Home > 2021 > The Death of Imagination: A Reply To D. Raja’s Nostalgia | Murzban (...)

Mainstream, VOL LIX No 13, New Delhi, March 13, 2021

The Death of Imagination: A Reply To D. Raja’s Nostalgia | Murzban Jal

Friday 12 March 2021

by Murzban Jal

Reading D. Raja’s nostalgic recalling of the welfare state [1] reminds one of Lenin’s celebrated statement: “none of the Marxists understood Marx!!” [2] Lenin is writing this with the eruption of the First Imperialist World War in 1914. Kevin Anderson calls this the “crisis of world Marxism”. [3] The crisis was that the communists who saw the essence of war as imperialist loot capitulated against the respective national governments in support of this imperialist war. The capitulation was a sign of decay within Marxism. Lenin sought a break from this decay and defeatism. For him, however, the answer had to be a scientific one, not one based on mere emotions and romantic sentiments.

1914 was surely a sign of general crisis in Marxism. Lenin proceeded to the library in Bern to go back at the theoretical basis of Marx’s repertoire. He thus went back to Hegel, specifically to his Science of Logic. He did not want to respond to Georgi Plekhanov and Karl Kautsky with mere political retort. He had to respond philosophically.

How does one respond philosophically and scientifically to the revisionists and reformists, the ex-revolutionaries who have now become nationalists and patriots in support of imperialism? One links it with going to the basis—to the problem of the commodity and relating this with the question of philosophical dialectics such that possibilities of understanding how the rupture with commodity production and the entire structure of capitalism, and along with this imperialist wars, famines and global diseases is possible. The method had thus to be philosophical and scientific dialectics as against political revisionism. The international proletariat would be the subject of this new scene of action. To end the war, imperialism and capitalism had to end. The international revolution would have to end it, not nationalistic retorts.

D. Raja writes about the dismantling of the public sector and the subversion of the welfare state. Raja writes as not only member of the Communist Party of India (CPI), but as General Secretary of the party. His claim is that the BJP is involved in subversions. One recalls Donald Trump’s so-called “insurrection”. Trump is involved in insurrection; the BJP is involved in subversions. Never mind that both subversions and insurrections lie at the heart of Marxism! Raja hates insurrections and subversions.

He starts his essay by saying that “politics and economics can never be separated”. The general Secretary goes further:

It is political economy which decides and reveals the nature and character of the state of any Nation. The Constitution of our country defines Indian state as a secular state and as a welfare state. The BJP-RSS combine has been aggressively making efforts to subvert the secular state into a theocratic fascist state. The present regime headed by Modi has been subverting the welfare state by dismantling public sector after the dismantling of the Planning Commission.

What do we learn from this? We learn that economics determines politics, that the era of neo-liberal capitalism has been ushered which requires the dismantling of the public sector. He says that the BJP has just done this. But then what is the problem with Raja, for is not the BJP proving his own thesis that “politics and economics can never be separated” and that changes in economic structure of society brings in new types of politics?

Raja goes further. He says that the BJP in pursuing neo-liberal policies will make “India critically dependent on international finance capital”. One could retort that it is a fact that capital is of a global character and that to recall the Manifesto of the Communist Party, capital “batters down the Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate...compelling all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production...” [4]

Then, what does Raja want? Does he want peaceful capitalism; welfare capitalism blessed by Mannohan Singh who made a special type of capitalism that “could withstand it (the financial crisis of 2008) because of the resilience of public enterprises and public sector banks”? Not only does he see this special type of capitalism free from crisis, which apparently Marx never understood, which was even lauded by the “internationally renowned economist Josef Stiglitz”. The good Raja attributes Stiglitz in commenting that Manmohan Singh’s type of capitalism kept the “country free from several crises which overwhelmed some of the developed countries”.

What do we learn from this? We learn that there are different types of capitalism—the good capitalism that is free from crisis and the bad one that is crises driven. The BJP is wrong to support bad capitalism. It should support good capitalism. After all, did not even Boris Johnson go “on record in saying that his life was saved because of the public sector National Health Service”. Raja is of course very, very happy that our Boris’ life was saved. It is also quite possible that Boris might evolve into a radical leftist after seeing that it is the public sector that saved him. It is also quite possible that if he had gone to a private hospital he may have never been blessed to write odes to the socialism and the public sector National Health Service.

Raja does not want the “vast masses of people...(to) slip into more poverty and deprivation at a faster pace”. He wants “the organizations in public sector including public sector hospitals and health....(to) come to the rescue of the people at a higher affordable cost”. And since he sees as his models Manmohan Singh, Josef Stiglitz and even Boris Johnson, and also since he wants capitalism that is crises free, one has but to disagree with him.

For Marx, there was no good capitalism and bad capitalism. And since there was no capitalism that could be immune from the global crisis, there could be no Dr Faust even in the form of our very good Dr Manmohan Singh to create a crisis-free capitalism. Raja wants to create a magic show where an alleged “good capitalism” with its welfare state and belief in secularism and socialism will stop the BJP’s “suicidal policy of privatization of economy and dismantling of very resilient and profit-making public enterprises...(with) its sterling record...” He wants to create “social and economic justice for citizens of India” and with this the reality of the “common good”. This reminds us of Lassalle and his politics of “free distribution” and “equal right”. For Marx this “common good”, that serves “all members of society” and “equal right” are “mere phrases” [5].

What then do we learn from this? We learn that Raja is at best our Lassalle our day. He deals with mere phrases. Lassalle was a petty bourgeois socialist, at best a dreamer. He did not understand that commodity production has a structure and logic and for Marx the transcending of commodity production was absolutely necessary to create a classless society. Neither Manmohan Singh nor Josef Stiglitz and most certainly not the good old Boris Johnson are proponents of this. Raja wants commodity production, money, capital, but does not want the crisis that is inherent in this very structure. Nowhere does he spell in even the most remote way anything to do with socialism, not even the utopian versions. This is because all imagination is lost, in fact has died. He says that privatization is “fatal for the country as a whole”. He forgets what the good old Karl had once said:

In a word, the Free Trade system hastens the Social Revolution. In this revolutionary sense along, I am in favour of free trade. [6]

This is the essence of dialectics, the dialectics of revolution. Remove this dialectics and one removes revolution from the scene of action. One becomes like one of the “Marxists” that Lenin chided who have not understood Marx! Maybe because of these very same “Marxists”, that Marx himself has said: “All I know is that I am not a Marxist”. [7] It is also possible that in this very same sense Alain Badiou recently said that “Marxism does not exist.” [8] Our very own Raja has seen to this.

[1See D. Raja, ‘Dismantling Public Sector and Subverting Welfare State, in Mainstream, Vol. LIX, No. 9, Feb., 13, 2021.

[2V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 38. Philosophical Notebooks (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1961), p. 180.

[3Kevin Anderson, Lenin, Hegel, and Western Marxism. A Critical Study (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1995), pp. 3-27.

[4Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, ‘Manifesto of the Communist Party’, in Marx. Engels. Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), p. 39.

[5Karl Marx, ‘Critique of Gotha Programmme’, in Marx. Engels. Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), p. 318.

[6Karl Marx, ‘On the Question of Free Trade’, in The Poverty of Philosophy (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), p. 207.

[7See Frederick Engels, ‘To Conrad Schmidt in Berlin’, London, August 5, 1890, in Marx. Engels. Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), p. 679.

[8Alain Badiou, Metapolitics (London; Verso, 2005), p. 58. cs

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