Archive for the ‘activism’ Category

ANARCHISM AGAINST BRAHMANISM

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

Caste is, as Ambedkar said, “not just a division of labour but, a division of labourers.” Wherever this institution went, it tried to freeze the society into a fossilized rulership and a fossilized disposable and disciplined labouring class. And just as division of labour alienates the workers from her work, product of her labour and life itself; the division of labourers alienated the whole of society and deeply fractured the spirit of human morality and solidarity. The caste structure gave birth to the caste society which has outlived the mode of domination it was invented to serve.

The straitjacket of caste did not emerge in isolation. It is one part of the centuries old project of societal control – Brahmanism. This entry is an attempt to find an anarchist orientation towards Bhrahmanism and its annihilation by looking at some episodes in its history and mutations.

Brahmanism, primarily, is and always has been a socio-political ideology and not a religious movement. The ideology consists in the believe that Brahmans have established links with the higher realms, they are the natural advisors to the rulers on social and political matters and, that they hold the highest place in the social hierarchy. The hierarchy consists in a four tier system of Varna and those who are out of this hierarchy forming the Avarna strata, based on Brahmans principles of standardized purity. Within this image of the Brahmanical society the caste becomes the essential of realizing the dominance of Brahmans as the priestly caste. To insure the success and reproduction of this institution every aspect of human life from the cradle to the grave are governed by strict laws codified in various books and laws of local kingdoms.

This vision of society was largely realized in significant parts of the sub-continent with varying degrees of success, modifications and compromises with other power system. This was not an easy task and beginning with the invasion of Alexander of Macedon, the Brahmans were prosecuted in the north-western region of what is now called India, the only region where they had influence. This continued with Ashoka’s and later his son, Kunala’s murdering of the “treacherous” Brahmans who were fueling anti-Maurya sentiments in local courts. The situation was so bad for the priestly caste that they were sure that the end of the world has finally arrived – the end of Kali Yuga. But Brahmanism not only survived but thrived and the impacts of its unfortunate success to this day are leaving bloody marks on human body and spirit.

Brahmanism conquered not by the blade of the sword but with the succor of the myth. Brahmans spread stories of their demigod like powers, the benefits of befriending and dangers of crossing them. Most importantly they provided to the rulers a divine lineage and right to rule till the end of time and the practical knowledge of statecraft. The Brahmans without ever becoming a threat to political power gave rulers a lineage they can link back to the Puranas and the Vedic era. They were not only able but necessary for the prosperity of the land, making the ruler the permanent and necessary fixture in the mind of the masses.

The benefits flow both ways. Kshatriya and the other ruling castes were essential for realizing the Brahmanical society. It was the duty of the warrior class to institute Danda for its maintenance. In essence, Brahmanism is statism. The kingly class is so essential to the ideology that the end of Yugas are marked by the Kshatriyas becoming incompetent in maintaining the Varna vyavastha and that the evidence that the end of time had not yet arrived was the fact that most king’s lineage maintained their thrones.

This perfect union of the priestly caste and the ruling class is no accident. Humans, when incapable of making sense of the untimely flood, failed crops or plague conjure up unseen forces that help us make sense of the unpredictability and meaninglessness around. Through the combined effect of general ignorance and the need for self-preservation the first seed of authority and power is sown in the heart. God becomes the Supreme Ruler. Once formalized enough, we try to tame the forces through rituals and sacrifices. In initial stages this practice is individualistic. The relation of these forces or gods is direct and intimate, but soon these practices become socialized and a specialized class of sacrifice experts emerges. The link of individual to the god is broken and a flesh and blood human becomes a new center of social power. The same phenomenon repeats itself in sphere of social organization and to tame the social forces in our favor we learn to surrender to the Ruler, sent on earth by the Supreme Ruler. To the extent we submit to a power for self preservation, from corporate bureaucracies to nation states and families, all forms of rulershipare religion.

It was during this period of renewal of Brahmanism, returning from the brink of extinction that the pantheon that is now recognized as Hindu deities was gradually created. First by casting the individualistic, semi-socialized religious cults of Krishna, Shiva etc into the mold of Brahmanism and later by making the newer gods the incarnation of the former. In this process of absorptionreplicating the hierarchy of the Brahmanical society into the realm of gods. Through economic and political coercion the religious power now served the interest of the Brahmans and states.

I skip the changes this Brahmanical temporal authority ordained by the divine authority underwent over the next few centuries and under the Mughal rule and turn to its first interaction with capitalism, the Company Raj, colonization and modern nation states that shook the roots of the old project. In the preceding decades the merchant caste, with its control over rural finance and land displaced the Brahmans from the top of social hierarchy. In Bengal province by the end of the nawab rule fifteen families controlled 60% of the land and in Punjab the British administration had to introduce a law to regulate the acquisition of land by the money lenders on failure of payment of debts. And with the changing nature of sovereignty from the village level to the new national imagination Brahmanism had to mutate once more to survive.

The core of this mutation was the deep-seated hatred of the individual – her free development and initiative. Faced with European capitalism, in its vulgarized disguise of individual freedom the reformers, who had taken up the task of reviving the Indian culture by going back to the Vedic sources, were united in there contempt for the individual. They found in the Varna system the solution to the modern problems of nations. Caste does not necessarily have to be based on heredity but the proper division of labour and social activity based on natural hierarchies which was necessitated by the needs of social organization. Caste with natural leadership of Brahmans, was no longer justified by the metaphysics of religion became the outcome of the theology of social sciences, its theory of race, competition, gender superiority and survival of the fittest. Its aim was to serve the New God of “national interest”.

In search of this nation Brahmanism morphed into Hindutva. This new outward expression of the lust for power also explicitly presented itself as a political project and not a religious movement. Within the Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan that is to bring glory to the nation state, the Hindu is a casteist structure. This was novel. The Hindu identity for a political project was necessitated by two factors. First, the apparent feebleness of the social unity – togetherness and second, the essential principle of nationhood – unity through separation.

Savarkar understood this principle well – “nothing can weld peoples into a nation and nations into a state as the pressure of a common foe. Hatred separates as well as unites.” A nation is that artificial and arbitrary unit of territory and subjects that a political power has acquired for controlling and fleecing. It destroys the natural love and association with the place of birth and our immediate communities through its industrialization and directs that human feeling towards the worship of this abstraction, its symbols and submission to its policies. This form of rulership finds its fullest expression in Totalitarianism of Nazism, Bolshevism or Brahmanism.

The national identity of Hindu provided the aspect of togetherness through idea of blood, culture and language, modification of Shudhi, etc. and its separation through the idea of the Muslim. Whether the state takes refuge in the ideology and shape of Hindutva or secular nationalism – two face of the same coin, its true nature remains the same, that of attuning all human expressions to the beat of this soulless political machine in the name of “national interest”. This technical term does not include the interests of the population – free and quality education and health care, well paid jobs or free or cheap housing for all, it means the interest of the market, the interest of the war machine that is the life blood of the state – its defense from other competing states, its source of expansion outside and control within.

After the transfer of power in 1947, India has remained a fractured community with its apartheid of caste and material conditions furnished by generations of deprivation and violence. In the rural regions it maintain the old structure of control and coercion while in urban setting it modified mildly and justified the stratification by logic of hygiene and merit – that is justifying privilege with privilege itself. The new Indian state did not start a project of actively constructing a casteist state but through its passivity towards caste issues it perpetuated the caste society within the shell of a capitalist state system, each feeding off the other. The maintenance of hierarchical corporate structure that is the Hindu family and segregation through the institution of marriage. The upper castes continued their take over of bureaucracy and managerial positions in state and cultural institution, practically, without any reservation mechanism and that continue to define the Indian society till date.

If we anarchists say that sanctity of the temple of the parliament and its new priesthood just like the temple of the old gods and the Brahmans is a lie and deception then, what do we have to say about reservation and other methods of achieving equality within the current state of things? To this we say that even the ritual of horse sacrifice must have yielded results for the masses, not from the blood drawn but from their organizing for themselves, taking things into their own hand and shaking things up. This assertive self-organization of the masses in each epoch of history has realized to the extent possible the moral and social progress. And within the modern nation states this progress, which is the collective wealth of our humanity has received a degree of formalization.

The erosion of this progress and regression will always be a possibility as long as there is a power whose control it weakens. And when this social progress is at its highest the instruments of domination have also become sharper, deadly and now threaten us with the possibility of ending the only known experiment of life in the universe. Anarchist believe that through continuing this assertive self-organizing for securing more and more moral progress we not only improve our immediate condition but also prepare ourself for the final destruction of social, political and economic rulership. A liberal welfare state can be an holding ground that reduces the impact of the blows from the state and the caste society and gives us opportunity for further progress. But the ultimate safeguard from Brahmanism or any other form of absolute domination over human body and spirit is Anarchism.

In an hierarchical society, certain individuals at particular historical junctures can play a catalytic role in either accelerating the progress or dragging it back for decades. If the former, then too, it is the social organization of individuals based on values of equality, mutual aid and decentralization of power that maintain it. There is further limit of the strategy of “having the right faces in the high places”. Once in position of power, the prerogative of the institutions dictate their actions. Having women, dalit-bahujan or queer people In position of power, like other holding strategies can make some limited gains but in the end the only interests these individuals represent are their own. No person can “represent” another person, a whole community lesser still. It maintains the relations of dependence and submission and further dulls the instincts for self-initiative and fosters moral passivity – a perfect condition for Brahmanism or any form of authority to exploit.

Even if the major decision of life and society are now made by the captains of industry and states-persons, and even if these decisions are not primarily driven by Brahmanical interests (and how different are these differences after all?) Caste is still alive. Some aspects of caste have been weakened and at the same time others strengthened. The general economic inequality, access to housing, well paid jobs – which means class – is graded on caste lines. As one historian noted, “it is striking how many of the country’s billionaires today are, though not direct descendants of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century magnates, certainly originate from the same communities which began to accumulate wealth and influence at the end of the Mughal period and during the rise of the English East India Company.” The social stigma, practices of untouchablity and the Brahmanical institution of marriage flourish. Two great forces are gravitating towards forging a new Brahmanical-Hindutva order and a hazy road for taking in the opposite direction also gradually becoming visible. Both possibilities, like always depend on one thing – Organizing.

The force of social reaction to the neo-liberal bloodbath which turned a preventable health crisis into an global pandemic and in India made 12 crore people unemployed in a single month is the decisive factor in the fate of Brahmanism. 10 crore young Indians have given up all hope of finding a job and had stopped searching for work long before the current economic breakdown. Half of the youth of this country are unemployed. And those who have work are working 12 hours shifts to survive hand to mouth. In this constantly changing external world the individual loses her equilibrium. These uprooted millions turn into a mob seeking a source of stability and finding themselves incapable of self emancipation look for external power that would uplift them and give life a new meaning. Along with religiosity, in some cases the caste relations are strengthened as they are seen as a source of nourishment.

This combined with RSS’s mobilization and organization is the path towards strengthening Leader worship and Hindutva. The breaking up of the process of class reproduction and the erosion of the middle class, and with it the hopes and aspirations of millions in front of their eyes is accelerating. By some estimate at least half of the children born in middle class do not remain in it when they reach adulthood. The concentrating boss class is eager to exploit the people on caste lines. This is where one possibility of going in the other direction lies – poor peoples’ revolutionary unionism. The traditional unions that replicate the caste structure due to its hierarchical nature will only represent the interests of the minority leader class and not the workers themselves.

Its only through Anarcho-Syndicalism that we can achieve the threefold task of achieving progress in living and work standards, wages, expansion of reservation to compensate for the generational subjugation of dalit-bahujans in private and public sector, expanding the public sector that enables creation of new and greener jobs, progressive taxation and day-to-day struggles at workplaces; confronting the caste issue face to face as members of working class as well as part of oppressed communities through minority committees, along with local union branches to address caste at workplace and within the unions and; shedding away the elaborate etiquette of submission of this casteist society through rediscovering our instincts for self-initiative and direct action rather being dependent on this or that leader, the despot of tomorrow. This rediscovery and the development of this instinct and culture in the organized form within these alternative institutions form the essential ingredient of the society that shall replace the current disorder.

John R. McLane noted that, “since an individual’s obligations and privileges were specific to his or her family, jati, and age, universal standards of political-moral behavior rarely galvanized people into cooperative political effort.” Any intellectual current or form of practice that exclusively promote inward inquiry at cost of building broad solidarity of all oppressed while understanding the various inner relations in practice, unintentionally replicates the essential of the nation and Brahmanical order and play into hand of our enemies like in 2019 general election where Jadav-Yadav dynamic was a major determining factor in BJP’s victory. We do not wish to repeat these past mistakes, neither of the Marxist left that minimizes the importance of non-economic cultural and social factors at work and in society and address them within their organization and programs nor, of the narrow identity politics that in the long-run poses no threat to the status quo that it apparently wishes to destroy and has no space for broad solidarity based on shared needs and values in genuinely democratic and workers controlled organizations.

Revolutionary unionism is only one part of the struggle. Anarchists and other individuals must engage in cultural struggles towards elimination of the caste society. I cannot pretend to have a solution to this problem, I can only note that we know that the forces of alienation aggravates it and that we have a legacy of experiments by the people from dalit-bahujan castes to build upon and with anarchist emphasis on the abolition of marriage, dismantling the corporation of family and building a society based on free love and societal responsibility of child rearing, we have the impetus to motivate action in direction of liberation.

Caste being a particular configuration of hierarchy and the method of its reproduction, it finds affinity with all forms of dominations and latch on to the one it finds. While through the autonomous and varied cultural struggles and fighting back the class war as working class dealing with caste antagonism we make conditions better for both our class and dalit-bahujans, Anarchism is Brahmanisms only permanent solution. As long as there is a state or a economy based on private property, RSS has the possibility of achieving its desired position of the Raj Guru to the State. Following in the footsteps of the Saudra-attishudra Dakaits and their direct actions against capital and domination we organize not to end any particular form of authority but Rulership itself.

For a Casteless Society! – For Annihilation of Brahmanism! – For a Free Humanity!

For Anarchy!

On Tangible Pacifism

Monday, May 25th, 2020

“Whether the State is called monarchy or republic, crime will always be necessary to maintain and assure its triumph. This crime will no doubt change its direction and object, but its nature will remain the same. It will always be the forced and abiding violation of justice and of honesty – for the good of the State”. – Mikhail Bakunin

This piece was prompted by reading Eric Laursens’ The Duty to Stand Aside, a study of the dialogue that took place during WW2 between George Orwell and anarchist-pacifist Alex Comfort. Orwell argued that after a point the only way of defeating Nazism was supporting the Allies in the effort and that pacifism at this point practically meant taking a pro-Nazi stance. Comfort on the other hand thought the task of the intellectuals, even at that time was to bring to light the crimes that the Allies (“our side”) were committing and to oppose this militarization of society and fighting the spread of Nazi’s by supporting the local militias and not through formal soldiers engaging in battles. The debate continued till Orwell’s death, years after the war had formally ended. And answering the agonizing questions of the role of intellectuals, peace activists and the society of the nation engaged in organized violence are still as urgent as they were 60 years ago.

I consider myself to be a pacifist with a “p” and not a “P”. I think pacifism is derived from a genuine moral value and a value that all anarchists share, that conflicts should not be resolved through violent means. That all forms of violence in an unequal society serves the interests of the powerful and that a believe that conflicts can be resolved through means of force will ultimately lead to new forms of despotism or strengthen the old. But, i realize that this is one of the many moral values that anarchists and all humans share and in the reality values are often at conflict. And if by standing firmly for one value we forsake other (a position with capital “P”)  – say, the value of human life, which might in a particular circumstance be only protected through some violent means  then, it is nothing more than a selfish act that makes us feel good.

These, then, are some of my thoughts on a rational and pacifist position on question of violence:

1. Structural Pacifism:  Violence, more often then not, is a means of maintaining violence. The power system establishing, maintaining and expanding itself by means of force (and “engineering of consent”.)  Lets take states, they are by definition organization and concentration of violence in a society. They is justified and legitimized by images of a chaotic stateless society, where people cannot organize production, distribute services and goods and maintain welfare for all. So, a Leviathan is needed. This state then, through institution of violence and its threat creates a straitjacket for maintenance of its power and power of private capital. Through this imagined fear of chaos a very real violence of poverty and control is established that further creates alienation and aggression. Any serious pacifist cannot ignore these facts. The long term goal and vision of all pacifists must be a creation of society which is not based on inequalities, violence as a means of social regulation and conflict resolution. That means a society without the state, the caste system, capitalism, military and other structural forms of violence.

2. Particular instances of  necessary criminality:  Outside philosophy conference rooms and in a world of real consequences for real human beings there is no question of “should we oppose violence”? There is only the following questions:

a. In the particular context are the purported reasons for using violent means correct and justified? Driven by what (vulgarized) value?
b. Is some form of violence the only possible means through which the justified end result is sought?
c. Is the current form of violence the only possible form that can attain the results?

There are also questions like, what structural conditions have led us to a situation where we need some form of force to achieve this goal?

Even the most radical anarchist or pacifist regularly participate in the institutions of structural violence, for example, reporting robbery of your motorbike to a cop or purchasing an mobile phone. The value of being able to communicate with friends and colleagues in this particular case outweighs the value of not engaging in capitalist violence. The same principles applies in many other conflicts.

Within the current society, we have to survive, try to achieve a good life and struggle to build a new society by creating alternative structure of self management.  And in order to survive, struggle and organize we might at time use these very institutions, at time critically justify them for particular cases and at times defy them when they are in absolute contradiction to humanity, our wellbeing and survival – we have a duty to resist unjust laws and “just laws” being used unjustly.

In last few years, USA has withdrawn its support for Kurdish fighters who defeated ISIS in northern Syria. (Kurdish militias picking up arms was itself a largely justified act in face of barbarism of Daesh.) People like Noam Chomsky have argued that non-combatant USA troops should stay in the region and help the Kurdish forces. This is seen as a support for NATO and American imperialism by many commentators on the left.

Kurds beings dependent on US military for technical and air support is sign of a structural problem. But within this structural problem this particularly less lethal form of military assistance was essential for the Kurds who were threatened by being crushed by the Turkish forces.

This being said, it is important to note that such conditions where violence from powerful institutions like state can be a means for a peaceful end are extremely rare. In almost all cases, the seizing of state violence and opening up channels of dialogue would considerably eliminate violence on the planet – and the threat of nuclear annihilation. 

In Kashmir, it is very clear that the ongoing counter-insurgency operations will not end violence of pro-independence groups, or bring peace and prosperity to the valley. It is a tactic of brutally crushing the people of Kashmir. The Doval doctrine, which was described in 2010 by the current NSA to be:

“Don’t overreact, don’t give in, don’t follow appeasement, it [2010 protests] will pass off. It looks big in the midst of it, they cannot sustain it beyond a point and even if they do there is a price that they have to pay.” “In the game of power the ultimate justice lies with the one who is strong”.

The ethos of the State.

The violence in Kashmir is not a military issue, it is a political issue and a matter of grievances and political alienation of the betrayed and tortured people of the land. Like the Kurdish militants and any violent Independence struggle there is some justification for armed rebellion in Kashmir, this time against the barbarism of Indian state. And it will easily loose its traction and popular support if the Indian occupation ends. (And if not, there is a threat of further militarization of the Kashmiri society like the Adivasis in parts of active Naxal insurgency.) There will be many questions to resolve in the process, only possible through resolving the political problem and holding a plebiscite. There will also be the questions of “Pakistani aggression” in the region that can be solved with trilateral dialogues and confidence building and economic collaborations. But this much is clear, there is no justification either for the ends or the means that India seeks in Kashmir.

Coming back to the Orwell-Comfort dialogue, I believe Orwell was right in that after a point in the events of WW2 it was necessary for Allies to engage militarily. But Comfort was also right in that the duty of intellectuals and activists still lies on exposing the lies and fabrications of their own states to examine whether the purported threats are real, and are the means uses are proportionate and if there are nonviolent and more democratic alternatives available and at the same time recording the crimes of our side in hope for some justice or for same uncertain reason that Winston Smith started writing his diary.

To a large extent, these questions will remain intangible if there is no peace and disarmament movement tied with other popular struggles to make any pacifism and anti-militarism a reality. 

Uniting the Black and the Red? – Anarchism and Marxism.

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

Otto von Bismarck remarked, upon hearing of the split at the Hauge congress of the First International and formation of the anti-authoritarian international at St. Imier, “Crowned heads, wealth and privilege may well tremble should ever again the Black and Red unite!”

Tons of ink and kilobytes of memory has been devoted to very important analysis and criticism of authoritarian “socialism”, most notably of Marx and his disciples by anarchists and left communists. Can Marxists and anarchists find some common ground – theoretical and practical – to unite? Is it desirable?

The answer to the latter question I believe is affirmative and for simple reasons that I won’t comment on. I would make a short and simple case for how a unification is possible.

1. The Primacy of Libertarian Marx and Anti-Authoritarianism.
Many Marxist scholars, most notably Bertell Ollman, has pointed out the distinction Marx made between analysis and presentation. The works where Marx analyzed capitalism, state and religion are in his unpublished works where he developed the concept of alienation, commodity fetishism and also his dialectics. These take a secondary place in his Capital and are at time missing for reasons both of presentation and personal.

If we ignore the incidentals of his personality and focus on his analysis of domination – especially by and under capitalistic relations – that is rooted in a universal struggle against all form of domination and restriction on creative, collective activity of humans, anarchists can find an ally and Marxism can become more humanistic.

Marx’s views on the transformational role of the State also changed after the Paris Commune as noted in his Address of 1872. He no longer believed holding state power was necessary for moving to a communistic stage of society – and that a federalist and democratic alternative was possible. A view consistent with early humanistic Marx. He might or might not have given up his determinism of social stages but at least he no longer saw the state apparatus necessary for this transformation.

If we again, ignore the personality and the fact that he was at the same time lying and planning very hard to kick Bakunin and federalists out of the International and; the Marxist realize the correctness and utility of this position we can find a common platform.

2. Revolutionary Practice.
When a monopoly of technical expertise accumulates in a class and they are in power to influence and direct the masses, they themselves kill the collective, creative urge of the individual over her life that was the point of departure for the socialist project and alienate the workers and forms a new form of oppression with new institutions and new myths to numb the misery.

The second point that Marxists need to consider is that when the State is not a means of transformation, the power again falls back in hands of the workers and the masses. Only they alone through autonomous organizations make the revolution and wage the struggles. These organizations will become the seeds of the future society. Autonomous workers and community groups of some and of various sorts, not any Party must be the focus for transformational and revolutionary practice.

If the Marxists can completely detach away from their authoritarianism in analysis and in practice and; embrace the Black, only then can a meaningful synthesis, that looks forward to and participates in a true revolution take place.

This appeal (or maybe just a mere suggestion) is not aimed towards the people who have given up any hope of revolution or see their place in the status quo – as the vanguard of the oppressed – no longer even the vanguard of some “revolution.” They may very well find plenty of useful stuff in Marx’s authoritarianism and a place among the liberal intelligentsia and political elites. They are not revolutionaries. Revolutionary Marxists should no longer waste energies on them.

On the other hand, the anarchists can overcome their anti-organizationalism and other bourgeois tendencies and focus again on class and other oppression with the serious aim of transformation and revolution and; not mere symbolic violence or individualistic isolationism.