July 04, 2016

Nirmalangshu Mukherji’s plea to abandon the rhetoric

'With and beyond Marx' brings together the most dominant voices in India’s Marxist academia || EPW Book Review https://t.co/2Lj3ysStcZ
Now I would turn to the two articles whose inclusion in the volume outrages my sense of Marxism. Sumanta Banerjee and Nirmalangshu Mukherji both critique political forms that the left in India has taken.
Mindless Militarism?
For Mukherji, even as the Maoist insurgency borders on criminality, it has produced genuine revolutionaries wasting their lives and energy in “mindless militarism.” They stand out in comparison to “the grinning opportunists” in the Indian legislative bodies and Parliament but eventually fail “to secure even basic relief” to the people. The democratic electoral system despite “large-scale corruption and criminality” has taken “deep roots” among the Indian people, so any armed action on their behalf is illegitimate. Armed struggles actually alienate the working class and impede its forms of protests. They develop logistical linkages with the underworld of crony capitalism like arms dealers, and the mining and timber mafia. Mukherji is quite consistent in his opposition to armed struggle and he considers even the political practice of Bhagat Singh and his comrades to be invalid.

He finds people to be aware of the “infirmities” of armed struggle and anti-electoralism as rooted in the very idea of the communist left—Maoists are immediately gripped with them, while others would indulge after mustering enough seats in Parliament. What is the proof? The “basic masses” across the country do not support them. So what is the programme? “Militant parliamentarianism backed by massive popular resistance” (p 235). This affects, according to Mukherji, three aspects of “strict” Marxist-Leninist theory. First (while favourably referencing Prabhat Patnaik), he points out that the “whole” people should replace the notion of the proletariat. Ultimately if the need is to redistribute, the proletariat hinders the unity of “class politics” of the whole people against a small minority. Second, instead of being against the existing state, referencing Kobad Ghandy, Mukherji asserts, the left should take “the historic responsibility... to protect the existing state and expand its operations in favour of the masses.” Third, “electoral democracies in the third world perhaps offer revolutionary opportunities of a non-classical kind” (pp 237–38). Hence, as the hegemonic left in India has been for many decades quite flexible towards the strict Marxist–Leninist theory, Mukherji’s plea here ultimately amounts to a legitimate demand to abandon the rhetoric too.

Pratyush Chandra (pratyush@radicalnotes.com) is associated with Radical Notes. Marxism: With and Beyond Marx edited by Amiya Kumar Bagchi and Amita Chatterjee; New Delhi: Routledge, 2014; pp xxiv+279, ₹850. 

The Auro-Mira Vidya Mandir, Kechla – The journey so far
Set amidst numerous pockets of a rugged hilly terrain and an extensive reservoir is Kechla, a conglomeration of several hamlets inhabited primarily by a tribal populace. Nestled within these hillocks is the Auro-Mira Vidya Mandir, a school that is home to nearly a hundred and ten children. Blessed by the beauty and calm of nature around, the pristine surroundings lend a special hue to the school Read more...

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