Monday, March 15, 2010

George's response

In response to "Why Communism failed......", George wrote the following. After unsuccessfully trying to post my response in the buzz, I may be allowed to do it here. George's post is in blue and my response is in black.

P J George - I don't agree with the point that certain labour can be derived to be unnecessary. In that sense any labour unrelated to hunting and gathering is unnecessary. The entire idea works only within a framework in which we accept certain goods and services as necessary. In such a framework there will be n number of ways to achieve production and the shortest is usually the capitalistic one. What is needed is a more efficient socialist means of production. It might need a radical thinking that does not start from the factory floor up. In that sense, from what i understand is its basic tenets, Dalit Marxism has a distinct advantage.16:03

I completely agree with George's first point which he sharply and humorously puts. A dry rendering of it would be something like this: human needs are to be defined not so narrowly as the European countries' idea of Developing Countries needs when they offer scholarships to students of Third World.

True, if we adopt some "glutton socialist perspective" where more and better food is the point of socialism. In this way, we end up reducing human beings - the way The Hindu made me - to physical beings.

But there are many forms of labour which are utterly unnecessary, for example, this enterprise called the press or the police in a much advanced form of civilisation. Not the Stalinist kind of suppression of the press or a much sophisticated sidelining of the good press of US-brand techniques, but a condition where this thing called press loses its usefulness.

However, desirable or inevitable our urge to scratch may appear to be, most forms of itch could simply be cured. So are many forms of labour, for example, most of the sub-editing whose job mostly is to edit out anything damaging to the state and thus truly useful to the people.

Many forms of labour are needed now and ultimately unnecessary in that sense. Marx said our needs become so diverse — and virtually there would be no end to them — in communist society. In fact, labour itself becomes the natural expression of our human nature rather than something we sell and underpaid and unemployed and in many other ways debased.

Why Communism failed, why we should be thankful for that?

This is yet another contribution to an ongoing debate with a comrade who thinks Dalit Marxism is a handmaid of business classes because of  'its failure to conform to what he thinks are the nuances of Marxist understanding of labour.' Well, this is admittedly an attempt at overconfidence of typical of Marxists, my own included,  in the correctness of their theory even if 'in practice some mistakes do happen.' For example, Nadigram or Kakatiya Express. 
Working class includes those unable to find or not allowed to, work. Most of the Dalits don't find work. What a small section of them finds is not ‘productive’ in the sense that ‘domestic work’ is not productive, in the simple sense that it doesn't contribute to production or produce anything directly but in the sense that we can do without it. There will never be any economy without agriculture in one or other form but there can and are societies without manual scavenging or cloth-washing. We mean that they do contribute to existing production in the immediate sense but they exist due to the historical or accidental or cultural reasons without which too production can be organised.
Most of the clerks and managers are simply parasitical classes not in the sense that they don't work or their work is not necessary but the conditions which make their work necessary are actually unnecessary.
Society has many such forms of work- for example a great portion of advertising, printing money, share-market, making land mines, PhDs such as the comparative studies of school enrolment patterns in two village in Tamilnadu and many more such things.
Prostitution is another example. This is for all practical purposes ‘work’ but not given such status. We fight for giving prostitution the dignity of work but we don't think it is actually work.
We oppose the exploitation and debasement of prostitution but ask for the right to practice it as profession because it is a better form of exploitation in comparison with treating it as just plain immorality.
Then we join the prostitutes’ struggle to have all the rights other workers have or should have and then work for conditions in which practicing prostitution becomes unnecessary.
So is the case with many forms of labour many including, but not limited to, Dalits do engage in. We ask for the simple abolition of some of them because they are already redundant in the present ‘stage of development of productive forces’ and ‘cultural sensibilites’ even when they are not universally available. There are other forms of unnecessary forms of labour which we don't seek their direct abolition but the abolition of their need.
We do retain many 'forms of labour' or can't do without even in 'idealistic' and advanced condition of communism, which Marx insisted could only be defined negatively, in terms of what will not exist but not what would make it up, but the forms of labour change so dramatically that we cannot actually say that they are the same. 
So, we can safely say that if humanity avoids total self-annihilation and proceeds to form communism we most probably avoid all forms of labour we now know of. Even the content of labour will have to change. As Marx said, those forms of labour- despite all the automation and advanced technological sophistication and drastic cut down on time a person daily works for, might still not be very easy. They may still be difficult but they resemble the happy strain we love to bear in playing, exercising and love-making.
Marxism doesn't say simply that what those elite sophisticates spend their time doing, appreciating and producing art, tasting widest variety of food, sporting etc in themselves are wrong and hard labour is inherently superior, because the latter is what gives the fundamental means of our existence. Marxism is for creating condition in which such sophisticated life is accessible to all by changing the conditions in which such is the privilege of a very few. 
Well, Marxism doesn’t say that such advantages of the few are to be gradually extended to the whole society. Marxism’s point is such is not possible. It has shown repeatedly how false or naive such ideas of lower down percolations or gradual extentions of the few to the whole. Privileges are not exceptions but the very condition of the deprivations of the most.
Such conditions, in terms of development of productive forces, are already in place. But mere socialisation is not enough. We need people mature enough to make best of them. It is not enough to socialise the means of production and develop them to their full potential. This can be achieved even through military means. A coup in US defence is enough, however improbable, such scenario is not impossible and enough for achieving such socialisation and unleashing of productive forces. 
But, sadly we don't have mature enough humanity to make best of it. History has repeatedly proved that after establishing rule of the communist parties the biggest hurdle for such society to move forward to better social organisation is the all-powerful parties themselves.
It is relatively easy to defeat capitalists to socialise means of production but humanity has not discovered how to defeat communists to create communism. Both the defeat of capitalism and defeat of communism have actually occurred in the previous century. But defeating capitalists but not to revert to capitalism or defeating communists to advance to communism did not happen. We don't know how will it happen.
You must have known this cynical anti-communist quip, making a mockery of different historical stages attributed to Marxism: the shortest route from feudalism to capitalism is via communism. How cruel, but how true!!
Nearly all advanced countries 2 centuries ago remain advanced today and those left out of capitalism then remain so today with very few exceptions. And, nearly all those exceptions are due to 'communism,' excepting, probably, Japan.
Coming back to the question of 'subjective conditions,': despite objective development and potential of productive forces and even the lingering crisis in capitalism, what stops us from bringing revolution? Not just the near invincible military might of the global capitalism and their agents. It was never the case that communist revolutionaries ever defeated foes through their own force but by winning over a section of the ruling class' military forces or though coups or seizing upon the momentary lapse in the state functioning.
But, I think even if present day's crisis fails to stabilise for too long as to give us enough time and we are alert and lucky enough to put together revolutionary forces and created enough popular support still I don't think we can win or if we win we can make our world any better place. In all likelihood, we will end up creating a disaster.
Why? We don't have human beings worthy of communism. We are like the U.S. which can potentially without much risk to itself occupy nearly any country except the nuclear powers. But the US can't rule them. We can pull off revolution at the most but we cannot create a better society. Our human rights record is worse than that of fascism's. Zizek's judgement is that Stalinism is worse than Nazism.
Our pre-history of communism - establishment of formal socialist societies from Russia to Korea- is akin to the oil-rich countries of West Asia: strong in productive forces, but utterly incapable in mindset to ‘realise’ its potential. We achieved socialisation of production but, you know what followed, if not reasons at least results. Nearly all collapsed communist countries were overthrown by their own people born and brought up by those very communist countries. What allows people of China and Cuba to remain with the status quo till today is nationalism and not communism. All of it can be explained as the effect of external pressures. True. But, corruption can be from outside but corruptibility is within. So far, we have defied and even defeated the power but never learnt to wield it wisely.
The word Communism has two meanings in Marxism. First is an advanced form of society in which most social evils we see (and fail to see) don’t exist because the conditions for them disappear. Second meaning is, the theory of those who try to change existing society with a view to lead it to such advanced level later. In the first sense, the humanity as a whole is not mature enough to create, even imagine it. In the second sense, humanity is not mean enough to tolerate it.  
All of it might sound anti-communism to you. This is simple self-critical communism. Communism is nothing if not self-critical. It doesn’t have to depend on false claims and apologies. All the above narrative which refuses to be self-congratulatory is admittedly too simplistic. At times it is too broad to be meaningful. Dalit Marxism hopes to base itself on a double reversal in our semi-feudal surroundings. It builds not only on the strengths of capitalism but also the faults of communism with an aim to exploit the opposites of both!
Why both capitalism and communism?
Because both are better forms than the one we are locked in.