What I gained from the seminar is not easily quantifiable and I am not attempting to make an audit of it. What is given here is my reflection on a thread of discussion initiated by Zizek, the living Patriarch of Marxism presently.
Whither Left, a seminar conducted by Kochi Life (8-9, Jan, 2010)brought a new lease of energy to the think tanks of the Marxist elites. Zizek, probably the latest scholar of the leftist bandwagon put on a garb of an activist rather than a scholar in the discussions although scholarship was not in wanting in the deliberations. Zizek’s plea was to return ad fontes of the pure Marxist theories.
The practicality of the argument was in doubt ever since the attempt to establish communism by a revolution of the proletariat. The government that emerged did not quiet establish communism but only oligarchy of the party heavyweights. These are the old criticisms that Catholic Church levelled against Marxism in Rerum Novarum. Marxian theory was not any way the beginning of communist experiments. It is the early Christianity which tried that experiment and miserably failed over the span of perhaps one year and one chapter. Ref. Acts of the Apostles Chapter 4 and 5. The failure has happened to early Church and the later theoretical Marxists equally.
Why this failure of communism? A few thoughts are in place while thinking of this failure.
Primarily, that the left do not take into account the human being in action and considers only the human being in thought. The human being in action is a particular person with a name, an identity and a certain place in the web of social relationships. Marxism is almost afraid to consider the individual in the particular identity and gives him the garb of a proletariat or capitalist, devoid of any particularities. This abstract man of the class could be killed or saved because the action is occult, literary and abstract. From the abstract, the particular is non sequitur, in this case especially. The annihilation of one class is achieved only by a particular person of the communist ideology hating a person of the capitalist mental frame. This hatred even if it is christened in Marxist or any other ideological registries will have the same psychological contends of enmity. This hatred should remain as a permanent state of mind until a classless society is established. Fortunately, the human kind tends to slip away from a permanent state of mind such as hatred and regret hating others unless one is a mentally deranged. Hatred, murder, blood and gory excite even a deranged mind only temporarily. Expecting to keep such derangement as permanent state of mind is perhaps a little short of derangement itself.
Secondly, Marxism has an unspecified assumption that there is an extremely bad humankind, which is the capitalist and another benevolent proletariat who, for the time being engages in violence, at the end of the revolution and establishment of the classless society, can turn out to be altruistic to the once capitalist. A theory based on such an unscientific assumption is to be read as a fiction or as theory? This still baffles me. Utopia does better than this theory in all counts.
But the final object of Marxism has a lasting value, an ideal. Capitalism has no ideology and works by the natural inclinations of the human kind. It promotes the welfare of the self and not of the neighbour. It is based on the biological drive for self preservation. What Marxism proposes is an epikeic philosophy of the Bible although its means are objectionable. One has to overcome the self-preservation drive to take care of the neighbour. In spite of all the Christian orthodoxy the gospel still remains largely unpracticed. Even so is Marxism.
Now what is wrong with the Marxists In India?
The distance between the theory and praxis is at the centre of its failure. At this juncture of rethinking Marxism the analysis should focus on the praxis and not theory. Unfortunately, Zizek has gone the theoretical way. The return to the theory will again nullify the value of experience. The experience of applied communism was not available to Marx. Now, when it is available, that experience should dialogue with the theoretical Marxism, to make itself relevant. The experience of Marxism is different in India and Russia or elsewhere and therefore theorisation should be qualified by the area of its practice. The need for this qualified regional perspective of Marxism cannot be overemphasised. As an example the praxis of Marxism in India could be taken into consideration.
The radical ideology of Marxism, in India’s case, slipped into the framework of Democracy. Marxist parties have been ideology-lead political movements which provided alternatives for the capitalist parties in Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura. But Marxism failed in identifying the right capitalist and directed the hatred to the middle and lower class peasants. In the experience of Kerala, having the labour force turned against its own class whose surplus profit is only the owner’s unaccounted labour, the petty farmers found it totally unprofitable to maintain their self-reliant agricultural processes. Thus when agriculture became unprofitable the petty farmers laid their land unutilised which the real capitalist grabbed later. By the time the party heavyweights who had argued for overthrowing the capitalist, mellowed down their theoretical orthodoxy and colluded with the neo capitalists forcing the petty farmers to run away from their land or to other ways of sustenance. Most of them having found a job outside Kerala and in many cases outside India, this class of the petty farmers manage to live a decent life. But the fall out of this unreflected Marxism is the conversion of the agricultural land into other purposes making the state largely depend on other states for food grains.
If communism is harping on rejuvenation at the global financial crisis on the basis of its near-victory during the depression in 1930ies, it is playing the wrong fiddle. Marxism is still not reflecting and theorising on the ground realities of its existence. This refusal to dialogue with the ground realities is making it more and more fossilised in the academic circles. If China has introduced theoretical Marxism in its curriculum, I am afraid communism is slowly migrating to universities absolutely insulated from praxis. Its total fall is not distant now.