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Mainstream, VOL LX No 14, New Delhi, March 26, 2022

The Need For Creating Revolutionary Materialism In India | Murzban Jal

Friday 25 March 2022

When reality is described, a self-sufficient philosophy [die selbständige Philosophie] loses its medium of existence. —Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology.

I have expressed the opinion that any unclarity in ideology brings great harm. I think that ideological unclarity is especially harmful for us now, when idealism of all varieties and shades, under the impact of reaction and the pretext of revising theoretical values, is holding veritable orgies in our literature, and when some idealists, probably for the sake spreading their own ideas, proclaim their views to be Marxism of the very latest model. It is my deep conviction, and one which I am not in the least backward in expressing, that theoretical dissociation from these idealists is more essential now than ever. I understand that sometimes this might not be to the liking of one or other of the idealists (especially from among those who would like to have their theoretical merchandise passed under the flag of Marxism) but, nevertheless, I resolutely assert that those who reproach me on these grounds with attempting on somebody’s freedom (by ‘banishment’) or even on his life (by ‘hanging’) reveal a much too narrow understanding of that freedom in whose name they indict me. —Georgoi Plekhanov, Materliasmus Militans.

Introduction: Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya

Look at the world of late imperialism in permanent and violent crisis with its authoritarian idealism of cultural and religious nationalism from Russia to Yankeeland and from Turkey and Iran to India which is gripped by the spiritualist ideologies of nationalism, one can say that the idea that idealism and spiritualism have totally worn themselves out and can exist only in the service of capitalism and imperialism is not altogether off the mark. Likewise the idea that materialism has necessarily to realize itself as not merely dialectical and historical materialism, but as dialectical and historical-humanist materialism is true as true can ever be in order to destabilize the hegemony of these spiritual nationalisms.

India it is true has a long history of materialism. And while materialism has a long history in India, credit must go to Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya for exploring the history of materialism in India. The problem is that it was Brahmanism, colonialism and the Orientalist discourse that created and then gifted the terrible gift of “Indian idealism and spiritualism” onto India. In this artificial creation of “Indian idealism and spiritualism”, a counter-narrative was necessary. Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya did create this counter-narrative.

For him, one has to locate the emergence of idealist philosophy within the subtext of historical social formations, especially the transition from tribes to castes where there was a “degradation of manual labor (sarirayasa)” along with the corresponding “exaltation of mental labor (budhivaibhava)”. [1] Debiprasad Chattopadhyay’s statement in his magnum opus Lokayata. A Study in Ancient Indian Materialism is a statement whereby I shall be arguing the necessity of creating a materialist philosophy suited for Indian conditions, conditions that are marked by the Indic variety of the Asiatic mode of production and the caste system institutionalized within this mode. Our reflection in this essay is on Marxist philosophy in India. It was Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya who systematically explored materialism in Indian philosophy thus exposing the great lie that was systematically institutionalized by the colonial authorities along with the Brahman ideological compradors since the 19th century, namely that India and hence Indian philosophy is essentially idealist and spiritualist.

For Marxism the necessity of exploring materialist thought is directly linked to creating revolutionary class consciousness and the transcendence of the reification of the mind. The tragedy is that in India this reification and colonization of the mind that was initially created by the Brahmans and then institutionalized by the colonialists and Orientalists was taken lock stock and barrel by the elites of the Indian national movement. That this reification of the mind has moved from Gandhian and Nehruvian nationalism to the production of fascist consciousness must be noted.

In The German Ideology Marx and Engels talked of the “practical materialist”, namely the communist who seeks “revolutionizing the existing world, of practically coming to grips with and changing the things found in existence”. [2] Practical materialism then seeks to develop a theory of historical humanism where the idea of “real historical humanity” enters the scene of philosophical reasoning. [3]

The leitmotiv of this essay is that In India, the India that was intellectually colonized by the ideas of spiritualism and idealism where the upper caste elites collaborated with British colonialism to create the fiction of “India’s essential spirituality”, the creation of Revolutionary Materialism becomes essential. Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya’s works are a definite move towards this. Let us have a look at it. His major works were Lokayata: A Study in Ancient Indian Materialism (1959), Indian Philosophy: A Popular Outline (1964), Indian Atheism: A Marxist Analysis (1969), What is Living and What is Dead in Indian Philosophy (1976), Science and Society in Ancient India (1977) and Lenin, the Philosopher (1979) and Carvaka/Lokayata. An Anthology of Source Materials and Some Recent Studies (1990).

His methodology was historical materialist in the sense that he sought all ideas embedded in material practices. His major claim is that materialist Indian philosophy has with conscious effort been marginalized, if not erased in toto, because of the hegemony of Brahmanism. The first spark of this is with the breakdown of the gens (Gana) where tribal society gave way to caste society. The Brahmanical counterrevolution later would institutionalize this triumph of idealism over materialism an institutionalization that stays till date. His next claim is that original materialism is found in Tantric philosophy which itself was rooted in “manual operations of agriculture”. [4]

Here primacy was granted to nature—external nature and the human body—where the former was said to be the “microcosm of the universe”. [5] But here humanity—the body—is not treated as separate from nature: the birth of the universe and the body (deha) are the same. The point was thus to go into the history of Tantrism where the productivity of nature is seen as a symbol of the world. [6] This was what Chattopadhyaya called “primitive proto-materialism” [7] or what we may also call “instinctive materialism”. [8] The philosophy of ancient India was dehavada.

What happened is that with the separation of mental and manual labour and with the development of class-caste society, human thinking started appearing as “pure reason” that took the “status of a delusional omnipotence having, as it were, the power to dictate terms to reality”. [9] Consequently idealism emerges from the ruins of proto-materialism. [10] The philosophy of dehavada had to die, for the myth of “Indian spiritualism” to be born. To understand this process and to understand ancient Indian materialism, one had to study the “connection between the archaic form of the social organization (gana) and an archaic form the materialist outlook”. [11]

Chattopadayaya in this sense is truly revolutionary in the sense of doing Indian philosophy. In transforming not only the terms and conditions of Indian philosophy, but transforming Indian philosophy altogether, he becomes both a Hegel and a Marx. He seeks the materialist roots of Indian philosophy. But in doing so, he is not involved in nostalgia and thus involved in “no simple “remembrance of things past”” to borrow a term of Raya Dunayaveksya from a different context [12].

In this sense one had to re-write Hegel’s History of Philosophy and Marx and Engels’ The German Ideology for an Indian context. His Lokayata. A Study in Ancient Indian Materialism becomes this New Text. In a certain sense he is raising questions on the nature of Marxist philosophy and science relating these to dialectical materialism and historical materialism. His main thesis that he follows from The German Ideology is:

The production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness, is at first directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse of people—the language of real life. Conceiving, thinking, the mental intercourse of men, appear at this stage as the direct efflux of their material behaviour. The same applies to mental production as expressed in the language of politics, laws, morality, religion, metaphysics, etc., of a people. Men are the producers of their conceptions, ideas, etc. — real, active men, as they are conditioned by a definite development of their productive forces and of the intercourse corresponding to these, up to its furthest forms. Consciousness can never be anything else than conscious existence, and the existence of men is their actual life-process. If in all ideology men and their circumstances appear upside-down as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life-process as the inversion of objects on the retina does from their physical life-process. [13]

And further:

In direct contrast to German philosophy which descends from heaven to earth, here we ascend from earth to heaven. That is to say, we do not set out from what men say, imagine, conceive, nor from men as narrated, thought of, imagined, conceived, in order to arrive at men in the flesh. We set out from real, active men, and on the basis of their real life-process we demonstrate the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life-process. The phantoms formed in the human brain are also, necessarily, sublimates of their material life-process, which is empirically verifiable and bound to material premises. Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence. They have no history, no development; but men, developing their material production and their material intercourse, alter, along with this their real existence, their thinking and the products of their thinking. Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life. In the first method of approach the starting-point is consciousness taken as the living individual; in the second method, which conforms to real life, it is the real living individuals themselves, and consciousness is considered solely as their consciousness. [14]

And then:

Where speculation ends — in real life — there real, positive science begins: the representation of the practical activity, of the practical process of development of men. Empty talk about consciousness ceases, and real knowledge has to take its place. When reality is depicted, philosophy as an independent branch of knowledge loses its medium of existence. At the best its place can only be taken by a summing-up of the most general results, abstractions which arise from the observation of the historical development of men. Viewed apart from real history, these abstractions have in themselves no value whatsoever. They can only serve to facilitate the arrangement of historical material, to indicate the sequence of its separate strata. But they by no means afford a recipe or schema, as does philosophy, for neatly trimming the epochs of history. On the contrary, our difficulties begin only when we set about the observation and the arrangement — the real depiction — of our historical material, whether of a past epoch or of the present. The removal of these difficulties is governed by premises which it is quite impossible to state here, but which only the study of the actual life-process and the activity of the individuals of each epoch will make evident. We shall select here some of these abstractions, which we use in contradistinction to the ideologists, and shall illustrate them by historical examples. [15]

While Marx and Engels here talk of “real, positive science” it is in no way to be confused with positivism and the search for an ideal “scientific” method modeled after the ideology of the natural sciences operating in industrial capitalism that developed in West Europe with the emergence of capitalism. One does not scramble Marxism in the frying pan of bourgeois ideology. Marxism, after all, is no scrambled egg. One thus does not have to confuse a critical knowledge of reality with instrumental reason. Instead it is better to talk of what Marx in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 talked of “human natural science” (die menschliche Naturwissenschaft) which is at the same time the “natural science of humanity” (die natürliche Wissenschaft vom Menschen). [16] One has to develop this “science of humanity” (Wissenschaft vom Menschen) [17]. Humanity as humanity is the basis of Marxist inquiry. The historicization and humanization of knowledge and reality is its leitmotiv.

It is from this epistemic nodal point that one can understand how Indian philosophy is made to appear as idealistic and spiritualistic. Have a look at the relation of this alleged idealism and spiritualism with the retardation of the sciences which inevitably retarded the development of forces of production and crystallized the apartheid caste system:

The ideological hegemony of Brahmanism contributed to the stagnation of Indian society, not just by preventing a revolt of the exploited classes; it did so in another way as well, which E.M.S. Namboodiripad elaborated somehow later, basing himself on the work of the Marxist philosopher, Debiprasad Chattopadhyay. And it was by arresting the growth of science and technology, and hence of the productive forces beyond a point. Chattopadhyay had argued that the triumph of Brahmanism under Adi Shankara represented not only a reinforcement of the caste-system in the country, but a demise of science and hence of advances in technology. Paradoxically according to Chattopadhyay, the much celebrated triumph of Adi Shankara was the harbinger of a dark age when India lost the edge it had in scientific advances in mathematics, astronomy and other branches of learning, because of both the ideological and social implications of the triumph of idealism over materialism; and since, as Lenin said in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, a scientist must be a materialist in practice, this represented a setback to science, and hence to technological advance. Socially, since the practitioners of technology, the artisans and craftsmen, were those who typically belonged to the “lower castes”, the counterrevolution ushered by Adi Shankara means a social downgrading, and hence implicit devaluing, of technological advances [18].

What Brahmanism did was that it created the pyramidal model as the ruling ideology of India which downgraded the artisans who were the practitioners of technology along with the downgrading of their scientific practice. And it is this Brahmanical Overlordship which defeated the oppressed people and constituted a victory of idealism over materialism. It also laid the fertile ground for the lethargy and sluggishness of Indian civilization. And this lethargy with its ideology of spiritualism seeped to all sections of society. It “pervades everywhere and...regulates the thoughts and deeds of all classes [19] as the celebrated democrat B.R. Ambedkar once put it. It then became “messianism of backwardness”. [20]

The drastic thing what this idealism and anti-materialism did was it created a sophisticated Ideological State Apparatus to subdue the masses. For it created what I call after Marx as the “abstract mind” and “estranged mind” which is involved in “alienated thinking”. [21] Idealism in India is not merely an epistemological error; it is not merely a conspiracy of the ruling elites. As “alienated abstract thinking” [22] it creates a philosophical neurosis and psychosis a neurosis and psychosis which have now turned into the mass psychology of fascism. And it is to this neurosis-psychosis which has now become fascist that I turn to.

Philosophy and the Problem of Neurosis-Psychosis.

In two essays, ‘Neurosis and Psychosis’ and ‘Loss of Reality in Neurosis and Psychosis’, Sigmund Freud outlined his theory of neurosis and psychosis. [23] According to him, neurosis implies the eternal recurrence of the self-same trauma, while psychosis means the complete loss of reality. For Freud, as was for classical psychoanalysis, neurosis and psychosis are two separate “stages” of mental trauma.

In contrast to these two “stages”, what I am doing is claiming that there is something called “neurosis-psychosis” where both neurosis and psychosis collide. When Marx is talking of the idealism of Hegel as best represented in the form of the “estranged mind” [24], what I am doing is depicting this “estranged mind” as neurosis-psychosis. And if I am depicting this “estranged mind” as neurosis-psychosis, I am furthering this idea and claiming that Indian idealism as an essential part of world idealism now appears as “ethno-philosophy” namely not philosophy as philosophy that loves wisdom and is involved in the quest for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is thus not philosophy as philosophy or the art of scientific analysis which is important. It is not reason and the quest for human freedom which are important. Instead as ethno-philosophy and the speech-act of the Brahman which creates the hierarchical caste system placing each individual in the gradation system of good and evil, pure and polluted, reverence and contempt, it is realized not merely as irrationality but as neurosis-psychosis. And it is this neurosis-psychosis which forms the essential base of Indian idealism. Indian idealism seeks transcendental universals, but condemns humanity into the most brutal forms of estranged particularities. Indian idealism that seeks universals and hides desperately the reality of the caste system is in a certain sense like Western Reason that is “never done talking of Man, but yet murder men everywhere they find them.” [25]

And in the age of late imperialism in permanent crisis and with mass hysteria taking the form of the hysterical and terrible sublime, the question of Indian idealism and so-called “spiritualism” takes even more important form. How Indian idealism is now transfigured as the “terrible sublime” is something to be critically analyzed. It was in an essay ‘Fascism and Indian Philosophy’ published in Mainstream, that I talked of the “terrible sublime”. [26] Philosophy as an academic exercise that was always found to be an innocent affair, actually takes this terror-ridden form. For one it refuses to engage with reality. It is caught in its own psychotic world where the Brahman teacher teaches his Brahman students the spiritual character of, if not all reality, then at least “Indian reality”.

Meanwhile the fascist mob not only unleashes violence, it seeks to justify the same in the name of spiritual nationalism. Would this justification appear in the form of “ideology” even “philosophy”, in fact, as “Indian philosophy”? Would then this “Indian philosophy” be in rage against democracy, humanism and the spirit of free scientific inquiry? What would Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Gandhi and Radhakrishnan do when they know that their “God-seeking” and the “seeking of spirits” have become totally fascist?

It is Perry Anderson in his The Indian Ideology who articulates how the edifice of “Indian ideology” was constructed by Gandhi and Nehru and the detrimental impact that this had for the growth of democracy in India. Gandhi created both the “Hindu demography” and the “spiritual demography”. In this he broke the unity of the popular classes as also broke the vitality of class struggle.

While Anderson’s work has been critiqued by three Indian scholars (Partha Chatterjee, Nivideta Menon and Sudipta Kaviraj) the issue that Anderson is raising is of fundamental importance. In a way it echoes the concerns that Ambedkar had raised throughout his life, namely that without a systematic critique of this alleged “spirituality” of Indian civilization (especially Hinduism) there could be absolutely no possibilities of evolving any form a democracy. For him the end result would be theological totalitarianism and the governance of the Caste Oligarch.

In order to understand the dangers of the theory of “Indian spiritualism”, let us look at a liberal reading of this “spirituality of Indian philosophy” from Radhakrishnan:

The Western mind lays great stress on science, logic and humanism. Hindu thinkers as a class hold with great conviction that we possess a power more interior than the intellectual by which we become aware of the real in its intimate individuality, and not merely in its superficial or discernible aspects. For the Hindus a system of philosophy is an insight, a darshana. To know God is to become divine, free from outside influence. [27]

The fact that to be “free from outside influence” echoes Freud’s understanding of psychosis as the “complete withdrawal from reality” must be mentioned. While one could debunk this spiritualist type of thinking that has emerged from the cranium of the upper caste elites who have never labored for centuries and then created the fiction of divinity, it is extremely necessary to relate this with right-wing anti-secularist imagination. Let me relate this with an Iranian fundamentalist anti-secularist point of view. The writer is a celebrated Iranian philosopher and incidentally the teacher of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the ex-president of the Islamic Republic of Iran:

Notwithstanding the roots of Westoxication in Greek philosophy and its 2500 years of history, its specific and predominant form has emerged with the Renaissance. With the appearance of Westoxication, the old form of history is abolished and a new man is born who is no longer submissive to the Haqq. (Haqq here in the present Iranian sense is primordial Being in the Heideggerean sense, or to be precise, estranged and despotic Being. It ought not to be confused with the Sufi use age of Haqq (as ‘truth’, ‘right’, ‘authentic’). My insertion. M. J.). He forgets the Haqq so that he can replace Him to expropriate the earth and the heavens.......The freedom of religious beliefs in the Declaration of Human Rights means alienation from religion; it means leaving the individuals to their own devices so that they may do whatever they want with religion in their private lives and have any religion they want... Modern man sees his own image in the mirror of Haqq and instead of entering into a covenant with Haqq,has entered into a covenant with himself. Therefore it is inevitable and natural that such a man would turn his back to religion and cover up his actwith claims to nationalism, internationalism, liberalism, collectivism and individualism. [28]

Thus when one is critiquing this rage of idealism and spiritualism in an Indian context one must note that the problem is universal—global idealism which has become extremely reactionary. It ceases to be creative. It has necessarily turned into this estranged mind that has succumbed to neurosis-psychosis. A counter-narrative has to be produced. And this counter-narrative has to be essentially materialist.

For Marx, however, materialism is dialectical, as well as naturalist and humanist. [29] Marxism cannot be in any form of take the form of an unthought materialism. As Marx once so famously said:

The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism — that of Feuerbach included — is that the thing, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object or of contemplation, but not as sensuous human activity, practice, not subjectively. Hence, in contradistinction to materialism, the active side was developed abstractly by idealism — which, of course, does not know real, sensuous activity as such. Feuerbach wants sensuous objects, really distinct from the thought objects, but he does not conceive human activity itself as objective activity. Hence, in The Essence of Christianity, he regards the theoretical attitude as the only genuinely human attitude, while practice is conceived and fixed only in its dirty-judicial manifestation. Hence he does not grasp the significance of “revolutionary”, of “practical-critical”, activity. [30]

Thus the attempt to create a materialist thinking needs a creation of a New Materialism. It most certainly cannot take the form of Old Materialism with its “reflection theory” that was championed by Stalinist USSR. For Marx, as the above quote goes, materialism (as Old Materialism) succumbs to contemplation, while idealism grasps action, however only in the form of phantasmagorical action, action that has gone haywire, or should one say idealism that has become fascist. And Marxism can never become contemplative. Never, ever. Because if this happens, the triumph of fascism is inevitable.

Philosophy and Fascism

Many Marxists, especially the academic socialists, have been studying fascism. Some (like Prakash Karat the ex General Secretary of the CPI(M) who imagines that fascism has not yet arrived in India because finance capitalism has not become dictatorial [31]) are even are awaiting its appearance. But they have never asked: “Is fascism only a European phenomenon of developed and decayed capitalism, governed by the most reactionary form of dictatorship of finance capitalism, or is there something more to fascism? How does one theorize on fascism in Asia in general and India in particular? Further, is liberalism in India an innocent affair or has it helped the rise of fascism in India? Would not the finger of suspicion be pointed to Gandhi who repressed all revolutionary thinking and action? Was Gandhi then not merely a reactionary who simply refused to think (as Ambedkar put it [32]) or was he a crypto-fascist with his bringing religion into the political domain, his obsession for the defense of the caste system and his experiments with mysticism? Or was he merely a “conservative democrat” as Christophe Jafferlot thought? [33]

I have deliberately recalled Gandhi here as an exemplar of the counterrevolution in India since he is being resurrected by liberals and even by the established left to fight the rise of the extreme right in India. It is tragic as to what extreme the Official Marxist (OMs) can go. How could OM (Official Marxism) which at least had a vague idea, once upon a time, on the reactionary character of Indian idealism, could then they suddenly jump to the defense of Gandhi? I had said earlier in an article in this very journal how Irfan Habib, the celebrated left historian has now found the “genius of Gandhi”. [34] In this very same essay I had said that in contrast to this resurrection of Gandhi it is extremely necessary to highlight the extremely reactionary points of Gandhi which were extremely dear to him starting with his complete support for the caste system, contempt for the subaltern Dalits, defense of violence, prejudice against Muslims, complete support for the landlords and capitalists against peasants and workers and infantile understanding of Nazism including praise for Hitler.

What we are saying is that a philosophy needs to be created, a philosophy with a clear cut progressive and revolutionary worldview that is essentially materialist and which does not fall in the trap of any form of idealisms and spiritualisms. Note how Gandhi as the master of idealism and spiritualism espoused an extremely reactionary world view of creating an idealized and phantasmagorical Varna system which noted how “today castes have become mongrelized.... and (how) Varnas have disappeared”. [35] For him it was extremely necessary to recreate the caste system and the politics of blood and hereditary. Thus: “the beauty of the caste system is that it does not base itself upon distinctions of wealth possessions. Caste is but an extension of the principle of the family. Both are governed by blood and heredity”.  [36] Clearly there is a strong right-wing fascination for blood descent. Not only this, for Gandhi “the caste system has saved Hinduism from disintegration”. [37] Thus for him interdining and intermarriage are taboo, that they do not promote “national unity” [38]. Gandhi, on must note, related eating with excreting and said that just as one excretes in private, so too must one eat likewise. [39]

And to top it, for Gandhi, “Brahmanism owes its unrivalled position to its self-abnegation, its inward purity, its severe austerity—all these illumined by knowledge” [40] and “the law of heredity is an eternal law and any attempt to alter the law must lead us, as it has before led, to utter confusion”. [41]

If for Engels, Feuerbach signaled the “end” of classical German philosophy, in India, Gandhi represents the “end” of Indian idealism. Idealism cannot progress any further. Note what Ambedkar said about Gandhi, namely that he “prefers to follow the saints” insists on being “conservative with his reverence for consecrated notions”, “afraid that if he once starts thinking, many ideals and institutions to which he clings will be doomed” [42]. Gandhi for Ambedkar was totally against “independent thinking” for it “puts some portion of an apparently stable world in peril” [43]. He accuses Gandhi of “prostituting his intelligence to find reasons for supporting this archaic social structure of the Hindus” [44]. He is the most influential apologist of it, and therefore the worst enemy of the Hindus. [45]

One is intentionally raising these questions to study the relation between idealism in India that has now exhausted itself, and which can only become fascist and the role of Indian idealism and early Indian national movement in mobilizing public opinion which later became the mass psychology of fascism. Idealism of the Indian caste-based kind is out rightly reactionary through and through and Gandhi’s experiments with his alleged “truth” proved to be a total failure in raising democratic consciousness in the Indian masses. Note Gandhi’s strictures against Dalits getting knowledge, claiming that a Dalit is a “person without moral education, without sense, and without knowledge.” [46] One must note that when the great souls condemn entire working class population without sense and knowledge and when the organized left sleeps in its deep Stalinist slumbers, it is fascism that not only attracts the working classes, but actively nurtures them to become cannon fodder for rising fascism.

Indian philosophy and consequently philosophizing in India needs new grounds, New Materialism and a New Humanism where the flowers of humanity will be able to bloom. And for that it needs necessarily to become revolutionary. A counter-narrative of a New Materialism is necessary that goes into the social essence of society instead of being possessed by “spirits”. While Gandhi and Nehru could boast of the essential goodness of Hindu religion with its innate spiritual qualities, for Ambedkar, the most dire need is to transcend this very myth, for “Hindu religion does not recognize the principle of equality of social status”, instead it grades people according to the terrible scale of hatred and contempt. [47]

The hatred and contempt has now come. To counter this one needs a Radical Materialism that recognizes that humanity and nature stand at the core of all reality. Materialism thus has to rethink its project. It has to become philosophical, but then also has to leap outside into the real world.

It was Raya Dunayevskaya (the founder of Marxist Humanism) who had raised the pertinent question: “What to do the day after the revolution?” [48] She brings in Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Programme when Marx talked of a post-commodity world, a world that has no commodities, no value, no exchange value, no money, no capital and of course no state and warring nations. The problem is that the progressive democrats, anarchists, Stalinists, Trotskyites, Maoists, etc. have no clue to what has to be done the day after the revolution.

They claim to involve dialectics, but their dialectics is pseudo-dialectics. At best they can critique the disasters of capitalism, but they cannot say what supersedes capitalism. They can never critically negate and overcome capitalism by positing an authentic New Society.

Materialism, for Marx, deals with sensuousness and thus the sensuous human and natural world. The problem is that our Organized Left never bothered to understand this. So in the onslaught of the right, they cry out for help. According to their philosophy, materialism means dealing with “Matter”. But little did they realize that his would be as elusive as the “Spirit” of idealism.

And because of the metaphysics of the Organized Left who want to become “Marxists” without reading Marx, fascism with their “Matter” and “Spirit” have come. Fascism is in power and fascist consciousness is now creeping in the masses. Fascism essentially is based on hatred and contempt. And just as every fascism has its hatred, it likewise has it Auschwitz. The Nazis had it, The Yankees have it, the Taliban has it, the Proud Boys have it, Putin has it.... And since fascism is the most saleable commodity in the age of late imperialism in permanent crisis, it most certainly is being exported and imported in all countries of the world.

Maybe one cannot write poetry in the times on Auschwitz and the holocaust (as Theodor Adorno thought [49]), but one must write philosophy which grips the masses. And for this one has to reimagine the entire repertoire of the philosophical enterprise itself.

One has to raise the most burning questions of our times: “What is humanity and where is it heading? Are we heading to a collective Auschwitz where both “Matter” and “Spirit” would be laughing at us?”


[1Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya, Lokayata. A Study in Ancient Indian Materialism (New Delhi: People’s Publishing House, 1992), p. 230.

[2Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German ideology (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976), p. 44.

[3Ibid., pp. 44-5.

[4Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya, op. cit., p. XXII.

[5Ibid., p. XXI.

[6Ibid., pp. XX-XVI.

[7Ibid., p. XX, XXI.

[8Ibid., p. XXI.

[9Ibid., pp. XXII_XXIII.

[10Ibid., p. XXIII.

[11Ibid., p. 228.

[12Raya Dunayevskaya, Philosophy and Revolution (New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1982), p. 26.

[13Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German ideology, p. 42.

[14Ibid.

[15Ibid., p. 43.

[16Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1982), p. 99; Karl Marx, ‘Ökonomisch-Philosophische Manuskripte’, in Die Frühschriften (Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner, 2004), p. 318.

[17Ibid.

[18See Patnaik, Prabhat, ‘E.M.S. Namboodiripad’s Perception of History’, in The Marxist, XXV, 3-4 July-September, 2009, pp. 5-6.

[19B.R. Ambedkar, ‘Capitalism, Labour and Brahmanism’, in Thus Spoke Ambedkar. Vol. I. A Stake in the Nation, ed. Bhagwan Das (New Delhi: Navayana, 2010), ed. Bhagwan Das, p. 51.

[20Leon Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, trans. Max Eastman (London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1934), p. 28.

[21Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, p. 129.

[22Ibid.

[23See ‘Neurosis and Psychosis’ and ‘Loss of Reality in Neurosis and Psychosis’, trans. James Strachey in On Psychopathology. The Penguin Freud Library (London: Penguin, 1993).

[24Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, p. 129.

[25Raya Dunayevskaya is quoting Franz Fanon here. See her Philosophy and Revolution, p. 284.

[26See my ‘Fascism and Indian Philosophy’, in Mainstream, VOL LIII No 46, November 7, 2015

[27S. Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosophy (London, 1933), See also Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya, IndianAtheism (New Delhi: People’s Publishing House, 2008), p. 12.

[28See my The Seductions of Karl Marx (Delhi: Aakar Books, 2010), p. 208. Riza Davari-Ardakani, Inqilab-I Islami va Vaz’-I Kununi’ Alam [The Islamic Revolution and the Current Conditions of the World] (Tehran: Markaz-e Farhangi-I Alame Tabatabai, 1982). Quoted in Farazin Vahadat, ‘Post-Revolutionary Islamic Discourses on Modernity in Iran: Expansion and Contraction of Human Subjectivity’, in International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 35, Nov. 2003, No. 4, pp. 605, 610.

[29See Karl Marx, op. cit. p. 90.

[30Karl Marx, ‘Theses on Feuerbach’, in Marx. Engels. Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), p. 28.

[31Prakash Karat, ‘Know Your Enemy’, in The Indian Express, September 6, 2016. See also Jairus Banaji’s response ‘Stalin’s Ghost Won’t save us from the Spectre of Fascism: A Response to Prakash Karat’, in Mainstream, Vol. LIV, No. 40, September 24, 2016.

[32B.R. Ambedkar, ‘Reply to the Mahatma’, in The Essential Writings of B.R. Ambedkar, ed. Valerian Rodrigues (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2008), p.318.

[33Christophe Jafferlot, India’s Silent Revolution. The Rise of the Low Castes in North Indian Politics (New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2003).

[34See my ‘Gandhism and Marxism’, in Mainstream, Vol. LIX, No. 46, October 30, 2021. See also Irfan Habib, ‘Gandhiji’, in Gandhi Reconsidered (New Delhi: Sahmat, 2018), p. 19.

[35M.K. Gandhi, ‘Answer to Questions at Gandhi Sava Sangh Meeting. Brindaban—II’, May 6, 1939 in Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 75, p.346.

[36M.K. Gandhi, ‘Caste Versus. Class’, Young India, December 29, 1920, in Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 22(Ahmedabad: The Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1966), p. 154-5.

[37M.K. Gandhi, ‘The Caste System’ (1920) Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 19(Ahmedabad: The Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1966), p. 83. See also Perry Anderson, The Indian Ideology (Gurgaon: Three Essays Collective, 2012), p. 37, n. 40.

[38See B.R. Ambedkar, ‘Gandhism’ in The Essential Writings of B.R. Ambedkar, ed. Valerian Rodrigues (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 151.

[39Ibid.

[40M.K. Gandhi, ‘The Congress and After’, Young India, 5 January, 1922, in What is Hinduism? (New Delhi: National Book Trust, 2011), p. 15.

[41M.K. Gandhi, ‘The Caste System’ (1920), in Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 19(Ahmedabad: The Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India:, 1966), p. 84.

[42B.R. Ambedkar, ‘Annihilation of Caste’, in The Essential Writings of B.R. Ambedkar, ed. Valerian Rodrigues in The Essential Writings of B.R. Ambedkar, ed. Valerian Rodrigues, p. 318.

[43Ibid.

[44Ibid.

[45Ibid.

[46M.K. Gandhi, The Bhagavad Gita (Mumbai: Jaico Publishing House, 2017), p. 3.

[47B.R. Ambedkar, What Congress and Gandhi have Done to the Untouchables. Mr. Gandhi and the Emancipation of the Untouchables.DrB.R. Ambedkar. Writings and Speeches, Vol. 9 (Mumbai: Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Source Material Publication Committee, 2016), p. 109.

[48Raya Dunayevskaya, ‘The Year of Only Eight Months’ (1987), in Supplements to the Raya Dunayevskaya Collection, p. 10690. Also see Peter Hudis and Kevin Anderson, ‘Introduction. Raya Dunayevskaya’s Concept of the Dialectic’, in The Power of the Negative. Selected Writings on the Dialectic of Hegel andMarx, ed. Peter Hudis and Kevin Anderson (Oxford: Lexington Books, 2002), p. XXXIII.

[49Theodor Adorno, ‘Cultural Criticism and Society’, in Prisms, trans. Samuel and Shirley Weber (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1981), p. 34.

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