Fourth day – Discussion on “Post-Marxism” and Bolivarian alternative
Allahabad, 13 March. Two important papers were presented on the fourth day of the Fifth Arvind Memorial Seminar.
The first paper titled “The Communism of Post-Marxism: The Theory of Dissolving all Projects for Change on the Premise of Radical Change” was presented by Shivani and Baby from Delhi. The paper said that after the great debacle of “post” theories like postmodernism, postcolonialism etc. there has been an upsurge of motley group of post-Marxism in a bid to attack Marxism. In the name of resisting capital the target of these “thoughts” using pseudo Marxist vocabulary is to attack the fundamental principles of Marxism. The bourgeois cultural and intellectual apparatuses have put an all-out effort in support of these attacks so that the people could be misled in the period of deepening capitalist crisis. It is not incidental that capitalism through its hegemonic mechanism is producing all kinds of ‘radical’ intellectuals as a matter of course that are attacking the core principles of Marxism. It is important that these ideologies are critiqued because they are creating confusion within a section of communist movement as well as students, intellectuals, etc.
The paper made the point that the thought of Alan Badiou’s “communism” is a shameless and defeatist bid to hijack the communist agency from the project of change. Apart from this the paper said that the concept of “Communism Absconditus” by Slavoj Zizek is a useless and harmful theorizing. Zizek draws parallel from various philosophical systems and uses these lines to explain contemporary phenomena. This is a kind of speculative philosophical method. However, this analysis does not lead us anywhere and it does not even partially explain the world let alone change it. In a nutshell, his philosophy borrows the crumbs from Lacanian psychoanalysis, Straussian Post-Structuralism, postmodernism and various other anti-Marxist philosophical systems and tries to portray himself as more radical than Marx. He also tries to show what Marx could not understand and where he was wrong. The core argument of new theories of post-Marxists is that the proletariat has disappeared from them and the petty-bourgeoisie is the new vanguard. According to the paper, in the abstract, immaterial and shapeless theorizing of Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt Capitalism becomes an impersonal power, resistance becomes abstract and people resisting also become a shapeless object. This entire conception is forged to attack the core Marxist principles. A critique of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s “Radical Democracy” was also presented. In all, what Jean Paul Sartre said in a different context whatever is right in what these anti-Marxist ideologies has already been said by Marxism and whatever is new in them is wrong. In fact, the old wine of bourgeois theories are being put in the fashionable bottle of French philosophy.
As a conclusion, the paper presented by Shivani and Baby said that after the unmasking of the reactionary face of postmodernism these new philosophers have taken a new gesture and posture of “their own variety of criticism” of capitalism. This philosophical vagrancy of post-Marxists needs to be strongly critiqued and there is a need to bring out their real anti-Marxist thoughts.
The second paper was presented by Sunny Singh and Arvind from Delhi University which was titled “The Bolivarian Alternative: Illusion and Reality. The paper presents a critical analysis based on the Marxist perspective on the allegedly new socialist alternatives of the 21st century presented by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and other countries of Latin America. Presenting a critique of Istevan Meszaros’ transition theory and revolution-less transition the paper said he has left the Marxist axis far behind. The paper also presented a critique of Lebowitz’s political model and Marta Anekar’s organizational revisionism. The paper presented a brief history of the anti-Imperialist struggle and made the point that the Bolivarian Revolution was based on anti-imperialist feeling among the masses and was welfarist and an example of “Progressive Bonapartism.” The paper brought into relief four components: first, presence of a strong anti-imperialist feeling; second, radical progressive Bonapartism; third, a welfare state fed on an economy of petro dollars and fourth a kind of grassroot syndicalist democracy. Although with the resolution of the national question around the world and with completion of capitalist development in the independent countries the national bourgeoisie has become irrelevant for a revolutionary transformation and none of its component has a “national” character but because of the specific conditions of Latin America the national bourgeoisie is still anachronistically relevant and the regimes of Chavez, Evo Morales etc. represent in this sense anti-imperialist, radical national bourgeoisie. But in no sense these alternative can present an alternative to the capitalist system. They are simply anti-Imperialist-Capitalist and they themselves are the advocates of monopoly-less, welfarist, small consumption based capitalism. Some melancholic “left” intellectuals have lapped it up as a new model of socialism owing to their melancholia.
The paper presentation was followed by a discussion wherein A N Dwivedi from Azamgarh, P L Shakun from Jaipur, Avinash Bharti from Delhi, Akshay from JNU, Pramod from Gorakhpur, Abhinav, Sunny etc. participated. The chair panel was made by senior social activist from Sirsa Kashmir Singh, Dr. Amrit from Shahid Bhagat Singh Clinic, Ludhiana and Tapish Maindola from NOIDA. Anand conducted the sessions.