Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Should the Left abandon its politics and join insurgency?

The Crisis of the Left --Prabhat Patnaik

There is a theoretical ambiguity in the Left that underlies the crisis that it now finds itself in. On the issue of industrialisation, the real issue is whether it occurs through subservience to the logic of capital or it occurs without compromising the dialectics of subversion of the logic of capital. Subscribing to the view that the only immediate choice is between “development” and an attempt to overthrow the system negates any scope for Left politics.

The scope for Left politics arises by rejecting this binary choice, by transcending the problematic that the only immediate choice is between subservience to the logic of capital and attempting to overthrow the system. Transcending this problematic is precisely the resolution of the theoretical crisis of the Left. And the possibility of politics that is created thereby will also resolve the practical crisis of the Left. EPW 31-10-2009 [PERSPECTIVES] Issue : VOL 44 No. 44 October 31 - November 06, 2009 [...]

Hence opposition to industrialisation, even in the sense of implanting modern large-scale industrial units, lacks validity. But the real issue is not whether industrialisation occurs or not, but whether it occurs through subservience to the logic of capital or whether it occurs without compromising the dialectics of subversion of the logic of capital. The issue in short is not one of “use-values”, i e, what thing is produced, but of relations of production, i e, whether the production of the thing jeopardises the Left’s role in carrying forward the dialectics of subversion.

Subscribing to the view that such a dialectics of subversion is impossible for the Left if it leads state governments, that the only immediate choice is between “development”, a euphemism for subservience to the logic of capital, and an attempt to overthrow the system, which is what both the “development advocates” and the ultra-Left would want us to believe, negates any scope for Left politics. The “development advocates” would conclude from this view that the Left must abandon its politics and become subservient to the logic of capital; the ultra-Left would conclude from this view that the Left should abandon its politics and join insurgency. Both are wrong.

The scope for Left politics arises precisely by rejecting this binary choice, by transcending the problematic, common to both the ultra-Left and the neoliberals, that the only immediate choice is between subservience to the logic of capital or attempting to overthrow the system. Transcending this problematic is precisely the resolution of the theoretical crisis of the Left. And the scope for politics that is created thereby will also resolve the practical crisis of the Left.

Notes 1 These figures are taken from Utsa Patnaik (2007). 2 I have developed this argument at greater length in a 2002 essay “The Antinomies of Transnationalism”. 3 See in this connection Georg Lukacs’ review of Nikolai Bukharin’s book Historical Materialism (republished in 1966).
References
Lange, Oskar (1963): Political Economy, Volume 1 (Warsaw: Pergamon Press).
Lukacs, George (1966): “Technology and Social Relations” (republished), New Left Review.
Patnaik, Prabhat (2002): “The Antinomies of Transnationalism” in The Retreat to Unfreedom (New Delhi: Tulika Books).
Patnaik, Utsa (2007): “Neo-Liberalism and Rural Poverty in India”, Economic & Political Weekly, 28 July.

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