolerance is not quite characteristic of the politics of the far right. The tolerance towards homosexuality, merely discursive as opposed to practiced in everyday life, is accompanied by a growing intolerance toward Muslims and other immigrants, social outsiders, the poor. The culture of the Muslim minority is framed as an essential, natural, uniform, and a-historical whole while homophobia is construed to be alien to Dutch society. That narrative has rooted itself ever more deeply into Dutch society. As opposed to 1998, during the gay games – not very long ago – it is almost impossible today to imagine discussing lgbt-rights without bashing Islam and Muslims. The hegemonic narrative is that gay and lesbian emancipation is almost complete – as gays and lesbians are ‘tolerated’- and that the only problem left is the lack of integration of Muslims into Dutch society. However, the facts are quite different. Research shows that the official tolerance informing the self-image of the Dutch and ‘Dutch pride’ is not always congruous with the facts. Confronted with public homosexuality – like two men kissing – a large part of the population still responds with disgust and distaste. Sometimes this disgust leads to violence. While it is true that young Moroccan men are overrepresented among the perpetrators of homophobic violence in Amsterdam, research shows that this behavior cannot be reduced to the culture or religion of the young men involved. In fact, it is their social exclusion and marginality that is a more prominent candidate for blame.


What causes the disgust mentioned above is heteronormativity, which is still a structural, essential aspect of Dutch society and moral order. In other words, heterosexuality remains the self-evident norm, a normativity which is reproduced through the family, in the educational system, popular culture, and media. The tolerated homosexual fits this heteronormativity very well: in almost every way he behaves according to heteronormative norms. As Steven Seidman says, the emphasis on tolerance has normalized homosexuality. The modern homosexual changed from a deviant, excluded other into the mirror-image of the ideal heterosexual. In a 2001 article on normalization, Seidman argues: "Normalization is made possible because it simultaneously reproduces a dominant order of gender, intimate, economic, and national practices”. He warns: "[L]egitimation through normalization leaves in place the polluted status of there marginal sexualities and all the norms that regulate our sexual intimate conduct apart from the norm of heterosexuality". He also points out: "Ultimately, normalization [renders] sexual difference a minor, superficial aspect of a self who in every other way reproduces an ideal of a national citizen".

As argued, many people in the Netherlands still look the other way, disgusted, shamed, when confronted with homosexuality in public. In such a heteronormative culture it needs not surprise that many homosexual men and women are depressed; that suicide rates among young gays and lesbians remain high; that transgenderism and other forms of gender nonconformity are ridiculed and transgenders are excluded; that violence keeps threatening the lgbt-community. The solution for such problems is not a politics based on tolerance, but on the struggle against heteronormativity.

In recent articles, the feminist philosopher Judith Butler rightly and harshly criticizes the confusion of sexual politics with the politics of empire and argues for a kind of sexual politics that resists Islamophobia, racism, and imperialism and that tries to find convergence points of antiracism and lgbt-struggles. Unfortunately, Butler doesn’t elaborate much. It is the task, it seems to me, of critical, antiracist, queer movements to think about and develop on forms of sexual politics beyond tolerance, against tolerance. The heteronormative society radical queers are fighting is the very society that excludes and discriminates against immigrants. Convergence points exist, for instance in the field of education where there is every reason to fight against both implicit heterosexuality as well as against the structural disadvantaging of girls and immigrant kids. Antiracists and lgbt-activists may also find each other in solidarity with lgbt’s from minority communities and in solidarity with homosexual refugees and their rights.

The reader may perhaps ask herself whether the author of the present article has gone mad. Isn’t the Netherlands in fact one of the ‘best’ countries to live in for lesbians or gay men, because they have in fact gained rights and a certain amount of acceptance and demanded their place in the public domain? Of course, this is true, and the gains of lgbt’s in the Netherlands must be defended and the public kiss-ins and similar actions organized by queers in response to homophobia must be supported and participated in. But we need a movement that is more than just responsive but that tries to constantly reinvent itself to fight the exclusion of deviant sexualities as effectively as possible, while doing everything to resist the instrumentalization of our struggles in the ‘war against terror’ and the ongoing onslaught against the Muslim community. I do not argue for intolerance, but for re-imagining political struggles in such a way that the structural causes of exclusion, discrimination, and violence assume center-stage again, for a queer movement that takes up the struggle against heterosexual normativity. Tolerance is ideology. We do not fight to become tolerated but to change the world. Tolerance is an ideological construct that disarms the lgbt-movement and positions us against as opposed to alongside ‘other’ oppressed minorities.

-Paul Mepschen is an editor of the radical and socialist magazine and webzine Grenzeloos (www.grenzeloos.org) and a member of Socialist Alternative Politics, the Dutch section of the Fourth International. Paul works as a PhD-researcher on a project called ‘tangible belongings’, which deals with questions of citizenship, subjectivity, and aesthetics in local communities, at the Amsterdam School for Social science Research (ASSR), University of Amsterdam (UvA


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.

Radical Socialist Statement on the 7 September all India Strike

Join the All India Strike: Fight for Price Control and the Rights of Working People

Radical Socialist supports the call for an all-India strike on 7 September, given by the National Convention of Workers on 15 July, 2010. Those who participated included AITUC, HMS, CITU, INTUC, AIUTUC, AICCTU, TUCC and UTUC. BMS, which was a part of the ongoing joint trade union action from the very beginning, did not participate in the Convention and has withdrawn from the strike call.
The convention adopted a Declaration which highlighted the demands for

•    Containment of the massive spurt in prices of essential commodities through measures like universal PDS and halting speculation in commodity market.

•    Measures to be taken for linkage of employment protection in the recession stricken sectors with the stimulus package being offered to the concerned entrepreneurs and for augmenting public investment in infrastructure

•    Strict enforcement of all basic labour laws without any exception or exemption and stringent punitive measures for violation of labour laws

•    Removal of all restrictive provisions based on poverty line in respect of eligibility of coverage of the schemes under the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act 2008

•    The creation of a National Fund for the Unorganised Sector to provide for a National Floor Level Social Security to all unorganized workers including the contract/casual workers in line with the recommendation of National Commission on Enterprises in Unorganised Sector and Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour

•    To use the growing reserve and surplus of Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs), not for meeting budgetary deficits, but for the expansion and modernization purposes and also for revival of sick Public Sector Undertakings.
In the last one year, there has been one immense and virtually non-stop price rise. The raising of petrol, diesel and LPG price has meant raising the state deciding to go in for raising the cost of living. The argument that the state cannot afford such subsidies is a class statement. This same state has been reducing income tax levels even as incomes of the upper layers shoot up. It has reduced corporate taxation in a number of ways. That such practices existed in the past is not because Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi had introduced socialism, as present day advocates of total free market and pushing the burden on the exploited claim. That some measures of welfare, however limited, had existed is a function of the class struggle. To gain and retain hegemony at an earlier stage, the Indian capitalist class had been compelled to accept the bitter pill of some welfare measures, the creation of a large public sector and the creation of jobs, the expansion of a public distribution system, the creation of some very minimal health care measures for sections of the workers, and so on. None of this had been done because of any largeness of heart of the capitalist class, and their response often had been that of a person whose tooth was being pulled out without anaesthetics. The defeat of the Railway strike and the Bombay Textile strike were major events that tilted the balance against labour. The collapse of the Soviet Union, the capitalist transformation of China, also disoriented many. As a result, the capitalist offensive was widened in the 1990s.
This has had tremendous negative effects for large sections. Without doubt, sustained working class action, carrying behind it all the other toilers, is the only way to halt and reverse this process. It is therefore heartening to see such an all-encompassing effort. The INTUC has joined the struggle. This is an indication that the pressure and the anger is so great that even unions affiliated to ruling parties feel compelled to take some distance from the terribly anti-people measures of the regime. In this context, Ms. Mamata Banerjee’s decision to oppose the strike and call on TMC cadres to resist it publicly, is an indication of just how far rightwing her politics in reality is. Those former Naxalites who are now swelling her camp have to explain where they stand, whether they will condemn her and resist her thugs, or pretend that since the CPI(M) and CITU are parts of the strike it is best for them to sleep through 7th September.
Supporting the strike, and taking part in all union where our comrades are active, we however note that one off actions, called from the top, do not constitute an adequate response. Of course, mass actions do need to be called by trade union federations, and we do not claim that general strikes will emerge spontaneously from below. In the debate between Marxists and anarchists over the general strike in the late 19th-early 20th century, the Marxists used to argue that a call to halt all production made from above is utopian, and if it were possible one might as well make a call from above for a revolution. But revolutionary Marxists like Luxemburg, Trotsky and Lenin recognized through their experience of class struggle, the general strike can develop from concrete class struggles, and the task of Marxists is not to make an untimely general strike cum insurrection, but to assist the process of its development. This means a constant struggle. This means linking the general demands to particular struggles, raising demands that push the consciousness of workers forward. In that sense struggles and victories like the defeat of Vedanta are significant pointers. Specifically, it means that general strikes can be effective most when they emerge from major ongoing struggles, linking the large economic battles involved in such strikes, with the political battle, since a general strike is not directed against individual capitalists, but over their heads, against the capitalist state itself.
To defeat the ruling class offensive, we need greater unity, we need a strategy of militant struggles, not making mass struggles the adjunct of parliamentary struggles but reversing the relationship, and we need widest internal democracy within the working class movement, the maximum pluralism to ensure that all voices of all sectors, dalits, adivasis, women and men, are heard and their demands incorporated in the struggles, their participation ensured.

  • Ensure the success of the all India general strike.
  • Launch a sustained campaign for rpice control
  • Restore the full PDS for all, end the farce of dividing the exploited between the Below Poverty Line and the non BPL. when it comes to the distribution of essential commodities at fair prices

Maoism, Green Hunt and Democratic Rights

Kunal Chattopadhyay

One recurrent campaign by the Government of India, by numerous mainstream politicians, as well as by a number of newspapers, journals and their journalists, is that civil rights organisations who stand up for the rights of Maoists are in effect aiding the Maoists. They too, it is argued, are guilty of waging war or perpetrating terror in order to damage the Indian state.

A number of vital issues are involved here, and in one essay one cannot cover them all. The first point that needs to be clarified is that according to the Constitution of India, every citizen of India is entitled to certain rights. Nobody can be convicted without the due process of arrest, production in court, charge sheeting in proper time, case hearings, and conviction, with proper legal assistance being available to the accused. It is for this reason that any genuine civil liberties/democratic rights movement will always make a distinction between the Maoists and the Indian state. The CPI(Maoist) is by its own proclamation an organisation that rejects the Constitution of India. It is an organisation that is banking on an escalation of violence, whereby the people in the middle, those who do not feel any urge to identify themselves with the state regardless of its errors and crimes, will, in case the polarisation is complete, will tend to choose the Maoists. Moreover, the CPI (Maoist) is an organisation that rejects democracy – not merely the limited bourgeois parliamentary democracy, but even more the vision of a wider socialist democracy shared not only by Marx and Engels and their colleagues, but the early Bolsheviks all the way to the seizure of power and till the outbreak of the civil war. Rather, they identify socialism with the dead end of one party rule, extreme violence on any dissent, all the way to summary “trials” and killings of opponents, a line opened by Stalin and continued with minor variations by heroes like Pol Pot and Ceausescu.


Any opposition to the CPI (Maoist) will therefore be a political opposition, rather than a civil rights opposition. One can take a liberal position, and condemn them for their non-acceptance of an abstract democracy. One can take a Gandhian position and condemn them for their adherence to violence. Or one can take a revolutionary Marxist position and condemn them for substitutionism (replacing the working class as the revolutionary subject by the self-proclaimed and self-elected vanguard), for their rejection of genuine working class democracy, which for Marx meant a great deepening of what he saw as a limited, truncated democracy under capitalism, and not for their acceptance of violence, since under certain circumstances violence may be the only method of resistance, but for their glorification of violence. What cannot do is accuse them of violating their responsibilities under the constitution, since they repudiate it.


The Indian state cannot repudiate the constitution. This has nothing to do with whether one is soft on the Maoists or not. This has, instead, everything to do with protecting the rights of every Indian citizen. This state was created through a process that also made the constitution. Repudiation of the constitution in the name of fighting “Naxalism” can lead to a police state.  Consider the case of Arundhati Roy. Roy wrote an article on the Maoists, which could be legitimately characterised as a romanticised picture, and one that, through its absolutely valid characterisiation of the violence perpetrated by the state while remaining silent about the Maoists, and indeed while only painting a rosy picture of the commitment of their cadres and so forth, can create a false image about the Maoists. But if this is the reason to charge her with being a Maoist sympathiser and arguing that she too should be prosecuted under the UAPA or other laws, then obviously civil liberties have gone for a toss. Or take the case of Nandini Sundar. This Delhi-based Professor was part of a government committee that submitted a report, warning the government that systematic exploitation of adivasis was at the root of their anger, and improving their conditions was a key challenge. Sundar has been extremely vocal against the Salwa Judum, a non-governmental militia set up by the government, which has been creating terror in the name of fighting the Maoists. According to the government and large sections of the media, the Salwa Judum is a spontaneous and self-initiated reaction to Maoist oppression, and they hailed it as a turning point in the fight against Naxalism. Fact finding teams, sent by the CPI, by the PUCL, and others, have reported differently. As far back as April 2006, several civil liberties oranisations reported the following: more money was being allocated for anti-Naxal operations than for development; and the adivasis are acutely aware that under the present dispensation they have no opportunity for development. Interestingly, this report explains that Salwa Judum means, approximately, “purification hunt” (an apt forerunner of “Green Hunt’?). The report goes on to state that “the fact is that the Salwa Judum is being led by sections of local elites, contractors and traders, that it is officially part of anti-naxal initiatives, and that it is being actively supported by state agencies to an unprecedented degree”. It also explains that “video shots of Salwa Judum meetings clearly show the Chief Minister, the Collector and politicians like Mahendra Karma addressing these, and security personnel accompanying Salwa Judum processions”. Thus, Nandini Sundar is hardly a voice in the wilderness when she explains that state backed terrorism in the interest of the upper classes is being conducted in the name of fighting the “Naxalite menace”. But since she has persisted in criticizing the government for what is happening in Chhatisgarh, she is to be viewed as a Maoist sympathizer. As she reported in the internet earlier this year, when she and a colleague visited Chhattisgarh, the police followed them, made it impossible for them to book rooms in hotels, and tried to intimidate their drivers.


This line of attack can be constantly widened. If Roy, Sundar, or members of PUDR, APDR, PUCL, etc are targeted as covert Maoists, without any proof, without cases being disposed, but the people being smeared at will, then anyone who defends them in turn can be targeted next. Binayak Sen of PUCL was arrested as a Maoist. He got bail after a very long and sustained national and international campaign, including such actions as campaigns by numerous Nobel laureates. Being Maoist is not a crime under the ordinary laws. One must understand that special laws are being created to tackle them. Thus, the UAPA amendment, passed unanimously by Parliament after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, are being invoked, because one otherwise has to bring specific cases. What has Sundar done? Has she taken shots at some police officer? Has she smuggled guns from across the border or built them in some cellar? What did Sen do? This is a restoration of the concept of “political crime”. So while murders committed under instigations of khap panchayats will be treated as “sensitive issues”, anyone speaking for civil liberties will be accused of being a Maoist. And while urban figures may have some protection, tese methods will lead to intensification of an already massive state terrorism on ordinary people who protest and demand their rights. Thus, women who protested against the police brutality and rape in Sonamukhi village near Jhargram are now being smeared as font persons for the CPI(Maoist). This can only end, unless halted by a determined struggle, by turning the whole of India into a police state, where any criticism of the government will be viewed as signs of Maoism.

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) Statement on Unethical Media Reporting

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) is deeply concerned and disturbed by the news report Raped repeatedly, Naxal leader quits Red ranks that appeared on page 1 of the Times of India, dated August 24, 2010.

We unequivocally condemn any such violence and sexual assault inflicted on women, irrespective of the perpetrator(s), whether state or non state, in any situation, anywhere in the country. If the story reported by the leading daily Times of India is correct, it is very serious and condemnable and the woman is not safe; the law should take its course and action should be taken against the accused. And if the story has been planted or used by the state and establishment as some seem to believe, we still fear for her safety from the police and security forces now that she has surrendered. It needs to be ensured that she will not be put under any pressure and that she will get access to lawyers and family.

However, we question the responsibility of the media and its credibility.  Such reporting has serious implications and we as feminists and women’s groups wish to draw the attention of TOI and its readership to the following points in the interest of the privacy, security and safety of women:

Firstly, the woman’s name and position have been revealed in the report, which is against the norms of reporting of rape.  The picture in the newspaper is very clear and does little to hide her identity. TOI’s concern for the woman in this respect is lacking.


Secondly, the report appears to be interested more in highlighting such cases in a loose and highly sensational way rather than sticking to facts with rigor. The report has conflated the very serious issue of rape and sexual violence with issues of sexual choices. In fact, the report uses statements like `she is caught in an ideology that she cannot understand’ but makes no attempt to engage with her at an intellectual level, even though she is reportedly an experienced person and not merely a woman among men.


Thirdly, the story has not been substantiated as per journalistic obligations. Why has the reporter not made any effort to get any version of other sources- of perhaps differing hues?


Fourthly, TOI needs to be more impartial in its reporting of cases of rape, irrespective of who the rapist is.  We find that sexual violence by the army, police and paramilitary forces, in the ongoing military operations, is routinely ignored by the TOI as well as other media sources. This continues to place innumerable women across the country in extremely vulnerable situations; rapes and sexual assault of women by police and paramilitary in Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, with the inordinate and suffocating presence of the police and paramilitary, has risen so high that fear and intimidation of women is high too.  It has become impossible for an assaulted woman to even lodge an FIR. Many such survivors of rape in these regions have been harassed and forced to withdraw their complaints.


Finally, the Home Minister has chosen to comment on the TOI story and claim there are more such cases - whereas he has been studiously silent on the many well documented instances where adivasi and poor women have tried to pursue cases of rape against police, paramilitary and SPOs. A recent example is that of an eighteen-year old girl in Gajapati district of Orissa, allegedly Maoist, who was picked up from her village in February along with another person, during combing operations by security forces, gang-raped and is now languishing in jail. No charge sheet has as yet been filed even after 6 months. We urge TOI to bring such stories to its readership across the country so that these women also get some justice. We urge the entire media and the government to break its silence on the miscarriage of justice in the Khairlanji case.


As a national forum against sexual violence and state repression, we assert that violence against women cannot and should not be used as weapons of war, by the warring sides to score points against each other. We are equal citizens of India- our sexuality cannot be used against us. The state should allow free movement in these areas so that it is possible to conduct impartial investigations of reports of sexual violence against women.

Committed to the struggle against sexual violence and state repression,

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression






WSS  is a network of women's rights, dalit rights, human rights and civil liberties organizations across India. It is a non-funded grassroots effort by women to stem the violence being perpetrated upon our bodies and on our societies by the State’s forces, by non-state actors and by the inability of our government to resolve conflict in a meaningful, sustainable and effective manner.

As represented by: AIPWA, AISA (Delhi), APDR (West Bengal), Action India, All Tripura Indigenous and Minority Association, Alternate Law Forum, Ananya (Karnataka), Anhad (Delhi), Baiga Mahapanchayat (Chhattisgarh), Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan, CAVOW (India), CPDR (Maharashtra), Campaign for Justice and Peace (Karnataka), Chhattisgarh Mahila Adhikar Manch, Chhattisgarh Mahila Mukti Morcha, Dalit Adivasi Manch (Chhattisgarh), Dalit Stree Shakti (Andhra Pradesh), HumAnE (Orissa), HRLN (Jammu & Kashmir), HRLN (Madhya Pradesh), Hengasara Hakkina Sangha (Karnataka), Human Rights Alert (Manipur), IRMA (Manipur), IWID, Jagori (Delhi), Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (Madhya Pradesh), Jan Jagruti Manch (Chhattisgarh), Lalgarh Morcha, Lokayata (Maharashtra), MARA (Karnataka), Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch, NAPM (Karnataka), NBA (Madhya Pradesh), Namma Manasa (Karnataka), Nari Mukti Sanstha (Delhi), Navsarjan Sanstha (Gujarat), Naya Chhattisgarh Mahila Sangh, Nirantar (Delhi), PSSK (Chhattisgarh), Patel Pat Chaunki (Chhattisgarh), Pratidhwani (Delhi), PUCL (india), Rachna Manch, Rohidas Mahila Kalyan Samiti (Chhattisgarh), Saheli (Delhi), Sahmet (Madhya Pradesh), Samajwadi Jan Parishad (Madhya Pradesh), Samata Vedike (Karnataka), Samanatha Mahila Vedike (Karnataka), Sangini (Madhya Pradesh), Vanangana (Uttar Pradesh), Vidyarthi Yuvjan Sabha, Women’s Right Resource Center (Madhya Pradesh), Yuva Samvaad (Madhya Pradesh), Stree Adhikar Sanghatan (Uttar Pradesh), Stree Jagruti Samiti, Trade Union Solidarity Committee (Maharashtra), WinG, Women Against Militarization and State Violence (The Other Media),  Women’s Right Resource Center, Women’s Education Forum (Chhattisgarh), and many individuals.

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Trotskyists and the Resistance in World War Two

Ernest Mandel
The following is excerpted from the transcript of a school on the history of the Fourth International organised by the International Marxist Group in London in 1976. It is reproduced here from the Ernest Mandel Internet Archive.

I want to go into the question of the resistance movement in Europe between 1940 and 1944 in detail. I want to do so especially because some comrades for whom I have respect, and whom I hope to see back in the Fourth International, the comrades of the Lutte Ouvrière group in France, have made it their special point of honour to raise this question against the Fourth International.

From the foundation of the Communist International, communists were educated in a principled rejection of the idea of "national defence" or "defence of the fatherland" in the imperialist countries. This meant a total refusal to have anything to do with imperialist wars. The Trotskyist movement was educated in the same spirit. This was all the more necessary with the right-wing turn of the Comintern and the Stalin-Laval pact in 1935, which turned the Stalinists in the West European countries, and in some colonial countries, into the worst advocates of pro-imperialist chauvinism.

In India, for instance, this led to the disastrous betrayal by the Stalinists of the national uprising in 1942. When the uprising took place, the British colonialists opened the jails for the leaders of the Indian Communist Party in order to transform them into agitators against the uprising and for the imperialist war. This tremendous betrayal laid the basis for the continuous mass influence of the bourgeois nationalist Congress Party in the following decades.

Our movement was inoculated against nationalism in imperialist countries, against the idea of supporting imperialist war efforts in any form whatsoever. That was a good education, and I do not propose to revise that tradition. But what it left out of account were elements of the much more complex Leninist position in the First World War. It is simply not true that Lenin's position then can be reduced to the formula: "This is a reactionary imperialist war. We have nothing to do with it." Lenin's position was much more sophisticated. He said: "There are at least two wars, and we want to introduce a third one." (The third one was the proletarian civil war against the bourgeoisie which in actual fact came out of the war in Russia.)

Lenin fought a determined struggle against sectarian currents inside the internationalist tendency who did not recognise the distinction between these two wars. He pointed out: "There is an inter-imperialist war. With that war we have nothing to do. But there are also wars of national uprising by oppressed nationalities. The Irish uprising is 100 per cent justified. Even if German imperialism tries to profit from it, even if leaders of the national movement link up with German submarines, this does not change the just nature of the Irish war of independence against British imperialism. The same thing is true for the national movement in the colonies and the semi-colonies, the Indian movement, the Turkish movement, the Persian movement." And he added: "The same thing is true for the oppressed nationalities in Russia and Austro-Hungary. The Polish national movement is a just movement, the Czech national movement is a just movement. A movement by any oppressed nationality against the imperialist oppressor is a just movement. And the fact that the leadership of these movements could betray by linking these movements politically and organizationally to imperialism is a reason to denounce these leaders, not a reason to condemn these movements."

Now if we look at the problem of World War II from that more dialectical, more correct Leninist point of view, we have to say that it was a very complicated business indeed. I would say, at the risk of putting it a bit too strongly, that the Second World War was in reality a combination of five different wars. That may seem an outrageous proposition at first sight, but I think closer examination will bear it out.

First, there was an inter-imperialist war, a war between the Nazi, Italian, and Japanese imperialists on the one hand, and the Anglo-American-French imperialists on the other hand. That was a reactionary war, a war between different groups of imperialist powers. We had nothing to do with that war, we were totally against it.

Second, there was a just war of self-defence by the people of China, an oppressed semi-colonial country, against Japanese imperialism. At no moment was Chiang Kai-shek's alliance with American imperialism a justification for any revolutionary to change their judgement on the nature of the Chinese war. It was a war of national liberation against a robber gang, the Japanese imperialists, who wanted to enslave the Chinese people. Trotsky was absolutely clear and unambiguous on this. That war of independence started before the Second World War, in 1937; in a certain sense, it started in 1931 with the Japanese Manchurian adventure. It became intertwined with the Second World War, but it remained a separate and autonomous ingredient of it.

Third, there was a just war of national defence of the Soviet Union, a workers state, against an imperialist power. The fact that the Soviet leadership allied itself not only in a military way - which was absolutely justified - but also politically with the Western imperialists in no way changed the just nature of that war. The war of the Soviet workers and peasants, of the Soviet peoples and the Soviet state, to defend the Soviet Union against German imperialism was a just war from any Marxist-Leninist point of view. In that war we were 100 per cent for the victory of one camp, without any reservations or question marks. We were for absolute victory of the Soviet people against the murderous robbers of German imperialism.

Fourth, there was a just war of national liberation of the oppressed colonial peoples of Africa and Asia (in Latin America there was no such war), launched by the masses against British and French imperialism, sometimes against Japanese imperialism, and sometimes against both in succession, one after the other. Again, these were absolutely justified wars of national liberation, regardless of the particular character of the imperialist power. We were just as much for the victory of the Indian people's uprising against British imperialism, and the small beginnings of the uprising in Ceylon, as we were in favour of the victory of the Burmese, Indochinese, and Indonesian guerrillas against Japanese, French, and Dutch imperialism successively. In the Philippines the situation was even more complex. I do not want to go into all the details, but the basic point is that all these wars of national liberation were just wars, regardless of the nature of their political leadership. You do not have to place any political confidence in or give any political support to the leaders of a particular struggle in order to recognise the justness of that struggle. When a strike is led by treacherous trade union bureaucrats you do not put any trust in them - but nor do you stop supporting the strike.

Now I come to the fifth war, which is the most complex. I would not say that it was going on in the whole of Europe occupied by Nazi imperialism, but more especially in two countries, Yugoslavia and Greece, to a great extent in Poland, and incipiently in France and Italy. That was a war of liberation by the oppressed workers, peasants, and urban petty bourgeoisie against the German Nazi imperialists and their stooges. To deny the autonomous nature of that war means saying in reality that the workers and peasants of Western Europe had no right to fight against those who were enslaving them at that moment unless their minds were set clearly against bringing in other enslavers in place of the existing ones. That is an unacceptable position.

It is true that if the leadership of that mass resistance remained in the hands of bourgeois nationalists, of Stalinists or social democrats, it could eventually be sold out to the Western imperialists. It was the duty of the revolutionaries to prevent this from happening by trying to oust these fakers from the leadership of the movement. But it was impossible to prevent such a betrayal by abstaining from participating in that movement.

What lay behind that fifth war? It was the inhuman conditions which existed in the occupied countries. How can anyone doubt that? How can anyone tell us that the real reason for the uprising was some ideological framework - such as the chauvinism of the French people or of the CP leadership? Such an explanation is nonsense. People did not fight because they were chauvinists. People were fighting because they were hungry, because they were over-exploited, because there were mass deportations of slave labour to Germany, because there was mass slaughter, because there were concentration camps, because there was no right to strike, because unions were banned, because communists, socialists and trade unionists were being put in prison.

That's why people were rising, and not because they were chauvinists. They were often chauvinists too, but that was not the main reason. The main reason was their inhuman material living conditions, their social, political, and national oppression, which was so intolerable that it pushed millions onto the road of struggle. And you have to answer the question: was it a just struggle, or was it wrong to rise against this over-exploitation and oppression? Who can seriously argue that the working class of Western or Eastern Europe should have abstained or remained passive towards the horrors of Nazi oppression and Nazi occupation? That position is indefensible.

So the only correct position was to say that there was a fifth war which was also an autonomous aspect of what was going on between 1939 and 1945. The correct revolutionary Marxist position (I say this with a certain apologetic tendency, because it was the one defended from the beginning by the Belgian Trotskyists against what I would call both the right wing and the ultra-left wing of the European Trotskyist movement at that time) should have been as follows: to support fully all mass struggles and uprisings, whether armed or unarmed, against Nazi imperialism in occupied Europe, in order to fight to transform them into a victorious socialist revolution - that is, to fight to oust from the leadership of the struggles those who were linking them up with the Western imperialists, and who wanted in reality to maintain capitalism at the end of the war, as in fact happened.

We have to understand that what started in Europe in 1941 was a genuine new variant of a process of permanent revolution, which could transform that resistance movement into a socialist revolution. I say, "could", but in at least one example that was what actually happened. It happened in Yugoslavia. That's exactly what the Yugoslav Communists did.

Whatever our criticisms of the bureaucratic way in which they did it, the crimes they committed in the course of it, or the political and ideological deviations which accompanied that process, fundamentally that is what they did. We have no intention of being apologists for Tito, but we have to understand what he did. It was an amazing thing. At the start of the uprising in 1941 the Yugoslav CP had a mere 5,000 active participants. Yet in 1945 they took power at the head of an army of half a million workers and peasants. That was no small feat. They saw the possibility and the opportunity. They behaved as revolutionaries - bureaucratic-centrist revolutionaries of Stalinist origin, if you like, but you cannot call that counter-revolutionary. They destroyed capitalism. It was not the Soviet army, it was not Stalin, as a result of the "cold war", who destroyed capitalism in Yugoslavia. It was the Yugoslav CP which led this struggle, accompanied by a big fight against Stalin.

A1l the proofs are there - all the letters sent by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to the Yugoslavs, saying: "Do not attack private property. Do not push the Americans into hostility to the Soviet Union by attacking private property." And Tito and the leaders of the Communist Party did not give a damn about what Stalin told them to do or not to do. They led a genuine process of permanent revolution in the historical sense of the word, transformed a mass uprising against foreign imperialist occupation - an uprising which started on an inter-class basis, but under a bureaucratic proletarian leadership - into a genuine socialist revolution.

At the end of 1945, Yugoslavia became a workers state. There was a tremendous mass uprising in 1944-45, the workers took over the factories, the land was taken over by the peasants (and later by the state, in an exaggerated and over-centralised manner). Private property was largely destroyed. Nobody can really deny that the Yugoslav Communist Party destroyed capitalism, even if it was through its own bureaucratic methods, repressing workers democracy, even shooting some people whom it accused of being Trotskyists (which was not true - there was no Trotskyist section in Yugoslavia then or at any time previously). And it did not destroy capitalism through some bureaucratic moves with a foreign army, as in Eastern Europe, but through a genuine popular revolution, a huge mass mobilisation, one of the hugest ever seen in Europe. You should study the history of what happened in Yugoslavia - how, as bourgeois writers say, in every single village there was a civil war. That's the truth of it. The only comparison you can make is with Vietnam.

So I think that revolutionaries should basically have tried to do in the other occupied countries what the Yugoslav Communists did in Yugoslavia - of course with better methods and better results, leading to workers democracy and workers power directly exercised by workers councils, and not by a bureaucratised workers party and a privileged bureaucracy.

That is not to say at all that it was our fault if the proletarian revolution failed in Europe in 1945, because we did not apply the correct line in the resistance movement. That would be ridiculous. Even with the best of lines, the relationship of forces was such that we would not have succeeded. The relationship of forces between the Communist parties and us, the prestige of the CPs, the links of the CPs with the Soviet Union, the low level of working class consciousness as a result of a long period of defeats - all that made it impossible for the Trotskyists really to compete with the Stalinists for the leadership of the mass movement. So the mistakes which were made, both in a right-wing sense and in an ultra-left sense, actually had very little effect on history. They are simply lessons from which we have to draw a political conclusion in order not to repeat these mistakes in future. We cannot say that we failed to influence history as a result of these mistakes.

These lessons were of a dual nature. The leading comrades of one of the two French Trotskyist organizations, the POI (which was the official section), made right-wing mistakes in 1940-41. There is no doubt about that. They started from a correct line essentially, the one I have just outlined, but they took it one step too far. In the implementation of that line they included temporary blocs with what they called the "national bourgeoisie".

I should add they were able to use one sentence by Trotsky in support of their position. Remember that before arriving too hastily at a judgement on these questions. This sentence came at the beginning of one of Trotsky's last articles: "France is being transformed into an oppressed nation." In an oppressed nation there is no principled reason to reject temporary, tactical agreements with the "national bourgeoisie" against imperialism. There are conditions: we do not make a political bloc with the bourgeoisie. But purely tactical agreements with the national bourgeoisie are acceptable. We should, for instance, have made such an agreement in the 1942 uprising in India. It is a question of tactics, not of principle.

What was wrong in the position of the POI leadership was to make an extrapolation from a temporary, conjuncture situation. If France had permanently become a semi-colonial country, that would have been another story. But it was a temporary situation, just an episode in the war. France remained an imperialist power, with imperialist structures, which continued through the Gaullist operation to exploit many colonial peoples and maintain its empire in Africa intact. To change one's attitude towards the bourgeoisie simply in the light of what happened over a couple of years on the territory of France was a premature move which contained within it the seed of major political mistakes.

In fact it did not lead to anything in practice. Those who say that the French Trotskyists "betrayed" by making a bloc with the bourgeoisie in 1940-41 do not understand the difference between the beginning of a theoretical mistake and an actual treacherous intervention in the class struggle. There was never any agreement with the bourgeoisie, never any support for them when it came to the point. Whenever strikes took place the French Trotskyists were 100 per cent on the side of the workers. Whether it was a strike against French capitalists, German capitalists, or a combination of both, they were on the side of the workers every time. So where was the betrayal? It just confuses a possible political mistake and an actual theoretical one - which eventually could perhaps have had grave consequences, but in actual fact never did. That it was a mistake I naturally do not deny. But I think the comrades of the POI minority who fought against it did a good job, and by 1942 it was reversed and did not come up again.

The sectarian mistake, however, was in my opinion much graver. Here the ultra-left wing of the Trotskyist movement denied any progressive ingredient in the resistance movement and refused to make any distinction between the mass resistance, the armed mass struggle, and the manoeuvres and plans of the bourgeois nationalist. social democratic or Stalinist misleaders of the masses. That mistake was much worse because it led to abstention on what were important living struggles of the masses. Those comrades (such as the Lutte Ouvrière group) who persist even today in identifying the mass movements in the occupied countries with imperialism - saying that the war in Yugoslavia was an imperialist war because it was conducted by nationalists - are completely revising the Marxist method. Instead of defining the class nature of a mass movement by its objective roots and significance, they try to do so on the basis of its ideology. This is an unacceptable backward step towards historical idealism. When workers rise against exploitation and oppression with nationalist slogans, you say: "The rising is correct; please change the slogans." You do not say: "The rising is bad because the slogans are bad." It does not become bourgeois because the slogans are bourgeois - that is a wrong and absolutely unmaterialist approach.

Trotsky warned the Trotskyist movement against precisely such mistakes in his last basic document, the Manifesto of the 1940 emergency conference. He pointed out that they should be careful not to judge workers in the same way as the bourgeoisie even when they talked about national defence. It was necessary to distinguish between what they said and what they meant - to judge the objective historical nature of their intervention rather than the words they used. And the fact that sectarian sections of the Trotskyist movement did not understand that, and took an abstentionist position on big clashes involving hundreds of thousands or even millions of people, was very dangerous for the future of the Fourth International.

To abstain from such clashes on ideological grounds would have been absolutely suicidal for a living revolutionary movement. But we had no section in Yugoslavia. And had we had one, it would happily not have been sectarian. Otherwise we could not address the Yugoslav Communists and workers with the authority which we have today. Our first intervention in Yugoslavia was only in 1948; it was a good one, and so now we can speak with an unblemished banner and considerable moral authority in Yugoslavia. But if the Lutte Ouvrière line had been applied in practice between 1941 and 1944 in Yugoslavia, and if Yugoslav Trotskyists had been neutral in that civil war, we would not be very proud today and we would certainly not be in a strong position to defend the programme of the Fourth International. As it is, some of the Yugoslav Communists who later became Trotskyists were heroes in the civil war, which gives them a certain standing and moral authority. It makes it easier for them and for us to discuss Trotskyism in Yugoslavia today. If we had to carry the moral blemish of passivity and abstention in a huge civil war, we would, to say the least, be in a very bad position today.