Archive for the ‘anarchism’ 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!

WHY THERE NEVER SHALL BE AN ANARCHIST GRAND THEORY

Monday, June 1st, 2020

The anarchist conception of an individual is simple, it says: “human beings are too complex and forever incalculable”. It can never put a person within a prescribed box of analysis or “science” from which all the grand theories and schools of thought spring.

There are only two truisms anarchists hold. From the classical liberals and romantics we have learned of the innate human urge and instincts for freedom, collective action and creating beautiful and radiant things. From the realists we have learned of the human potential for cruelty and domination. This later urge being the result of and reproduced by actions of alienating institutions which want to dull the other aspirations of human beings through its mechanical beat for the intrests of the few.

The urge for love and liberty and the possibility of domination are always in conflict. And anarchism being an ideology of change in the service of liberty and freedom, we put the actions of the realist’s institutions on tribunal of the moral principles of classical liberalism – the principle of freedom from all hierarchical and coercive institutions.

An anarchist enquiry into the social questions can only be the study of these two human possibilities. Through such an enquiry we hope to better understand our lives under the dead weight of all the institutions past and present. The full understanding of an individual has, and as Hume said, will ever shall remain outside the scope of human knowledge.

This kind of enquiry will rightly, never form any grand theory but through this social imagination can end the spell of hopeless and inaction.

कोरोना और क्रांतिकारी स्पेन की सीख

Sunday, March 29th, 2020

1936 में स्पेन में जंग शुरू हुई, और जब मालिक और नेता अपने घर और फ़ैक्टरिया छोड़ भाग खड़े हुए तो मजदूरों ने उनपे कब्ज़ा करा और उन्हें चलाया. आधा स्पेन एक साल पूरी तरह मजदूरों के हाथ में था. फैक्ट्री, ट्रैन, खेत, यहाँ तक की बाल काटने वालो की दुकान सब मजदूरों के हाथ में थे. स्वास्थ व्यवस्था भी।

जादातर मजदुर वर्ग के लिए ये सेवाएं पहली बार खुली थी. बड़े शहरों में और हर गॉव में और यहाँ तक कि ऐसे इलाके जहा पर सिर्फ 2 या 3 घर थे वहां भी क्लीनिक खोले गए और स्वास्थ कर्मचारियों ने अपनी यूनियन के ज़रिये इन्हें संचालित करा. स्वास्थ एक निजी व्यवसाय से बदल के सामाजिक संगठन में तब्दील हो गया था।

लगभग हर इलाज मुफ्त था. जो कुछ ऑपरेशन्स का पैसा लिया जाता था वो यूनियन के पास जाता था. इस पैसे का क्या करना है इसका फैसला वर्कर्स खुद लेते थे. कुछ ही महीनो में बार्सिलोना शहर में 6 नए अस्पताल खोले गए.

इसके अलावा और भी आयामों में बदलाव आया. एक स्वास्थ्य कर्मचारी ने बाद में लिखा था की,

“वो बड़े डॉक्टर जो हफ्ते में एक बार अस्पताल में आया करते थे, उन्हें तख़्त से गिरा दिया है. वो नामी सफ़ेद सूट वाले हॉस्पिटल की गलियों में जिनके आगे पीछे 3-4 लोग गर्दन नीचे करके, उनके लिए सामान पकड़ कर चलते है, वो उच्च-नीच अब यहाँ इतिहास हो गई है. अब यहाँ सब साथी है और बराबर है”

राज्य क्या है?

Saturday, December 28th, 2019

राज्य के लिए हमेशा उसका सबसे बड़ा दुश्मन उसके देश के लोग होते है. राज्य चाहता हे ज्यादा से ज्यादा नियंत्रण समाज और इनसान के हर अंग पर, और लोगों को अमूमन ये हरकतें पसंद नहीं आती.

इसका हल अच्छी शिक्षा और मीडिया में मिला – ये लोगों को सिखा देते हे कि क्यो समाज मे गैर-बराबरी के बारे मे हम कुछ नहीं कर सकते और केसे राज्य लगों का गुलाम नहीं लोगों को राज्य की हर जरूरत पूरी करनी हे. राज्य जब बोले लाइन मे लगों, राज्य जब बोले बुके मरो और राज्य जब चाहे आपने घर और जमीन खाली करो.

और जब ये व्यवहार नियंत्रण के औजार काम ना आये तो राज्य अपना असल रूप दिखाने से नहीं झिझकता: वहशी जोर और हिंसा. नियंत्रण का सबसे साफ रूप.

आज पुलिस की हिंसा और उसको वाजिब करार देने वाले राष्ट्रीय झूठ को कई लोग पहचान रहे है.

कई लोग समझ रहे है की सरकार अपनी ताकत बनाए रखने के लिए डर पैदा कर हिंसा इस्तमाल करती है.

सवाल ये भी है की फिर जिस डर के आधार पे ये सरकार अरबो-खरबो रुप्पे फौजिकरण पे लगा रही है क्या वो भी ऐसे ही सरकारी झूठ के कारण है?

क्या पाकिस्तान असल में एक “दानव” हैं जिससे बात-चीत के माध्यम से कुछ हल नहीं निकाला जा सकता?

और अगर धर्म जाती के आधार पे लोगो को बांटना गलत है तो एक लकीर के किस पार पैदा हुए उसपे बाटना कितना सही हो सकता है?

बांग्लादेश में फिर फैक्ट्री में मजदूर मारे गए, पाकिस्तान में भी और दिल्ली में भी. सब देशों के मालिक वर्ग ने साथ में बेठ के वर्क-कंडिशंस पे नियम बनवाए है – IMF-WTO के साथ.

अगर सरकार मीडिया की मदद से लोगों के आँखों के सामने क्या हो रहा है उसको झुठला सकती है तो ये बंद कमरों में और दूर बॉर्डर पे या बस्तर और कश्मीर की सच्चाई और हिंसा पर कितना विश्वास किया जाना चाहिए?

Anarchism, Pure and Simple

Thursday, December 26th, 2019

Sixty four years ago a small periodical from Allahabad wrote:

“Now that India has obtained independence, the old combatant for liberty has given up his last gasp in the most complete poverty.”

Writing about the same “old combatant for liberty” Hem Day later recalled that ” he is not well known to all, even to our own people, for he has neither the fame of Gandhi, nor the fame of Nehru, nor the popularity of Vinoba, nor the notoriety of Kumarapa, nor the dignity of Tagore. He is Acharya, a revolutionary, an agitator, a writer.”

M.P.T. Acharya was born on 15th April 1887 in Chennai into a Bhramin family. From early years he was involved in the nationalist struggle. He edited a nationalist magazine for his uncle. When the periodical was suppressed by the colonial authorities Acharya had to escape to French controlled Pondicherry. Sensing he was not safe there he left India and landed in France. He soon moved to London and joined the Indian House with V.D Savarkar, Madan Lal Dhingra and other Indian nationalists. When in 1909 Dhingra assassinated Sir William Hutt Curzon Wyllie the Indian House soon disintegrated.

In next few years he visited Berlin, Munich and in November 1911 was in Constantinople to gain Muslim support against the British. In 1912 he moved to New York and in 1914 to San Fransisco, where he edited the Tamil edition of Gadar Party’s periodical. Gadar Party was set up a year ago, with help of his friend and IWW member Har Dayal. Har Dayal had spent time with Emma Goldman and when in 1914 Dayal was deported for being “an anarchist” Emma protested and wrote about it in Mother Earth.

It was during this time Acharya saw the real face of Western Democracies and stood against the notion of nation states. “Is it to make large cities with miserable people, barely eking their existence that we want to have ‘Swaraj’?” He asked.

”I consoled myself by answering that the misery was due to foreign Government, but under Indian Government, it would all vanish, because our countrymen will be friends of the poor when they come to rule. Late on, however, when i went to Europe and saw misery there, my illusions about “National” rule were shattered.”

Acharya spent the World War period in Middle East and in 1917, with Virendranath “Chatto” Chattopadhyaya, attended a socialist peace conference in Stockholm. Where he met prominent Bolshevik leaders and in 1919 met Lenin. In 1920 Acharya helped form and became Chairman of the Communist Party in exile, with M.N.Roy as Secratary. Acharya was kicked out in 1921 for his criticism of the direction CPI was taking under the Comintern and Roy’s autocratic behavior.

In 1922, with Rudolf Rocker, Augustin Souchy, Alexander Schapiro, Acharya was present at the founding meeting of the IWMA. Where he set up an Indian committee with an aim to send anarchist literature in India. Acharya’s involvement in international anarchist movement was set-off by his disillusionment with the USSR and the whole edifice of Marxist priesthood. He wrote:

“We are Anarchists, because we do not want authoritarianism outside or inside, because to us anti-Marxists, life and society must be, immanently – one indivisible whole impossible of mechanical separation – as the Marxists inorganically think and believe.” “Communism can come only through and beyond Anarchism not before and behind it, as Lenin predicted and died broken-hearted and mad.”

From 1923 onward, Acharya was in communication with Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Taiji Yamaga, Lu Jianbo, Rudolf Rocker and many other anarchist, but most prominantly with Albert Meltzer – whom he met only twice but maintained a regular correspondence till his death. Acharya wrote for American, Russian, French, German, Spanish, British anarchist journals and newspapers on the topic of economics, India, anarchism among others.

When he returned to India in 1935, he also started writing for Indian publications, including Gandhi’s Harijan. About Gandhi, he wrote that “Gandhi is more opposed to the violence of the mass liberation than the violence of governments.” He admired Gandhi as a tactician and also independently formed his own “logical pacifism.” Acharya set up the Libertarian Socialist Institute and published many anarchist classics and new material in Bombay.

Acharya contrasting himself with the Indian communists wrote that “[w]hat is needed for the Indian proletariat is new workers’ organizations, of a revolutionary syndicalist character, which alone can tear it out of the misery in which it grows. Only federalist organizations, given their complete independence, can create a solid foundation for class struggle in India.”

Commenting on Acharya and Indian Left, Meltzer wrote that “it was impossible to comprehend the difficulty in standing out against the tide so completely as was necessary in a country like India. It was easy for former ‘nationalist revolutionaries’ to assert their claims to the positions left vacant by the old ‘imperialist oppressors.’ This Acharya would not do. He remained an uncompromising rebel, and when age prevented him from speaking, he continued writing right up to the time of his death.”

Acharya warned as early as 1945 that Nehru and Patel “goes around like emperor, and speak like emperor.” And that “[w]ithout an anarchist movement this country will go Fascist and go to the dogs.”

Penniless, sick and alone, this old combatant for liberty died in 1954. Albert Meltzer in Acharya’s obituary wrote:

“Despite all of his efforts Acharya remained an isolated Anarchist in India and failed to create a movement. Whilst nationalists like Har Dayal and Bhagat Singh had a knowledge of anarchist texts, they merely incorporated what they felt to be useful to the struggle against British rule into their thought. Nationalist, and to a lesser extent Communist Party orthodoxy, had too much of a grip on the Indian masses, and unlike elsewhere in Asia, an anarchist movement did not develop, much to the chagrin of Acharya”

“With a growing interest in anarchism among Indian students, a Bombay publishing house reprinted many classical Anarchist works, but Acharya did not succeed in building a movement before his death, nor do I think one exists yet.”

‘What is Anarchism?’ first appeared in Withering India edited by Iqbal Singh and Raja Rao in 1948. Most of the texts in the volume were written exclusively for it and other author included Nehru, Jinha, J.P. Narayan. ‘How Long Can Capitalism Survive?’ was published in The World Scene From Libertarian Point Of View by the Free Society Group of Chicago in 1951. In 2018, it is sad to note that all the aspect of capitalism that Acharya pointed to while predicting its’ end, in this essay, have given it the strength by which it today stands: financialization, international trade deficits, and institutions. In fact in this essay, which was written just three years before his death and when he was very ill, Acharya made many errors which he had criticized Marxists of in earlier writing and it is not a consistent libertarian text. For example, attempting to find almost a form of wage-centric-determinism in capitalism and calling anarchist economics “scientific” are not very appropriate from Acharya’s own earlier views. Claims such as “outside economic freedom there can be no freedom” are very anti-libertarian, if meant literally.

Some words that might cause confusion have been updated to current usage, while others that are still understandable are kept as they were. Writing in 1940s Acharya was using non-gender-neutral terms while talking about the species as a whole. Comments in square brackets are by me.

I would like to thank Ole Birk Laursen and other scholars who have helped dig up and bring back to light MPT Acharya’s life and ideas. A collection of Acharya’s works will be published by AK Press in 2019, thanks to Mr. Laursen.

The Fraternity of the Red Flag

Thursday, December 26th, 2019

 

The Fraternity of the Red Flag was a revolutionary organization established in California around 1912. Har Dayal, an anarchist, Secretary of the Oakland IWW branch and Indian expatriate, founder of the Ghardar Party, which militantly opposed British colonization of India. The fraternity ran the “Bakunin Institute,” an anarchist “monastery” in Oakland based on the ideas of the Spanish educator Fransisco Ferrer. Any radical over twenty years of age could join the Fraternity. A prospective member would spend a year of “moral and intellectual preparation” under the guidance of an existing member, and then pledge to uphold “the eight principles of Radicalism”, including:
4. The establishment of communism, and the abolition of private property in land and capital through industrial organization and the General Strike.
5. The establishment of free, fraternal cooperation, and the ultimate abolition of the coercive organization of Government.
6. The promotion of science and sociology, and the abolition of religion and metaphysics.
7. The establishment of Universal Brotherhood, and the abolition of patriotism and race feeling.
8. The establishment of the complete economic, moral, intellectual and sexual freedom of women, and the abolition of prostitution, marriage, and other institutes based on the enslavement of women.

Philosophy of Marxist Sociology – Part 2

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

[This article was supposed to be about ontology but I dropped that idea because it gradually morphed into this discussion.]

“If the new technology lowers production costs it will be adopted, and if not it will be rejected. In this respect Sraffa and Marx made the same assumption about how individual capitalists go about deciding to adopt or reject a new technology, which is also what other economists have always assumed.”

“Marx was well aware of, and even expressed admiration for, the fact that compared to all previous economic systems capitalism had greatly increased the pace of technological change. He assumed that individual capitalists are hard driven to adopt any new technology that lowers their cost of production because this would give them a temporary advantage over their competitors, who, in turn, would be quick to adopt cost-reducing changes for fear of being driven out of business.”

(Robin Hahnel, RADICAL POLITICAL ECONOMY: Sraffa Versus Marx, 2017)

There is nothing original in what I will be saying. It has all been said before with much more clarity, evidence and rigor by people like Stephen Marglin, David F. Noble and others. I want to say two things:

  1. It is not the case that capitalism has “greatly increased the pace of technological change” or that capitalism necessarily increases “productive capabilities”.
  2. It is also not the case that capitalists necessarily adopt a technique or technology that “lowers production costs”

In point 2, I use the terms techniques, more specifically work organizational techniques and technology interchangeably. This might not work for some cases but I believe and trust most will agree that same principles must apply in choice of production process technique and deploying a new technology in form of a machine. Significant number of the automation techniques and now digitization ones are in fact, mostly change in production process rather than new machines deployment in unchanged setting.

Returning to the first point. In England in the second half of the 18th century the spinning-jenny was one of the first machine to be used in the factory. And as one 19th century historian noted:

“The technology of wool-spinning for many years after the
factory made its appearance was the same in factory as in cottage; in both the “spinning jenny”; was the basic machine well into the nineteenth century.”

Not much technological advance there. So what was different in the factory? One 18th century factory owner commenting on the advances wrote:

“One reason for this extra advance is Mr. Harrison (the
mill manager) bought 4 handkerchiefs one for each machine value about 1/2d p. each and hung them over the engine as prizes for the girls that do most.”

I have not cross-checked but I believe the technology of handkerchief was not novel to 18th century England.

The important advantage of factory over cottage from point of view of the boss was not its “technological advantage” through new machines or harnessing the power of water sources (most factories were not using water generated electricity at all) but the increase in surveillance and discipline.

“If the factory Briareus could have been created by mechanical genius alone, it should have come into being thirty years sooner. It required, in fact, a man of a Napoleon nerve and ambition, to subdue the refractory tempers of work-people accustomed to irregular paroxysms of diligence.”

“To devise and administer a successful code of factory discipline, suited to the necessities of factory diligence, was the Herculean enterprise, the noble achievement of Arkwright.”

Much of the technology was already laying around before industrial capitalism took hold. Even today, this narrow demand for controlling the workers has hindered technological advances. This has been studied by Noble and many other historian of technology after him. And the advances that actually do develop and in the form they develop are not through capitalist innovation or private capital – it is almost entirely through state funded research and development in form of dual-use military technology.

So the whole argument about uniqueness of capitalism in technological realm is unfounded. The uniqueness does lie in the control the boss class has over design of new technologies and the narrowness of reasons of deployment: discipline and control.

These are all human choices, and they are regularly challenged by workers. From the Luddites to the current struggles against robots. These factors too affect the course of change but unless the  control over means of production and dependence of wage slavery does not end major changes are impossible.

2. The following quotes are from a 1994 New York Times article.

“We are also concerned about having only one place where a product is made,” he said. “There could be an explosion or labor problems.” If the Boston workers struck, for example, Gillette would supply the Sensor XL to Europe and the United States from the Berlin plant, and vice versa.

“Some of those workers are making blades at Gillette plants in Poland, Russia, and China, where production costs are less than in the United States. But that is not the case in Germany. “You could ship the blades from here, but you set up there for insurance,” Mr. Vernon said. “And the justifications for this approach are not so clear cut.

The scholar might not be clear about the justification of adopting a costly method of production because maybe he had not grasped the “successful code of factory discipline.”

In the long run this control over the class enemy of the factory owner might give profit opportunity but at the same time it could be argued that the profits only gives possibility of more control – over the workforce and society generally.

Closer to home, in Chakan and  Pantnagar, Bajaj Auto Ltd. deployed 40 co-bots per-plant just prior to a wage agreement in Chakan after 3 years of on and off struggles lead by young contract workers.

The company claims increase in productivity and it might partly be due to the co-bots but many workers attribute it to increased work intensity due to the atmosphere of fear and terror from the idea of job loss.

But the timing and other factors suggest that rather than productivity gain or immediate increase in profit – in fact the robots from Universal Robots might have costed a lot in short term – the reason are more social than economic. It is hitting the class enemy with the boots in order to maintain profits and control over society – that Herculean enterprise that started in the 18th century.

The struggle is against the lack of control and the alienation of wage system. No alienating methods of so called Marxist “revolution” can ever free the working class.

In fact, Engles even said that, “[w]anting to abolish authority in large-scale industry is tantamount to wanting to abolish industry itself, to destroy the power loom in order to return to the spinning wheel.” (On Authority.)

There can and should be no end of alienation and discipline for some of the Marxists.

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.