T G Jacob’s questions on people’s politics in India – Part II

Left to right T G Jacob

A few pieces of rock

T G Jacob’s comment – “communists all over the world have failed to evolve an alternative system of development even after revolutions” in the “nature versus capital” section of the chapter needs reexamination, as i) all initiatives in post-revolutionary societies weren’t a blanket case; and ii) there’re a few more facts that talk differently. Realities in the post-revolutionary societies that is the reality the revolutionary leadership had to face in respective societies are to be considered. For example, Charles Bettelheim refers to many developments in post-revolution Soviet Russia, of which only a few are cited below:

i) “In practice, the class struggle led the Bolshevik Party in 1918 to apply, or try to apply, two variants of the same fundamental conception of ‘state capitalism under the dictatorship of the proletariat.’” (Class Struggles in the USSR, first period: 1917-1923, Monthly Review Press, New York and London, 1976, translated by Brian Pearce)

ii) “Lenin also put forward other arguments which presented state capitalism not as a ‘stage’, but as a policy justified by the isolation of the Russian Revolution and the need to mark time, while holding on to power […]” (ibid.)

iii) “These […] aspects of state capitalism deserve all the more attention because they were to persist when Soviet Russia entered what Lenin called a new phase of ‘retreat’ […]” (ibid.)

iv) “The task of transforming social relations under the dictatorship of the proletariat was all the harder to tackle because, in this field, the Bolshevik party lacked the benefit of any previous experience.” (ibid.)

v) “The magnitude and character of the party purge carried out in 1921 and continued in 1922 showed that the party was capable at that time of ridding itself of bourgeois elements on a mass scale. The purge, together with voluntary withdrawals, affected a quarter of the party membership of 1921, and the chief charges brought against those who were expelled were careerism, corruption, and joining the party in order to carry on counter-revolutionary activities. [Other principal charges included passivity, religious practices and drunkenness.] [….] [The figures related to the purged members] “show both the extent to which the composition of the party had deteriorated and the capacity it still possessed for eliminating dubious elements from its midst. […] [E]xtensive help from the masses was not sought in the way Lenin had often suggested, the party purge remained very incomplete, and, above all, it failed to alter the bourgeois political relations existing within itself [….] Lenin […] in 1922 […] said that, where the bureaucratic machine was concerned, he doubted, that the Communists were ‘directing’, and even thought they were ‘being directed’.” (ibid.)

These, the reality, are only a few from Bettelheim’s nearly 40 years’ of study of the Soviet Russia that began since the mid-1930s, and presented in volumes. Further findings show more problems the proletarian revolution was dealing.

A search through the background of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution under Mao helps comprehend the reality the CPC was going through in the vast expanse of China. Mao’s “On the ten major relationships” (Selected Works of Mao Tsetung, Foreign Languages Press, Peking [Beijing], China, 1977) helps realize the reality a people’s politics/political power aimed for elimination of exploitation-based society/relations face in a certain country with certain historical-social characteristics.

Therefore, the conclusions that can be drawn include:

i) No straight/linear verdict on revolutions by the working classes should be delivered.

ii) No conclusion with a blanket fashion should be drawn.

iii) No conclusion based on a short span of time should be drawn as class struggle moves with many turns.

iv) Setbacks in politics/political struggle of the working people don’t nullify the philosophy, ideology, politics and working people’s class war for political power and radical change of all exploitative relations, as that’s the all encompassing requirement for a humane society, as no other philosophy, ideology and politics stand for elimination of all tools/means/modes of exploitation. T G Jacob’s observation – “Post-revolutionary societies like those of Russia and China throw up even more serious methodological issues concerning social change” (“Concluding observations”, chapter vii) – is logical and proper.                                          

Internationalism questioned

The Left to Right, Decline of Communism in India, writes T G Jacob, “attempts to see through the nature of [proletarian] internationalism in practice and comes to the conclusion that this internationalism, both of the Russian and Chinese varieties, was phoney in nature and served the sectarian national interests of the respective communist parties and countries.” (“Introduction”)

This observation demands examination as there’re questions:

i) Were roles of those two parties, Communist Party of Soviet Union (CPSU) and CPC, regarding the people, people’s struggle, and proletarian politics in this subcontinent same all through the period – since 1917/1921/1923-’25-’26, etc.?

ii) Was the CPSU’s and the CCP’s position on colonialism in this subcontinent phoney and served their sectarian national interests?

His another assertion also demands examination: “Chinese Communist Party abundantly exposed itself as composed of diehard Han Chinese nationalists and imperialists through its internal and external policies during the lifetime of Mao itself […]” (ibid.)

Here also come the following questions:

i) How shall “nationalists” and “imperialists” be defined? To be an imperialist, there needs imperialist capital; and was there development of imperialist capital in China during the lifetime of Mao?

ii) Was role of/extending support by the CPC same like the imperialists regarding all the peoples’ anti-colonial, anti-imperialist struggles in many countries during the period Mao was leading the CPC? Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, and the Palestine people are a few of the names to be cited?

iii) What imperialist capacity did the CPC/the CPC-led state machine have at that time?

iv) How did the CPC-led state machine resolved border disputes with countries other than one?

These questions are part of finding facts, not marketing any party or state’s image.      

Dependency syndrome

However, on the question of communist movement in India T G Jacob’s following observation is undeniable:

A deep “dependency syndrome […] woven into the collective communist psyche in India. This is a question of fitting in available theories to subjective wishes, not developing theoretical contours on the basis of changing objective reality.” (ibid.) The dependency was on either pre-1990-Moscow or Peking [today, Beijing].

This was a major incompetence or failure of the Communist leadership in this subcontinent.

T G Jacob has more observations and questions fundamental, and bitter to a section in the pole of people’s politics busy with mechanical approach, in nature: “In the case of India, the manufactured concurrence about the ‘inevitability’ of a neo-liberal economic regime is just such an apology. The official Left is calculatingly part of this concurrence while the militant Left is still grossly wanting in realism. The stalemate encompassing the entire Left is crippling and self annihilating.” (“Concluding observations”) A number of points he raises in this chapter stand opposed to each other. 

His finding regarding the proletarian revolution in Russia’s role in the Central Asian territories (ibid.) needs re-examination.

“Concluding observations”, the last chapter of the 272-page book that discusses many parts of people’s politics in this land, caries many critical and questionable observations and queries, which T G Jacob could have substantiated in further works had he been with readers. But the scholar, ardent in presenting his reflections and comments, a number of which demand thorough examination and bear points to fundamentally differ, left us only a few seasons back.

Left to Right, Decline of Communism in India

by T.G. Jacob

First Published in July 2012

Published by Empower India Press 2/1A, Jungpura A, First Floor, Near Ram Tent House New Delhi – 110 014        

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