Demonetisation: Maturing Capitalism?

Pratyush Chandra

“…it is not a question of the higher or lower degree of development of the social antagonisms that result from the natural laws of capitalist production. It is a question of these laws themselves, of these tendencies working with iron necessity towards inevitable results. The country that is more developed industrially only shows, to the less developed, the image of its own future.” – Karl Marx (1)

“We do not think or plan in piecemeal, but in full-scale design. It is just that we are revealing our cards gradually…” – Narendra Modi (2)

The left-liberal intelligentsia in India is clearly in a quite precarious state, if it finds ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s criticism of demonetisation as the most competent response to the Modi Government’s move. The daily peddling by left social media activists of the criticisms that mainstream economists are making of demonetisation is a symptom of the Indian left’s lost confidence (if it ever had any). Even those who have come up with more erudite responses are lost in the grammar of the move — its immediate performance and effects — and have concluded that demonetisation is poor, bad and ignorant economics. Coming from a chaiwala, what else can it be!!!

In our view, Modinomics is a legitimate successor to Manmohanomics — it is a continuity entrenched in the dynamic needs of capitalist accumulation. Post 1990, India has seen governments of all colours, but the coherence of the Indian state has rarely faltered on the economic front. The rulers with all their electoral compulsions have succeeded in maintaining, if not accelerating, the neoliberal regime. However, this does not mean the political shade is merely external and cosmetic — politics in an electoral democracy is all about reshuffling social anxieties and interests in a manner that allows the state system to self-reproduce.(3)


Financial Expropriation and the Emergence of a Debtfare State

Demonetisation is a misnomer. It is not an attack on money by demonetising economies. Rather, it is a spectacular yet momentary unravelling and strengthening of the adamantine chain around so-called economic independence and growth in capitalism. In fact, it is a heightened expansion of money as financial and political-economic control. It is an effort to assess and consolidate the expanse of economic activities and transactions and thwart any possibility of parallel economic regimes. Delegitimising particular denominations of currency becomes a means to reclaim those activities, and reassert money as a universal measure of value, not as a means to autonomise particular levels of economy, by treating it as a mere facilitator of exchange or a means of hoarding. Money creates boundaries only to expand and cross them. Money measures the immeasurable, it equalises the most unequal. It institutes hidden connections between phenomena quite remote from one another — the vertical control however is revealed only at particular junctures of economic development through the action of state. In our opinion, demonetisation is an assertion of the universality of “universal equivalence”, i.e., money. This means consolidation of the linkages between layers of social relationships in the economy — strengthening of the neoliberal concentration and centralisation of capital.

There are two chief processes that define the neoliberal regime of capitalist accumulation, and demonetisation is remarkably connected with both of them. These processes are financialisation and informalisation, which in the present heat of the demonetisation debate, have been popularly dubbed as cashlessness and black/parallel economy respectively.

Financialisation has three main features. First, non-financial corporations increasingly financialise themselves, relying on retained profits and open financial markets for investments, rather than on banks. Even their wage bill “is frequently financed through the issuing of commercial paper in open markets.” Second, there is a restructuring of the banking operations by re-orienting them towards mediating “in open markets to earn fees, commissions and profits from trading”, on the one hand, and towards individuals/households “to obtain profits from lending but also from handling savings and financial assets”, on the other. With the active help of state through legislative measures and encouragement, the banks mobilise personal savings for peddling in stock markets.(4)

Lastly, and most importantly, in recent years “the personal revenue of workers and households across social classes” has been increasingly financialised. On the one hand, this specifically signifies that there has been a substantial increase in personal and household debts for various life needs – consumption, housing, health, education, etc. On the other hand, it shows there has been an expansion in the range of financial asset holdings — for medical and life insurance, pension and old-age benefits, various short- and long-term money market investments, etc. This relates obviously to a withdrawal of state-supported public provisions in the form of subsidies and direct benefits, and hence their privatisation. So, we find a tremendous increase in the involvement of banking and other financial institutions in mediating household consumption, while they have obtained a full freedom to channel “household savings to financial markets, thus extracting financial profits”.

Profiteering through financial transactions between banks and households has a predatory character. Profit here is not raised in the sphere of production, but through “the systematic extraction of financial profits out of the revenue of workers and other social layers”. This is what has been termed as “financial expropriation”. (5)

The current demonetisation move is nothing less than a full-scale financial expropriation in operation. The move has in one go forced small and big cash hoarders run to line up in the queue to reveal and officialise their savings. The government is not allowing these savers to exchange and repossess the whole amount of their savings in cash. This is not simply due to any unpreparedness or erratic behaviour on the part of the Indian state and Reserve Bank of India, as many have alleged. In fact, it is a remarkable move to institutionalise a financialised relationship between the banks and households. Of course, it is too early to judge if demonetisation has really succeeded in altering “nation’s conduct”. But its motive is pretty clear, as finance minister Arun Jaitley has time and again pronounced: “This one decision that has ensured that a lot of money has come into the banking system, a lot of informal savings have become formal now, and therefore, the tendency to invest these more formal savings in instruments that you keep an eye on is also increasing.” Demonetisation is a kind of encouragement to “ordinary citizens to channelise their savings into the market which indirectly would then contribute to the process of national development rather than be blocked only in dead assets”.(6)

Demonetisation is clearing the ground for a systematisation of “cannibalistic capitalism” in India by proliferating secondary forms of exploitation which are not directly linked to production but are financial mechanisms to expropriate. The Indian economy is massively based upon underemployed and under-waged surplus population that constitute the unorganised and informal labour relations. This makes it a very fertile ground for cannibalism that marked the US economy, which was based on the proliferation of various financial mechanisms of expropriation — nay, a financial inclusion of the hitherto excluded. In fact, we see in this move of demonetising specific denominations of the currency an emergence of the debtfare state.

Susan Soederberg defines a debtfare state as one that “legitimates, normalizes, depoliticizes and mediates the tensions emerging from cannibalistic capitalism”. It deregulates finance and provides legal machinery to protect and strengthen banks, thus facilitating an intensification and expansion of “forms of predatory practices.” The debtfare state enhances “the social power of money by legally and morally permitting credit card issuers (banks) to generate enormous amounts of income from uncapped interest rates and by continually extending plastic money to those who fall within Marx’s category of the surplus population: the partially employed (underemployed) or wholly unemployed”. The impact on the labour regime is also significant as “surplus workers” are subjected “to the disciplinary requirements of the market, such as compelling them to find and accept any form of work to continue to be “trustworthy” creditors”.(7)

Demonetisation in 2016 might mark a drastic emergence of a full-scale debtfare state by financially including the massive community of unbanked individuals and households through mobile, e-payment and plastic money. However, this has not happened suddenly. The insistence of the subsequent governments to profile Indian citizens through a unique identification system called AADHAAR and linking it with their everyday economic activities, despite the Indian judiciary pronouncing such moves illegitimate, was already an indication towards building a panopticon, which will make everybody useful and watched under the system. The banking and tax institutions had already started utilising this data. With demonetisation, now that the banks have acquired a full command over the finance of Indian households, a grand system of financial discipline and punishment can be effectively generated. With the proliferation of plastic and mobile/e-connections, our consumption and activities will be regulated, and we will pay for our own regulation.

This connects to the second aspect of neoliberalism, i.e. the process of informalisation, or the generalisation of informality destroying its sectoral and transitional character.


Informalisation and Consolidation

“With the junking of the old high-value currency, the parallel economy has become part of the formal system” – Arun Jaitley (8)

Everybody is talking about the impact of demonetisation on the informal sector, which is heavily dependent on cash transactions. But there is scarcely any analysis that shows how it is shaping the location of informality in the whole economy. Is it an end of informality — of the exploitation of cheap labour? Certainly not. It is an increase in the real subsumption of informality — it is a revelation that sectoral dualism sustained through segmented economies, if not fully illusory, is merely at the levels of appearance and form. The indirect exploitation of surplus population as cheap labour by capitalist firms by accepting the relative autonomy or sectoralisation of informality perhaps needs regimentation today to further expand capital accumulation. Through the so-called demonetization move, capital is arguably seeking to consolidate itself by vertically integrating the horizontalised relationship between formal and informal. It exposes the vulnerabilities of particular capitals seeking to hide their localised parallel levels accounted for in the official bookkeeping only as leakages in the system.

Managing money circulation is about networking and facilitating economic activities and transactions — production and circulation. The left-liberal intelligentsia, including many “Marxists”, are only talking about the impact of demonetisation as immediately experienced. At best, they are prognosticating a dampening of activities and demands, which will have adverse effects on growth. They are only remotely touching on the policy’s essential connection with the changing contours of the regime of accumulation. Leftists are right in noting the impact of demonetisation on the informal sector, but they have been unable to account for how it is shaping the regime in which informalisation is central.

It has been frequently noted, and quite rightly, that under neoliberalism the economy moves towards informalisation. The formal sector and employment are not growing, while informality is increasingly being embedded in the supply chains of the economy. That is why the informalisation of work processes is considered among the chief characteristics of the neoliberal economy.

As the informal sector has always thrived on surplus population exploited as cheap labour, “hiring-and-firing” is the norm there. What the pre-neoliberal phase had done was to secure an organised labour force that through its demand stability could sustain the domestic market. In many regions, however, a vast rural and urban informal sector was allowed to develop to reproduce surplus population. But the economic planning was avowedly geared towards formalisation. This vast surplus of labour and an increase in the organic composition of capital led to a crisis of the prolonged interregnum of planned capitalism, and a decline in the profitability rate. Technological transformations found the stable workforce in the so-called formal sector over-skilled and a hindrance to further accumulation. The formal sector was increasingly considered to be exclusionary unable to accommodate the growing surplus population allowing over-exploitative hidden economies to flourish. This led to an ascendancy of neoliberal market fundamentalism, which essentially attacked the formal-informal duality by legitimising informality. The aim was to take advantage of overpopulated living labour and utilise technological innovations that made skills redundant and required equi-skilled cogs in the wheel. Through initial structural adjustment programmes these surplus population-based informal sectors were linked with the formal corporate structures in the supply chain. In this scenario, instruments like the time-tested putting-out system, which capitalised and destroyed the old guild system, started becoming handy once again. It was through these instruments that cheap labour arrangements and regimes that existed locally were subsumed to avoid costlier and inflexible labour regimes that pre-neoliberal planning had generated.

However, despite the obvious hierarchical relationship between transnational corporate structures and local industrial set-ups that mobilised surplus labour, this relationship remained externalised becoming barriers to capitalist consolidation — concentration and centralisation of capital. Local laws that were promulgated to stabilise the labour force in the earlier regime became hurdles for capital mobility and accumulation in labour surplus economies. It was to avoid these hurdles that smaller and informal units were networked, but informalisation now has to be internalised and these units must be incorporated to survive intense competition. The parcellised production and distribution is not permanently beneficial. Also needed is “the concentration of already formed capitals, the destruction of their individual independence, the expropriation of capitalist by capitalist, the transformation of many small capitals into a few large ones”.(9)

Banking and finance that institutionalise the power of money facilitate the concentration and centralisation of capital today by regimenting individual capitals — big and small — and compel them to submit to the general needs of capitalist accumulation. The multiple layers of industrial forms — formal and informal — generate clogs in the real-time mobility of financialised capital. The informal set-up provides many smaller units with legal and trans-legal comparative advantages allowing them a kind of relative autonomy from legitimate competition. Being based on cash transactions they become autonomous from the institutionalised finance and public credit, while fully utilising the currency issued by these institutions. It was only through monetary and banking reforms that these economies could be contained within the structure.

We would do well to remember that one of the major battles capital has had to wage time and again is that of labour reforms. At the present juncture, especially in countries like India, numerous legal “number filters” have been imposed that grant smaller industrial units a freedom to disregard minimal labour standards, which bigger units have to at least legally maintain. Only by coordinating with these smaller units and utilising a labour contractual system the corporate sector could evade the imposition and draw the benefits. There has been a continuous demand to remove these filters, so that the benefits that the informal sector has — to openly exploit surplus population as cheap labour — could be generalised. Only through such generalisation can the processes of concentration and centralisation become effective.

Of course, the formal sector incorporated informal entities and relationships to evade the hazards of regulation. The way cheap labour-power was bought and exploited in the informal sector was an object of envy and is the benchmark for the formal sector entities to model the labour regime and demand for deregulation from the state. The state and the formal industrial regime have been long trying to achieve this. Despite being able to utilise informality to their advantage, the formal sector has been subject to humiliating bargaining tactics of smaller entities in the informal sector. The diverse local industrial regimes in which these entities function create difficulties for formal and bigger players in the value chains. Moreover, the ancillary interests are able to effectively compete with the corporate interests on the basis of their lower technical capabilities and cheap labour, thus leading to difficulties in the consolidation and centralisation of capital.

As labour reforms become more conflictual, with increasing defensive struggles of workers in the formal sector, monetary policies like demonetisation go a long way in regimenting “informal” and “small” capitalist interests. The wages of the unbanked population whom these entities have over exploited are all paid in cash. Demonetisation attempts to mobilise the advantages of these entities, which will now be totally subservient to formal processes. It is self-evident that any monetary tactic that affects cash flows would have an immediate effect on the cash-based informal economy. Amartya Sen is correct when he says, “At one stroke the move declares all Indians — indeed all holders of Indian currency — as possibly crooks, unless they can establish they are not.” (10) However, it is not totally wrong to say that a large section of this economy is always black as transactions and contracts there are not formally accounted for, and a substantial portion of income generated remains untaxed. But does this mean demonetisation will lead towards formality?

The notion of (in)formality is loaded with all kinds of connotations. And it is pretty confusing when we dichotomise formal and informal. In the production and distribution networks that define today’s economy we find this dichotomy resolved very efficiently. If legal systems tend to dampen flexible transactional and contractual relationships, informality (beyond the regulated formal relationships) seeps in to transcend rigidity. As a system, the formal-informal relationships constitute enormous value chains. However, if we discretise these relationships, it is not difficult to find clear examples of dichotomies in them, which actually define an intense competitive regime within the value chains — intra- and inter-sectoral competition. The entities in the informal zones of the value chain compete among themselves and also with entities in the formal zone.

Through demonetisation a process of verticalisation has been effectuated and the formal nodes would now act as concentration and centralisation of informal advantages. The state acting on behalf of capital in general is disciplining the devious and particularising nature of informality. Neoliberalism is a project to look after the general needs of capital in today’s conjuncture. Demonetisation is a decisive step in that direction.


Conclusion: Vulnerabilities

“…the magnitude of the global economic crisis at times is not felt in India because of strong (parallel) economy of black money.” – Akhilesh Yadav (11)

Post-2007-08, countries throughout the globe have been struggling to set their respective houses in order. That the so-called parallel cash-based economies in India cushioned the impact of the global crisis at the national level, acting as clogs that minimised the strains of the impact, is a strange truth. However, in order to sustain a higher growth these economies with their particularities will have to be incorporated into the formal system, and their comparative advantages annulled through their generalisation. What we see today is the neoliberal urge to mainstream and generalise informality and make it a ground for systematic capital accumulation, with concentration and centralisation as its vehicle. Hence, it is in this regard that the moves like demonetisation become effective instruments. But this would destroy the clogging effects of local and parallel economies. Hence, it would eventually minimise their ability to cushion against global vulnerabilities.


Notes and References

(1) Karl Marx, “Preface to the First German Edition,” Capital I, Collected Works, Volume 35, Progress Publishers, Moscow, p. 9.

(2) “Indira Gandhi lacked courage to demonetise, we are paying for it: Modi to his party MPs”, Indian Express (Dec 17, 2016).

(3) The political institutional ascendancy of rightwing jingoistic assertions is not any return to protectionism, rather it mobilises and productivises the general precarity to restrengthen neoliberalisation. By a reactionary generalisation of fear and terror that the mobility of capital and its crisis creates, it helps the system to reconsolidate its base against any radical statism and revolutionary anti-statism. The phenomena of Modi, Brexit, Le Pen and Trump will actually help in the final dismantling of the vestiges of older protectionist labour regimes in the name of making local economies and labour markets competitive, so that capital finds the locality docile for investment.

(4) Costas Lapavitsas (2013), “The financialization of capitalism: ‘Profiting without producing’”, City, Vol. 17 No. 6, pp 792–805.

(5) Ibid.

(6) “Demonetisation is changing nation’s conduct: Jaitley“, The Hindu (Dec 24, 2016).

(7) Susan Soederberg (2013)The US Debtfare State and the Credit Card Industry: Forging Spaces of Dispossession, Antipode Vol. 45 No. 2, pp 493–512.

(8) “Digital payments will help lower fiscal deficit: Arun Jaitley”, LiveMint (Dec 25, 2016).

(9) Karl Marx, op cit, p. 621.

(10) “Interview: Demonetisation move declares all Indians as possible crooks, unless they can establish otherwise, says Amartya Sen”, Indian Express (Nov 26 2016).

(11) “Black money helped Indian economy during global recession: Akhilesh Yadav”, Indian Express (Nov 15 2016).

Fascism or Dictatorship of Neoliberal Capital? The Need for a Correct Line

Pothik Ghosh

“While the democratic petty bourgeois want to bring the revolution to an end as quickly as possible, achieving at most the aims already mentioned, it is our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent until all the more or less propertied classes have been driven from their ruling positions, until the proletariat has conquered state power and until the association of the proletarians has progressed sufficiently far – not only in one country but in all the leading countries of the world – that competition between the proletarians of these countries ceases and at least the decisive forces of production are concentrated in the hands of the workers. Our concern cannot simply be to modify private property, but to abolish it, not to hush up class antagonisms but to abolish classes, not to improve the existing society but to found a new one.” Karl Marx, ‘Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League’, London, 1850

Undeclared emergency and other dangers of post-fascist neoliberal dictatorship

We are late, perhaps terribly so. Yet, insofar as the revolution always lags behind itself, we ought to emphatically state that the time is upon us when a correct characterisation of the political regime we are witnessing now, in this benighted geo-political entity called the Indian nation-state, has acquired life-and-death stakes. Let us not be mistaken, this political regime is not Fascism. It is something much worse and far more intractable. This regime, as we have maintained for a while now, is characterised by a hitherto unprecedented level of generalisation of the state of exception. Much more than what was seen in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, or Imperial Japan – to say nothing of Francoist Spain or Salazarian Portugal. This unprecedented level of generalisation, and thus normalisation, of the state of exception is on account of the neoliberal conjunctural specificity of post-Fordism-induced uncontrollable all-round precarity; and India’s historically unique location within it. That is exactly why we at Radical Notes will continue to characterise this political regime – which has now emerged as an agency of full-blown counter-revolution – as the dictatorship of neoliberal capital.

There is, however, no doubt that continual politico-ideological mass mobilisation is as crucial an aspect of this neoliberal dictatorship as it was of Fascist political regimes of yore. That is what distinguishes both from plain-vanilla authoritarianism – something this country experienced, for instance, during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency years. At the mass-mobilisational level, there is a striking resemblance of discursive forms, styles, techniques and tactics between the dictatorship of neoliberal capital and a classically Fascist political regime. Nevertheless, there is also a crucial distinction between the two on this count. And that difference is at the level of the modality of operation of those mass-mobilisational discursive forms, styles, techniques and tactics. As far as this political regime of dictatorship of neoliberal capital is concerned, its discursively fascist paraphernalia of mass mobilisation does not function by deploying and articulating the politico-ideological language of blood-and-soil nationalism to the complete exclusion of the liberal language of rights. The mass movement constitutive of it is, of course, characterised by a pronounced articulation and deployment of that idiom and form of blood-and-soil nationalism. But this language, in its mass-mobilisational deployment, does not seek to suspend the (nationalist)-liberal discourse of rights. Rather, the former in its deployment and articulation tends to derive its legitimacy from the latter precisely through its internally re-orientated mobilisation. It is this that distinguishes the modality of operation of fascist mass-mobilisational politics in the dictatorship of neoliberal capital from the modality of operation of similar forms of mass-mobilisational politics in Fascism as a political regime.

There is a telling symptom that indicates the current political dispensation in India is not classical Fascism but something far more insidious. Many people have correctly pointed out that we are in a state of undeclared emergency. But what does that mean and how does it symptomatise the fact that the current political regime here is not classical Fascism but something different and more dangerous? Fascist political regimes in the past have — in being constituted by Fascistic mass mobilisation and in further facilitating such mobilisation – invoked provisions of general Emergency given in liberal constitutionality to suspend both the latter, and the normalcy its functioning is meant to characterise and enable. What we, however, see now is the state of exception – which the current political regime and its constitutive Fascist mass mobilisation have been enabling – is being realised without the official declaration of such a general Emergency; and thus without invoking the exceptional constitutional provisions to suspend the Constitution in its normal-liberal functioning. That is so because normal constitutionality and liberals rights, in their everyday practice at all levels, are now objectively conditioned to inexorably activate and draw upon various draconian legal provisions of exception, and thus become registers of the latter’s normalised legitimation.

In such circumstances, it would perhaps not be entirely incorrect to characterise this political regime of dictatorship of neoliberal capital as “post-fascist” a la Hungarian philosopher G.M. Tamas. In an article titled, ‘On Post-Fascism’, which was published in Boston Review in 2000, Tamas characterises the phenomenon thus: “Post-fascism finds its niche easily in the new world of global capitalism without upsetting the dominant political forms of electoral democracy and representative government. It does what I consider to be central to all varieties of fascism, including the post-totalitarian version. Sans Führer, sans one-party rule, sans SA or SS, post-fascism reverses the Enlightenment tendency to assimilate citizenship to the human condition.”

Fascist mass mobilisation under the condition of unprecedented precarity

Now, the mass movement that institutes and animates Fascism as a political regime is, to speak a little simplistically, always in the register of disaffection wrought by subalternisation, and attendant experiences of marginalisation, even as the content that animates this register of its mass-movemental political form is actually all about some subalternised social locations and subject-positions seeking to overcome their subalternity by further oppressing other social locations and subject-positions that are even more subalternised in relation to them. That is precisely why such a political form of mass movementality renders the state an agency and active enabler of its oppressive manoeuvres (manifest in frequently violent eruptions of the lynch-mob), precisely in the process of emphatically envisaging itself in terms of opposition to the state, and especially its constitutionally-ordained liberal-institutional architecture.

Clearly, Fascism as a political regime is constitutive of the mobilisation of objective revolutionary possibilities, which inhere in increasing subalternisation of the masses, against the liberal form of the capitalist state precisely in order to reproduce that state by recomposing the political form of its embodiment. (The state, we would do well to realise here, is nothing but the institutionalised congealment of the value-relational grammar of social relations.) In this process, it cannibalises the earlier liberal-institutional form of the state. This unambiguously reveals why Fascism is a mystification of revolution and is, therefore, a counter-revolution.

Now all of this is equally true for the dictatorship of neoliberal capital – arguably the character of the current political regime in India. There is, however, one very important difference between it and a political regime that is classically Fascist. And the difference is this: both the (less) subalternised group of oppressors and the (more) subalternised group of the oppressed are, in this phase of the dictatorship of neoliberal capital, far less internally homogeneous and socially cohesive than they were in those moments of history when we had Fascism as a political regime. That is to say, the level and intensity of subalternisation of the masses as a whole is far greater now than in the conjuncture that gave us Fascism as a political regime. And this, as we have earlier observed, is on account of unprecedented increase in the level and intensity of overall precarity. Something that has been effected by a qualitative leap in productive forces, and which is conjuncturally characterised by the accelerating generalisation of Post-Fordism as the dispersal and fragmentation of the production process, intensified fragmentation of social labour, functional simplification of the labour process leading to a hitherto unprecedented increase in same-skilling, and direct productivisation of affective and emotional life.

What this has resulted in is not only a marked decline in the overall value of labour-power due to the diminishing of socially necessary labour time, but also a marked decline in the price of labour-power due to significant diminution of living labour employed directly in the creation of value. In simpler terms, what the latter amounts to is the following: increasing levels of automation (increase in organic composition of capital) has led to an unparalleled surge in supply in the labour market, thereby depressing the overall price of labour-power. This is reflected not only in wage-cuts – and/or decline in real wages – but also in the significant fall in various kinds of social wages as well. In fact, the systemic regimentation accomplished through increasing mutual competition among different segments and sections of productive and so-called unproductive social labour – something that is registered by the bloodthirsty politico-ideological forms of such competition – is nothing but an index of appropriation of social wages of some by others under the condition of overall decline in social wages.

That the level and intensity of subalternisation of the masses as a whole is far greater now than in the conjuncture that gave us Fascism as a political regime shows up as a significant difference between the two at the level of their respective political effects. While discussing the difference between Fascism and the dictatorship of neoliberal capital in terms of internal homogeneity and coherence of social groups of both the oppressor and the oppressed, the key word to be borne in mind is “less”. Only then can one clearly grasp the significant difference in political effects produced through the deployment of similar kinds of Fascist mass-mobilisational political forms and tactics in two conjuncturally distinct instances.

Anti-fascist united fronts: From instrumentalisation to oppression

Even in regimes that are classically Fascist, the (less) subalternised group of oppressors engaged in forging and articulating Fascist mass-mobilisational discursive forms and tactics, to further oppress the more subalternised oppressed, are by no means fully internally homogeneous and cohesive. There are way too many mutual contradictions among the various sections and segments supposedly constituting the Fascist social corporatist unity for them to actually be “fasces” (a bundle of sticks). In fact, the Fascist politico-ideological project is, in the first place, necessitated by the system– of course, in the absence of an effective and viable capital-unravelling politics – to preserve itself by regimenting and controlling the anarchy that it has itself produced. So, while Franco-Greek philosopher and militant Nicos Poulantzas showed us how Fascism is constitutive of a coherent articulation of different, and mutually contradictory, socio-historical locations; some Marxist and Functionalist historians of Nazi Germany have demonstrated the obverse of that phenomenon – how this united articulation is continually marred by the objective contradictions among its different constituents. The historiographic work done by Tim Mason is, in this regard, particularly important. In order to devise a strategy to effectively fight a counter-revolutionary, mass-mobilisational advance – whether it is articulated within a Fascist political regime or that of a post-Fascist neoliberal dictatorship – a dialectically inflected reading of both Poulantzas and the Functionalist-Marxist historians such as Mason is likely to be immensely helpful. In fact, such a dialectically articulated reading of Poulantzas and the Marxist-Functionalist historians is almost indispensable for those trying to devise an accurate line and an effective strategy to defeat and destroy the political regime of the dictatorship of neoliberal capital. The context provided by our concrete situation, it must be said once again at the risk of ad nauseam repetition, is one that is integral to just such a political regime.

Let us now focus on the struggles of the more subalternised oppressed against the Fascist mass-mobilisational forms and tactics of the relatively and relationally less subalternised oppressors. It turns out that such struggles, left to themselves, are prone to be instrumentalist. The internal differentiation of the oppressed social groups in Fascist political regimes often resulted in the dominant segments within those groups instrumentalising the particular concerns and discontent of the subordinate segments, by way of building a larger anti-Fascist unity, to envisage a politics that sought to merely accomplish the interests specific to the former. That, as we now know, turned out, in the final analysis, to be the bane of United Front/Popular Front anti-Fascism. Something that not only ensured that anti-Fascism did not become anti-capitalism, which would have destroyed both Fascism and its necessary condition of possibility at one go, but also led to incomplete de-fascisation of societies that had been under Fascist political rule.

The objective basis for such instrumentalist politics now stands further compounded due to conjunctural reasons of both intensified segmentation and heightened precarity of the segments thus produced. And such has been its accentuation that this instrumentalist politics has undergone a mutation to be transfigured into something qualitatively new. Whereas earlier movements based on the United Front/Popular Front principle of anti-Fascist unity led merely to instrumentalisation of subordinate segments by the dominant ones within that larger anti-Fascist unity of historical blocs, now such kinds of anti-Fascist unity ensure the movement itself ends up doing the work of not only ideological state apparatuses but of repressive state apparatuses as well.

Such anti-Fascist unity usually tends to articulate its struggle against Fascist mass-mobilisational politics, and the political regime that is its constitutive enabler, by internalising the discursive terms set by the reactionary politico-ideological project it is battling. As a result, such an anti-Fascist unity finds itself articulating and conducting its struggle in discursive-ideological terms generated by its political adversary. Now this has often been the case even with united-frontist anti-Fascist movements of the past. However, what makes this strategy even more troublesome now in this neoliberal conjuncture is that in articulating the politics of anti-Fascist unity in discursive-ideological terms set by Fascist forms and tactics of mass-mobilisational politics, it starts acting as a kind of extension of the repressive state apparatuses.

It is a situation, wherein a movement against reactionary-Fascist forms of mass-mobilisational politics not only polices its own ideological boundaries but, in the process, finds itself objectively (and eventually also subjectively) helping the state and its political regime to physically police certain sections and elements within itself even as it exists as an ongoing movement. Clearly, what we have here, as a consequence, is a manifold accentuation and intensification of the ‘kapo’ syndrome that is, thereby, rendered into something qualitatively new on account of it being much more pervasive and generalised than that kapo phenomenon originally was in Nazi Germany and elsewhere in Fascist Europe. So, while the trouble with movements based on such a conception of anti-Fascist unity, in the conjunctural phase of classical Fascism, was one of instrumentalism; in this conjunctural phase the problem with such united-frontist anti-Fascist movements is that their constitutive instrumentalism is now condemned to be almost immediately oppressive in its functioning. As a result, what was ethically undesirable and, in the final analysis, politically ineffective, about such anti-Fascist unity in the phase of classical Fascism, is now also rendered entirely unfeasible in this neoliberal phase. The resultant trust-deficit among diverse sections and segments, which are supposed to constitute such an anti-Fascist unity, tends to assume such gargantuan proportions that the actualisation of such unity either fails to take off, or, collapses after a very short and unhappy life. In fact, this kind of anti-Fascist unity, thanks to its current conjunctural situation, is not only condemned to be a form of subalternisation of some sections of the movement by other sections within it, but simultaneously also verges on the oppression of the former by the latter. In this, such anti-Fascist unity, as the movement-form it is, becomes an almost perfect mirror-image of the Fascist mass-mobilisational form of the reactionary political regime it is ostensibly up against. Not just that. This almost perfect mirroring of the Fascist mass-mobilisational form by the anti-Fascist movement-form renders the latter, just like the former, an extension of the political regime that is the conjuncturally-specific form articulating the epochal logic of the capitalist state. It is precisely on this count that the current political regime in India, which we have characterised as a post-Fascist neoliberal dictatorship, is fundamentally distinct from classically Fascist political regimes.

‘Progressive’ nationalism, the bad faith of JNU’s ‘anti-fascism’

The ongoing JNU movement is a perfect demonstration of such a united-frontist anti-Fascist strategy and its problems. It is, therefore, also a demonstration of the post-Fascist nature of both the current political regime of neoliberal dictatorship, and the discursively fascist forms of mass mobilisation such a regime is necessarily constitutive of. The JNU movement was evidently sparked off by state repression let loose on the left and left-liberal student community of the university after anti-India slogans were raised on campus by those aligned to the Kashmiri national-liberation struggle. And yet the movement began, right from the word go, by posing itself in defensive terms of ‘our’ progressive and democratic nationalism against ‘their’ reactionary and Fascist nationalism. That has, ever since the movement began, been the principal ideological basis of its larger, so-called anti-Fascist unity. That this ideological basis of JNU’s ‘anti-Fascist’ struggle has emerged from various kinds of ‘progressive’ nationalist positions that different Indian left organisations – of both the parliamentary and self-proclaimed radical kind – hold on to makes the situation even more despairing. It is this that has impelled the JNU movement to dispute the validity of the specific charges of anti-nationalism and sedition levelled by the current political dispensation (in tandem with its reactionary goon-squads) without, in any way, questioning the very validity of the draconian legal provisions on which those charges are based. In other words, the movement has consistently refused to adopt the tactics of directly challenging the democratic, and jurisprudential, validity of draconian laws of sedition.

Such tactics, had they been adopted and operationalised, would have revealed constitutionality for what it essentially is: a force-field of differentially inclusive social relations, and thus concomitantly a terrain constitutive of the determinate antagonism between the tendency of preservation/making of nationhood as an historical index of capitalist sociality, and the counter-tendency of its unraveling. This would have been accomplished because the adoption and operationalisation of those tactics would have served to disrupt the uneasy balance between constitutionality and draconian legality, which is its constitutive exception, by pitting them against one another.

What the JNU movement has done, instead, is insist that the levelling of charges of sedition and anti-nationalism at some members of its community of progressive students is baseless, and that the state should find the “miscreants” who really raised those anti-India (and Kashmiri national-liberationist) slogans and slap those charges on them. This it has done, as we have observed above, by strongly asserting the ‘progressive’ nationalism of the leftist and left-liberal students and teachers of the university against the reactionary and fascist nationalism of the current political regime and its mass-mobilised goon-squads. Apart from revealing that these leftists and left-liberals refuse to see how nationalism is the necessary ideological condition of possibility for Fascist mass-mobilisational politics, this ‘anti-Fascist’ movement has separated out both the Kashmiri and non-Kashmiri anti-nationalist sections of the university from its nationalist leftists and left-liberals.

The voice in which the movement continues to articulate this separation has, of course, not been homogeneous. There are various registers in this voice that range from despicable ambivalence on the question of the right to raise slogans in favour of national self-determination of Kashmir and other areas under Indian occupation to an unambiguous nationalist assertion that raising of such slogans is wrong, seditious and criminally anti-national. What, however, does bring all these registers — which ought to be ascribed to a wide variety of left and left-liberal positions – into the coherence of a single voice is the ineluctability of nationalism as the either the default, or the conscious, ideological position as far as all those groups and individuals are concerned. That their respective articulations of ‘progressive’ Indian nationalism varies from one another does not change the fact that there has been absolutely no practical questioning by any of them of the abstract idea of nation-state, which is basically a conception that in its concrete operation always amounts to one or the other form of social relations of differential subalternisation and oppression. As a consequence, these nationalist Leftists and Left-liberals have shown themselves to be incapable of interrogating each and every form of concrete politics, including their own, based on that idea. It is precisely this that has prevented all these sections of Indian Leftists, to say nothing of the individual Left-liberals, from adopting the tactics of directly questioning the democratic and jurisprudential validity of draconian and nationalistic legal provisions of sedition.

Not surprisingly, this ‘anti-Fascist’ movement has, as a result, clearly marked out the anti-nationalist radicals and/or “miscreants” from the nationalist ‘progressives’. By separating out the former from the latter, JNU’s glorious ‘anti-Fascism’ has ensured that it marks out and isolates the anti-nationalist radicals and/or “miscreants”– which includes in its ranks supporters of Kashmiri national self-determination among others – both ideologically and physically. By doing this it has clearly, and may we say, quite deliberately, served to legitimise, bolster, and even enable, the dogged pursuit of the anti-nationalist radicals by the repressive state apparatuses, and the Fascist lynch-mobs mobilised by the current political regime. That members of some of the self-proclaimed radical Left organisations – particularly, a rather media-savvy woman leader of one such ‘party’ – have at last begun talking about upholding the right to life and liberty of some of those anti-nationalist radicals is no cause for cheer.

Considering those so-called radical Leftists have come out with such declarations only after they have done their bit to conclusively forge the larger ‘anti-Fascist’ unity on a nationalist basis, it reveals the absolute bad faith that underpins those noble declarations. That they continue, as always, to hedge their bets on taking an unambiguously affirmative position on the question of Kashmiri national self-determination serves to further underscore this bad faith of theirs. Unfortunately, such declarations in favour of the anti-nationalist radicals by these so-called radical Leftists, given the timing and tenor of those declarations, amount to no more than cynically pragmatic manoeuvres to either further the cause of mechanical organisation-building or, worse; identity-management to bolster the student vote for the next JNSU elections.

In such circumstances, those declarations by some nationalist Leftists in favour of the anti-nationalist radicals would serve, at best, to objectively enable the disciplining of the latter by the former on behalf of the Indian nation-state. This would be exactly like the family, or civil-societal institutions, seeking to discipline their subversive members on behalf of the state while apparently protecting those members from the direct coercive disciplining by the repressive state apparatuses. At worst, and which is as likely as the best, it would result in those self-proclaimed radical Leftists facilitating the ‘surrender’ of those anti-nationalist radicals to the repressive state apparatuses without those apparatuses having to do much on that score. And not a thing stands changed by the fact that one of the prominent anti-nationalist radical students, who has returned to JNU after having remained ‘untraceable’ for almost a week, was apparently accorded a warm reception by the ‘#StandwithJNU’ movement, and was able to address the assembled university community from its platform.

Kashmir’s National Liberation and the Blindness of the Indian Left

The ‘progressively’ nationalist ‘anti-Fascism’ of the JNU movement demonstrates that its various nationalist Leftist and Left-liberal constituents have absolutely no understanding of how central the Kashmiri struggle against Indian occupation is to the revolutionary organisation of various working-class struggles in the Indian mainland. This also underscores their failure, actually unwillingness, to grasp how the movements of various nationalities against their occupation-induced integration into Indian nationhood is precisely what tends to integrate those movements with various mainland working-class struggles, which are also incipiently nation- and state-unravelling in their orientation.

It must be stated here that such a politico-theoretical understanding with regard to Kashmir, and other nationality struggles against Indian occupation, is lacking even among those ‘Maoism’-inspired anti-nationalist student-radicals of JNU, who, consistently and with immense courage, publicly assert Kashmir’s right to national self-determination, and secession from India. This is borne out by the fact that the courageous declarative vigour with which such anti-nationalist radicals have consistently upheld the cause of Kashmiri national liberation has not been matched by any practice on their part to organise working-class struggles in the mainland in a manner that would serve to concretely weaken the nationalist consensus here, thereby enabling the Kashmiri national-liberation struggle to significantly improve its position vis-à-vis the Indian occupation. In fact, it is the absence of such strategy and concrete practice on the part of ‘Maoism’-inspired anti-nationalist radicals in the Indian mainland that has rendered their courageous affirmation of Kashmiri national liberation vulnerable to coercive assaults by the current political regime of neoliberal dictatorship, and its Fascist mass mobilisation.

Not unlike the lilly-livered nationalist Indian Leftists and Left-liberals, these ‘Maoism’-inspired anti-nationalist radicals too do not clearly see how the Indian occupation of Kashmir (or for that matter its so-called Northeast) also functions in the Indian mainland as a racist ideology that serves to systemically regiment both various sections and segments of the Kashmiri (and the north-eastern) migrant-workers, and the non-Kashmiri working people by dividing them from one another along an axis of segmentation and mutual competition in terms of access to social wages such as rented accommodation and so on. Therefore, they have been unable to grasp, their unqualified support for nationality struggles against Indian occupation notwithstanding, that such occupation in functioning as a racist ideology in the mainland is constitutive of axes of segmented socio-economic relations among and within various sections of migrant-workers from the occupied territories, and the so-called local working populace. It is this that has prevented these ‘Maoism’-inspired anti-nationalist radicals from figuring out the concrete points of molecular convergence between the everyday concerns and anxieties of migrant-workers and the local working-people that surface precisely amid and through the concrete contradictions within and among them. And that has prevented these otherwise courageous anti-nationalist radicals from devising a strategy to forge an effective and concrete unity among those different, and mutually contradictory, segments of social labour by working through their mutual contradictions.

Such a strategy and concrete practice of organising the everyday concerns of various segments of social labour in the Indian mainland into a new revolutionary social subject would have, needless to say, rendered the virtuous anti-nationalism of our ‘Maoism’-inspired radicals into an effective and concrete form of nation-state-unravelling revolutionary-proletarian internationalism. (We would do well to observe here that most mainland radical Leftists, both nationalist and anti-nationalist, are faced with a similar kind of failure when it comes to grasping and practically articulating the strategic import of how reactionary and oppressive ideologies and cultures of Islamophobia and Brahminical casteism also similarly function as axes of hierarchical and mutually competitive economic relations both between and within Muslim and non-Muslim – and/or lower-caste and upper-caste – segments of social labour in their quotidian existence.)

This theoretical, and thus strategic, failure of the ‘Maoism’-inspired anti-nationalist radicals has, needless to say, enabled the ‘anti-Fascist’ unity of the nationalist Left and Left-liberals of JNU to be more effective than usual in articulating its constitutively vicious instrumentalism. In other words, this theoretical and strategic failure on part of the former, in spite of their admirable ethical courage, has made it extremely easy for the ‘anti-Fascist’ movement of the nationalist Indian Leftists and Left-liberals to act as an agency of subalternisation, and even oppression, with regard to Kashmiri national-liberationists and other non-Kashmiri anti-nationalist radicals. That, in turn, has obviously furthered the counter-revolutionary cause of the current regime of neoliberal dictatorship, and its Fascist mass mobilisation, by politico-ideologically yoking the ‘anti-Fascist’ unity of the nationalist Leftists and Left-liberals to its reactionary political project. It is the triumph of such “post-Fascism”, and the concomitant failure of united-frontist/popular-frontist anti-Fascist unity, that the nationalist ‘anti-Fascism’ of the ongoing JNU movement has thrown into sharp relief.

JNU’s Leftish ‘Anti-fascism’ and the Subalternisation of Dalit Radicalism

On a slightly different plane, the nationalist ‘anti-Fascism’ of the JNU movement has equally viciously instrumentalised and subalternised the radical Dalit movement, which had been sparked by Rohit Vemula’s revolutionary suicide at the Hyderabad Central University earlier this month. Impelled by the radical republican project of annihilation of caste, the movement for justice for Rohit Vemula seeks radical democratisation of universities and the system of higher education. In doing that, it tends to lay bare the cultural and economic hierarchies and culturally-articulated economic segmentations – both caste-based and otherwise – within universities. As a consequence, it also ends up problematising the segmented separation of universities from the world outside along the hierarchical axis of mental/intellectual labour over manual labour. Such radical republicanism, given its current conjunctural location, is objectively orientated to call into question the system of socio-technical division of labour – both caste-based and otherwise – and the value-relational logic of capital that this system of social division of labour now mediates and realises. As a result, such a movement objectively tends towards being a determinate affirmation of revolutionary-proletarian politics precisely by virtue of operationalising itself through its radical-republican ideological self-representation. We would do well to state here that revolutionary-proletarian politics is the ceaseless process of complete functionalisation of division of labour as the struggle that tends towards negating its hierarchised socio-technical division.

The nationalist ‘anti-Fascist’ unity of the JNU movement, on the other hand, has been all about saving JNU as a university-island of democracy and critical thinking from the assault of the current political regime and its Fascist mass-mobilisational politics. As a result, this movement has tended to close and paper over the concrete segmentations and contradictions internal to the university space. It has, in the same movement, served to reinforce the hierarchised separation of the university from the world outside. Clearly the two movements for university democracy – #JusticeforRohitVemula and #StandwithJNU – are entirely at odds with one another when it comes to defining such democracy. That the ‘anti-Fascist’ unity of the #StandwithJNU movement has been paying unending lip-service to Rohit Vemula’s politics – and has sought to mobilise the discontent unleashed by his death to strengthen itself as that ‘anti-Fascist unity – demonstrates its intrumentalising and subalternising orientation even more. Once again we are witness to how the ‘anti-Fascism’ of the JNU movement renders itself an extension of the state apparatuses in their current political articulation, and Fascist mass-movemental animation. Once again we see how such ‘anti-Fascist’ unity is programmed to be fully integrated with the ideological and repressive workings of a counter-revolutionary political regime like the one we are currently confronted with, and how such a regime is, therefore, not classically Fascist but a post-Fascist dictatorship of neoliberal capital.

Other subalterns of JNU’s ‘anti-fascist’ front

The instrumentalising, subalternising and oppressive functionality of nationalist-democratic ‘anti-Fascism’ of the JNU movement is, however, not limited to Kashmiri national-liberationists, the ‘Maoism’-inspired anti-nationalist radical students of the university, or Dalit radicals. Insofar as it has sought to separate the world outside from the university by emphasising the preservation of the latter’s ‘progressively’ nationalist democratic space, it has served to subalternise many other elements among the working people, who, on account of their social locations, are likely to be opposed to the current post-Fascist regime and its Fascist mass mobilisation. That the movement has sought to accomplish this by seeking to separate out anti-national “miscreants” and “outsiders” from the ‘progressively’ nationalist university community in order to protect the ‘progressive’ nationalist’s right to life and liberty from attacks on it by the current political regime and its mass-mobilised Fascist nationalists, clearly indicates that.

For instance, the national-democratic ‘anti-Fascism’ of the JNU movement has, thanks to its emphasis on saving the ‘progressively’ nationalist democratic space of the university, left many of its former students, now living as tenants in the surrounding villages of Munirka, Ber Sarai and Kishangarh, to the vagaries of coercive disciplining – and thus cut-backs in social wages – by rent-seeking landlords in those neighbourhoods. The latter have been integral to the Fascist mass mobilisation of the current regime. In view of the JNU incident, this mobilisation has been visibly stepped up to organise those rent-seeking reactionary landlords into lynch-mobs, which are quite likely to unleash their fatal fury on some former JNU students and other working-class elements suspected of being in solidarity or sympathy with the attacked students of JNU.

The ‘anti-Fascism’ of the JNU movement has virtually ensured that even within JNU various excesses of its nationalist-democratic institutional canonicity will be regimented and disciplined much more than earlier. And this will likely be ensured by its Leftist and Left-liberal students and teachers themselves. One can, for instance, safely assume that from now on there will inevitably be a marked piping-down of certain kinds of radical activism – not least, students’ activism in support of various struggles against Indian occupation – within the university. For, in seeking to preserve the ‘democratic’ space the university has purportedly been, the ‘anti-Fascist’ unity of the JNU movement has ensured that all kinds of hierarchical social relations – officially legitimate and otherwise – through which the university is constituted are preserved. This means the movement has, for now, accepted that the university will legitimately continue as an ideological apparatus of the Indian state, and has, thereby, implicitly agreed to heed the commands of the counter-revolutionary political regime that currently animates this state. The way the students participating in the JNU movement quietly agreed to call off the indefinite strike at the behest of their Leftist and Left-liberal teachers should be read as a foreboding of the long winter of normalised emergency that is descending on the university.

The Question of Correct Strategy and Marx’s “Revolution in Permanence”

The question now is, if the strategy of such popular-frontist anti-Fascist unity is unfeasible, and doubly undesirable, in the face of a post-Fascist dictatorship of neoliberal capital, what would an effective strategy look like? Our contention, in the light of recent developments, would be that an effective unity against this post-Fascist political regime of neoliberal dictatorship, and the Fascist mass mobilisation integral to it, ought to be envisaged in terms of a perpetual dynamic of the simultaneity of struggle in unity and unity in struggle. The unity posed against the current political regime through the strategic articulation of this perpetually processual dynamic will be far more politically effective because it will be extremely cohesive in its internationalist anti-statism and anti-systemicness. That will be so because the unity posed by the strategic articulation of the dynamic of struggle in unity and unity in struggle will be a unity that is forged through synchronisation of various determinate struggles against oppression and the segmentation of social labour such oppression secures.

It must be clarified here that such synchronisation of different determinate struggles against oppression and segmentation will not simply be an aggregation of struggles. The latter is precisely the salient feature of the constitutively instrumentalist strategy of anti-Fascist unity that we have here sought to criticise and reject. However, such an anti-systemic unity accomplished through synchronisation of different determinate struggles against segmentation and oppression is not supposed to be the actualisation of some kind of Deleuzian strategy of coordinated accelerationism of difference either. Rather, the unity posed by the strategic articulation of the dynamic of struggle in unity, unity in struggle is supposed to be a constellational unity, which is radically distinct from the simple aggregative unity of different struggles. This constellational unity of different determinate struggles against segmentation of social labour and oppression qualitatively transforms those determinate struggles in constellationally synchronising them with one another. What that amounts to is the following: each of those determinate struggles against segmentation seeks to generalise what it incipiently is by synchronising among themselves in a manner that each of them ceases to be the competitive struggle it is destined be in its isolated operation by being a mutually coordinated manoeuvre that strives to abolish segmentation of social labour at all levels by completely functionalising division of labour.

Clearly, the strategy we seek to affirm here is one that is constituted in, as and through the dialectically articulated simultaneity of political, social and cultural revolutions. In other words, the anti-systemic strategy that will arguably be most feasible and effective against the current political regime of post-fascist neoliberal dictatorship is one that does not envision itself in terms of a temporal lag between revolution and communism. For us the only effective way to fight this insidious political regime, and the barbaric moment of capital it secures is to envisage communism as “revolution in permanence” (Marx).

The AAP Crisis: Left and Precarious Politics

Pothik Ghosh and Pratyush Chandra

Self-declared radical leftists of this country appear to have mastered rather well the art of making a virtue out of necessity. Unfortunately, that is just about the only art – or, for that matter, science – they are in command of. When earlier this year the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) swept the Delhi assembly elections, many among those phrase-mongering ‘radical leftists’ had seen in this electoral victory a crucial tactical opening for the strategic advance of radical democracy, if not also for working-class politics. They saw the apparently mind-boggling political emergence of the AAP in those terms not because they thought the AAP was the new left, albeit a few of them did also claim as much. Rather, they had imagined that their versions of transformative politics – radical democracy for some, working-class revolutionism for others – could ride to the winning-post on the back of the configuration of social forces that underlay AAP’s overwhelming electoral showing, even as the AAP would itself be exposed in the process as a thoroughly inadequate representative of the social aspirations and churn it had fanned and mobilised. Some among them had asserted, with the bluster characteristic of revolutionary phrase-mongers, that bidding goodbye to AAP by way of welcoming it would be a piece of cake. Their assumption having been that the social-corporatist populism the AAP represented would unravel due to the irreconcilably conflicted social forces that comprised it, which would, for them, result in the emergence of radical transformative politics, pretty much on its own. What they failed to grasp was that the populist roadblock the AAP embodies vis-à-vis a transformative political project has little to do with that political party per se. Rather, the populism the AAP embodies is a particular configuration of social forces, and a particular structure and imaginary of social practice, at the grassroots that has risen up to the political surface to congeal in the shape of a party such as the AAP. Unless subjective interventions occur at the level of that social configuration in order to accentuate the contradictions that are constitutive of it, the social corporatist populist politics, of which AAP is merely a symptom, cannot be got rid of. In fact, in the absence of such subjective intervention, this structure of social corporatist populism will continue to perpetuate itself by merely changing the political shape, form and name of its political representatives.        

I

Clearly, there is no royal road to socio-political transformation. The fundamental social changes constitutive of such politics cannot be brought about by merely relying on the troubles that plague the political camp of populism. Now that Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of the AAP government in Delhi, has brutally unleashed the Delhi police on a delegation/rally of contract workers and students, even as the AAP itself degenerates into a faction fight among its different authoritarian satraps, Radical Notes would wish to forcefully remind our ‘radical leftists’ what we have insisted all along. This reminder is necessitated by the holier-than-thou stance that our ‘radical leftists’ – even those among them who were more unqualified than others in their affirmation of the ascendancy of the AAP – are currently striking vis-à-vis the AAP in what they perceive to be its hour of trouble. This holier-than-thou attitude continues to perpetuate the politics of exposure that had been integral to the earlier ‘radical leftist’ strategy of riding on AAP’s popularity only to best it. That, needless to say, does little to advance the cause of radical social transformation, let alone working-class politics, because it is, subjectively speaking, little more than liberal petty-bourgeois opportunism and competitiveness that is as much caught in the paradigm of populist politics as the political formation it seeks to outdo. After all, counter-hegemony, which radical working-class politics is supposed to be an articulation of, is not about out-competing the prevailing hegemon to take its place. It is, instead, the affirmation of a new mode of associational socialisation that antagonistically articulates the destruction of the structure of competitive, or exchange-based, socialisation that engenders the hegemonic modality in the first place.

Some of our ‘radical leftists’ who imagined, one way or another, that the AAP’s rise in Delhi – driven as it was by large sections of the urban poor and the precariat –would temporarily halt what they claim to be the BJP’s fascist juggernaut in its tracks, and give some breathing space to the working class and other radical democratic subjects to organise themselves politically, must now realise that nothing like that was ever on the cards. It could not have been. It cannot ever be. Contrary to such castles in the air, Radical Notes, and its extended fraternity, has always insisted that such hopes were thoroughly misplaced. 

Far from being a tactical and temporary halting of the BJP-RSS, the electoral ascendancy of the AAP should be seen, as we have argued right from the very beginning, as the continuance of the process of counter-revolutionary (subjective) mobilisation of objective revolutionary possibilities. A move that was inaugurated last year by the AAP’s brief stint in power in Delhi, and Narendra Modi’s ascendancy in the parliamentary elections soon after. In fact, this counter-revolutionary turn, if one goes out on a limb, began further back in 2009 with the ascent to power of the so-called UPA-2 in the 15th Lok Sabha elections. Counter-revolution is nothing but mystified revolution. That was precisely the reason why Ernest Mandel had once said, and we paraphrase: either revolution will disarm counter-revolution or counter-revolution will disarm revolution. That has always, more or less, been the case in moments of accumulation and concentration of crisis in the epoch of capital. In that context, the Kejriwal versus Modi contest has been no more than a moment in a protracted sequence of reshuffling of various social-interest groups that comprise the fascistically reactionary and sectarian alliance at the grassroots constitutive of the ongoing process of the globalising neoliberal counter-revolution. Therefore, what we will possibly see in terms of expressions of reactionary fascistic sectarianism – both socio-cultural and socio-economic – at the grassroots is only a shift in emphasis in its politico-ideological register. The brutal lathicharge, and firing of tear-gas shells, on the rally/delegation of contract workers and students, reportedly ordered by Kejriwal, merely symptomatises the continuance of the generalised state of exception that Modi as prime minister signifies with regard to the rest of the country.

II

Therefore, what the AAP’s electoral victory, and the BJP’s rout, in Delhi have delivered is simply yet another political expression of what goes on in capitalism as a network of different capitals. And that is, mutual competition among different capitals even as they cooperate, amid and through their unflinching game of politico-economic oneupmanship, to keep the working class at bay. The so-called new political culture, which various spokespersons of the AAP ceaselessly, breathlessly and self-righteously promised on sundry television channels in the immediate wake of their electoral victory two months ago, is now clearly there for all to see. However, what needs to be grasped, as far as the working-class movement in this country is concerned, is what this ‘new’ political culture amounts to in terms of the concrete structuring of classes. This structuring must be understood in terms of an alliance between the petty-bourgeoisie and a section of the bourgeoisie of Delhi merrily cohabiting with a dominant section of the bourgeoisie and its petty-bourgeois and lumpen-proletarian footsoldiers while trying hard to improve its position in the game of bargaining and negotiation with the latter. Our ‘radical leftists’, had they dropped the blinkers of abstract, parliamentary secularism in order to look at a phenomenon such as the AAP in terms of its materiality, would have realised right at the very beginning of this charade that this ‘new’ political culture could hardly have been otherwise.

In this not-so strange situation that is capital, all that we can expect is cooperation between various sections that are constitutive of it. (Here we ought to understand capital as the structure of fetishised social relations, not as an entity or stock.) This cooperation will be geared towards further stepping up socio-economic and cultural regimentation of social labour, what with those sections taking turns to politically instrumentalise the working class, ideologically reinforce and intensify its internal segmentation and recruit its disaffection to bolster their respective positions vis-à-vis one another in the game of mutual competition, bargaining and negotiation. And that would be regardless of whether or not the AAP, or for that matter even the BJP, is around and/or in power. The former – that is, the alliance between Delhi’s reactionary petty-bourgeoisie and a section of its bourgeoisie – will recruit the growing disaffection of the working class of the city-state to give its bargaining and negotiation with the dominant section of the bourgeoisie more heft. In fact, that is precisely what was accomplished by way of the electoral victory of the AAP. On the other hand, the dominant bourgeoisie, and its petty-bourgeois quislings, will instrumentalise and use the disaffection of the working class, as and when they get the opportunity – something that will surely be amply provided by policy-decisions of the Delhi state government – to retrieve those portions of their ground that are likely to be eroded, thanks to the bargain the former will drive.

That this so-called new political culture will be all about cohabitation of different segments of capital, and class collaborationist instrumentalism, is fairly clear to both the BJP and the AAP. After all, it is not for nothing that the AAP, soon after the election results, categorically stated that Delhi, which had so far been the city of the rich would now be, not a city of the poor, but a city of both the rich and the poor. The BJP, on the other hand, made its share of overtures on that score by unambiguously and repeatedly lending sanctity to the formulation: “Modi as PM, Kejriwal as CM”.

III

Clearly, there is no alternative other than a concerted subjective intervention to construct an independent and new working-class movement against capital as the logic of exploitation and oppression. However, in order to accomplish that we must learn the very important lesson that the triumphal emergence of the AAP two months ago (preceded by BJP’s victory almost a year back), and the concomitant marginalisation and decline of the traditional social democratic left (including both the official left and the self-declared revolutionary left), has to offer. First of all, it is quite apparent that the capitalist need for a new social compact that addresses the contemporary political economic crisis in which states find themselves is not satisfied by the social democratic political techniques fashioned during the Fordist regime of accumulation to manage asymmetries in commodity and labour markets by demand management. It is not for nothing that class-collaborationist and social-corporatist reformism – as a response to the current terminal crisis of capital in its growing failure to stabilise its organic composition – is increasingly being articulated in terms of minimising and reordering the institutions and norms to ensure the freedom and fairness supposedly intrinsic to the endless, ruthless and volatile expansion of commodity and social exchange. 

In order to visualise this conjuncture as a ground for the regeneration of a real class movement of workers, not just as the existential plight of the diverse strata of workers, this (de)regulatory structural adjustment must be grasped in terms of an attempt to resolve the crisis of reproducing capital as social power, of sustaining capital’s ability to subsume labour and valorise its autonomy to facilitate recomposition – of labour to recompose capital. Only this will enable us to understand how the rise of the AAP, and the growing irrelevance of the traditional left in all its (reformist) variety, reveals a qualitatively new order of socio-technical recomposition of labour. One that is constitutive of the increasing levelling of the ground between manual labour and cognitive labour, and the rise of affective labour. Every aspect of societal life, whether it’s in the sphere of production, nonproduction or reproduction, is networked in continuous and overlapping chains of real subsumption, rendering their discreteness precarious. 

The explanation offered by autonomist Christian Marazzi, in his Capital and Affects, is pertinent here: 

“Post-Fordist ‘total quality’ does not stop the production of goods and services, but includes the sphere of distribution, sales consumption, and reproduction. This is why communicative-relational work, which normally is defined as activities of care or of general services to the person, acquires a universal value. In post-Fordism, work has taken on a servile connotation because communicative-relational action, although increasingly relevant in economic terms, is not correctly recognised. Thus, work becomes an opportunity to impose personal hierarchies where one worker has authority over the other, and becomes the terrain where attitudes, feelings and dispositions such as cynicism, fear or denunciation can grow and fester. But the servile connotation of work is not founded on the distinction between productive and nonproductive work, but on the absence of economic compensation for communicative-relational activities.”

The political response of capital to the disaffection this has produced is what Marazzi terms “Berlusconism”. He writes: 

“The post-Fordist regime entails the crisis of the classical institutions typical of representative democracies, and even more so, of the parliamentary system. This crisis originates in the overlap between productive and communicative action, which has fractured the classic separation between economical and political spheres while con-fusing instrumental and politico-communicative activities. This has unleashed social and political processes that are not understandable through classical political rationality.

“The first consequence of this crisis is the proliferation of parties and movements that present themselves as representing the collectivity on the basis of limited interests and ‘themes,’ as can be seen in the increasing difficulty on the part of the Executive and Legislative powers to create a consensus around issues of common interest. What we call Berlusconism is not merely an Italian phenomenon due to an ‘informal galope,’ as Paul Virilio defined it. It is simply the earliest expression of an interest-based political action within the communicative sector. Berlusconism is not a ‘television anomaly’ that can be liquidated with some kind of antitrust law, but is in fact an experiment in post-Fordist governance. In it, we find the explosive synthesis of all the traits of the historical trend unleashed by the post-Fordist shift.”

The decline of the left with its more and more reliance on episodic spectacles and the proliferation of big and small populist formations with their cacophonous post-ideological theatrics, all are symptoms of precarious politics that post-Fordism has perpetuated. A reliance on the empty names like “common man” is also an attempt to create a consensus when there isn’t any. This scenario is in fact the politico-comical representation of capital’s “vampire-like” pre-dawn desperation to locate and subsume living labour.

IV

What is the exact correlation between the current neoliberal, post-Fordist conjuncture, characterised by the increasing footlooseness of social labour, and the emergence of a force such as the AAP to the political centre-stage? Obviously, this correlation is not a directly correspondent one. Its exact digits can be laid bare only through a protracted process of militant workers’ inquiry and workers’ self-inquiry. However, what such footlooseness, and more precisely precarity, has definitely resulted in is the growing political redundancy of the traditional, leftist and unionist forms of organising the working class. And that is because the fundamental change at the level of the organic composition of capital, which is reflected by this growing precarity of social labour, has been constitutive of a new terrain of class struggle. One to which the traditional forms of organising the working class as an independent political force have proved to be patently inadequate. It is on this terrain that a force such as the AAP has emerged, of course only to re-commit the disaffection of the recomposed social labour to capital and its state. The much talked-about support lent to the AAP by Delhi autodrivers, who ought to be seen as a textbook illustration of footloose, precarious mass-workers, is a case in point.

Workers’ inquiry being jointly conducted by University Worker, ‘Zero History’ and ‘Radical Notes’ in the Wazirpur industrial area of Delhi has, for instance, been indicating that among the footloose, same-skilled workers circulating amid various trades/jobs in the steel sector (and across it to other sectors), trade- and factory-based organising is fast turning out to be ephemeral and ineffective in political terms. What is being posited, instead, is the need to figure out, and construct, a new political composition of the class at the level of the industrial area, which as far as Wazirpur is concerned is also a working-class residential neighbourhood. The question, insofar as the working class is concerned, is now no longer merely about the sphere of production in the traditional sense. Rather, it is about how the sphere of consumption – constitutive of the domain of circulation of value, and the realm of social reproduction as the point of production of labour-power – is becoming more and more clearly a domain of production in its own right. And this is not only because social reproduction is a moment of work to produce labour-power, which is an indispensable ingredient in the production and extraction of surplus-value that Marx’s circuit of capital tangentially alludes to. But it is now also a site of direct extraction of surplus-value, through socialisation/ communicative-relationality being rendered productive work. Here once again the mass-worker category can usefully illuminate things.

For example, a person who is a worker today at a steel-rolling mill – hot or cold – is tomorrow a handcart-pusher, a trolley-rickshawpuller or a hawker selling savouries and sweets in the area by leveraging his communicative-relational capacities of socialisation as a worker-inhabitant of that area. How can traditional ‘leftist’ forms of trade-, skill- and factory-based organising of the working class politically address and articulate the questions of such a mass-worker and a social worker? In such circumstances, parties and movements such as the AAP, and even to some extent the BJP, come up as parties, movements or groups that seek to “represent the collectivity on the basis of limited interests and ‘themes’” such as corruption, etc. Considering that a political composition, commensurate with this new socio-technical composition of the working class has not yet emerged in its generalised actuality, the politics of the AAP, and to some extent the BJP, is all about management of the anarchy (by capital, for capital) that this new socio-technical composition of labour amounts to. In fact, we can, dialectically speaking, see the non-emergence of this new (revolutionary) political composition of the working class as both the cause and consequence of the emergence of forces such as the AAP, and even the sangh parivar’s grassroots organisations, in such sectors of society. But the good news is this anarchy, precisely because it is being produced by capital, can now, therefore, no longer be effectively rationalised, and controlled, by it. Irrational and oppressive social violence, and open coercion by the repressive state apparatuses will continue to intensify more and more, further exposing the illegitimacy of the political project of late capitalism. Neoliberalism is nothing but this political project.

In such a situation, the political management of this crisis of capital, which is what the emergence of the AAP at the state level and the BJP at the national level amounts to, will turn out be rather transient. And sooner rather than later, class-based fissures lurking in the instrumentalist, social-corporatist ‘solidarity’ of the AAP are likely to erupt into the open. And that is the opportunity militants committed to revolutionary working-class politics need to prepare themselves for. 

Such preparation, it ought to be stated here, will require, for now, a lot of patient, painstaking, anonymous and invisible work that will have little, if any, resemblance to the kind of politics of spectacle that much of our ‘radical leftists’ are addicted to. To think that the eruption of such contradictions into the open will automatically impel those contradictions to take the form of a radical transformative movement that then falls into the lap of our ‘radical leftists’, who meanwhile merely need to keep themselves busy with their politics of spectacle, is a politically dangerous assumption to make. Such an assumption will, contrary to the beliefs and dogmas of our ‘radical leftists’ currently busy indulging single-mindedly in spectacular forms of politics of exposure, lead working-class politics down the path of unmitigated damnation. For, the opening up of those fissures within the current configuration of social corporatism can, in such circumstances, only be instrumentalised yet again by one or another section of capital to grind its own axe. That, needless to say, will mean the counter-revolutionary vicious cycle continues to repeat itself through its progressive deepening.

Therefore, unless the phenomenon of radical recomposition of both production and labour processes – which has been about increasing disintegration of earlier Fordist assembly lines, decentralisation of work and increasing levels of footlooseness of labour that has brought into being the new mass-worker and social-worker – is recognised, and militant investigations into concrete forms of those new compositions of social labour are launched to ascertain what concrete political composition can be extracted and constructed from within and against them, the working class is condemned to alternate between being the slave of Beelzebub and the servant of Satan. There is simply no alternative for the proponents of working-class politics than to hit the ground running.

Is the transgressive still revolutionary?

Pothik Ghosh

“By ‘sex-economic conditions’ we mean more than just the possibility of a… satisfying love life; over and above this we mean everything that is related to pleasure and the joy of life in one’s work.” – Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism

The In-Betweenness of Radical Anti-Capitalism

The political project of radical anti-capitalism finds itself in a strange sort of place, thanks to the interesting times we are now condemned to inhabit. It finds itself caught in between the rock of rejecting as elitist everything that does not resemble the traditional sociologies of the oppressed peoples or the working class, and the hard place of neoliberal productivism that is driven by a politics of ephemera and difference-thinking. These times are especially interesting, and the place the radical political project finds itself in, particularly strange, because we have a situation where the ‘Kiss of Love’ protest launched by non-party, anarcho-desiring leftists, together with a significant section of the radical party left, is, on the one hand, threatened by fascistic goons and law-enforcement agencies of a neoliberal dictatorship while, on the other hand, it is celebrated and endorsed in the neoliberal mass media – including the new-fangled social media – and rendered a commoditised spectacle.

In such circumstances, the project of radical anti-capitalism, if it is to live up to, and fulfil, its strange in-betweenness, must seek to break with the disjunctive synthesis of the two political modalities mentioned above, and the choice they pose. And it can begin doing this only by rigorously taking a measure of our times. A significant section of traditional leftist intellectuals, has, in rejecting as “elitist” every form of anti-authoritarian and/or libertarian assertion that does not chime with the time-honoured sociologies of working-class dissidence, staked out a rather conservative position for itself. In the process, it has all but validated the political expressions resulting from the populist-fascistic instrumentalisation of the anxieties of a section of footloose and precarised working people by our neoliberal parliamentary establishment. This section of the traditional left is, however, of little consequence. Its blanket condemnations and the moral and judgemental tenor of the criticisms it levels at certain new kinds of anti-authoritarian, libertarian upsurges demonstrate their growing irrelevance. They have shown they neither have the ability nor the willingness to grasp the current composition of the working class.

But what of the sizeable mass of young left activists, and their ‘Kiss of Love’ kind of anti-authoritarian and libertarian political forms? Such forms, considering they are expressions rooted in the new class composition, must be critically engaged with if the project of radical anti-capitalist politics is to be renewed and re-forged as an effective way forward in and against this late capitalist conjuncture.

At this point, it must be clarified that the ephemera of spontaneity – the fragment as a spark, an evanescent flash of subjective experience – is, for us, absolutely central to revolutionary politics as a practical critique of the objective materiality of capital. Against the insistence of the traditional leftist purveyors of such politics that the grand narrative, and normativity, of capital can be effectively challenged and destroyed only by posing yet another equally normative totality of ‘anti-capitalism’, we affirm the ephemera of spontaneity as utterly indispensable. For us, revolutionary politics is a project of practical critique, and unraveling, of totality only when it envisages itself in terms of fidelity to the event; or, the ephemera of spontaneity.

However, our aversion to the idea that critical and radical politics is exhausted by celebrating the breaking out of such ephemera of spontaneity, and by chasing them in their successive, repetitive eruption, is no less. This puts us in a position that is equally opposed to the traditional leftist vision of envisaging anti-capitalism as a normative totality, and the celebratory chasing, or successive repetition, of the ephemera of spontaneity. The latter is what difference-thinkers, and their practical (if not always theoretical) allies among the proponents of juridico-legal politics of rights, propose as the only viable project of critical politics. In any case, repetition of the ephemera of spontaneity ensures that such ephemera is neither spontaneous nor ephemeral. It is orchestration and pre-meditation dressed up as spontaneity that does no more than serve to accelerate the (re)productivity of the objective materiality of capital as a totalising horizon. In articulating this critique of the politics of difference-thinking we are being arguably faithful to the lessons of Walter Benjamin. Benjamin, in a 1930 letter to Gershom Scholem, writes: “My most recent short piece bears the title of ‘From the Brecht Commentary’ and I hope it will appear in the Frankfurter Zeitung. It is the first product of my recent very interesting association with Brecht. I will send it to you as soon as it has appeared. We were planning to annihilate Heidegger here in the summer in the context of a very close-knit critical circle of readers led by Brecht and me….”

Benjamin, if we attend closely to his critique of phenomenological thinking and Heidegger in the Arcades Project, sought to bring about the annihilation of the latter, and his affirmative conception of difference as the withdrawal of Being through the ephemeral flashes of its successive presencing, by affirmatively deploying the fragment, or the ephemera of spontaneity, as Brechtian gestus. Brecht’s gestus here being fragment – not unlike Benjamin’s image of the “dialectics at a standstill” – as the incipient universalisability of non-totality, or the singular.

It is from such a vantage-point that we intend now to attempt an internal critique of the Kiss of Love form – and, by extension, other similar libertarian political forms – that derive from the current composition of the working class.

Against the Moral Law: Desire, Transgression, Ethics

The act of kissing between and/or among people in public places must ceaselessly affirm itself. That is, without doubt, the only way for it to sustain the act it is. It is an act because it erupts in the face of prohibition, thereby violating the general principle of prohibition in its specification.

Kissing in public places against customary and/or legal prohibitions, if and when it occurs ceaselessly as a personal-political act, is an instantiation of the ethics of the self. That is because the self constitutive of such an act is articulating a relationship with itself by virtue of being in withdrawal from the injunction of the moral law. Or, such a personal-political act in its ceaseless happening can also be construed as an instantiation of the transgressive ethics of desire that destroys the general principle or structure of the moral law in its specification by virtue of being committed to the imperative of desire. In either case, such a personal-political act as its own affirmation must, from the perspective of revolutionary politics, be certainly upheld and defended.

The question, however, is, can ethics – whether of the self or of transgressive desire – constitutive of such a personal-political act be sheltered within the given political horizon of capital as class segmentation, or distribution and thus stratification of social power? As the immanent critique of various ethical and utopian socialisms by Marx and Engels demonstrate such endeavours and projects in failing to grasp their limit turn into pyrrhic victories. Such affirmation/ethicality must, in order to sustain itself, take a measure of the distance it constitutively puts between itself and power that the moral law and its injunction realise. Otherwise, moral law/power – whose regulatory effect is the state – will take a measure of that distance. This would amount to either the coercive suppression of the collectivity constitutive of such personal-political acts or, what is worse because it is more deceptive, subsume that collectivity within the overall horizon of capital as social segmentation by assigning it a place within that horizon, thereby valorising it as an identity/community/commodity. In such a situation, what would it mean for such ethicality to take a measure of the distance it puts between itself and the moral law or power? Clearly, that would imply the destruction-as-process (withering away) of the subsumptive horizon of the moral law, which has as its underlying structural principle the fetish or necessitarian character of social relations. It is this that would render the separation of such affirmation/ethicality from the horizon of the moral law as power radical by having it transform its mode from one of withdrawal to that of subtraction. In other words, what is to begin with a question of ethics would, in such a situation, internally mutate into a question of politics precisely in order to sustain itself as the affirmation it is as that ethical question.

Ethical As Political Or, From Ethical to Political?

So now we need to ask a rather crucial question. Can kissing between or among people in public spaces, which as a personal-political act transgresses – or withdraws — from the injunction of the moral law, continue to be a self-affirming ethicality by being elevated directly into a political form: kissing between and/or among people in ‘public spaces’, in the face of it being prohibited, as a form of public protest? Will such a form be even politically radical, forget revolutionary? Is the passage from politics as an ethical question (politics vis-à-vis the social at the individual level of determination) to politics as a political question (politics vis-à-vis the social at the societal level of determination) a seamlessly smooth continuum? Isn’t such a passage constitutive of internal mutation and rupture that can be grasped, articulated and actualised only through dialectical thinking? It is arguably the absence of such internal mutation and rupture that is evident in the insistence on elevating the transgressive personal-political act of kissing in public spaces directly into a political form of public protest.

What we perhaps need to bear in mind is the fact that the structure of the moral law – of which the prohibition to kiss in public spaces is a specifying instant – is capital as the fetish or necessitarian character of social relations. In other words, the structure of the moral law and its injunction is class segmentation as distribution of social power. In such circumstances, transgression and/or ethics of the self – which is what the personal-political act of kissing publicly in violation of the customary or legal diktat against it amounts to – can sustain itself as the ethicality it is only by constellating itself with struggles that seek to abolish class segmentations determinately through a ceaseless process of reorganising relations of production and reproduction at the societal level of determination. Such a constellating strategic move would, needless to say, render the act or ethics of kissing in public a constitutive personal-political moment of the struggle to abolish class segmentation as a process of subtraction from the horizon of necessitarian or fetishised social relations.

Before this proposed strategic move is quickly condemned as a traditional Stalinist argument calling for submerging the individual and sublimating the question of desire within some sort of an a priori horizon of revolutionary politics, we would do well to clarify why this proposal is nothing like such a call. What exactly does one mean when one insists that the act of kissing publicly in violation of all prohibition must become a constitutively indispensable personal-political moment of the struggle to reorganise concrete social relations in order to abolish class segmentations? It means that such an act must ceaselessly come into being at the individual level of determination against all moral injunctions that would likely also take root even within the horizon constituted by the continuous struggle to determinately abolish class segmentations at the societal level of determination. But since the structure of the moral law is class segmentation, the ethics or act of kissing publicly can sustain itself as its own affirmation only by mutating into a struggle that seeks to abolish this structure of class segmentation through a constant process of reorgansing determinate relations of production and reproduction at the societal level of determination. What this means is that the personal-political act of kissing publicly cannot sustain itself as the affirmation it is (whether as ethics of the self, or that of transgressive desire) by elevating itself directly, and in its immediateness, into a political form. That is, however, precisely what is sought to be accomplished when kissing in public spaces is envisaged as a form of public protest. This strategic move renders what is a radical personal-political act to begin with into an inert social practice, and its congealed socio-cultural form.

Rather, efforts to uninterruptedly reorganise concretely given social relations of production and reproduction at the societal level of determination, as a continuous struggle to abolish class segmentation in its shifting determinateness by subtracting from it, will be constitutive of the political form that will sustain the personal-political act of kissing in public as the affirmation or ethics it is at the individual level of determination. For, only through such a process of destruction of the horizon of fetishised social relations by way of subtracting from it can the moral law as a form of injunction be abolished. In more empirically concrete terms, the strategic approach embodied by such a political form would imply that even as the struggle to uninterruptedly construct and reorganise concretely given social relations of production and reproduction is envisaged and waged at the societal level of determination, the digits of interpersonal socialisation and interaction among militants of and participants in such a struggle are that of uninhibited public expression of desire and affection.

Transgressive Desire As Imposition of Work

The failure to grasp how and why the ethics of kissing in public against all prohibition must internally mutate into such a political form, precisely in order to sustain itself as that ethics, has resulted in the act of kissing in public being directly elevated in its immediateness to a political form. That has, needless to say, rendered it a spectacle, which is nothing but a commodity-form. This is not only not, by any stretch of imagination, a struggle to abolish class segmentation in its determinateness – which can only be an endeavour to reorganise concrete relations of production and reproduction – but it actually amounts to a reproduction of the system of segmented and fetishised social relations through its recomposition. That the direct elevation of what is a radical personal-political act of kissing in public into a political form of public protest renders the latter a spectacular commodity-form is evident from how a section of the capitalist mass media – largely English but not exclusively so – positively represents that form and thrives on it. That this is the same media that wholeheartedly endorses and campaigns for the neoliberal economic policies of the rightwing BJP-led government, even as it opposes the cultural machinations of its fascistic footsoldiers at the grassroots, bespeaks a contradiction that is internal to and constitutive of capital.

The example of the capitalist mass media that thrives as much by lending its unqualified support to the neoliberal economic policies of the BJP-led government as by opposing the fascistic machinations of its lumpen-proletarian footsoldiers at the grassroots reveals something about this second tendency. In this late-capitalist conjuncture characterised by commoditisation of desires, affects and life itself, transformation of the radical personal-political act of kissing in public into a massified form through the process of discursive representation that is the mass media demonstrates how the living of life, even and especially when it is a deviation from a given set of norms, can become a consumable spectacle that yields value. This, in other words, is a situation where not only is norm-deviation in itself another legitimised and legitimising normativity; but that this norm-deviation as yet another normativity is also constitutive of a space-time that is no less dominant than the space-time constitutive of the normative order it is a deviation from. What we have, therefore, is a situation of flux and precarity of normative dominance. Norm deviation as yet another normativity has, in any case, been the characteristic feature of capitalism all along. After all, it was not for nothing that Marx repeatedly insisted on capital being a “living contradiction”, a “moving contradiction”. When one resists a specific oppressive, and/or repressive, determination in its immediateness without any attempt to envisage and conduct that resistance in a manner that the fetish or necessitarian character of social relations, which is its general condition of possibility, is sought to be subtracted from and destroyed, one’s struggle amounts to being no more than a negation of determination as yet another determination. As a result, struggle against a specific situation of oppression, and repression, enables the reproduction of capital, as the structural dialectic of fetishised social relations, through its expansion and recomposition. In such circumstances, oppression, and/or repression, precisely through its specified operation can be seen to also have ideologically interpellated the resistance against it into a constitutively antithetical subject-object of juridico-legal politics and rights discourse. Such a politics will thus do no more, or, for that matter, less, than reproduce capital as the dialecticised structure of necessitarian social relations that is the condition of possibility of oppression and/or repression in the first place. Struggles and instances of resistance animated by such politics would thus fail to articulate and generalise their detotalising incipience and lapse into manoeuvres of competitive bargaining within the totalising horizon of capital.

What further compounds this aspect of capitalism in its late, neoliberal moment of affective capital, and terribly complicates matters for the anti-capitalist project, is that not only does this juridical modality of anti-authoritarian struggles serve to ideologically reproduce capital as a structure of fetishised social relations but, in the process of doing that, it also becomes a direct source of creation/extraction of value. It is precisely for this reason that not only is every norm-deviation in itself yet another normativity, which has always been true of capitalism, but that normative dominance is now, in neoliberalism, in a precarised state of perpetual flux.

In such circumstances, to directly elevate what is at the personal level a politically radical act into a socialised political form is to be entirely and unquestioningly in tandem with the process of discursive representation that is the mass media. In other words, to elevate the radical personal-political act of kissing in public into a socialised/massified political form is to be subjectivated by the mass-mediatic ideology of late capitalism that renders such interpellated subjects (unwaged) affective workers in the social factory of neoliberal biocapitalism.

Of course, there is no doubt that the practice of kissing in public, even when it is a massified form and commoditised spectacle, will be constantly threatened with repression by both rightwing goons, and the official repressive state apparatuses such as the law-enforcement agencies. But to train our guns merely on the politico-ideological forms in and through which such repression is operationalised, while refusing to account for the materiality of which those forms are effects, is a ghastly mistake. Such an articulation of radical politics against repression would do no more than press the idiom of such politics in the service of capital as a structure of fetishised social relations. Such an articulation, needless to say, will have failed in transforming a contradiction constitutive of the fetish nature of social relations that is capital into a radically antagonistic contradiction.

To figure the materiality of the politico-ideological effects of moral policing and repression we would do well to realise that traditional productive and/or industrial capitalism that conjuncturally characterised Early Capitalism, with its Fordist organisation of production and a more or less strict separation between the productive and the reproductive domains, regimented desire by curbing and controlling it so that it could be channeled into production of tangible commodities (use values) as value creation. Affording desire too much leeway, in such situation, always runs the risk of disrupting the social-industrial discipline needed for traditional Fordist factory work. It is in such circumstances that traditional norms of family, ‘good social’ behaviour and so on got mobilised as politico-ideological forms by this materiality of early, industrial capitalism to keep the flow of desire in check through repression, both in the psychological and coercive senses. And that is precisely why the domain of non-work socialisation, or reproductive life, could be effectively envisaged and posed as both individually transgressive and politically radical against the coercive and ideological infringement on it by the domain of production and its demands.

However, with the advent of the late capitalist conjuncture characterised by biocapitalism – where the living of life itself has now become the site of direct extraction of value – capital mobilises desire and affects for value extraction not by controlling and curbing their flow but precisely by allowing and even encouraging their transgressive play. For, it is precisely such transgressive play of desire that can, when elevated into a massified form, become a consumable spectacle, thereby yielding value for biocapital (affective and cognitive capital) that structures the world of mass media, particularly the social media, and the world of internet commerce and infotainment. Clearly, the transgressive is now no longer capable of becoming politically radical in its immediateness. If anything what is transgressive at the individual level is, at the societal and massified level, completely conformist.

Pier Paolo Pasolini, that radical militant of desire, insisted on this time and time again. His overtly political polemics, poetry and cinema seek to demonstrate how sexual expressions that are transgressive as practices of the self, by virtue of being at an alien distance from society, lose their radical charge the moment they seek recognition (and accommodation) within that society as mass forms. Not for nothing did he imagine the politics of radical class antagonism as the only mode and form which could culminate the transgressive charge of so-called deviant sexual practices of the self.

Italian autonomist Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi indicates why that might be so in his exceptionally insightful The Soul At Work:

“The intellectualization of labor, a major effect of the technologic and organizational transformation of the productive process in the last two decades of the twentieth-century, opens completely new perspectives for self-realization. But it also opens completely new energies to the valorization of capital. The workers’ disaffection for industrial labor, based on a critique of hierarchy and repetition, took energies away from capital, towards the end of the 1970s. All desires were located outside capital, attracting forces that were distancing themselves from its domination. The exact opposite happened in the new info-productive reality of the new economy: desire called new energies towards the enterprise and self-realization through work. No desire, no vitality seems to exist anymore outside the economic enterprise, outside productive labor and business. Capital was able to renew its psychic, ideological and economic energy, specifically thanks to the absorption of creativity, desire, and individualistic, libertarian drives for self-realization.” [Emphasis author’s.]

Precarity of Segmentation Versus Segmentation of Precarity

Why then are such practices of the self, even when they have been elevated to being massified forms and valorised spectacles within capitalism, still threatened with coercive decimation? Any attempt to comprehensively explain the operation of this contradiction in terms of the logic of capital must realise that while the advent of biocapitalism, which characterises our neoliberal or late capitalist conjuncture, has been on account of the crisis of the law of value, this has not meant the disappearance of that law. The complete disappearance of the law of value shall mean the disappearance of capital itself. As a result, what we have by way of this late capitalist conjuncture is the growing superfluity of production of tangible commodities for extraction of surplus value and yet its persistence as something that is indispensable, if now only as an excuse, for capital to operate in the fictitious registers of financial speculation and working of desire and affect. Hence, what we have is a situation of complementarity of traditional industrial capitalism and the new of biocapitalism existing in that complementarity precisely through their mutually contradictory relation that drives capital as a tendency of totalisation and closure.

But how do we now make sense of this intra-capitalist contradiction in terms of its actualisation through its translation into competition among different sections of the working masses? What such a competition actually amounts to is really a clash between different segments of the working class. On the one hand you have a section of young, educated, cognitarians, including a sizeable section of university students, whose disaffection as members of the larger working class is registered when they militate against the regimentation, through moral policing, of their interpersonal socialisation. The ‘Kiss of Love’ protest is a political form of precisely such an assertion. On the other hand, we have another segment of the working-class – which is sociologically and systemically designated in terms of its socio-economic background and attendant cultural access as lower-middle class. This segment of the working class registers the anxiety of being deprived of the cultural forms and lifestyles accessed by the first segment by allowing themselves to be instrumentalised as fascistic footsoldiers by the rightwing neoliberal governmental establishment to morally police the lives and lifestyles of the first segment. Thanks to this modality of conflict between these two segments of the working class, the conflict has no chance of getting transformed into an antagonistic struggle against segmentation itself. Instead, such conflicts among segments of the working class can only serve to reinforce capital as a horizon of competitive manoeuvring with each segment trying to outstrip and dominate the other.

It must be noted here that the crisis of the law of value, which characterises this late capitalist, neoliberal conjuncture, is a consequence of a significant qualitative spike in productive forces on account of the class composition and contradictions internal to the previous, liberal conjuncture of capital. What this unprecedented development of productive forces – evident as qualitative changes in automation and decentralised, post-Fordist forms of organising production — has led to is an insuperable increase in relative surplus value extraction by significantly diminishing socially necessary labour time, and concomitantly reducing living labour. And this is why we have the crisis of the law of value. Capital has, as we have observed earlier, not collapsed, and yet it can exist only as its own permanent crisis. Seen from the side of the working class, this has meant increasing functional simplification of social labour. That has basically led to, among other things, intensification of work through increasing cognitivisation of social labour. The result: accentuation of the tendency of capital to level the technical, and thus social, ground between intellectual and manual work. The growing instability of the socio-technical division – or technical composition – of labour has been its direct outcome. But since it is a situation of capital existing, and reproducing itself, as its own permanent crisis, social division of labour – the formal realisation of capital as a structure of fetishised social relations – continues to be perpetuated but with its irrational, extra-economic core now always there as an open wound. In other words, the constitutive distinction between its extra-economic, irrational foundation (primitive accumulation) and its rational economic operation (so-called normal accumulation) stands significantly blurred. That the former is now rendered evident in the immediateness of the latter, without too much spatio-temporal displacement, reveals that.

What we have, as a consequence, is the increasing instability and precarity of segmentations within the working class. There is, however, also a concomitant deepening of the segmentation of precarities. In fact, the two are thoroughly enmeshed. The strategic emphasis of radical anti-capitalist politics, in such a situation, should be on accentuating the former in order to move towards suspending the latter. Unfortunately, the current clash among different segments of the working class accentuated by a political form such as the ‘Kiss of Love’ public protest can only achieve, and has, in fact, accomplished, the very opposite: reinforce the segmentation of precarity.

That kissing in public can be a massified spectacle, or a valorised commodity-form, and yet be perpetually threatened by both official and unofficial repressive state apparatuses of capital is a registration of precisely this peculiar situation of complementarity through contradiction, which makes this situation a decadent and late manifestation of the capitalist epoch. This, in fact, is the characteristic feature of the uber-contemporary conjuncture of neoliberal or late capitalism, where different and uneven moments co-exist less and less by way of spatio-temporal displacement and more and more by way of simultaneity. However, in order to come to terms with this peculiar conjunctural refiguration of the capitalist epoch we must realise that capital is not economic domination through socio-cultural homogenisation. It is, instead, economic hegemony through regimentation of socio-cultural heterogeneity. It is precisely the lack of such understanding among both party leftists and the so-called non-party anti-capitalists that has made them unwitting pawns in this game of intra-capitalist contradiction. It is precisely their inability to grasp this essence of capital that has led a motley-crew of enthusiastic anarcho-desiring, non-party anti-capitalists, as also a section of the party left, to come up with this utterly self-righteous and utterly ridiculous political form of kissing in public to supposedly resist the moral policing by fascistic goons of a neoliberal state-formation. Therefore, what we have at hand, objectively speaking, is a preposterous situation: our leftist/anarchist neoliberalism versus their rightist neoliberalism. We are, of course, all comrades. Which is precisely why one wishes one does not have to say what one is tempted to: May the farce be with you, comrades!

Palestine: Beyond Third Worldism

Pothik Ghosh

New Delhi’s support for, and solidarity, with the Palestinian liberation struggle stands all but abandoned. That the Indian foreign policy has shifted decisively away from Palestine towards the Yankee-Zionist-led imperialist axis to become its integral part is no longer even a badly concealed mystery. It is an indisputably evident fact that the Indian state and polity, propped up by the neoliberal social consensus in the country, wears on its sleeve with shameless élan. One of the key erstwhile drivers of the pro-Palestine global liberal consensus, New Delhi now blames the erosion of that consensus on the emergence of Hamas as the principal political agency of the Palestinian resistance, and its ‘radical Islamist’ character. That, in its reckoning, is completely indefensible at a time when the ‘terroristic depredations’ of ‘pan-Islamism’ have sought to put the very existence of secular modernity in jeopardy all across the world. Clearly, this liberal position, permeated and informed as it is by the current international climate of anti-Islamist (even anti-Islamic) opinion, finds nothing wrong in projecting the Palestinian national liberation struggle as a local manifestation of the so-called internationalist project of Pan-Islamist conservatism.

That New Delhi today is no longer merely a junior client in this imperialist hegemony of globalised neoliberal capital, but is one of its principal proponents is borne out by, among other things, the fact that Israel today is by all accounts the largest exporter of defence hardware to India. Some even claim, not at all without basis or reason, that New Delhi and Tel Aviv are equal partners in intelligence sharing and cooperation at the level of military software and strategy. Much of this Israeli assistance with regard to both military hardware and software is used and deployed by the Indian state to not only maintain and reinforce its politico-economic hegemony as an imperialist power in its south Asian backyard, but to also perpetuate and deepen its brutal military occupations in Kashmir and India’s north-east, but especially in Kashmir.

Such assistance from, and cooperation with, Israel, among other key constituents of the global capitalist chain of imperialism, has added to the overall coercive might of the Indian state. It banks on this coercive might to prop up the crisis-ridden capitalist hegemony it represents and incarnates in its specificity. It is on account of this increase in its coercive might that the Indian state has been able to simultaneously intensify its oppression of religious and cultural minorities (mainly Muslims), socio-economically marginal groups such as the lower castes, indigenous tribes inhabiting the jungles and the hilly tracts in its central, eastern and northeastern parts, and the new utterly precarious and casualised proletariat and sub-proletariat in revolt in the industrialised belts in the northern, western and southern parts of the country. Such intensification of oppression is integral to the process of keeping the structure of neoliberal capital – which is the structure of capital as its own crisis – firmly embedded in the Indian socio-economic formation.

However, what is now unambiguously visible as the turn away of Indian foreign policy from the Palestinian cause towards building and deepening a cosy partnership and alliance between New Delhi and Tel Aviv had already been foretold as a direction during what was then considered to be the glory days of Third Worldist solidarity with Palestine, under the aegis of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), of which India was a key protagonist. Palestine, together with the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, was the central concern for NAM as an alliance of decolonised nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America. But, as leftist historian Vijay Prashad tells us in his book, The Darker Nations: “By 1983 (the New Delhi NAM meet), it was de rigueur, almost depressingly predictable, to demand rights for the Palestinians and the South Africans. The genuflection toward the Palestinians and the South Africans came, however, without any word on the support given by the Atlantic powers (particularly the United States) for both the Likud regime in Israel and the Afrikaner apartheid state in South Africa.”

This was clearly on account of the internal contradictions that had developed, and were sharpening, within the NAM. Contradictions that were, to speak dialectically, both the cause and consequence of the shift in the balance of forces in the sphere of international relations that had been effected due to the consolidation of the counter-revolutionary turn in the then USSR, which had long ceased to be the ever-expanding boundary of revolutionary proletarian internationalism to become the leader of a power bloc that in the name of world revolution competed with the Atlantic powers for global politico-economic supremacy. In such circumstances, it mattered very little, especially from the standpoint of revolutionary anti-capitalism, which of the two power blocs would be triumphant. For, regardless of who won the battle of global politico-economic dominance and supremacy, the hegemony of capital as the structure and logic of competition was bound to be reinforced and strengthened. In fact, if the stake willy-nilly was the reinforcement of the hegemony or structure of capital at the global level, it was more than likely that the less powerful among the two would be vanquished. And that, as we now know, is precisely what happened.

For now, let us attempt to grasp the shift in Indian foreign policy – from solidarity for the cause of Palestinian national self-determination towards political, economic and military partnership with Israel – in terms of the objective contradictions within NAM, and their progressive sharpening. Considering this foreign policy shift is a manifestation of India becoming an integral part of the global hegemony of neoliberal capital, it would not be inaccurate to insist that the contradictions within the Third Worldist solidarity of NAM, and their progressive sharpening, is constitutive of the global ascendancy of neoliberal capitalism. We will, therefore, examine here what those contradictions were and how they panned out, thereby rendering the shift in Indian foreign policy from Palestine to Israel and its Zionist ideology inevitable. In the same movement, we will also try to comprehend the new paradigm of globalised anti-capitalist politics and anti-imperialist solidarity that those contradictions and their sharpening posited, and which continues to be posited by the resultant global hegemony of neoliberal capitalism. In the process, we will hopefully be able to discern how the inevitability of the shift in Indian foreign policy vis-à-vis the Palestinian national liberation movement has, not least, been on account of the failure of all of us on the Indian left, across the board, to grasp, leverage and actualise that new paradigm of internationalised resistance and transformative politics.

NAM, albeit Mao’s China did not finally become its part, was, in a sense, an embodiment of Mao’s idea of Third Worldism. This Maoist idea of the Third World was, to begin with, a class-based conception of dual power in the realm of international relations by way of “struggle in unity, unity in struggle” with the Second World of the USSR-led Warsaw Pact against the First World of the Atlantic powers. It, however, gradually degenerated into a more Fanonian formation of unity of struggles against the common enemy of First World imperialism. Such a model of unity of struggles against a common adversary suggested that imperialism was, in the main, domination of some nation-states by others and that it had nothing to do with the generalisation of the structure of capitalist social relations of competition and domination into a world-system.

Such an approach meant that imperialism, which is actually the generalisation of capital as a logic of competitive social relations into a world system, came to be seen as being equal to only its historical moment of colonialism and neo-colonialism. Such hypostasis and reduction of imperialism to colonial and neo-colonial occupation and domination meant that one ignored or failed to see how capital as the logic of competitive social relations and uneven development was, in an objective sense, as much internal to and embedded in the newly decolonised nation-states of the Third World as it was embodied by the more powerful nation-states of the Second and First Worlds. As a result, what was almost entirely missed was the fact that the quest for national sovereignty of those newly decolonised nation-states of the Third World against the threat of neo-colonial domination posed by the First and/or the Second Worlds (in their mutual competition for global politico-economic supremacy) was as much underpinned by the capitalist structural logic of competitive social relations and uneven development as the mutual competition of the First and Second Worlds that yielded the politics of neo-colonial occupation and/or domination. Consequently, Third World unity, epitomised, for instance, by the NAM, became an embodiment of the principle of unity of all the oppressed for struggle against common oppressors.

What such unity of struggles against imperialist oppression tended to paper over was how that Third Worldist unity itself was the structuring of an internally segmented totality that ran through not only across its various constituent nation-states but within each of those nation-states as well. Hence, Third World as an anti-imperialist solidarity itself became – on account of imperialism being grasped by it merely as colonial and neo-colonial domination – an expanded reproduction of capital as the structural logic of uneven development.

We would do well to understand here how the anti-imperialism of the newly decolonised nations of the Third World, which articulated itself in terms of preservation and strengthening of economic sovereignty of those nation-states against the neo-colonial depredations of the First World Atlantic powers and the so-called social imperialism of the Second World, produced its own set of contradictions, ran into its limit and thereby undermined itself. If one were to encounter this paradigm of Third Worldist, anti-imperialist struggle and solidarity dialectically one would see how the failure of such politics – doubtless quite an effective and relevant form of anti-capitalism in its temporally determinate tactical specificity – to grasp its own limit eventually rendered it its very opposite. The NAM’s failure to wholeheartedly embrace Fidel Castro’s line of bolstering the solidaristic anti-imperialist politics of debt strike against the Atlantic powers at its 1983 New Delhi meet ensured that Castro’s Singaporean antagonist, Rajaratnam’s line of steering clear of both communism (read the USSR-led Second World) and capitalism (read the US-led Atlantic powers) would eventually seize the day.

But this eventual defeat of Castro’s line of globalised anti-capitalism as anti-imperialism by the Rajaratnam line of national sovereignty as an argument for capitalism was merely the effect of something deeper that had been happening in most of those decolonised Third World nation-states. National liberation is no more than an historically objective moment of anti-capitalist struggle tending towards internationalised proletarian revolution. The failure of such struggles to see their success as precisely the moment to move beyond themselves to refound their anti-capitalism in more evidently proletarian-internationalist terms transforms them into reproducers and perpetuators of precisely capital as the logic of competition and thus domination. That is exactly what happened with almost all the decolonised nations of the Third World. Their struggles against their respective First-World colonialist oppressors failed to transform those anti-colonial struggles as unity with the exploited and oppressed working masses of those colonising nations for newer levels of historically-specified struggles for the abolition of capital as the structural logic of competitive social relations in its various socio-historically concrete levels of expression. The consolidation of the counter-revolutionary turn in Soviet Union, which had set in due to the objective situation of retreat for the world revolution by the late 1920s itself, did not help matters.

This meant the consolidation of the leadership of those national-liberation struggles into a new ruling class that began intermediating between the leading powers of world capitalism and their own respective working populations. The result: a situation of unity in and for competition, the radical inverse of the Maoist revolutionary principle of “struggle in unity, unity in struggle” that had been the cornerstone of Third Worldism at its inception. This unity in and for competition meant that while national sovereignty was invoked by the ruling classes of the newly decolonised nation-states to compete against and bargain with the leading powers of the First and Second Worlds, they would come together in all sorts of permutations and combinations whenever this horizon of mutual competition was even potentially threatened with decimation by their respective working masses and oppressed peoples.

Nevertheless, a distinction must be made here. While the struggles against colonialism and/or neo-colonialism in countries such as Algeria, Vietnam, Cuba, Angola and so on preponderantly had a national-popular character, decolonisation in countries such as India, the so-called East Asian Tigers and some West Asian countries/Sheikhdoms had the character of passive revolutions that meant national independence was nothing more than transfer of power. The national-popular character of the anti-colonial struggles in question was on account of the leadership of those movements having arisen from the oppressed sections and working masses of those societies. This meant that even while those movements evidently failed, at a subjective level, to grasp themselves as a historically specific moment of globalised anti-capitalist struggle that tended towards proletarian internationalism, objectively they were more inclined to move in that direction as compared to countries such as India, Indonesia, Singapore and so on where the leadership of the anti-colonial movement was vested in a well-developed local bourgeoisie. That India’s Independence began, for instance, with its military occupation of Kashmir and its so-called north-eastern states serves to underscore the passive revolutionary character of its national independence. Also, the different trajectory of political-economic development that countries such as Cuba and Vietnam, on one hand, had initially taken with regard to that adopted by countries such as India and Singapore on the other, demonstrated this radical difference in the objective character of their anti-colonial movements.

However, the fact remains that eventually both sets of decolonised countries came to share, at an objective level, the same problem of their respective national liberation leaderships solidifying into ruling classes. The political-economic reasons that underpinned this phenomenon, which albeit proceeded at different rates in different countries depending on how passive revolutionary or national popular the character of their respective anti-colonial struggles had been, was what we have earlier indicated: the preservation and reinforcement of economic sovereignty of newly decolonised nation-states producing a situation that undermined precisely such sovereignty. Rajaratnam’s line at the 1983 NAM meet in New Delhi was nothing but a reflection of such a paradoxically changed situation. As Vijay Prashad’s The Darker Nations reveals, “The national interest invoked by Rajaratnam (against both the dominant power blocs) was actually the class interest of a section (of agrarian, industrial and financial bourgeoisie) created by import-substitution industrialization.”

Import-substitution industrialisation, which was politically enabled by the states of the newly decolonised nations of the Third World, was meant to protect and reinforce the economic sovereignty of those nation-states against the threat of neo-colonial domination posed by the nations of the First and Second Worlds, especially the First. What this really meant was import-substitution industrialisation served to strengthen the ‘local’ bourgeoisie, which was already well-developed much before decolonisation, and that was now rearing to fully and openly come into its own as an integral segment of the capitalist world-system by entering the global arena of completely liberalised free-market competition against the so-called traditional players of world capitalism. They now found the protection they had till then enjoyed, and which had enabled them to accumulate capital, as fetters that prevented them from entering the global arena of capitalist competition. For, without the freedom to enter that arena they realised they would not be able to invest the capital they had accumulated – precisely because of the domestic protection that had now turned into fetters – for even more intensified accumulation.

As a result, sovereignty of Third World nations became the sovereignty of its ‘local’ bourgeoisie marshalling their respective national status to make an impressive entry on the stage of international social relations of competition. In such circumstances, Third-World solidarity entailed the formation of a new power bloc of the newly emerged, postcolonial bourgeoisie against the power blocs of the traditional bourgeoisie of the First and Second Worlds within the global arena of capitalist competition and bargaining. The dismantling of the domestic regimes of economic protection that this new bloc of postcolonial bourgeoisie demanded in order to be able to compete in a globalised free market with the traditional players of world capitalism included easy access to loans from international financial institutions, including the IMF and World Bank. The reforms that were required, amounted to easy access to such loans for this bloc of newly ascendant global bourgeoisie in return for anti-labour and anti-poor structural changes in the domestic economy that those international financial institutions demanded in order to ensure that their loans were protected through the bolstered capacity of their debtors for unbridled accumulation that such structural adjustment programs would facilitate. This clearly meant the death of economic sovereignty of Third World nations on account of conditions created precisely by the pursuit of such economic sovereignty.

In such self-contradictory circumstances, the national sovereignty the technocratic political executive of this postcolonial glocal bourgeoisie – irrespective of whichever political formation is in power – have touted and asserted is essentially the sovereignty of this class. National interest meant that the national was effectively a consensus to serve the interests of this class by way of enabling it to compete effectively and without any domestic or local hindrance in the global free market. In other words, patriotism is the consensus that enables this class at the level of their respective nation-states to organise production so as to be able to effectively compete at the global level, and thereby efficiently intensify accumulation. Given that such consensus now clearly amounts to the undermining of the traditional economic sovereignty enjoyed by the citizens of the Third World nation-states, nationalism and patriotism could only mean the defence and assertion of an abstract and idealised form of nationhood that was, therefore, bound to be thoroughly culturalist founded on such premises as nationalised and culturalised blood-and-soil type of fascistic ethnicity.

Such culturalised, mythicised and idealised conceptions of nationhood, nationalism and national sovereignty have meant uniting people on an abstract basis to serve the concrete material interests of their postcolonial glocal capital that in the national specification of its global operation symbolizes sovereignty. Such culturalised form of nationhood, and the attendant conception of cultural nationalism, has, not surprisingly, proved to be a double whammy for the oppressed and the exploited. On the one hand, it tends to be the mechanism for the enforcement of social corporatism that enables capital, either through sheer ideology or through ideologically legitimised coercion, to compel labour to collaborate with it to serve interests that seem ecumenical but are, in material terms, restrictively those of this postcolonial glocal capital. On the other, this has meant, tendentially speaking, an attempt to shatter the collectivity of the working class as a revolutionary force by serving to accentuate the identitarianised segmentations and divisions within it and, in the process, neutralise the challenge such revolutionary solidarity would have otherwise tended to pose to the intensified accumulation drive of global neoliberal capital embodied in that local moment by this postcolonial segment of global capital.

Clearly, the unwillingness and/or inability of national liberation struggles of the Third World to grasp themselves as determinate moments of proletarian internationalism has been both the cause and consequence of their quest for economic sovereignty collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions to intensify and expand the scope of capitalist accumulation and capitalist class power (the structural logic of competitive socialisation). Consequently, the politics of resistance unleashed by various oppressed religious, socio-cultural, socio-economic and nationality groups – for, instance Muslims, Dalits, indigenous tribes, various sections of the newly proletarianised precariat, Kashmiris, etc. – has been quite concerted. But unfortunately they have so far been in the idiom of sovereignty and thus competitive identity politics, and not in class terms that is their sedimental reality. Therefore, all these movements continue to be articulated by precisely that which they tend to fight against in its various local manifestations.

Meanwhile, the failure of the working-class left in India in all its multiple varieties and shades has been quite galling on that score. It has, notwithstanding some degrees of difference among its various tendencies, failed on the whole to enable those resistance movements from grasping the reality of revolutionary class politics sedimented in their respective specificities, and generalise that sedimental reality beyond their respective identitarian niches towards forging a larger revolutionary solidarity of unity in struggle and struggle in unity. Instead, the various tendencies of the Indian left seek, on one hand, to convince the movements of different oppressed groups to accept to fight their battles under the leadership of working class as a sociologically identified and closed group, as if class is an identity and not the principle that aligns the particular struggles of various oppressed groups into a movement to overcome, break with and destroy the hegemony of the identity principle that is the condition of possibility of oppression actualised in and by the different specificities of domination. In the process, the Indian Left tends to reinforce the structure and principle of identity that is the condition of possibility of oppression.

On the other hand, the so-called working-class left in India, irrespective of the differences in the respective programmatic positions of its various sects, posits more or less a common praxis of fighting the cultural nationalism and economic liberalisation of the right (the BJP and the Congress respectively) by seeking to revive the principle of economic sovereignty that informed and determined our Third Worldist conception of nationalism at the moment of India’s decolonisation. Little does it realise that it was precisely the success of such quest for economic sovereignty that led to its collapse, and the rise of both cultural nationalism and economic liberalisation. That the two are mutually constitutive is not something we on the left are able to clearly see because our paradigm still remains, not unlike the current movements of various oppressed groups, an identitarian one.

The so-called working-class left in India, with very few and minor exceptions, still thinks of its politics of struggle in terms of achieving ‘true’ national independence as opposed to the ‘false’ one we currently suffer. Clearly, its politics continues to be inscribed within and articulated by a national-liberationist paradigm of sovereignty. As a result, its politics remains an eclectic combination of two different struggles: one against cultural nationalism and another against economic liberalisation. Vijay Prashad’s The Darker Nations is an apposite case in point. Even as it describes quite accurately the crisis of the Third Worldist project of nationalism based on economic sovereignty, it is unable to see what the facts it has at its disposal so clearly say. It fails to dialectically grasp the shift of India and other similar ex-colonial nation-states towards neoliberalism – the mutual constitutivity of economic liberalisation and cultural nationalism – in terms of the inner contradictions of their quest for economic sovereignty. For Prashad, but not just the tendency of the Indian left he represents, the subversion of economic sovereignty remains merely a matter of conspiracy subjectively willed by the ruling classes of these ex-colonies and not something structural that was produced because of the national-liberationist, third worldist project of economic sovereignty as anti-imperialism running into its limit. As a result, such intellectuals and militants – and there are legions of them on the Indian working-class left in all its variety – totally miss the fact that the Third Worldist nationalist economic sovereignty is now an anachronism.

What, therefore, continues to elude them is the fact that the success of the project of economic sovereignty, from the standpoint of revolutionary anti-capitalism, lay not simply in what it was able to deliver to the working masses, but precisely in the new class contradictions it generated. For, it is precisely by recognising those historically new contradictions, but more importantly the new paradigm of transformative politics that such contradictions posit, that revolutionary anti-capitalism can advance beyond its determinate moment of national liberation and not be hypostatised or conflated with it. This new paradigm of revolutionary anti-capitalism – which was posited by the contradictions generated by the success of economic sovereignty, and which continues to be posited even today by neoliberalism that has been generated as a new conjuncture of global capital in and through the collapse of that project of Third Worldist economic sovereignty – is more evidently proletarian internationalist that clearly envisages the simultaneity of struggle and unity as its modality.

Unfortunately, we on the Indian left, by and large, still refuse to recognise that, fixated as our practice is on an identitarian, if not a national-liberationist, paradigm. As a consequence, we have miserably failed to intervene productively in the struggles of various oppressed groups by not revealing the sedimental class reality of their respective politics of resistance to them so that they can on their own generalise that sedimental reality beyond the particularity of the identitarian niches their respective struggles are caught in. On the contrary, the uncritical and misplaced politico-ideological support we often seek to them has only served to reinforce the capitalist paradigm of competitive identity politics. This has ensured that those particular struggles do not realise the generic potential immanent precisely in the specific conditions of their respective struggles to shift that capitalist paradigm.

The strengthening of this paradigm of sovereignty (read competitive identity politics) – which such repeatedly misplaced and/or unsuccessful interventions on our part has yielded – has ensured the oppressed and the subordinated always remain at the receiving end. For, if the paradigm of the politics of resistance of the oppressed continues to be that of competitive identity politics then they as the disempowered group vis-à-vis the powerful group of oppressors will always be at a disadvantage. As a result, they have, not in spite but precisely because of the modality of their otherwise objectively legitimate struggles, continued to fail in advancing their movements. Worse, the failure of the politics of resistance of the oppressed to break out of the paradigm of sovereignty has further led to their internal segmentation and division and has thus further deepened the project of passive revolution.

It would be germane to examine the shift in Indian foreign policy with regard to the Palestinian movement for national self-determination in terms of the politics of Muslims as the most significant oppressed minority group – both in the Indian mainland and as the majority religious group that constitutes the oppressed nationality of Kashmir. The politics of Muslims in India suffers most intensely from the affliction that bedevils, as we have seen, the politics of resistance of the oppressed in this part of the world. This affliction, it must be reiterated yet again, is the failure of such politics to actualise the reality of revolutionary class politics sedimented in the specificity of its politics of resistance and in the process break with the paradigm of competitive identity politics within which it is currently inscribed.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that objectively the struggle of Kashmiris, and the Muslims of the Indian mainland, regardless of the many divergences in their specific conditions of oppression and resistance, is a class struggle insofar as identity is segmentation of the working class and thus constitutive of hierarchised distribution of social and political power. And precisely for that reason such struggles of the Muslims in India – particularly its more militant and extra-parliamentary forms, and despite the religious, petty-bourgeois character of its politico-ideological leadership – posits a serious challenge to the Indian moment of imperialism as the capitalist world-system of mutually competing capitals united only by the larger systemic logic of competition and its preservation. In such a scenario, Indian foreign policy tilting more and more towards the Yankee-Zionist politico-military configuration can be made sense of as a bulwark against the revolutionary working-class potential of various Muslim struggles being unleashed to form larger national- and international-level solidarity networks against global capital and its reign of exploitation realised in and as differential temporalities of oppression. And right now the Indian state-formation, as an integral part of imperialism as the globalised network of many different kinds and forms of capitals that is capitalism as world-system, seeks to keep the working-class potential posited by various struggles of the oppressed in check by quelling those struggles in the name of quelling ‘Islamic jehad’, ‘political Islam’ and so on.

It, therefore, gravitates, at the level of foreign policy, towards the Atlantic powers, and particularly towards Israel in the particular context of Asia and Muslim politics as politics of the oppressed, in order to align itself better with the global capitalist project of fighting ‘pan-Islamism’. This, needless to say, aids and bolsters Israel’s Zionist project of occupation of Palestine as a local West Asian moment constitutive of the globalised conjuncture of neoliberal imperialism.

Such a radically new conjunctural context imposes on ongoing national liberation struggles, particularly the ones in Palestine and Kashmir, a radically new task. Which is to come to terms with the fact that while the discursive appearance of their respective (colonial) occupations remain similar to what they were in the beginning, the difference between then and now is in terms of the structural-functionality of such occupations. Those occupations, when they were established as constitutive spatio-temporal units of the previous conjuncture, were mainly about politico-military domination to ensure the maintenance and reinforcement of politico-economic hegemony in South Asia and the Perso-Arabic world by India and Israel respectively as the vanguard of American imperialistic machinations in the region. Today, that hegemony-bolstering function of occupations has, on account of changes in the structure of global capital, got coupled with the management of cheap labour reserves in the occupied areas in order to maintain labour and wage arbitrage of domestic labour markets of the occupying powers.

This change has been on account of the change in the modality of operation of nation-states as the basic units of international division of labour. The earlier conjuncture was characterised by the internationalisation of only the moment of circulation in the circuit of capital. This meant nation-states managed locally self-contained production and globalised circulation, consumption and exchange. The current conjuncture, on the other hand, is characterised by the internationalisation of the circuit of capital in its entirety. This means nation-states now manage the localised moments of a globally integrated value chain to maintain and reinforce labour and wage arbitrage in order to reinforce the value chain and keep it going.

In such a situation, it would not be misplaced or inaccurate to contend that the days of Third Worldist solidarity with the Palestinian cause, as far as an ex-colonial nation-state such as India is concerned, are well and truly over. The Palestinian resistance should have no illusions on that score. And the least that the left in India must do, if it has any desire to live up to its name, is to try its utmost to disabuse the Palestinian movement that any kind of concerted support is forthcoming from the Indian people as a nation united. For, the national consensus the Indian state seeks to reinforce, and which in turn informs its foreign policy establishment, is thoroughly neoliberal. That India, together with Israel, is firmly ensconced in globalised neoliberalism as one of its key proponents and purveyors is an unmistakable fact. Even more unmistakable is the changed national consensus that bolsters this global situation of the Indian nation-state and is, in turn, bolstered by it.

More pertinently, the left in India must work towards shattering precisely this national and nationalist consensus if it wants its solidarity with the Palestinian people to be effective. Unfortunately, its paradigmatic reliance on sovereignty continues to get in the way. It will have to abandon this paradigm. And it can make a beginning in that direction now, in the context of Palestine, by thinking of how it can constellate the movements of the exploited and dominated groups (in particular, national liberation struggles of oppressed nationalities such as the Kashmiris) on the Indian subcontinent and the Palestinian resistance in order to develop a new anti-capitalist internationalism for our times. Only such a manoeuvre would transform the internationalism of the Palestinian movement, which has become abstract due to the collapse of the Third Worldist project, into a new historically concrete reality, even as it sets free radical politics in this part of the world from the iron-cage of sovereignty and identity politics, enabling it to fully actualise its emancipatory potential.

Narendra Modi and the Barbarism of Neoliberal Dictatorship

Pothik Ghosh

“What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?
The barbarians are due here today.

Why isn’t anything going on in the senate?
Why are the senators sitting there without legislating?

Because the barbarians are coming today.
What’s the point of senators making laws now?
Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting enthroned at the city’s main gate,
in state, wearing the crown?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor’s waiting to receive their leader.
He’s even got a scroll to give him,
loaded with titles, with imposing names.

Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautiful worked in silver and gold?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and things like that dazzle the barbarians.

Why don’t our distinguished orators turn up as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.

Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home lost in thought?

Because night has fallen and barbarians haven’t come.
And some of our men just in from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.

Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.

– C.P. Cavafy, ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’

I

The barbarians have finally chosen their king. And this they have accomplished not despite the relentless squabbling they have been indulging in among themselves for the past couple of decades, but precisely because of it. Narendra Modi’s ascendancy as the fifteenth prime minister of India, let there be no doubt on this score, is not the emergence of some fascist political regime. It is something far more insidious, intractable and perhaps even unique in the political history of global capitalism. Modi’s electorally-driven rise as the leader of the executive branch of the government of India is the coming of age of neoliberal capitalism in this country. His ascension to the prime ministerial throne seals the neoliberal social process — which began unfolding in all its competitively anarchic and thus barbaric glory since the early 1990s – into a political dictatorship of neoliberal capital. Modi today stands for the institutionalisation of generalised barbarism.

And if there is anything more disturbing than this unprecedented victory for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) then it is the unwillingness among its opponents in the various left, liberal and left-liberal camps to recognise this fact. Almost all of them continue to designate Modi’s electoral success — in the pragmatics of their practice, if not always in the overt claims of their theory – as a victory of fascism and a defeat for (liberal) democracy. Such reluctance on their part to recognise Modi’s rise for what it really is stems from their continued refusal to acknowledge the insolvency of the theoretical and conceptual presuppositions – conscious or not – that have been the orientating strategic core of their diverse political practices.

Such theoretical presuppositions have always tended to veer around to the strategic view that the constitutional tenets of the liberal-democratic Indian polity can be made into an effective bulwark against what they have always seen as the BJP’s fascist machinations. For instance, the insistence of many progressives across the board that the current model of development ought to become more inclusive by being based on the constitutionally-ordained principles of ‘secularism’ and ‘socialism’ reflects that. That, they believe, will save such development by cleansing it of the external impurities of communal and casteist violence and prejudice, thus enabling it to become the ecumenical dispenser of modernity and progress it is essentially supposed to be.

What such ways of seeing miss is that communal and casteist prejudice and violence are not mere externalities to the political economy of development. Rather, such political economy, in its current historical level and state of late advancement, can reproduce itself solely through multiple forms of social oppression. There can really be no question of inclusive development because capital, of which development is currently a euphemism, is not at all exclusionary. The problem with capital precisely is that it constitutes and reproduces itself by including all and sundry; but differentially. More accurately, capital is a structure of productive inclusion through hierarchical exclusion. That is to say, it can include only by excluding. In such circumstances, there can be no inclusion beyond such inclusion, or equality beyond such equality, unless that structure of capital itself is decimated. Inclusion beyond inclusion, or equality beyond equality, is, as Marx would say, not the equality of classes but their abolition.

It would, therefore, do our struggles against the Modi brand of politics a world of good, if we begin to recognise and register – not merely in the tenor of our rhetoric but in the programmatic orientation of our political practices as well – that the constitutionally-enshrined principles of ‘socialism’ and liberal-democratic secularism were ideological and formal expressions of capital in a certain moment of its historical development. This moment was the conjuncture of embedded liberalism when fascism and other illiberal politico-ideological forms that operationalised accumulation by extra-economic means were a constitutive fracture in liberal-democracy. The latter being the form of economic accumulation that operationalised itself purportedly through free competition, efficient markets, functional civil society and democratic polity.

But thanks to its relentless forward march, capital today is in a historical moment – has been there since, at least, the 1990s in India – when primitive accumulation (and the illiberal politico-ideological forms that operationalise it) is no longer the constitutive fracture in liberal-democracy that it had been earlier. Instead, the liberal-democratic form in the immediacy of its operation is substantively illiberal (fascistic, authoritarian and so on). As a result, liberal-democracy is not only not a temporarily effective barrier any longer against what is being perceived by both the leftists and the left-liberals as fascism but is, in real terms, the immediate formal actuality of various kinds of illiberal (including fascistic) substance.

In such a situation, it would be unforgivable to battle the ascendant rightwing politics of the sangh parivar from the vantage-point of liberal-democracy and constitutionalism. Unfortunately, that is exactly what all those who designate Modi’s rise as the emergence of fascism are guilty of; one way or another. Their ‘anti-sangh parivar’ politics continues to be integral to the reproduction of neoliberalism at a socio-economically substantive level, which is the vital condition of possibility for the legitimised emergence of the political form that will be the BJP-led NDA government. And this, may we also add, makes the practitioners and purveyors of such anti-Modi politics – whether radical, leftist or liberal — complicit in the strengthening of precisely the phenomenon they ostensibly seek to resist, combat and fell.

II

All those who are really serious about finishing Modi off in order to comprehensively destroy the political project his electoral victory both embodies and enshrines, need to understand that neoliberal dictatorship is the institutionalisation of the barbarism of neoliberalism. That basically amounts to liberal-democracy as oppression and the discourse of rights as negative determination being consensually accepted and legitimated as a settled juridico-legal regime, with the state as its institutional embodiment. In such an instance of the dictatorship of neoliberal capital, the institutionally crystallised form of the state becomes a mutually constitutive enabler and reinforcement of barbarism as a juridical-legal regime or state-formation. A neoliberal dictatorship is, therefore, the structural-functionality of a neoliberalised social formation congealing into a consensually accepted regime. The institutionality of the capitalist state is an adjudicatory/regulatory effect of social power as differential inclusion. In the case of neoliberal dictatorship, it becomes an institutionalised enshrining of the consensus of the neoliberal social formation that logically precedes it. Hence, it is a superordinate entity vis-à-vis the neoliberal society and is there solely to play a coercive role on the side of the more powerful in any given social relation of domination/oppression.

What we have, therefore, is a distinction of degree between neoliberalism as a phenomenon of generalised socio-economic barbarism, and neoliberal dictatorship as the legitimation of this generalised phenomenon of socio-economic barbarism into a settled juridical-legal fact. It is this difference of degree that might well turn out to be what sets the current Union government marginally but crucially apart from its predecessors of the past two decades.

The BJP’s decision to name Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, right at the very beginning of the electoral campaign, was a considered decision. This decision stemmed from its near-perfect reading of the social situation in the country as one that was eminently conducive, an ideal condition of possibility if one will, for the triumphant emergence of a figure such as Modi, and the utterly retrograde politics he personifies.

This condition of possibility was without doubt the tendency of social polarisation that more than lurked in much of north Indian society. But to merely describe it as that will yield not only a partial but also an erroneous picture of the social reality that has made this decisive victory of the BJP-led NDA possible. It will also mean that the concrete possibilities for building an effective resistance against this political institutionalisation of the Indian variant of neoliberalism remain unidentified, and beyond our grasp.

From such a standpoint, what is more important about this tendency of social polarisation is that it is has enabled a new nationalist reinforcement of the Indian identity through its redefinition and internal reconfiguration. Had that not been so, this tendency would not have been that effective, electorally speaking, for the BJP.

To understand this process of (re)production or renewal of the idea and reality of the new modern liberal Indian national identity, one will have to be attentive to the class/identity dialectic in the dynamic constitutive of the post-Independence Indian polity, particularly since the late 1980s and the early 1990s. That is, one will have to be attentive to the class/identity dialectic in terms of the intersection of the identitarianised politics of social justice, and economic liberalisation.

The politics of social justice, beginning in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, based itself on the competitive assertion of socio-economically and culturally subordinate identities against the dominant modern liberal identity by seeking to expose the latter for what it really was and still is to a large extent. The challenge that such politics articulated was based on the entirely valid claim that the modern liberal identity is a marker of a level of material development and ideological hegemony that some identity groups had achieved in the modern social formation of post-Independence India by leveraging their traditionally dominant positions in the pre-national social formation. Such achievement had, not surprisingly, also meant that certain subordinate socio-economically and socio-culturally identified groups had been denied this achievement of liberal modernity both in terms of material wealth and ideological hegemony.

The upward mobility of certain sections among the subordinate socio-economic and socio-cultural groups that resulted on account of this ambience of social justice politics, together with the explosion of new social, economic and cultural wealth, lifestyles and ways of social being that economic liberalisation unleashed for the bearers of modern liberal identity, have impacted that identity in two significant ways. They have led to a quantitative burgeoning of the demographic that ideologically subscribes and belongs to this identity, and have qualitatively redefined and internally reconfigured it both in material and ideological terms.

The quantitative burgeoning of the demographic of this identity has served to significantly reinforce the nationalist ideology of Indianness as the reinforcement and regimentation of an ever-increasing diversity of forms of embourgeoisement. Concomitantly, the neoliberal phase of ‘nation building’ — which has been shaped and determined by material and ideological/cultural demands of the socio-economic processes unleashed by economic liberalisation since the 1990s — has tended to create and deepen a new polarisation. There is, arguably, a growing schism between the modern-liberal Indian identity and those social groups, whose integration into that identity has been impeded by the dynamic of competition among traditionally unequal subject-positions. As a result, the latter continue to be materially less developed, leading them to ideologically and culturally self-characterise themselves in traditional identitarian terms.

This process of burgeoning of the demographic that subscribes to the ideology of the modern-national Indian identity, thanks to the upward mobility effected by social justice politics, is evident in the phenomenon of the huge and still growing middle classes and urban petty bourgeoisie. For, this social justice-fuelled upward mobility has primarily been about conversion of rural assets and rural socio-cultural capacities into urban economic assets and urban socio-cultural capacities by the upwardly mobile sections from among the various socio-economically subordinate and socio-culturally oppressed groups.

Now this has not wiped out social justice politics but it has most certainly served to decisively shift the stress from it to a new developmentalist discourse and practice of politics. It is this discourse of developmentalism that perpetuates, and articulates, the increasing diversity of socio-cultural forms as their underlying structural coherence or unity. Something that unites those diverse forms into a mutually competitive aspiration for and hierarchy of development. (Anti-corruption politics is an integral component of precisely such a discursive lay of the land.)

The upward mobility, constitutive of the modality of social justice politics, has deepened and accelerated class polarisation within socio-economically backward and socio-culturally marginalised identities that had, till the beginning of the 1990s, been relatively more cohesive and homogeneous.

Not surprisingly, such upwardly mobile segments of those identity-groups have increasingly been coming around to the necessity of tactically making common cause with their caste Hindu competitors (the traditional bearers of the modern, liberal-national identity) against the subalternised segments within their own identity-groups. This is probably one of the axes of social consolidation against those sections and segments, which by their very position and situation outside the idea and materiality of modern liberal Indianness pose a challenge to it. A challenge that continues to gather its political ballast and ideological force, thanks particularly to the paradigm of social justice politics that promised empowerment to all members of socio-economically backward and socio-culturally oppressed identity-groups but has, in the reality of its identitarianised operation, inevitably left significant number of them in the lurch.

It is this renewed dialectic of reinforcement of modern-liberal Indianness and the socio-economic/socio-cultural polarisation against it that has, in all probability, electorally crystallised into a decisive pro-Modi vote. That has, for sure, been the case, at least, in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. For, the more this modern liberal identity of Indiannness is reinforced, the more class division is deepened and accelerated, leading to enhanced social polarisation that threatens and challenges the configuration of social power constitutive of such reinforcement. Something that would, therefore, inevitably lead the social configuration yielded by the reinforcement of the identity of liberal modern Indianness, to engage in a political manoeuvre to fob off that challenge in order to preserve and reinforce its power. It is such a move that has possibly contributed significantly to the ascendancy of Modi as a figure of politically institutionalised neoliberalism.

It must be understood here that the political offensive of this growing demographic of the modern national identity is constitutive of the reproduction of its social being that continues to be shaped and determined by the material and ideological-cultural demands unleashed by the process of economic liberalisation. Predictably, such offensive has been constant policy-bound, legal and illegal assaults on modes of social being that are ‘outside’ the demographic of the reconfigured modern national identity, precisely in order to subsume them. Such modes of social being, by virtue of their situation and position, are a barrier to the continuous reproduction of the mode of social being of the modern-liberal identity.

There is, however, an important detail about the outcome of the sixteenth Lok Sabha elections that must be taken into account here. The BJP voteshare is reportedly a little above 31 per cent. This is important not because one can then comfortably day-dream, in the manner of some deluded left-liberals, that had India followed the electoral system of proportional representation, the BJP, given its voteshare, would have been way below the half-way mark in Parliament.

Even if that were so, the intensified social differentiation wrought by a combination of identity-based social justice politics and economic liberalisation, ever since the 1990s, would have meant the continuance of unstable coalition politics. Now the problem with such politics, which would have continued to mirror the competitive anarchy characteristic of the neoliberal social formation, is not that it is unstable. The problem with it is that it is not unstable enough.

It is precisely the intensification of instability, which capital generates to then harness it before such intensification can push itself to its capital-unravelling limit, which is the source of all-round increase in precarity of social labour. It is this that makes such anarchy barbaric. The only way out of such ever-increasing precarity is not reversion to a previous less precarious mode of social being – something that is not only impossible but is fantastic nostalgia that fans the flames of precisely the kind of reactionary politics we are currently confronted with. The way out of such precarity lies, instead, in accentuating social divisions to an extent that they refuse to settle down to be harnessed, articulated and commanded by capital, leading to its collapse and overcoming.

In that context, it must be said that the kind of social instability that such coalition politics has hitherto mirrored is a kind of structured instability. It is instability at the phenomenal level through which capital as a structure of social power has continued to concentrate itself. And its continuance would have only meant the perpetuation of controlled anarchy that is decadent late capitalism as barbarism. But it is precisely such continuance that those deluded left-liberals suggest when they publicly exhibit their ridiculous dream of how the electoral system of proportional representation could have blocked Modi’s ascent this time around.

Given that almost all the opponents of rightwing politics of the sangh parivar have proved incapable, so far, of envisaging resistance in strategic terms that are beyond the coordinates of an electorally overdetermined socio-political system, it is very unlikely that they would have seized the capital-unravelling opportunity provided by such intensified, though controlled, social division, to push such division to its limit while simultaneously suppressing its structural articulation. In such a situation, the continuance of unstable coalition governments, which would have both reflected and reinforced the intensified generalisation of such structured anarchy would ultimately and inevitably have culminated in institutionalising such barbaric late capitalist decadence into a consensually acceptable and settled juridical-legal regime. Precisely the thing that stares us in the face now. Clearly, the dream of the deluded left-liberals, had it come true, would have brought us to where we currently stand through a detour that would not have, in any way, mitigated the pain of arriving at and living in the abode of neoliberal dictatorship.

The suffering inflicted by the barbarism of neoliberal capital, which its political dictatorship accentuates only by institutionalising it, would be no less now than if we came to it through the route dreamt of by those left-liberals. So, one is hard put to understand how such dreams and fantasies can be ingredients of an effective strategy to overcome neoliberalism and its politically institutionalised dictatorship.

In fact, it is precisely such misplaced dreams that have repeatedly facilitated, if not directly fuelled, passive revolutions ceaselessly accomplishing themselves in the garb of defending society against the politics of social domination. In other words, such dreams have enabled capital to keep expanding its remit as a dynamic of differential inclusion – or combined and uneven development – by breaking down existing forms of social cohesion to re-regiment society through the differentiation that such breakdowns inevitably yield.

In such circumstances, one can ill-afford to emphasise the importance of this detail by insisting, in a self-deluded, passive manner full of empty optimism, that it demonstrates that almost 70 per cent of the country’s electorate did not vote for the BJP. The point is that does not really matter. And this is not merely because India follows first-past-the-post electoral system.

Yet, this detail does posit hope. But its realisation lies beyond the remit of the system and its politics of electoral representation. In fact, one can begin to realise such hope precisely by destroying the system and its politics of electoral representation in the process of subtracting from it. For, as long as this system and its underlying structure is intact, they will always distort the facts in which such hopes reside by articulating and mobilising them into a continuous process of passive revolutionary regimentation. Something that has driven capital to this late decadent moment of historical development where the ceaselessness of such passive revolutionary regimentation has qualitatively transformed itself into neoliberalism that is a conjuncture characterised by the barbaric acceleration of extended reproduction of capital.

It is, therefore, not surprising at all that identitarianised social justice politics, as a paradigm and discourse of radical democratisation, has been steadily running into its limit. In the context of post-liberalisation India, all it has done for a while now is accelerate the extended reproduction of neoliberal capital by quickening its dynamic of actual subsumption. And that, as we have seen earlier, is exactly what has happened. The scale of Modi’s electoral victory is perhaps no more than a symptomatic expression and reinforcement of the rapidly growing redundancy of such politics as a paradigm of radical democratisation.

Unfortunately, that is lost as much on the electorally invested social democratic leftists and left-liberals as various non-electoral leftists, who claim to uphold authentic revolutionary working-class politics. Their near passive and complacent reliance — programmatically stated or otherwise — on the configuration of socio-economic and socio-cultural groups, generated by the discourse of social justice politics, as a bulwark against the rise of the Modi-led BJP demonstrates that. They have so far imagined that the fragmentation of a homogeneous national identity wrought by the politics of social justice would continue to effectively block the ascent of the sangh parivar’s rightwing politics of socio-cultural homogenisation and socio-economic regimentation. But it is time they accepted what they have failed to recognise so far.

The paradigm and discourse of social justice politics presented a radical possibility only because its operation effected class polarisations within backward and subordinate identities that had, till the advent of such politics, been relatively more cohesive. This possibility could, however, have come into its actualised own only if the class polarisations and the attendant fragmentation of the identities were leveraged by way of a radical-proletarian subjective intervention. It is precisely the failure of all varieties of the Indian Left on that score that has turned social justice politics, which was to begin with a great paradigm of radical democratisation, in a restorative and reactionary direction. The missed opportunity of further radicalising that paradigm by transforming it into a concretely articulated political discourse of open class anatagonism can, however, still be reclaimed, albeit under the condition of its growing irrelevance. In fact, it is precisely on account of such irrelevance that the faultlines opened up in society by the discourse of identity-based social justice politics need to be leveraged in overtly class-antagonistic terms.

III

The left and the left-liberal responses to the advance of rightwing politics have, so far, been the affirmation and defence of socio-cultural diversity without any understanding of how such diversity is orientated in its articulation. Thus the structural iron-cage within which such diversity is inscribed, and of which each of its constituent moments is an instantiation in cell-form, has largely been missed by the proponents and protagonists of such politics against rightwing homogenisation.

In such circumstances, if that structural iron-cage, thanks to its instantiation by every difference that is asserted, is today sufficiently reinforced to generate a consensus for it to be an institutionalised regime that maintains difference and diversity in an excessively regimented form, there should be no cause for surprise. The real question is whether difference is differential segmentation, which is exactly what the so-called radical politics of difference and diversity has so far unwittingly strengthened. Or, whether assertion of difference is an affirmation of the mutual partaking of such difference as singularities that is constitutive of the process of unraveling of the segmental structuring of difference? This is what revolutionary working-class politics is. Contrary to many of its proponents and all its difference-thinking leftist detractors, it is not a politics in which the proletariat, or the working class, functions as a sociologically closed category of a struggling subject-object that seeks to subsume all other struggles against different forms of social domination/oppression.

Difference-thinking, it must be admitted here, seeks to counter the tendency of closure that identity-thinking, which is also at the root of sociologised working-class politics, tends towards. Yet, difference-thinking, in failing to envisage the complete suppression and destruction of the tendency of valorisation and its horizon of identity-thinking, ends up buttressing the barbaric anarchy of neoliberal diversity. That is the horizon of value and identity as its own crisis-ridden accelerated reproduction that eventually culminates in its institutionalisation as a juridical-legal regime.

Capital is essentially socio-culturally-indexed differences as a mutual articulation of structured differentiality. The point is to work towards not merely defending those differences against homogenisation. Rather, the point is how those differences can come to coordinate with one another in their difference to emerge as a concrete social subject that is an affirmation and actualisation of the truth of non-differential, non-segmental operation of difference. That would be social reality as the real movement. But unless the former is acknowledged and rigorously worked through to be grasped in its socio-historical concreteness (Marx’s “real abstraction”), the latter will remain only an abstract ethicality (Marx’s “thought-concrete”) that awaits its transformation into politics by way of its concrete realisation (Alhtusser’s “real concrete”).

When Antonio Negri stresses on the utmost importance of figuring out the concrete dialectic of the technical and political compositions of the working class through determinate class analysis he is pointing exactly in that direction. In that context, the Popular Front model of cross-class alliance against fascism — which under various guises and labels is still the dominant model of left and left-liberal response to the advance of rightwing politics in this part of the world – is irrelevant.

IV

Anti-fascist Popular Front politics can now no longer be on the agenda of any desirable or even feasible project of radical social transformation. And that is regardless of whether it is articulated in the new-fangled, non-communist idiom of intersectionality and multiculturalist aggregation, or in the traditional communist idiom of alliance of historical blocs against big capital. Given the neoliberal conjunctural character of capital in its current historical moment, such politics is, as we have seen, ineffective. What we are, however, yet to recognise is that such politics is also outright counter-productive. It serves now to only reinforce and reproduce this late capitalist conjuncture and its concomitant political project of neoliberalism. Such politics is, therefore, a contradiction in terms. It seeks to counter Modi’s politics even as the modality of such struggle, which is integral to the reproduction of capital, now more than ever, consolidates precisely the neoliberal political project. Modi is merely its monstrous embodiment, and logical culmination. Such ‘anti-fascist’ politics of social cohesion, one can assert with hardly any risk of overstatement, has made its so-called progressive practitioners and purveyors complicit in the emergence of the dictatorship of neoliberal capital with a figure like Modi at its helm.

The Popular Front model is a politics of forging an aggregative coalition of socio-cultural difference or diversity in order to defend and champion such difference against the homogenising onslaught of a dominant social group. It is, therefore, a modality of politics that seeks to preserve difference without, at once, challenging the structure of differential inclusion and segmentation that difference in being difference instantiates, and which thus once again amounts to the reproduction of relationship of dominance and subordination as the condition of possibility for the regimented reinforcement of the structural principle that underlies such relationship.

Those committed to the project of radical social transformation in general, and working-class politics in particular, must, without further ado, come to terms with the irrelevance of the model of anti-fascist politics of Popular Front that tradition has bequeathed them. The Popular Front model, which had once proved to be an effective weapon against fascism, has now become like a gun that backfires on the one who wields it. And that is because now no struggle against a specific instantiation of capital (capital as the Hegelian concrete-universal) has any chance of success as long as it is not simultaneously also a prefigurative struggle for destruction of capital as the generalising mode of production and/or social organisation. If anything, struggles envisaged merely against specific forms of social domination in their immediacy — even as one defers the struggle against capital as a generalising mode of production/socialisation that such forms actualise through their specifying mediations – render the phenomenon of social oppression more unrelenting and widespread than ever. This is the neoliberal conjunctural salience of late capitalism as “totally administered society” (Adorno).

In other words, the Popular Front model of cross-class alliance against the bourgeoisie as a defined and dominant social group can now no longer be either an adequate or an effective moment of radical politics that finally seeks to destroy the law of value (or capital) by subtracting from it. For, it is this law of value – or identitarianisation as the structuring principle — that is the condition of possibility of social oppression. That has always been so since the beginning of the history of capital. What is different now is that unless the destruction of the law of value is envisaged simultaneously with the immediate struggles against various forms of social oppression that this law makes possible as its specific phenomenal instantiations, the latter will fail to get rid of the respective forms of oppression they are ranged against. Worse, they will only serve to further proliferate and intensify social oppression as ever-new phenomena.

V

To figure why that is so, we need to recognise the current level of historical development of capital, particularly with regard to its Indian (and south Asian) specificity, in terms of the structuring principle of its general dynamic.

The dialectic between primitive accumulation, which is often what is articulated by various orders of fascist and/or authoritarian regimes, and economic accumulation apparently based on free competition, a functional civil society and a democratic polity has run into a crisis. This crisis is about the dialectic becoming, in a tendential sense, less and less dialectical and more and more tautological (Negri). What this means is that the fascistic substance is constitutive of the liberal-democratic politico-ideological form less and less in a mediated, spatio-temporally displaced and/or cyclical kind of way, as was the case in the early capitalist conjuncture of embedded liberalism. Instead, this mutual constitutivity now occurs, more and more, in an immediate and spatio-temporally collapsed kind of way. As a result, the liberal-democratic form, as has been observed even earlier, is substantively illiberal and even fascistic in the immediacy of its operation. This is neoliberalism, which is neither fascism nor liberal-democracy, but a uniquely new socio-political reality.

That the post-Ram Mandir sangh parivar, for instance, slowly but steadily began shifting the terms of its majoritarian friend-enemy discourse from Muslims as enemies of Hindus, to ‘Islamic terrorism’ as the enemy of the secular Indian nation is arguably a crucial symptomatic elucidation of that. Tie it up with the new pattern of majoritarian pogroms that was inaugurated by the anti-Sikh carnage of 1984, and which found its ultimate expression in the Gujarat massacre of 2002, and it will become even clearer. For, what we see in those massacres is class struggle as class oppression becoming more and more openly socio-economic than earlier when it was virtually exhausted by its ideological-cultural mediations. For, what we had in those massacres, which was qualitatively different from what characterised earlier incidents and instances of majoritarian violence against religious minorities, was ethnic/communal cleansing expressing its capitalist materiality far more openly by being utterly unconcealed as economic cleansing.

That said, it must be added that capital as a system of social power constitutive of uneven development or differential inclusion cannot afford to cease being the dialectic it structurally is. As a result, the differentiated or segmented zones of formal subsumption and actual subsumption are maintained in their formal hierarchy even as this distinction is substantively collapsed precisely through the reinforcement and maintenance of that formal hierarchy. This is precisely capital (or the structural dialectic it is) as its own terminal crisis. A crisis that has rendered it an openly irrational force, or command, which maintains and reproduces the economic/extra-economic duality more as a tautology than a dialectic now.

The neoliberal reality (or project) is, therefore, much more than the phenomenal manifestation (Modi) it has currently congealed into. It cuts across the entire political landscape as a continuum of social corporatist, ‘strong messianic’ politics: it extends from the BJP’s majoritarian-nationalist developmentalism and the anti-corruption formations, including the AAP, to Modi’s holier-than-thou left-liberal adversaries and radical politics in all its shades of economism, militant reformism and politicism. The fight against neoliberalism — which must now, without doubt, focus its attack on the Modi regime as the principal institutional embodiment of such politics — will be truly effective only if it recognises, first of all, that in Modi it is targeting neoliberalism, not fascism. And, second, it concomitantly bases its strategy on rigorously and dispassionately working through the institutionalised emergence of this neoliberal project as the outcome of capital tending to completely realise itself as the dynamic of actual subsumption of living labour by dead labour.

Now, primitive accumulation was no less in the period between 1950 and 1990 on the Indian subcontinent. It was at work, quite ruthlessly and unsparingly, in the spatio-temporal zones (of formal subsumption) that were shaped, characterised and geographically demarcated as peripheries by it. Why, even those geographically delineated peripheral zones of ruthless primitive accumulation would also keep changing and expanding. But what remained unchanged at the qualitative level, in spite of such quantitative changes, is that the spatio-temporal zones of primitive accumulation and economic accumulation remained, more or less, both discursively and logically distinguishable. However, the qualitative change between then and now is that the zones of (extra-economic) primitive accumulation and economic accumulation are, tendentially speaking, less and less spatio-temporally displaced and separated from one another, and are becoming more and more (substantively) indistinguishable even as their hierarchised distinction is maintained and reinforced at the formal level precisely to enable this growing indistinction at the substantive level. Hence, the earlier insistence, pace Negri, on tautology: the dialectic as its own evident crisis.

This is clearly the reason why the world – the capitalist world-system to be precise – has as a whole moved, of course in a tendential sense, from the era of ‘localised’ states of exception (fascism, colonialism, totalitarianism and various other forms of authoritarian political regimes) then to what Giorgio Agamben calls “the generalised state of exception” (neoliberalism) now. One could even say that it is precisely the movement away from the earlier ‘localised’ states of exception that has yielded the current generalised state of exception, insofar as the successful movement away from the former failed to be constitutive of the overcoming of capital as their condition of possibility.

That the zones of primitive accumulation and economic accumulation are becoming more and more logically indistinguishable from one another, not despite but precisely because of their distinction at the level of discursive appearances, is borne out by the fact that the rate at which the organic composition of capital (c/v) – and/or regimes of accumulation – change now has become far more rapid than ever. Not just that, this rapid rate of change continues to accelerate ever more, and exponentially. In other words, the conjuncture now is distinguishable from the conjuncture then by the fact of economic cycles – the interregnum between one form of organic composition of capital and another – becoming progressively shorter, and the concomitant regimes of accumulation becoming less and less stable. This increasing rapidity of change in the organic composition of capital, which can also be described in terms of the ever-shortening duration of economic cycles, means that primitive accumulation and economic accumulation are virtually co-incident. So much so that the extra-economic operation of capital as sheer force has become almost permanent in all its discursively distinguishable moments.

The qualitative change in technology regimes — signalled by the entry and rapid generalisation of electronics, microelectronics, robotics and informatics — has led not only to an unimaginable increase in the rate of relative surplus-value extraction but also to a situation, wherein relative surplus-value extraction amounts, almost at once, to an enhanced rate of absolute surplus-value extraction as well. If we look at the changes in the labour process in terms of the “technical composition” of the working class (social labour) across various constituent sectors of our entire social-industrial life, we will see that even where there has been no lengthening of the average workday, albeit such instances are rare, the new qualitative changes in technologisation have wrought productivity increase through incredible levels of intensification of work and drudge than earlier for the same duration of the average workday. So much so that one’s entire cognitive life and significant parts of one’s affective life have got fully integrated into the production process. In fact, in some traditional sectors of immaterial or intellectual production, the length of the average workday might even have declined a little compared to earlier but that has been much more than neutralised by the increased intensity of work that wage-labourers in those sectors have to contend with now.

And how else is this increased and increasing intensification of work enforced, than through a more intensive disciplinary operationalisation of the everyday work-ethic? That includes both traditional forms of ideologico-repressive mechanisms of peer pressure and mutual surveillance, and new forms of intrusive surveillance to measure output and watch out on everyday subversion through devices fixed to workstations and so on. What else would this be other than the increasing pervasiveness, through intensification, of extra-economic disciplining and its near permanence in almost every moment of lived time rendering virtually all of social life both productive and coercive at the same time?

What must also be mentioned here is that this qualitative shift in technology regime is a dialectical feedback loop of both cause and consequence with regard to the current conjunctural salience of neoliberalism. This shift has been on account of the gradual accumulation of quantitative changes in the organic composition of capital through the past several centuries due to the conflict between living labour and dead labour. Something that is registered and recognised as competition within the politico-economic horizon of capital. That is precisely the reason why we ought to describe both quantitative and qualitative changes in the organic composition of capital also as quantitative and qualitative shifts in productive forces. Such continual quantitative changes in the organic composition of capital have progressively accentuated the conflict between living labour and dead labour. This, in turn, has necessitated more quantitative changes in the productive forces that have finally yielded a qualitative leap in productive forces, and a concomitant qualitative shift in the regime of accumulation. What this qualitative shift in the twinned regimes of technology and accumulation has yielded (and continues to yield with ever-increasing ferocity) in various sectors of the economy is a crisis that is about the declining capacity of capital as a social relation of production to further diminish socially necessary labour time and extract more surplus labour time.

Capital now seeks to resolve this crisis by tending more and more towards rendering the spatio-temporal zones constitutive of realisation of value – circulation, consumption and social reproduction — into zones of value-creation and surplus value-extraction in their own right. This has meant the substantive transformation of non-work socialisation and life — precisely by maintaining and reinforcing such non-work socialisation and life as the forms they have traditionally been – into productive work. This has led to the emergence of biocapitalism, wherein life itself is production and production life.

In such circumstances, when the entire social formation, and life itself, has been transformed into an industrial complex (social factory) — a process that continues to intensify and accelerate — society cannot be defended by merely fighting against the dominant and elite social groups, and the oppression they threaten society with. Of course, such struggles against corporate-capitalist marauding and/or the oppression wrought by dominant and elite social groups will probably still continue to constitute many of the tactical moments of the larger battle against capitalism. But what those struggles must absolutely ensure if they are to fulfil their destiny as tactical moments of the larger battle to unravel and overcome capital is that they in their various specificities are immediately co-terminus with the actuality of the larger battle. Such a situation will emerge when struggles against various forms of social oppression and domination envisage themselves, and their mutual coordination, in terms of working-class solidarity. This is not merely a matter of semantics, though. The modality of working-class solidarity is the continuously uninterrupted process of “struggle in unity, unity in struggle” (Mao Zedong). A process that is constitutive of labour in self-abolition through subtraction from capital as the mode that structures the entire social formation as a system of differential inclusion.

Clearly, an aggregative alliance of oppressed social groups against the institutionalised embodiment of that mode of social organisation is by no means an insurrectionary configuration of working-class solidarity. Such a configuration, in being the continuously uninterrupted process of struggle in unity, unity in struggle, will be constellational.

So, let us join our voices to the poet’s and say, “there are no barbarians any longer”. That is not because we have vanquished barbarism, but precisely because we all have, in fighting the barbarians, become barbaric. That is something we must recognise and acknowledge if we are to behead the monster — which has risen over our heads as a concentration of our very own barbaric energy. And find redemption.

Of AAP and the Leftist Chickens

Pothik Ghosh

This, indeed, appears to have become a season for homecoming. The chickens that had hitherto ranged freely on the so-called progressive side of the fence are now coming home to roost. Indian democracy is the fashionable address that home bears. And the path that is leading the poultry to it is called the Aam Admi Party (AAP). What had started as a diffident trickle, towards the common man’s abode, during the anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare, et al., has now become a veritable flood. Power does work, we finally seem to be discovering, as a rather effective magnet for those who are more incorruptible than others.

The left in India has been, for all practical purposes, a catch-all category that has come to accommodate everyone from revolutionary groups of various hues and independent Marxists of myriad denominations to different shades of self-righteous social democrats and bleeding-heart maverick liberals who like to don the radical garb. And in this scramble to make it to the maternal lap of Indian democracy, over which plays the soothing lullaby of the common man, that eclectic purport of the leftist signboard has not been lost one bit. The leftist constituency of the AAP – which has flocked behind it by way of intellectual justification and sympathy if not outright political support – is a fair representation of that eclecticism. It has in its ranks both those who continue to profess their faith in revolutionary transformation and those who think that social democracy is now a quicker and surer way to get to where revolutionary politics had, in a different age, promised to deliver them.

But it is not as if we, who have decided to keep the flame of revolutionary politics burning by staying put, are faring any better. Wallowing in the Brahminical purity of theory, most of us are busy these days reminding the world about the superiority of our theoretically-endowed position over that of commonsensical morality. We seem to have forgotten that this theory, from which we seek to derive the prestige of our unshakeable faith, is not a doctrine. It is that which is found and refound in the everyday struggles of labour against capital. As a consequence, theory and its prestige has either become an alibi for criticism-as-quietism or a licence to indulge in pragmatist-reactive politics of demands to expose the AAP.

It would not be inappropriate, therefore, to polemically raise a few, somewhat conceptual issues as a way of critically engaging with each of those two AAP-supporting leftist trends, and also perhaps with those among us who have been dogged in their criticism of this politics of the common man.

I

Let us begin with those ‘Marxist’ and ‘communist’ votaries of bourgeois-democratic revolution who insist that the AAP could likely become a ‘progressive alliance of classes’. Against them it ought to be contended that this is not objectively possible in this late capitalist conjuncture. For, if this conjuncture is that of the generalised state of exception – where the question of rights has objectively become more about negative determination than positive entitlements on account of capital having entered into terminal crisis at the global level – then such an alliance, regardless of whether it is envisaged through the populism of the left or that of the right, is bound to be social corporatist and would thus tend, once again, towards renewal of dominance.

As for the thesis of “dominance without hegemony”, it has always lacked rigour. That must be particularly emphasised here because it is this thesis that either explicitly or implicitly underlies virtually all arguments for democratic revolution as the completion of bourgeois democracy: the closing of the supposed gap between dominance and hegemony of the national bourgeoisie.

It is our view that the Marxian conception of hegemony as propounded by Antonio Gramsci has two connotations – that of the bourgeois class and that of capital as a structure of social power. And I tend to think that the former, which Gramsci at least in one place in his Prison Notebooks calls “external hegemony”, is coeval with dominance. The intensity of this dominance or external hegemony is inversely proportional to the strength of the tendency of constitutive (repeat constitutive) crisis of the hegemony of capital as a structure (which in Gramsci is termed hegemony without any qualifying adjective) at a given moment in history. From there it follows that the current conjuncture of this hegemony of capital as an epoch of hierarchically excluding but productively inclusive social power is characterised by a relative growth in the strength of that tendency of constitutive crisis and a commensurate weakening of the counter-tendency of stabilisation of the subsumption of that crisis. The Indian specificity of this conjuncture unmistakably bears that out. Consequently, what one gets is not only greater administered authoritarianism at all levels of the social formation/state-formation complex but also an acceleration of the rate at which such (coercive) dominance is socio-politically renewed through mass mobilisations and movements against precisely such administered authoritarianism.

What we have on our hands then is not dominance without hegemony but the rapid shifting of different regimes of dominance precisely on account of struggles against specific and immediate forms of dominance being already always hegemonised (or, inscribed within and articulated by the capitalist structure of dominance and competition). This is exactly what the Indian situation, when grasped in and through the thick interweaving of its polity, society and various mass movements, reveals. Social corporatism is the form of such politics, and AAP and the anti-corruption movement that birthed it are no exceptions. The generalised state of exception is the constitutive tendency of this social corporatist form. The rapid renewal of the social corporatist form (and its persistence at all levels of our social being) through precisely rights-based mass movements, which would in the past qualify as democratic, is the neoliberal specificity of late capitalism.

In such circumstances, it is quite pointless to talk about ‘completing’ the bourgeois democratic project, whose ‘incompleteness’ is supposedly reflected in the purported absence of hegemony of capital. For, the rapid turnover of various regimes of dominance, in, as and through mass mobilisations precisely against historically specific forms of dominance, shows that hegemony of capital as a differentially inclusive configuration or structure of power (or combined and uneven development) is very much alive and kicking, and complete. Such politics of accelerated rate of renewal and increasing pervasiveness of the social corporatist form – read coercive dominance of a class constituted through a mass movement – embodies a crisis in hegemony of capital. But that is not yet a crisis of hegemony, which would amount to its collapse. This crisis in hegemony is, of course, incipiently a crisis of hegemony but only incipiently and is, therefore, not as such the latter’s generalisation. This is because it is a crisis of capital that nevertheless is articulated by the structure of capital itself. It is something like the constitutive lack of the symbolic order in Lacanian psychoanalysis.

This crisis in capital can be transformed as the incipient crisis of capital it always already is into generalised actuality only through subjective intervention that is able to beat the cunning of the structure of capital. And such an intervention would be one that subtracts itself from the strategic orientation of rights-based politics and politics of democratic revolution while holding on to the question of democratisation as a necessarily determinate tactical condition of the revolutionary strategy.

But movements that would amount to such an intervention cannot be ones that base themselves on an acknowledgement and affirmation of a stageist interregnum or temporal lag between the question of democratisation and the question of communist revolution. Therefore, the argument that the AAP has the potential to be a democratic revolutionary movement is thoroughly misplaced precisely because such a ‘Marxist’ argument is premised on the affirmation of this temporal lag or stageist interregnum between democratic revolution and proletarian revolution. A democratic-revolutionary strategy of working-class revolution – which is necessarily premised on this conception of temporal or stageist lag between completing the bourgeois democratic revolution and the beginning of a proletarian revolution – would in this conjuncture of the generalised state of exception amount to nothing but farcical repetition. A rapidly accelerated and accelerating farcical repetition of passive revolution as expanded reproduction of capital as a specific epochal configuration of social power.

II

Now for those who think that the AAP is or can be an effective social democratic force. The argument against them would, in terms of logic, be much the same, save a few differences in detail. Here are some rhetorical questions that need to be asked of them. Is it possible in this late capitalist conjuncture – which in the aftermath of de-fascisation and decolonisation is characterised in it being a generalised state of exception – for social democracy to be a politics of reformism in the traditional Keynesian sense? In other words, can social democracy, even when it apparently has the subjective tenor of militant reformism, be a politics of reform of the sphere of distribution of value that in seeking to demand and effect such reform is, objectively speaking, orientated in the direction of overall betterment of the condition of the working class vis-a-vis capital? For, isn’t precisely the generalised state of exception, which characterises this late capitalist conjuncture, all about reform in the distribution of value being objectively constrained to further intensify and irrationalise segmentation of labour-power and thus the working class? And is that, therefore, not the reason why the discourse of rights, which is the ideological form of a politics seeking to reform the distribution of value, is objectively becoming more and more a politics of negative determination and less and less a politics of positive entitlements. And, in such a situation, can the subjectivity of social democratic politics itself remain, for long, working-class reformist and not be transformed into an out and out petty-bourgeois modality of competitive politics even at its mass-movemental level? In that sense, has not our conjunctural objectivity already ensured that the line that had earlier divided – either spatially or temporally or both – the populism of the left from that of the right tends to blur more and more?

The way the Maruti movement had unfolded till July 2012 – insofar as it sought to challenge and thus tended to move beyond the traditional trade unionist and vanguardist framework of radical working-class politics in all its variety – demonstrates that what is and must be first and foremost on the agenda of radical transformative politics today is the struggle against social corporatist aggregation. The Maruti movement, together with various other incidents of industrial unrest in the country over the past few years, have arguably revealed that such social corporatist aggregation, regardless of its ideological provenance and its ideology-reflecting charter of demands, is an articulation of the capitalist tendency to intensify segmentation of the working class and simultaneously regiment that segmentation into a coherent systemic whole, thereby rendering it more openly irrational.

But then, does the politics of common man, as envisaged by the AAP, even qualify as properly social democratic? There are some who contend that the AAP is a phenomenon of the rise of the new “middle sections” of the working class that the Indian left has made no serious attempt to reach out to and organise. There can be little doubt on that score. The sociology of the preponderant and leading sections of the AAP definitely suggests that. And the failure of virtually all the left groups here, whether revisionist or so-called radical, to seriously engage with these new ‘middle layers’ of the working class in order to enable them to self-organise could well be one of the reasons for their gravitation towards the anti-corruption movement and the AAP. Most of us, who swear by proletarian revolutionary generalisation, have never seriously considered the task of enabling those sections of the working class – the so-called white-collar and service-sector workers – to self-organise. Our often unstated assumption that only the traditional blue-collared workers, and sections mired in resource poverty, are working class is one of the key reasons for that failure. Yet the fact remains that the AAP, in having mobilised them on its anti-corruption plank as ‘common men and women’, has organised them as consumers and not as a constituent of the working class.

What is even more dangerous about this kind and form of mobilisation is that it poses a politics that is inimical and directly antithetical to the interests and politics of the working class. Sure, the AAP’s politics of the common man is about rendering the overall distribution of value better. But unlike social democracy that seeks this betterment in distribution at the workers’ end, any politics against corruption is about eliminating glitches in the realm of consumption as realisation of value. As a result, it is a politics that reinforces the logic of production being determined by and subordinate to consumption as realisation of value. On the other hand, social democracy – even as it does not seek to re-organise the given production process to abolish class segmentation and division – is premised on an implicit acknowledgement of irreconcilability of the antagonism between labour and capital.

Clearly, the mobilisation of those so-called middle sections of the working class as people whose consumption is blighted by graft bespeaks a politics that strengthens the enslavement of workers by the logic of realisation of value, and is thus an ideology for intensification of work. Had they been organised in terms of their worker-alterity, it would have been a radically different kind of politics. One that is constitutive of the point of production posing a direct challenge to its determination by the point of consumption-as-realisation-of-value. That would have been the beginning of the latter’s subversion, and thus the subversion of the dualised structure of production being determined by consumption-as-realisation-of-value. In other words, it would have been a determinate moment constitutive of the politics of subversion of the law of value.

Therefore, the ideology and politics of class collaboration articulated by the social corporatist form specific to this politics of the common man is, to begin with, far more reactionary than the ideological form of class collaboration posed by a social democratic subjective disposition. Such politics driven solely by the morality of honesty and probity is at its core, one ought to say now without mincing too many words, patently and unabashedly anti-working class.

III

Let us back this charge with a string of similar assertions as a way of getting to the point from where we can start making sense of this discourse of a common man’s politics of honesty and probity in terms of its social-material foundations. A politics against corruption as a politics for the common man is, in this conjuncture, inevitably bound to be a politics for greater efficiency. Such politics is populist but with an ideological orientation that is clearly neoliberal whose preponderant political subjectivity at the so-called grassroots level is fascistic.

In such circumstances, it would not be misplaced at all to characterise such politics as one of rightwing populism, whose class character, particularly in its mass movemental moment, is that of petty-bourgeois social corporatism. This ideological orientation and class character derives from the fact that the strategic focus of such politics accords primacy to the moment of consumption or non-work socialisation, and the spacetime of circulation of value. For, what else would efficiency be in capitalism save the enhanced facility of consumption as non-work socialisation? Hence, the politics of the so-called common man is a politics that seeks to redress the problems of inefficiency in the domain of consumption in their immediacy, by papering over and obscuring how such inefficiency is nothing but an expression of that domain of socialisation (or consumption) being hierarchical (or, more precisely, differentially inclusive). Concomitantly, such politics also obscures how this differentially inclusive organisation of consumption or non-work socialisation is essentially the functionality of social division of labour, which is nothing but the capitalist organisation of the production process.

And this is the reason why, among other things, the preponderant ideological orientation and political subjectivity of such politics is, as we have observed, fascistic at the level of mobilisation. The link between fascism and a politics that seeks to redress the problems in the domain of consumption in their immediate purity while steering clear of all attempts to problematise the structuring of that domain is almost self-evident. For, such politics, which seeks to resolve the problems in the domain of consumption and non-work socialisation in their pure immediacy without seeking to address them at the fundamental level of the structuring of the domain of consumption, is bound to generate and be positively disposed towards a discourse of securitisation, and a strong police state. By extension, such politics, regardless of its homilies to secularism, and such apparently secular practices as fielding of Muslim candidates in majority-dominated constituencies, will, on the whole, have an Islamophobic character.

Such politics of the common man, therefore, serves to reinforce and reproduce the production/consumption (circulation) split constitutive of capital as a mode of social being. More pertinently, it tends to do so by increasing the subordination of production (or the spacetime of living labour) to the domain of consumption, which in being situated within and articulated by the structure of capital as the spacetime of reproduction is basically the spacetime of consolidation, accumulation and thus dead labour. In this late capitalist conjuncture of biocapitalism, wherein our entire life in all its cognitive and affective dimensions has been rendered productive or a direct source of value extraction, this politics of the common man is doubly reactionary.

Such politics, strategically focused on redressing solely and purely the problems at the point of consumption in their immediacy, is paradigmatically constrained not to problematise the structuring of the given domain of consumption. It is, as a result, destined to passively accept that domain in the way it is structured. This is tantamount to affirmation of the given modalities of consumption. That not only means, as we have seen above, the reinforcement of determination of the point of production by the domain of consumption and non-work socialisation, it also means the failure or refusal to discern how consumption in being consumption is, in its given forms and modalities, now also a site of direct extraction of value. In other words, it fails to see how consumption, bound by and within its given forms and modalities, has been rendered productive.

So, even as the politics of the common man makes the domain of consumption its strategic focus, its passive approach to the question of consumption and its capitalist structuring, prevents it from posing a politics against capital as the historically concrete logic of social power that is transforming our entire society, including what had hitherto been purely the spatio-temporality of non-work socialisation (or circulation of value), into a social factory that is rendering more and more indistinguishable the hitherto clearly demarcated spacetimes of work and reproductive leisure. That is the only form in which politics focused strategically on what has traditionally been the domain of consumption and circulation can be radically transformative.

Clearly then, the politics of common man, which is a politics for greater efficiency and ‘democratisation’ at the point of consumption, has little if any similarity with the politics to re-define social needs through re-organisation of the production process by way of a struggle to transform the differentially inclusive or class-divided structure that it is constitutive of. It will, when all is said and little done, amount to greater imposition of work and, as a result, greater regimentation and increasing command of living labour. More clearly, this means that workers’ rights must always be second to the rights (read privileges) of those who live off such work as consumers and accumulators. Therefore, the politics of common man, with its shibboleths of ‘efficiency’ and ‘democratic governance’ that is supposed to yield such efficiency, is, at its heart, an anti-working class politics. That such politics tirelessly raises slogans of corporate graft, etc, should not deceive us because capital is not exhausted by private corporations. Capital is neither a single institutional entity nor a group of them. It is a structure of differential social power constitutive of infinitely multiple and proliferating levels of imposition and intensification of work, and extraction and transfer of value.

IV

The resultant sharpening of the contradictions constitutive of this social corporatist operation is the lever that militants of transformative politics need to recognise and hit. In such a situation, the difference between left populism and right populism ceases to make any strategically productive sense. The new political project of capital, which is characterised by its late conjunctural specificity, is what we have explicated as and termed neoliberalism. And the grasping of the nature of this new political project of capital involves, among other things, rethinking the strategic productivity of such ideological categories as left populism and right populism through which we on the left have traditionally made sense of the character of the political project and forms of capitalist class politics. Such an endeavour doubtless involves a huge risk that is not only ideological but, more importantly, political. However, as days go by, the characteristic specificity of our conjuncture leaves us with less and less choice on whether or not we can hazard that risk.

Let us, therefore, start that process of risk-taking right here by attempting to analytically grasp not only the new social-material reality of capital that is the basis of the AAP phenomenon but also how the vacuum created by failures of the militants of revolutionary working-class politics has led to the crystallisation of that new objective reality into a correspondent subjective form: common man’s politics against corruption.

The current conjuncture of late capitalism is characterised by increasing precarity of the working class across it various sections and segments. Such precarisation of the working class has been due to a rapid rate of change in the organic composition of capital wrought by increasing levels of competition that, in turn, has been further intensified by the change in organic composition of capital and its increasing rate. Clearly, increase in the rate of competition and change in the organic composition of capital are mutually entwined into a feedback loop. This all-pervasive precarity has meant an across-the-board anti-systemic unity with its basis in a shared affectivity generated by that common social condition. But since the subjective disposition constitutive of this affective unity against the system grasps the source of this condition of all-round precarity only in terms of the juridical form of the system, the politics it generates is against the system only in the immediately existing specificity of its juridical form. Not surprisingly, such politics, which in the instant case is what the AAP phenomenon stands for, is constitutive of an anti-systemic unity that is aggregative and thus social corporatist. Now, why is such aggregative unity, based on a common affect arising from the more or less common social condition of precarity, social corporatist? That is because this unity leaves the real material segmentations among its various constituents intact. Something that eventually leads to the instrumentalisation of socially and/or economically subordinate segments and sections of the working class by its dominant segments and sections.

Also, since such politics of aggregation is contingent on papering over segmentations internal to the working class, notwithstanding its affective unity, it fails to critique the system at the level of its structure of socio-technical division of labour. This means that such politics of aggregative anti-systemic unity fails to question the organisation of the production process at its basic structural level. As a result, the dialectic of competition (and class struggle) and change in organic composition of capital (and intensification of segmentation of labour-power and increasing socialisation of precarity) not only continues unabated. But precisely because it plays out unchecked does the rate of the dynamic that actualises the dialectic is further heightened. The socialisation of precarisation continues to both intensify and accelerate, even as there is no let up in the vengeance with which some segments and sections instrumentalise others. Consequently, no social corporatist regime is able to stabilise, even as the hegemony of social corporatism as the political logic of mass mobilisation against a particular social corporatist regime and form in crisis remains unquestioned. This amounts to, as we have observed earlier, a rapid turnover of various social corporatist regimes.

This is the new social-material condition of capitalist globality in its barbaric moment of which AAP is only the local and most recent symptom. Clearly, the rise of the AAP is on account of this affective anti-systemic unity even as this unity displays a marked lack of will to grasp the increasingly socialised condition of precarity that underlies it as its necessary condition of possibility in terms of the segmental structure of the system of socio-technical division of labour. This deficit of will should almost certainly be ascribed to the inability and/or unwillingness of militants of proletarian-revolutionary politics to move towards revolutionary generalisation as the simultaneity of unity and struggle (struggle in unity, unity in struggle and unity as struggle). Those militants and their organisations have remained stuck in their sectionalised class bases, which they have as a result ghettoised, striking sectarian stances that have amounted to no more than militant reformism. This problem of theirs they will have to overcome if they are serious about leveraging the sharpening of contradictions, which the AAP will inevitably yield, to open up the horizon of revolutionary generalisation. And for that they would do well to realise that the wars of position into which they have been compelled by the objective structural logic of the system is only an integral moment in the dialectical unfolding of the war of manoeuvre and that this moment cannot be prolonged, or be a struggle unto itself for too long.

In other words, militants of revolutionary working-class politics will have to ensure, through their subjective intervention, that the affective anti-systemic unity that has emerged on account of increasing pervasiveness of the social condition of precarity grasps itself as that unity, not merely in terms of the immediate juridical form it confronts the system as, but primarily in terms of the socio-technical division of labour as the structural basis of that system. In other words, such interventions will have to strengthen the affective unity through struggles against concrete material divisions and segmentations internal to that unity. Only then will such unity cease to be social corporatist and instrumental and will be transformed into the actuality of radical antagonism with regard to capital as a specific epochal configuration of social power.

What will be crucial, therefore, is the politico-ideological direction that will emerge because of and through the contradictions that the politics of AAP will inevitably open up at the grassroots, and consequently fail as the project it currently is. The jury is, and should justifiably be, out on that one. The failure of such politics is certain but what will come out of that failure is probably less so. A rightward turn, given the current state of affairs, is a strong possibility indeed. However, it should stay that way and never become a certainty in our critique of the AAP phenomenon. Otherwise, for militants of radical political projects, this can only imply subjective quietism. The question really is, how can a critique of the AAP phenomenon, and the concomitant diagnosis of its inevitable failure, arm the militants of radical politics with the strategic wherewithal to subjectively intervene in the concrete contradictions that will be constitutive of the AAP’s inevitable failure in order to leverage the situation and turn it in a transformative direction. For, the contradictions that are constitutive of AAP, which will be the cause of its eventual failure, present an opportunity both for the reconstitution of the system and its unravelling. What is made of those contradictions, or how they are seized, is entirely contingent on how well a critique of the AAP is able to prefigure the play of the tendency of hope and the counter-tendency of despair, which those contradictions posit, in terms of the concrete social-industrial process in its regional, national and subcontinental entirety. Only that, and nothing else, shall determine whether the failure of the AAP will yield a neoliberal dictatorship propped up by a society in perpetual fascistic flux, or a radical transformative politics of hope.

Anti-Rape Movement: A Horizon beyond Legalism and Sociology

Bhumika Chauhan, Ankit Sharma and Paresh Chandra

The project of systemic transformation does not allow one the liberty to pick and choose battles, points of entry, like commodities in the market place. A premise that is fundamental to such a project is that a single dominant principle structures this system; to us that principle is the labour-capital contradiction. This being our basic assumption, the move to an essentialised, sociologically specified understanding of class, where the “labour” of the “labour-capital” contradiction is embodied, for all times and all spaces, in a group of people (male workers; upper caste workers; white workers) is far from obvious. On the contrary, what follows logically from the assumption is that each moment (social, political, geographical, temporal) necessarily exists in a world structured by this fundamental contradiction. And if ours is to be a working-class intervention, then what is decided a priori, is only the optics that we make use of, not the moment that we choose for our intervention. Certain locations can take strategic precedence over others, but these too are decisions made in history.

Assuming thus, when we approach the “women’s question,” (constituted of a continuum of issues/sites that often seem discrete and unconnected – e.g. production, reproduction, sexuality, sexual violence etc.), the question only indicates the moment of intervention, but our project remains the same – of working-class revolution; so does the structuring principle of this system – the labour-capital contradiction. This moment, at which we intervene (the context being the recent anti-rape struggles), has already been shaped by utterances, interventions that have preceded ours, and even as we at Radical Notes formulate our own position (what we think to be a working class intervention on this question), we will necessarily have to engage with these prior utterances – at least those that we think to be useful, and others that we think to be woefully counterproductive. Later on in this essay, we will respond to recent interventions made by Maya John[1] and Kavita Krishnan[2].

This is not the first time that this question has been taken up in the manner in which we seek to raise it, nor is ours an “original formulation” (none are, to be honest). Roughly forty years ago, Marxist-Feminists like Selma James and Mariarosa Dalla Costa among others were faced with the same question and very handy theorisations that they developed are still to be properly registered within the movement in India.

One of the earliest among these theorisations comes in a pamphlet from 1974, ‘Women and the Subversion of the Community’[3], authored by Selma James and Mariarosa Dalla Costa[4]. The said pamphlet emerged from the Wages for Housework movement (1972) in Italy and the United Kingdom. The movement (and this pamphlet) was an attempt to respond to the women’s question without falling in line with the various varieties of liberal feminisms (which seemed to ignore altogether questions of labour and exploitation). But at the same time, the movement had to ensure that it did not echo another kind of Marxism that functioned with an essentialised understanding of “working class,” was unable to break with forms produced by past experiences, which were now ossified, and had foreclosed altogether many sites from ambit of conscious working-class intervention; these Marxists advised the women of the ‘70s to enter waged labour, which they deemed a precondition for “working-class-ness,” in order to fight for a more advanced capitalism, waiting always for the liberation to come that was socialism. We enact a farce in repeating those Marxist-Feminists, but then we are encountered by a farcical repetition; we find ourselves in a place very similar to the one that the above mentioned movement faced; admittedly Krishnan seems to embody both sides of the problem we just mentioned, and admittedly Maya John has chosen the right direction, though she has begun on the wrong step.

I

In her critique of John’s position on patriarchy Krishnan emphasises a manner of understanding sexual violence that fails to go beyond continual evocations of notions like “gender power”. Despite invoking the idea of women’s reproductive labour, she makes no concerted attempt to make this concept of power unfold in relation to capitalism, reproductive labour, etc. As was the case with the liberal feminists of yore, “misogyny” and “patriarchal attitudes” do still remain materially ungrounded ideological constructs in her theorisation.

In continuity with this same manner of thinking, which is unable to identify the materiality that unites diverse moments of struggle, diverse ideological forms, Krishnan goes on to argue that there is a need to “enrich our understanding of the intersections of class, caste, and patriarchy”. After ostensibly arguing that the women question is an important part of working class politics, and after accepting the specific division of male and female instituted by capitalism, Krishnan uses the notion of ‘intersection’ as if these identities/issues occupy specific grounds and intersect only at certain moments. In a single sentence the falseness of her welcome-to-Marxist-analysis is revealed, for any such analysis would assume that class does not simply intersect with gender, it structures the very terrain on which the struggles of all these identities (caste, gender, etc.) are played out. Even though Krishnan will evoke modes of production when trying to understand the relation between capitalism and patriarchy, such a manner of approaching the question will never be operative in the political-strategic programme that she envisages. In that programme womanhood is one identity, class another, all to be addressed by the good leftist organisation – nothing is to be excluded. In the words of Laclau, another sophisticated anti-Marxist, she envisages her politics as the attempt to resolve “a variety of partial problems”. Her attempt is not to identify how a fundamental contradiction in the system structures all other moments of struggle, but to form an aggregative alliance of identities.

A working-class organisation necessarily assumes the key role that the labour-capital contradiction plays. Class-struggle structures the very terrain on which historically specific moments of struggle occur; in order to catalyse the self-organisation of the working class the task becomes to try and understand these moments of intervention keeping in mind the relation between the generality of class-struggle and specific historical determinations. It is in this manner that the working class (with the help of its organisations, that are produced and dismantled in the struggle) analyses itself, and the forms of segmentation instituted by capitalism, so as to recompose itself as a conscious collectivity. In such recomposition, segments of the working class, say working class women, necessarily declare their autonomy, but only in order to transcend autonomy. To transcend this autonomy is to overcome the gendered segmentation of the working class, and this is the manner in which the gender relation and its transcendence get played out in the terrain of class-struggle. But Krishnan takes a different standpoint.

Krishnan asks, “Do working class women not seek the freedom to move freely in the public space without fearing rape; the freedom to marry in defiance of caste and community norms; the freedom from domestic violence?”

From the very manner of speaking one can glean that this is the position of an organisation trying to rationalise its interventions to its Leftist interlocutors by asserting: “Don’t’ you see? This is a working-class issue too, not only a middle class issue”. As if their intervention was predicated upon a working-class understanding of the issue, as if their interventions were not made at a moment and in a manner that would facilitate their image construction in front of an evidently “conscious” middle class. A look at Liberation’s track record will bear this out. They jumped into the anti-corruption campaign, probably drawn by its effervescence. As they entered, they appended what they thought to be working-class demands to their agenda, maintaining throughout the form that had already been instituted by the Anna brigade. The same has been their attitude towards the anti-rape struggle. In fact this recent intervention roots out any doubts about the bad faith that governed their intervention in the anti-corruption campaign. The terms of the struggle had already been decided by the middle-class subjectivity of the petty-bourgeoisie and the dominant segments of the working class.

In fact, one would be hard pressed to find even a glimmer of whatever one could possibly associate with working-class politics in Krishnan’s now famous speech, or any of her writings. Prior to this last article, in which John forces her to engage with the discourse of working class politics, in all her utterances Krishnan has been absolutely true to her liberal-feminist mould.

An example: The tactics deployed by the ‘Bekhauf Azadi’ campaign[5] addresses the bourgeois-democratic state and there is nothing in their articulations to indicate that their demands (e.g. Justice Verma Committee Recommendations, etc.) are formulated as a moment of a larger process that would lead to the dismantling of the system in its totality. Think also of the ‘Take Back the Night’ – like politics that Krishnan is implicitly defending in her recent essay. Can such a tactic be anything but merely symbolic unless it is grounded in the working class struggle for the right to the city, night and day? When we ask almost in the same breath for diverse kinds of legalist measures in the name of generating  a safe city that will allow the state to intrude and monitor the everyday life, for whom are we claiming this night really? Certainly not for those who sleep on these streets. And is not the form of reclamation important? If the working class were to reclaim control over time and space, as we at Radical Notes have asserted repeatedly[6], it could only take the form of an occupation that seeks to dismantle the state, dismantle the very manner in which time and space are structured today. To reclaim the night in the manner in which these campaigners conceive of it, is to affirm the right of the state to adjudicate claims. Is not this always already a compromised form of politics – one that has absolutely no relation with the revolutionary aims of the working class? This really is the question that the “revolutionary-Leftist” defenders of these struggles must answer.

Another example, this time from Krishnan’s article: Charging John of misreading Friedrich Engels, Krishnan suggests that Engels actually argued that ‘…the relationship between the working men and women was more likely to be based on mutual equality and love than those among the bourgeoisie.’

Let us quote something rather out of place here. Kafka once wrote, ‘The belief in progress is not the belief that progress has already happened.’ Krishnan, in her attack on John, seems to deny that the working class is living a dehumanised life. Krishnan could turn around and say that she was merely responding to John’s over-emphasis, and that her utterance had a context. John was arguing that the working class is unable to live a good life (of relationships, community, of socialising, etc.) that the “middle class” (analytically, a rather dubious term that both Krishnan and John deploy) enjoys. Strange for an intervention concerning the women’s question, in her response, Krishnan underplays the gendered segmentation of the working class. If the working class is more likely to form relations of love and be happy in them, it probably has fewer reasons to fight; if the present is good and has greater possibilities (likelihood) of goodness, why raise the question of impossibility – which is revolution? The social democratic underpinnings of Krishnan’s position are never clearer than here. The fact that the working class is internally segmented is the single greatest problem that defers revolution. Like all good social democrats of the past (including CPI(ML)-Liberation’s unacknowledged role model CPI(M)), Krishnan too tries to play down internal segmentation.

It is in her response to Maya John that Krishnan, for the first time, puts forth the claim that the anti-rape movement (presumably in the manner in which it was envisaged by her organisation) had revolutionary aims. Though she may now argue that rape is a working-class issue and while she may even theorise the role of the reproductive labour of women in capitalism, her theory is not a theory for practice. She does not tell us what such a conceptualisation of women’s labour means for the struggle of the working class, nor do the above-mentioned campaigns bear out her claims. This is probably why she and her organisation seem unable to distinguish between raising the issue of sexual violence and rape as a working-class issue, and the populist-opportunist attempt to take the middle-class position on this issue to the working class.

II

Maya John does try to develop a coherent understanding of what would the shape of a working-class intervention on this question be. Her dismissal of the so-called dual-system theory is an aspect of this attempt. But even John, though she establishes the political-economic grounding of patriarchy in the capitalist mode of production, seems unable to move on to the political-strategic wisdom that can be extracted from this insight. In order to develop what this wisdom may be, we can begin with certain problems in John’s essay.

John seems to imply the “image of subjugation” and the ideology of female inferiority emanate from the materiality of those situations of subjugation in which the working-class woman is placed. The “middle-class” woman, insofar as she does not occupy these moments, is deemed inferior because she too has to carry the burden of this image – she is not actually subjugated. According to John, a working-class man attacks a rich woman because at that moment he finds her in the same position as that of the working-class woman (‘vulnerable’, ‘out in the street’ as opposed to in the protection of her household, etc.), and finds her more attractive, presumably because of having internalised certain norms of beauty, etc.

A simple enough criticism of such a position is that John is unable to comprehend the material moorings that ideology develops. Another equally pertinent criticism is that John fails to see the materiality of the subjugation of that middle-class woman who does perform reproductive labour, and in doing so reproduces her family’s middle-class status.

The problem perhaps begins with the categories deployed. So long as the term ‘middle class’ is used to refer to struggles and subjective positions that attempt to protect privilege, we are fine. But the category becomes dubious once it is used without qualifications, to refer to a group of people, because then the phenomenological appearance of the fact begins to shape theorisation and we end up reducing class merely to a sociological fact, which it is not. Greater complications enter when we deal with gender and the matter of the woman’s reproductive labour. Who is a middle-class woman, first of all? Is she the wife of a petty bourgeois man? Does she not do housework, and does she not rear ‘his’ children? Or, is the middle-class woman a woman in a petty bourgeois occupation? Is she then a small business owner or a subsistence farmer? There surely aren’t many of those around. Is the middle-class woman a woman in a mid-level pay grade with some degree of control over her work process? Even if that were so, she does not escape sexual discrimination and harassment outside and inside the house. Inside the house, she too has to perform her domestic duties or at least sexual ones (‘bad sex’). One must then decide where to draw that line in the quantity of wage and control over work (productive and reproductive) beyond which the difference becomes qualitative. Is it possible that John’s overemphasis on the category of “middle-class-ness” precludes the very possibility of a working-class intervention by not allowing one to recognise the fact the middle-class woman too is, in material fact, a worker?

Even more important is another oversight on Maya John’s part. She asserts again and again that the problem with ‘feminism’ is that it is stuck on the question of male-female equality, whereas at the heart of all battles lies the question of liberation, which is the question of the working class. What John fails to grasp, is the possibility of the question of gender inequality becoming a moment in the struggle of the working class. Unfortunately, in her theorisation the women’s question becomes another question added serially to the list of issues that a working-class organisation raises (in this her theorisation bears an unfortunate likeness to Krishnan’s). Insofar as it is a working-class organisation it will raise the women’s question for working-class women. This John argues by asserting (rightly) the significance of the internal segmentation of women along class lines. While this is an important moment in theorising a working-class perspective on the women’s question, the next important moment is to explore how the working class itself is segmented along gender lines. It is right that the middle-class woman while battling her inferior position as a woman through middle-class or bourgeois struggles (as is the case with most gender-sensitisation campaigns) maintains her class privilege, in that being not only an agent but also an agent of capital. But something more interesting emerges when we look at this from another angle.

More generally, by accumulating the wife’s unpaid (sexual and non-sexual) labour through the husband, capital converts the husband into its agent at that specific moment, and the struggle against such subjection, which is the cause of segmentation of the working class, is the core of the struggle of the working class. In the particular case of sexual violence and rape that forms the context of the current debate: in treating the upper-class women as an object for sex, and for subjugation (when he gets the chance), the working-class man is effectively perpetuating a subjective attitude and an objective relation of social power that extends, even originates with his treatment of working-class women. The working-class woman enters this debate on sexual violence towards an upper-class woman by asserting that this attitude toward women (even when we use the word attitude, let us not forget the materiality of all ideology) keeps the working-class segmented; the working-class man exploits women and, in that, reproduces the capital relation and forms of segmentation capitalism institutes. The reconstitution of the working class into a class-for-itself demands that the “male-ness” of the male-worker be thoroughly deconstructed, and this constitutes the feminist moment of working-class struggle. At each moment in which the working-class man acts assuming the inferiority of women, he acts as an agent of capital, and a working-class women’s struggle questions him at these moments, and attacks his metamorphosis into an agent of capital.

III

The problems that we have enumerated, mostly follow from misunderstandings, from blocks/limits to thought that are direct results of limits to working-class experience that capitalism institutes. Capitalism, as we pointed out, institutes and reproduces forms of segmentation within the working class. This segments experiences of struggle too, where each segment mistakes its own interests for the interests of the class.

Krishnan’s position is, in a sense, one that emerges from and conceptualises a particular experience of struggle – an experience of those who are more embourgeoised, having greater control over their work, having greater share of value. It is such a class segment that generalises its experience and seeks alliance of other segments, which are lower on the hierarchy created by unequal apportionment of value. This alliance assumes this unequal distribution, and in that assumes/reproduces the capital relation itself, and is futile, if not counter-productive, for the struggle of the working-class in its entirety. It is this class segment that has managed a share in the spoils of battles the working class lost, and asserts repeatedly that the present is not that bad and can be improved – it is this that defines their position even if they use the language of militancy.

John’s problems too emerge from the same fundamental issue of experience. If the social democrat (of the Krishnan variety) asks the lower segments of the working class to ally with those higher up (the middle class), a position that can be drawn from John’s essay is that the working class man and woman have to ally (side-stepping the question of man-woman equality), and wage a struggle against those within the working class who consume a greater share of value. While this struggle is necessary, in seeking such unity (alliance) John does not take into account the materiality of the segmentation that capitalism has instituted through the division of production-reproduction and waged and unwaged.

IV

At the cost of repetition, but for the sake of clarity, we will try once again to establish what we think the working-class position on this question to be.  The project of the working class, in the final analysis, proceeds not through provisional alliances between segments of the working class, but through the intensification of struggle between these segments. For this, we return to the conceptualisations of the Marxist-Feminists we had begun by naming.

What is significant for us in responding to the women’s question from a working-class perspective, or, which is in effect the same thing, to understand gender relations as structured by the labour-capital relation, is the position of the working-class women (in asserting this we agree with John; but we hope to repair some of her oversights). Almost all women play a part in the reproduction of society since almost all do housework (housekeeping, reproduction and socialisation of children) and cater to the sexual needs of men [society]. This sexual subordination cuts across class. But the ‘working-class’ woman becomes even more important for capital since she not only provides her labour-power for waged work, she also reproduces the working-class man’s labour-power, as well as his children. In this hers is ‘the determinant for the position of all other women.’ (James and Dalla Costa, 1975, 21)

‘The very unity in one person [the working women] of the two divided aspects of capitalist production presupposes not only a new scope of struggle but an entirely new evaluation of the weight and cruciality of women in that struggle’. (James 1975, 13)

Hence the need to thoroughly examine the nature of reproduction and reproductive labour of the working-class woman.

Under capitalism, the factory became the locus of the socialisation of production and those who worked in the factory (or office) received a wage. Those who did not work in the factory were excluded from the socialisation of production. Moreover, while the man moved out as ‘free’ wage-labourer and formed bonds with other workers, the woman was confined to the isolation of the home. But let us not be fooled: the social factory too is a centre of production and reproduction. It is capitalism’s separation of production and reproduction that makes the reproductive labour (of women) appear external to the rule of capital. This separation is one of the most fundamental means that capital has for segmenting the working class.

This becomes easier to see when we realise that labour-power and capital are not things but social relations. If the physicality of wage is not over-emphasised it becomes apparent that in the same way in which wage hides the appropriation of surplus value produced by the factory worker, the lack of wage removes from sight the fact that the very same wage that the factory worker receives, also hides the exploitation of the woman who produces labour-power at home. To put it briefly: ‘When women remain…outside the socially organised productive cycle’, they are assumed to be ‘outside social productivity’ (James and Dalla Costa 1975, 32).

Furthermore, it is generally believed that a housewife produces only use-value, and therefore is not exploited per se. Even those who recognise the exploitation of women at the factory, see only the oppression of women at home, not the exploitation. But, as many Feminist-Marxists have argued, when we understand the reproductive sphere of capital as the social factory, the real nature of women’s work is exposed. Unwaged housework done mostly by women produces that most important commodity of all: labour-power. Even though the woman produces it, it gets embodied in the man. The workingman uses its exchange-value to earn his wage, while the capitalist uses it to produce surplus value. Hence, domestic work contributes not just use-value but surplus value as well. And in the process, the woman is reduced to being the slave of the wage slave.

Capitalism positions women in the sphere of reproduction where their labour (and toil) is rendered invisible. In that, women’s labour, as housework is excluded from socialisation, and the individual woman is effectively isolated from her workmates. This is what James and Dalla Costa identified as the reason for the drudgery and unending nature of housework. The work she does is devalued and goes unacknowledged; the cost of labour power that the capitalist has to pay diminishes with the exclusion of the cost of the labour power of women. From here the demand for “wages against housework” begins to seem a powerful one, not so much because it helps labour in the domestic arena to be recognised, rather because it provides a formidable ground to contest the most important hierarchy or segmentation within the working class – between the waged and the unwaged.

An aspect of reproductive labour, which is important for the present discussion, is the woman’s positioning as a passive receptacle for the frustrations and desires of the working-class man. The frustration caused by working in the factory and the ‘hunger for power that the domination of the capitalist organisation of work implants’ finds the woman as an outlet, especially at sexual moments of the man-woman relation (James and Dalla Costa, 42). This ‘passive receptivity’ of the woman is productive for capital because it provides a safety valve for the social tensions it produces in its workers. Rape and sexual violence is an extreme manifestation of this safety function. In addition, capitalism ‘[enlists] the uterus for the production of labour-power’, destroys the ‘physical integrity’ of the woman, reducing her emotional, sexual, creative needs for its own reproduction (James and Dalla Costa, 42-3). All this works to restrict women’s sexuality to procreation and male gratification. Moreover, the passive receptivity of the woman is productive also in the role it plays as the motive force behind household work. Her need for pleasure is repressed, and creativity in work made impossible; all that remains for a woman is to throw herself into her ‘duties’. To put it another way, it is the denial of the woman’s personal autonomy, her needs and frustrations, which forces her to sublimate her energies into housework, or as has already been argued, into the production of labour-power.

So, even ‘bad sex’ and the struggle against it, becomes a moment of class struggle.From the perspective of working-class women, the sexual mutilation of male and female workers is to be seen as means, and a form of exploitation, and by trying to free sexual creativity the women’s movement (for reproductive rights and sexual liberation) is destroying the safety valve available to capitalism, and is thus integral to class struggle. The women of the 1970s envisioned many ways in which their sexual demands become class demands. For the housewives among the Wages For Housework movement, the demand to abolish the nightshift was not just a work demand (made in support of the husbands) but also a sexual demand – for sex is for the night, during day there is housework.

These sexual demands are not merely those of sexual freedom that may play straight into the hands of capitalism (especially its “amoral” neoliberal, consumerist moment). These demands are made with the knowledge that if demands are not integrated within the larger working-class struggle, they are co-opted, that specific demands need to posit a utopian future, through the generalisation, continuous radicalisation of movement. For instance, for the Wages For Housework movement, the problem was not housework per se. The task was not to make housework more efficient or institutionalised and recognised by capital – technological innovation and wages for housework would not in fact end isolation – but to sharpen class contradiction by greater subversiveness in the struggle (ibid 36). The demand was not to simply socialise domestic labour, as in communal canteens, but to integrate this demand into a practice of struggle against the organisation of labour, against labour time, so as to destroy imposed work altogether. Otherwise we only have the ‘possibility at lunchtime of eating shit collectively in the canteen’ (ibid. 40), while women are merely taken out of the kitchen and put in the factory.

The working-class woman must struggle against capital from the specificity of her location. So housewives go out to factory meetings, neighbourhood meetings and student assemblies not as mothers or wives but as women who produce labour-power, who are unwaged workers of capital, as a powerful contingent within the working class which is questioning not just the externalised strategies of capital but also its internalised agencies. Because they work in the sphere of reproduction, they know its workings; these experiences have to articulate with other moments of working class experience. From her specific location the working-class woman struggles against the imposition of capitalist work at home and in the factory. It is only in this manner that the working-class woman will transcend her place as an appendage to the male workers’ struggle.

There is no a priori principle of working-class politics that decrees that women’s autonomous struggle, especially at the moment at which it attacks the conversion of the male worker into an agency of capital, is not as important for the working class as fighting ‘capital’ in its more recognisable forms. It is the task of this autonomous struggle to destroy this line of segmentation in the working class.

‘The working class organizes as a class to transcend itself as a class; within that class we [women] organize autonomously to create the basis to transcend autonomy’ (James and Dalla Costa, 43).

NOTES


[1] John, M. 2013 May 8. ‘Class Societies and Sexual Violence: Towards a Marxist Understanding of Rape’. Radical Notes.  https://radicalnotes.com/2013/05/08/class-societies-and-sexual-violence-towards-a-marxist-understanding-of-rape/ Accessed on May 20, 2013.

[2] Krishnan, K. 2013 May 23.  ‘Capitalism, Sexual Violence, and Sexism’. Kafila.  http://kafila.org/2013/05/23/capitalism-sexual-violence-and-sexism-kavita-krishnan/ Accessed on 23 May 2013.

[3] Dalla Costa, M. and S. James. 1975. The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community. Bristol: Falling Wall Press.

[4] The authorship has recently come under dispute.

[5] ‘Bekhauf Azadi’ http://bekhaufazadi.blogspot.in/2013/02/peoples-watch-over-parliament.html. Accessed on 23 May 2013.

[6] Ghosh, Pothik. 2012 December 28. ‘Delhi Gang Rape and the Feminism of Proletarian Militancy’. Radical Notes. https://radicalnotes.com/2012/12/28/delhi-gang-rape-and-the-feminism-of-proletarian-militancy/ Accessed on 25 May 2013.

Delhi Gang Rape and the Feminism of Proletarian Militancy

Pothik Ghosh

Demands for harsh and summary punishment for rapists, or for that matter, stringent laws to deal with  rape – fuelled as they are by moral outrage – do little else than reinforce the capitalist structure of patriarchy that thrives on gendered division of labour between waged productive work and unwaged reproductive work. For, any such legal-juridical demand or move is willy-nilly grounded in the assumption that the capitalist-patriarchal structuring of social relations need not be transformed to protect women from sexual violence. In fact, such self-righteous moral outrage underpinned by the lust for inquisitorial-gladiatorial spectacle is, at the systemic-structural level, nothing but an ideology that legitimises the capitalist-patriarchal structure. It tends to reinforce the general consensus – precisely by marshalling the crises of the system it can no longer conceal – that the only matrix capable of protecting women against violence is one that is normatively capable of instituting stringent laws against perpetrators of such sexual and/or gender violence, ensures their strict enforcement and delivers harsh punishment to offenders. The reinforcement of such a consensus does no more or less than preserve and reproduce the structure of gendered division of labour, and sexual inequality.

Moral Outrage and Capitalist Juridicality

The legal-juridical approach to protect women not only denies them autonomous agency, as it serves to interpellate them as unequal subjects of a gendered socio-economic system, but also masks the implication of the agency of all its citizen-subjects in that gender-unequal structure of social power. Meanwhile, those citizen-subjects, who turn agents of such legal-juridical approach to anti-systemic politics, live in the neurotic comfort of condemning rape and baying for the blood of rapists even as they perpetuate the gender-unequal structure of social power through their agency as citizen-subjects of civil society and its constitutive unit: the family. This structure of social power is the very condition of possibility for such gruesome acts of sexual and gendered violence, which are, therefore, its cultural and ideological embodiments or mediations. Hence, such moral outrage of citizen-subjects ties up neatly with the legal-juridical approach that serves to sidestep the fundamental question of socio-economic transformation by sweeping the collective consciousness clean of it, thus enabling the system to manage its structural crisis by transferring it, either fully or partially, from one location to another. As a consequence, the system is not only preserved but it also reproduces itself through the further extension of its panoptic web of biopower and the political-economic logic that inheres in it. Clearly, morally outraged demands for fixing gruesome acts of sexual violence such as rape in their sheer immediacy is the political language constitutive of a subjective agency of opposition that is integral precisely to the extended reproduction of the very system it seeks to oppose in one of its many determinate moments. That, needless to say, reinforces the legal-juridical approach even as it precludes the transformation of the capitalist-patriarchal structuring of socio-economic power through its decimation.

The immediate fight against sexual violence such as rape must grasp such despicable violence not as a problem of sheer lawlessness that, therefore, can be eliminated through the enforcement of the law and the reinforcement of its concomitant system, but as a crisis of the very system and its structure that, therefore, needs to be destroyed in order to abolish such crises integral to it. Rape is not an aberration of the system that the latter can eradicate by asserting – instituting/enforcing – the law that holds the system together as its raison d’ etre. Rather, it is one of the many forms of heinously oppressive violence that is integral to regimes of class domination that is enshrined in and as the systemic rule of law. Hence, the eradication of rape and other such forms of coercive patriarchal oppression, which make for the constitutive exception of the law, is contingent not on extending the remit of the legal. Instead, it lies precisely in the abolition of the law and the capitalist socio-economic structure coeval with the legal and, which to reiterate the earlier point, is the condition of possibility of patriarchy and all its forms of control and coercion.

It is no accident that moral outrage against gruesome acts of rape and sexual violence, which fuel demands for either more stringent anti-rape laws or harsh punishment for rapists, or both, is inseparable from disciplinary control over the vector of women’s bodies and lifeworlds. All for their safety and security. The social, if not the individual, subject that articulates both those discourses is indivisible.

This argument does in no way, however, preclude the question of politically fighting rape in its immediacy. Rather, what it insists on is the inescapable need for such a struggle to figure how the general strategy of fighting capital in order to overcome it should articulate its tactics in their immediacy, and not be conflated with it to be hypostatised. The legal-juridical fight against rape is a tactical position that ought not to be blinded by the affect of moral outrage that animates it to the strategy of decimating the capitalist-patriarchal structure. A strategy that ought to inform, articulate and orientate the social subject waging the immediate, tactical struggle for legal-juridical measures against rape. As for the question about whether or not moral outrage about rape is necessarily inseparable from patriarchy, the need is clearly to deal with it at its two different levels of determination: one of individual subjectivity and the other of social subjecthood. In the first instance, the correlation is not necessary, while in the second case, if the morally outraged social subject is interpellated by the legal-juridical approach and is thus rendered incapable and/or unwilling to pose the fundamental structural (or mediated) question then moral outrage is doubtless coeval with patriarchal power. It is actually no less than the ideology of capital in this, its late conjuncture. Of course, there is no duality between the two subject-positions as they are in a dialectic. And precisely, therefore, there can be no unidirectional determination. That is, an individual subjectivity of moral outrage, even if it is informed by a conception of social subject for structural transformation, cannot, merely by claiming to be informed by such radical subjectivity, stand in as such for the actuality of the radical, system-transforming social subject. That social subject, which is incipiently present in the subjectivity of a radical individual, has to be generalised beyond that incipience for it to be sustained in its actuality. Politics is what politics does. Not what it says it does.

Class Struggle on the Woman Question

Therefore, the woman question should not be reduced to a question of juridical identity and that it should, in its tactical determinateness, articulate the generalised strategy of class antagonism. This is not to say that rape becomes a secondary question from the vantage point of revolutionary working-class politics. And that, therefore, the struggle of the hour is for socialism, whose coming would automatically take care of gender inequality and sexual oppression. Instead, there is an urgent need to stake out a revolutionary working-class position with regard to intervention in gruesome instances of sexual violence where the public consensus is single-mindedly focused on meting out harsh punishments – death by hanging, castration, etc – while remaining incapable of or unwilling to question how gender-insensitive laws and law-enforcement are integral to the capitalist-patriarchal structuring of social relations, or social power.

However, what must at this juncture be openly acknowledged, and admitted – without a shred of ideological sophistry – is that the dominant current of movements, which have based themselves on the conceptual centrality of the class question, have been paradigmatically blind to how, among other things, capital has engendered class. In other words, the working-class movement should recognise that its dominant tendencies have failed to foreground how the structure of capital has divided labour and thus segmented the working class through the political-economic specification, re-inscription and re-articulation of the pre-capitalist gendered power relations. The capitalist structure has specified pre-capitalist patriarchy to effect gendered hierarchisation of the domains of productive and reproductive work to enable transfer of value to preserve and perpetuate a system constitutive of differential rates of exploitation (extraction of surplus value). Not just that. The capitalist-patriarchal ideology of ‘legitimate’ sexual inequality generated by this gendered privileging of productive over reproductive work has been instrumental in the gendered segmentation of labour – through unspoken custom if not enshrined contract – in the productive sphere itself as also the larger sphere of so-called non-work socialisation. The working-class movement would, therefore, do well to realise that the paradigmatic blindness of its dominant tendencies to this dimension of our political-economic reality has yielded a conception of working-class unity that is nothing but the instrumentalisation of the everydayness of working-class women by the politics of the male proletariat. That has rendered the latter the oppressive intermediaries of capital and dominant petty-bourgeois agencies of property-forms vis-à-vis the former. In short, such ‘working-class unity’ has been integral to the restoration of capitalist class power.

The women’s movement would, meanwhile, do well not to repeat such a paradigmatic error. The specification, and rearticulation, of the gendered relations of power by the capitalist structure cuts both ways. Capital does not merely engender class but also, in the same movement, classi-fies gender. It marshals gender inequality to segment the working-class even as the homogeneity of gender is itself subjected to a class-based internal differentiation based on a hierarchically relational gradation of property-form and labour-dimension. In such circumstances, to target only patriarchy as the root of such gender oppression and sexual violence as honour killings, rape and so on is to attack only the ideological form – culture if you will – of gender oppression and violence while leaving the capitalist structure that animates or articulates it intact. A structure that is capable of coopting anti-patriarchal women’s  movements by articulating them in a manner that enables such movements to raise the perfectly just demands for the abolition of various unfreedoms that shackle womankind in its gendered entirety even while bringing emancipation from such gendered unfreedoms to certain locationally select segments and sections of women to the exclusion of the rest, and thereby neutralising the movements by weakening the strength and/or energy of the mass that drives such movements by accentuating the segmentation within it.

Towards the Feminism of Proletarian Militancy

The point here is certainly not to join the chorus of status-quoist cynics, who are seeking to diminish the current anti-rape mass upsurge on the streets of Delhi as a middle-class fad. Such cynicism is insidious to say the least. Sexual violence and gender oppression cannot, by any stretch of imagination, qualify as a middle-class or petty-bourgeois concern. Insofar as gender inequality, which is a form of class domination, is co-constitutive of such violent oppression, sexual violence is a working-class question at its core. Rather, the point of the argument really is that the mass upsurge should recognise its objectively incipient working-class character so that it can be generalised. In short, this movement against sexual violence must not only challenge the dominant culture of patriarchy – which it is doing in large measure, thanks to the participation of various communist-left mass organisations and other radical women’s groups – but must also simultaneously become a struggle against segmentations and divisions within the gendered class of women proletarians if its battle against patriarchy has to really succeed. In other words, an effective struggle against patriarchy can only be a revolutionary working-class struggle. One that doesn’t evade the gender question in the name of some larger, beyond-gender working-class unity, but focuses on the gender question in its specificity in terms of rearticulation of the culture (ideology) of patriarchy within and by the materiality of capital. To do merely the former is the path of radical feminism while an approach that dialectically articulates the former with the latter is the feminism of proletarian militancy.

What would the adoption of such an approach mean in the concrete specificity of the current anti-rape mass movement in Delhi, though? For starters, it would not only mean stoutly resisting calls for capital punishment for or emasculation of the perpetrators of sexual violence but even steering clear of such juridical-legal demands as improving the abysmally low rate of conviction  in rape cases, making rape investigations less patriarchally prejudiced and strengthening our frail and ineffectual anti-rape laws. Such demands – which are currently emanating from the more politically progressive tendencies in the movement – presuppose that the current system is capable of delivering on them and that such delivery is contingent merely on some disembodied, spiritualised will of the system. In other words, the socio-political subject that articulates such demands is a subject of reformist politics interpellated by the juridical-legal ideology and the concomitant hope that the system is structurally capable of reform. It is, therefore, unwittingly or not, complicit in the perpetuation of the capitalist systemic structure that is the necessary, if not sufficient, condition for the generation of cultures of gender oppression and sexual violence. Clearly, the stress of radical politics cannot, for that reason, lie on mobilising the street to berate and condemn the patriarchal mindset of the administrators either. Such an approach to the state of affairs dovetails nicely with the juridical-legal mode of reformist politics because such condemnation implies that it can shake a patriarchally callous and prejudiced administration from its anti-woman mindset by the sheer force of its intensity, and that therefore there is no structural constraint on the latter to transform itself for the better. Nothing, as we have seen, is farther from the truth. Worse, the discourse of such politics, thanks to its reformist modality, is inevitably populist that can (often has) dangerously veer to the right in the course of the mass movement. For, registers and idioms have a way of taking a life of their own, not least because they are inscribed within systemically operational structures.

Radical political intervention should learn to shun the discourse of crime and punishment to relearn its classical language of oppression and resistance. A language that disentangles the question of justice from that of law by freeing the former from the hypostatized prison of the latter. It should pose the very same systemic problems – low conviction rate, weak laws, culturally biased investigation and custom-based, communitarian subjugation of bodies and lives of women – with regard to gender oppression and sexual violence such as rape to expose the structural incapacity of the system to reform itself and remedy the situation. And through such exposure conscientise – orientate if you will – the mass upsurge triggered by perception of such ‘crimes’ to demand the impossible of the system: that its administration, police and, eventually, its private and public corporations, must cede their governmentalised control over and determination of every aspect of the lifeworld of the working masses to the popular subjectivity of the mass movement. A politics based on demanding the impossible is needed in this case not only because the system is structurally incapable of riding itself of gender-inequality and the patriarchal ideology co-constitutive of it but also because the juridical-legal approach legitimizes the politics of demands the system can possibly deliver on and, in the process, articulates a subject that reproduces the logic of duality and determination – which is constitutive of the capitalist law of value and phallocentric patriarchy, both embodied by the state.

Only when the current mass upsurge comes to be animated by this radically (im)possibility will it have begun actualising its revolutionary incipience by struggling to not merely occupy Delhi but seeking to take control of that occupied urban spatio-temporality by re-organising the social relations constitutive of it through the general assembly-driven mode of popular vigilance into a free associational or solidaristic sociality. The actualisation of such a radical subjectivity by the movement in question would enable it to see and envisage its struggle against the system in its dialectical indivisibility with the task of re-organising the given social and production relations. Something the class power constitutive of the system in question tends to render impossible, thus making the deployment of popular force by those who struggle indispensable for their task of generating counter-power through such re-organisation of the given socio-economic relations. That would, inter-alia, put an end to the false and grossly counter-productive binary between violent and peaceful protests that we have seen emanating from within the movement over the past few days. One that threatens to sap the movement of its unity and energy, what with the clear and present danger of the movement being hijacked from within – either by the reformists or the petty-bourgeois right – staring it in the face.

That this is no flight of fancy is more than evident in what the anti-rape mass movement itself has thrown up. Some radical students and youth organisations and individuals of Delhi have imagined into being a campaign, as part of the ongoing protest movement, to “reclaim the nights of the city”. The carnivalesque spontaneity of this reclamation campaign posits – of course, in a rather nascent form – the possibility of an insurrectionary sociality of people’s militias that wrest Delhi and its streets from all oppressors – the rapists, as much as the police and administration that is structurally complicit in such oppression – for popular vigilance and control. That possibility must, however, be recognised if the campaign is not to get caught in its carnivalesque spontaneity and degenerate into another festival of the anarcho-desiring petty-bourgeois youth. Only through such recognition can the politically conscious elements of the revolutionary left that is part of the campaign seriously strive towards building wider solidarity networks with the larger sections of the working people of the city, beyond the student-youth axis of the current campaign. Such wide-ranging solidarity networks are, needless to say, indispensable and integral to the process of occupation of a city and the simultaneous subordination of the socio-economic process constitutive of it to popular vigilance and control. Ironically, it is only by organising the carnivalesque spontaneity of the so-called reclamation campaign into a mode of popular control and vigilance of the sociality that are the nights, as also the days, of Delhi can this carnival preserve itself by obviating its day-after to become, in Ernst Bloch’s words, a “concrete utopia” of uninterrupted insurrection.

Instead, what we have so far  from the radicals in the anti-rape mass movement, the communist left groups included,  is, at best, a version of the juridical-legal approach tinged with the rhetoric of radical feminism. This approach has given their politics, even though they raise precisely the very same set of pertinently concrete questions they ought to have raised in order to radicalize the situation, a disagreeably unradical populist odour. It even risks reversing the good faith of such politics into bad. Such juridical-legal demands, regardless of the nobility of intent of the subject of such politics, can only serve to further securitise and thus governmentalise the political discourse and enable the extension and intensification of repressive state apparatuses and biopolitical instrumentalities such as the police force, and CCTV cameras and global positioning systems in public spaces respectively. And that is because the nobility of its intent does little to change the fact that such politics is wholly geared towards eliciting governmental – executive, legislative and judicial – responses from the system. Those are not merely the only responses the system can possibly come up with but ones it must come up with in order to extend its dominion and thereby reproduce itself.

In a more general sense, the communist left must remember that a revolutionary subjectivity is not one that evades certain immediate questions that history/capital throws at it. Rather, that every such question is a ground for leap against capital and its history, and that such a leap can concretely, as opposed to abstractly, come about only if it is able to understand and plot its interventions with regard to the concreteness of those immediate or determinate questions in terms of two mutually related characteristic features of our responses as subjects situated within and informed by capitalism and its history: one, commonsense is ideological and two, our struggle against any immediate domination must in the same determinate instance also articulate a struggle against the generalised hegemony within whose structure both immediate domination and the struggle against it are situated. A social subject of opposition that is not orientated by such knowledge runs the grave and virtually imminent risk of falling prey to the cunning of capital in precisely the same moment when it puts up its most spirited fight against it.

Maruti: A moment in workers’ self-organisation in India

Pratyush Chandra

The Chairman of Maruti Suzuki, R.C. Bhargava, himself described the July 18 incident as a “class attack”. The management, which learnt from the Japanese how to instrumentalise unions as tools to educate and regulate workers in work discipline, are now learning a new lesson from their own Manesar workers – they want their own voice, which is in their control not in the control of the masters, whosoever they may be. They will tear away every interface if that obstructs their organic collectivity to emerge – then they will speak in their own voice, which will definitely be harsh and brutal, as it will be organic to the very core. They will speak in their own language, without any creative translation into a language that has systemic legitimacy.

The lesson that the Indian corporate sector learnt from the Japanese is graphically retold by Bhargava himself in his recent book, The Maruti Story. It is not just revolutionaries who called trade unions a school, even the Maruti management found them to be so – a necessary means for “continuous training of workers…if their attitude towards work, the company and its management was to be changed…. We understood the logic of their [the Japanese] system and so wanted to completely reverse the traditional culture and bring about a mutually beneficial relationship between workers, the union and the management.”(302) So the management “promoted a trade union at Maruti, before political parties and outsiders could establish”. The founder-Chairman of Maruti Udyog, V Krishnamurthy, “brought” even a union leader from BHEL. “The importance of the union was highlighted by ensuring that the president and general secretary of the union were seated on the dais at every Maruti function. They would, along with the top management of Maruti, receive all VVIP guests and garland them.”

Time and again, the Maruti workers have tried to build their unity beyond promoted, brought, bought unionism and its ritualism. Each time such unity has been institutionalised into a legal form, the management has either destroyed or bought it over, and promoted enterprise unionism. Since the last year, however, things have drastically changed. Maruti workers have understood the meaning of legitimacy, its functions and limits. This remarkable understanding is evident in what a Maruti worker expressed just after the worker-leaders were ‘bought’ and sidelined in 2011:

“Sahibs don’t understand the situation…. In these past few months, a handful of workers had risen to the position where they could control the workers…. By dismissing exactly those men, the management has thrown away a valuable tool.” (Aman Sethi, “Down and out on India’s shop floor”, The Hindu, July 29, 2012)

And again after the July 18 incident, in an interview recorded by a mainline news channel, a worker said:

“Our workers did not have faith in the union body. They were apprehensive about the union cheating them again…. [Yet they wanted that] the management should at least value and listen to the union body.” (NDTV, August 11, 2012)

They understood the limits and dangers of legality and representation, and the need to have extra-legal vigilance of their institutionalised body. Something the workers ensured by evolving shop-floor networks of line and departmental coordinators, and by frequent assertion of the general body. While the representative trade union, in accordance with the legal regulations and norms, included only the permanent workers, this organisational form was organic to the daily shop-floor coexistence of all segments of workers.

Defying every attempt to fragment and subalternise their collective consciousness, the Maruti workers forged a youthful (in a literal sense) unity among themselves beyond all kinds of regulatory and identitarian divides (including the caste and regional), demonstrating their uselessness, except for the purpose of regulating workers in favour of capital. This unity was remarkably visible during the 2011 strikes. They defied every agreement and manipulation from above that tried to break that unity, and they struck three times against them, and surprised the unions and their legitimate sense. Hence, even the need to form a sectionalist union (of permanent workers) – which the legalese and the prevailing industrial political culture compelled them to adopt for negotiations with the management – was continuously overwhelmed by the unity below that questioned the very basis for such unionist sectarianism and economism.

It was this collectivity that could not be destroyed by the management’s union busting, and it did form another union. But its easy registration and semi-recognition by the management made the workers evermore apprehensive, and they enforced constant vigilance on the representatives. However, the management misconstrued this collective apprehension as a distance between the general workers and the union, not understanding that its collective nature in fact tightens the workers’ grip over the union leadership. It is unlike the generalised yet fragmented weariness that leads to helplessness. The management miscalculated and thought its intransigence in dealing with the union will increase the distance and delegitimise the union in the eyes of the general workers. It could not anticipate that such an act was thinning the legal shield that protected it. And, so, what could have passed for the time being as another “class action” got transformed into a “class attack”, as Bhargava calls it. The management should not complain that it didn’t get the warning – workers themselves gave out sufficient signals.

However, one must grant that not just the Maruti management, the suddenness of the July 18 incident at Maruti astounded everybody – where was this anger among workers residing for the past one year? Nothing similar happened during the remarkable “non-violent” strikes in 2011. And prior to the incident nothing happened that could give a hint towards it. Therefore, a plethora of explanations and conspiracy theories has come up.

Interestingly, we can easily identify a basic logic behind the catalogue of ex-, post-facto explanations that various institutional and non-institutional bodies – the state, management, media, unions and radicals – are putting forward. A central thesis runs through all of them, which is that workers as a mass cannot have any coherent plan. Hence, those who see incoherence in the incident, either blame it on reactive spontaneity in the absence of (correct) leaders (radicals), or mob-like nature of the workers action (media elites). For many of these responses, there is some kind of pre-planning that must have come from outside (from Maoists/political unions, as the state and management maintain, or provocation from the side of management through their intransigence or by employing ‘bouncers’, as all the pro-workers institutions or groups opine). However, in the end no one is willing to concede general workers a coherent critical subjectivity that reasons them into taking things (read law) into their own hands, because for all the groups mentioned above, a rational subjectivity can emerge only through the repression of the inner nature (in the present case that of the mass).

All that even the pro-worker forces are willing to grant, and at most, is if the workers were accomplices in the July 18 incident, they were merely reacting to something the management wrongfully did that day (by calling the bouncers or by not resolving the issue of the suspension of a fellow worker) or have been doing lately (by not going for a speedy wage settlement or union recognition). All these self-actions by the workers are arrogantly clubbed together as spontaneity or spontaneous actions, which are generally considered to be reactive, and can have a political meaning only if harnessed by the organised political forces. It is interesting to note how these competitive forces, doing organisational shopkeeping, or at least advertising, among workers, have found workers’ direct actions erratic and even anarchic. They find the workers sensible and tractable only in those moments when they are led or when the consciousness of defeat and victimhood dawns over the workers – when “victim” workers are looking for respite and rights, and for experts who can represent them in the courts of law and negotiations.

These so-called political forces have a notion of politics that comes directly from the civics classes of the (post)modern schools that define politics in terms of institutions (or tangible forms of organisation) and their activities. Even the movements must be located among these activities, or else they are apolitical and even mere riots. Class struggle is reduced to the interplay of these institutions, ideologies and activities. They are unable to locate this representative interplay and their own activity as (re)originating in a continuous class struggle between capital and labour – in the daily imposition and subversion of the process by which capital acquires and incorporates living labour as merely an agency for its self-valorization. They are unable to see that recent unrests on the labour front in India have been largely political – i.e., they are related to a constant recomposition of class collectivity that short-circuits the re-segmentation of labour – the ever real-ising subsumption of labour by capital. In other words, this collective urge is not simply a wont to vocalise the aggregate demands of individual or sectional workers, as in a demand charter. Rather, it relates to their concern to transcend the segmentation on which the capitalist industrial polity thrives – the division between permanent, contractual, casual and interns. It is a marvelous experience to hear from general workers about these real divisions made on false premises. It is this open vocalisation that constitutes workers politics today. The Maruti workers’ struggle clearly is a finest example in this regard.

In one of the discussions that we had with workers in other industrial regions about the Maruti ‘violence’, a worker expressed how they work for the fear of the daily hunger and for feeding their family. Otherwise who would like to work under iron discipline and invisible eyes constantly watching over you, reprimanding you for every small mistake? Workers continuously look for every small opportunity that would enable them to dodge and abuse this system of surveillance.

The (more-or-less) open violence of primitive accumulation that joins the fate of labour to capital readies it for the inherent violence in the active imposition of work that capital as social power with its various apparatuses seeks to ensure. There is nothing reactive about workers’ actions to break out of this panoptic circuit which is now expanded throughout the society. The diverse immediate forms that these actions take are meant to surprise capital.

It is not the question of defeat or success of these forms or agitations that should concern us. In fact, our every success makes our actions predictable, increasing the reproductive resilience of the hegemonic system. Who knew this fact better than Karl Marx? He stressed on the need to watch out for opportunities to stage sudden radical leaps away from the guerrilla forms of daily resistance against the encroachments of capital, or else workers will be evermore entrenched within the system of wage slavery despite – and because of – frequent achievements in their everyday negotiations with capital. Those radicals suffer from the same Second International reformism and co-option politics, of which they accuse everybody, when they visualise class maturation as a linear succession of successes and achievements, not in the increased activity of the working class to catch capital off-guard by its volatile, yet collective thrust.

Today, the dynamism of this workers politics poses a crisis not just for capitalist strategies but also for itself as it constantly outmodes its own forms. The significance of the Maruti struggle and the July 18th incident lies in this process – they demonstrate the increasing inability of the legal regulatory mechanisms and existing political forms to ensure “industrial peace”. This means:

1) For capital, every crisis is an opportunity to restructure labour relations for its own advantage. Many times, it carefully shapes an industrial conflict to seek such restructuring. The recent conflicts have shown the limitation of the legal framework to generate industrial consent/peace, which has time and again forced capital to resort to coercion.

2) The automotive sector has been central to capitalist accumulation, so the needs of this sector have time and again restructured the industrial polity and economic regime globally. In India too, this sector has been in the leadership of pushing economic reforms in a pro-capitalist direction. The high-handedness and intransigence of the managements of Maruti and other automotive companies in recent conflicts is representative of the determination of Indian capitalists to force pro-capital labour reforms.

3) Legal unionism and existing organisational practices to compose and regulate working class assertion are becoming increasingly redundant. The labour movement must look out for new incipient forms in this self-assertion, as older forms are unable to lead working class consciousness, which is much more advanced than these forms, to its political end. The direct action of Maruti workers last year and this time cannot be simply explained by the crude notion of unorganised spontaneity, rather it shows their political will to transcend the segmentation perpetuated by the capitalist industrial polity.