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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 1, December 22, 2012 [Annual 2012]

Marxism and Aggression

Thursday 3 January 2013, by S.A. Dange


Mainstream has put to me the question: How is it that a Socialist country can commit aggression?

The question is quite natural and legitimate. It arises from the fact of history itself.
Way back in 1959 when we were confronted with the beginnings of the India-China border clashes, the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of India at its Calcutta meeting held the opinion that a Socialist country, like China, cannot commit aggression, and a free democratic India does not want to launch a war.
Now, three years after that, the National Council of our Party states that China has committed aggression. Does this not show that the theory of Marxism-Leninism has gone wrong?

Some people, in fact, take special pleasure in saying that in the present clash between India and China, Marxism-Leninism has become a casualty.
Some people might ask whether in such strenuous times, it is necessary to raise questions of abstract theory.

I think it is necessary. Problems of war stimulate problems of theory in all fields and become its testing ground.

Testing Ground

With Communists, as everyone knows, every-thing has to proceed on the basis of theory and its application. Even our opposites, the bourgeoisie, has also its theory of development. Without theory, practice becomes blind. But sometimes even with correct theory, practice goes wrong.

A Socialist system does not require aggression for its growth and for solving its problems of social reconstruction. Why? Because the abolition of capitalism and the transfer of the means of pro-duction like factories to social ownership and land to cooperative ownership enable it to do away with those problems, which are part of the capitalist system—problems of markets, overproduction, unemployment, rising prices, etc., which are inherent in the capitalist system. These problems force capitalism to undertake conquests of colonies, markets, etc., that is, to resort to aggression. A Socialist system does not need such solutions and hence aggression is not in its nature. That is the theory.

But in practice, aggression has taken place. Why? If the theory is right, why has practice gone wrong? If practice is at fault, why is it so?

This is a question which really requires a longer discussion. But a few things can be said.

The Chinese theoreticians seem to hold that it is the duty of a Socialist state to claim every inch of land which any of its preceding rulers may have held or laid claim to, as part of their domain! It does not matter whether the predecessor was a slave-owning or feudal emperor or a warlord. They seem to hold that it is the inherent duty of a Socialist state to inherit or complete the geogra-phical national form of the state which history enabled it to possess. Hence the Chinese insistence on the old maps of all its old emperors. Excessive obsession with past national glory and history and a fanatic ambition to restore what it considers its historical geographical national-state form, irres-pective of its feudal-imperialist origins and trappings, have led the Chinese leadership to ignore the other aspects of Socialist theory of the present epoch—such as peaceful coexistence of states with different social systems, the anti-imperialist role of newly-liberated countries, the problems of preserving peace and preventing war.

Knowing that they are guilty of falling into the clutches of chauvinism (not patriotism), they want to satisfy their Socialist conscience and that of others by creating a terrific din over the “imperia-list”, “illegal”, origin of the McMahon Line; then another din, alleging that India is “pro-imperialist”, “expansionist” and hence “aggressive” against peaceful China. The “aggressor” must be fought, hence the march over the Himalayas and threatening the plains of NEFA and Assam. The disputed border-lines are left far behind.

The theory of Marxism-Leninism, in the initial stages after the Chinese revolution, in which our whole country rejoiced, brought them to the positions of “Panch-sheel”, which constitute the essence of what state relations should be between states with different social systems, particularly between a Socialist state and a newly independent bourgeois-democratic state.

Theory and Chauvinism

But practice went severely wrong and now threatens even world peace, by the theory being overcome by sentiments and emotions of chau-vinism, something of Bonapartism, which is incom-patible with Socialism. That happens when a proletariat is not strong enough in the social forces of a country that is just stepping out of feudalism and bureaucratic capital. Even in bourgeois theory and practice, bureaucratic capital never shows the wider visions of anti-imperialist thinking of national industrial capital. Hence the representatives of the Chinese bourgeoisie and the Indian bourgeoisie have been many times poles apart in their attitudes in the anti-imperialist period. This is a line of argument worth looking into when time and circumstances permit.

I have raised this subject because both India and China have developed theory over the ages and different periods of history. Man, anywhere, anytime, cannot live without theory, that is, philosophy. That is why Nehru is described as a philosopher-politician while some are only politicians.

Hence to Marxist-Leninists of Socialism, however much abused today, have to think in terms of philosophy. And war and war-tensions make men think more of philosophy, if not while it is on, surely after it is over. Asoka found his great humanism after the carnage of the Kalinga War and corrected himself even on his Emperor’s throne. Attila and Asoka looked at war differently. So does our Socialism of the new epoch, when preserving peace and preventing world war, become the paramount duty. But Socialism of the Chinese leadership does not think that way. Hence, I think, their wrong practice, so harmful to the working of the working class of the whole world.

(November 24, 1962)

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