The Left movement, if we may still call it a movement, is in constant pain. It’s heart aches on the arrest of the eminent activists of Bheema Koregaon case, it twinges for the arrest of eminent professors, its angst is further exacerbated when other eminent intellectuals mostly high profile activists, academicians, lawyers are arrested or slapped with charges like contempt of court. One can easily say that the Leftists are in constant pain, or shall we say they have become a painful lot?
But our leftist friends have no time to take cognizance of the arrest, illegal detention and even state sponsored elimination of the dalits, tribals and similar groups of the dispossessed, that is occurring on a daily basis without impunity. The heart of our Leftist friends only aches for the intellectuals whom in Gramscian terminology could only be termed as the hegemonic organic intellectuals, who due to their some difference of opinion have lost favour with the current government, but their class relation and class position remains unchanged.
The tribal of Jharkhand who is falsely labeled as Maoist/Naxal and incarcerated without bail or access to any juridical process is a non entity, as he/she was not a face who was know. Hence, they can languish and no voice would be raised for them. But a massive protest builds for the professors and ‘intellectuals’ whether like Apoorvanand they had been opposed to the Communist ‘atrocities’ or who like Prashant Bhushan never uttered a word against the state’s act atrocities on the proletariats.
They are also surprised how the present ruling dispensation is ‘trampling’ with the constitution and democratic rights. The constitution for them is a sacrosanct institution, having an identity of its own. An institution that is benevolent and all inclusive, which cares for all irrespective of the class, relationship. Thus, even the capitalist State becomes a sacrosanct institution, which might have been taken over by the ‘forces of evil’ and the political duty of the Left then becomes to liberate the state from the clutches of the vampires.
But for us Marxist the entire question is linked with class struggle,that in itself encompasses the other struggle like caste, tribal and women question.
The Constitution and the legal structure that is erected is a scaffolding that holds the State and its other institutions; it helps to conduct its business and maintain order.
Any discussion on legal institutions or even jurisprudence cannot be devoid from the State power that it helps to maintain and in turn owes its existence to.
The starting point should be from the origin of state, where Engels brilliantly defined its origin. The State originated when the productive forces developed classes with conflicting interests.
In his own words:
“But in order that these antagonisms, classes with conflicting interests, might not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, it became necessary to have a power seemingly standing above society that would alleviate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of ‘order’; and this power, arisen out of society but placing itself above it, and alienating itself more and more from it, is the state”.
On the historic role and meaning of the state, Engels summed it up as follows.
“The state is, therefore, by no means a power forced on society from without; just as little is it ’the reality of the ethical idea’, ’the image and reality of reason’, as Hegel maintains. Rather, it is a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is the admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, that it has split into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel. But in order that these antagonisms, these classes with conflicting economic interests, might not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, it became necessary to have a power, seemingly standing above society, that would alleviate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of ’order’; and this power, arisen out of society but placing itself above it, and alienating itself more and more from it, is the state.”
The Marxist understanding on the historical origin of state was summed by Lenin as:
The state is a product and a manifestation of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms. The state arises where, when and insofar as class antagonism objectively cannot be reconciled
The above quotes dispels any notion of benevolent state or an all encompassing entity that has the welfare of all in its mind. The state is a class entity and it serves the interest of the ruling class. It can never be decoupled from the rule of the class nor can it be seen as an entity that cares for all.
So there is nothing mysterious about it neither should one harbour any notion of benevolence arising out of this institution. Though compared to the feudal era the state and governance has evolved into a sophisticated entity, where the exploitation is concealed behind the golden phrases like liberty, equality, equal rights, universal suffrage and equitable law. But as Marx and Engles wrote in Communist Manifesto,
“Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class. An oppressed class under the sway of the feudal nobility, an armed and self-governing association in the medieval commune; here independent urban republic (as in Italy and Germany); there taxable “third estate” of the monarchy (as in France); afterwards, in the period of manufacturing proper, serving either the semi-feudal or the absolute monarchy as a counterpoise against the nobility, and, in fact, cornerstone of the great monarchies in general, the bourgeoisie has at last, since the establishment of Modern Industry and of the world market, conquered for itself, in the modern representative State, exclusive political sway. The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”
The bourgeois revolutions amongst several changes that it brought, adoption of a constitution and all laws being derived from it was one of them. They became an institution where the new power established themselves in place of the old power. The modern constitutions were not built on the ashes of the old order but were a product of compromise, accommodation and alliances of the contending interests. In the case of India, the constitution on one hand was the continuation of the old colonial regime albeit in a different appearance on the other it was a compromise document that tried to accommodate the interests of the various segments of the new ruling class.
Today, the same constitution is being upheld and has been deified by all those who till recently were the champions of revolution. They have been very subtle in their distortion, theoretically they still might claim that the state is an instrument of exploitation, but politically the same revolutionary (thanks to social media, where they seem to spend most of the time deliberating the correct political line and tactic of revolution) is seen crying for the preservation of democratic rights, upholding the sanctity of constitution and even supporting the legal process.
They argue on the fascist takeover of the judiciary, while keeping silent on its role in subverting the worker’s struggle in the period where there was no fascism. A period they all nostalgically want to be re-established. Such has become the ideological bankruptcy of the Leftist leaders.
The demands and the politics of reaction on each event, that has proliferated during the lockdown where the leaders and cadres take pleasure in photographing themselves holding placards points to their existential crisis. A crisis from which they are unable to come out. Their bankruptcy has been revealed and the state power is using them against themselves.
We end this short piece with the opening lines of Lenin’s book State and Revolution.
During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonize them, so to say, and to hallow their names to a certain extent for the “consolation” of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping the latter, while at the same time robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance, blunting its revolutionary edge and vulgarizing it. Today, the bourgeoisie and the opportunists within the labor movement concur in this doctoring of Marxism. They omit, obscure, or distort the revolutionary side of this theory, its revolutionary soul. They push to the foreground and extol what is or seems acceptable to the bourgeoisie. All the social-chauvinists are now “Marxists” (don’t laugh!).