“The educator himself has to be educated”– Marx, Theses on Feuerbach.
There is no confusion and hesitation is saying that established left parties have arrived to a deadlock with a lurking ideological stagnation. From CPI, CPM to CPI Maoist there is very much a visible political-ideological deadlock. CPI has become a non-relevant party who abandoned Marxist politics decades ago. Similarly, CPM a major left party in the national scene has only assumed this position not because they have been in struggles but because of their close proximity with capital and the ruling classes. CPI Maoist on ground is able to mobilize adivasis against the state and corporate-capital but at the cost of alienating itself from working class and other oppressed sections.
But despite these differences in these parties, the ideological stagnation runs through cuts across all these major parties. The famous “caste question and gender question” has remained unaddressed politically by all of them. The principle of Democratic-centralism in actuality has come down to only Centralism and complete disarray from democracy. These problems still creeps the future of left parties because fundamentally the ideological commitment to Marxism and Marx’s principles and ideas has taken a back seat and pragmatism has somehow overtaken the political imaginations. Let’s do a short de tour of Marx’s central idea of “ruthless criticism” which somehow has gone out of the debates which has so much to do with the whole way in which Marxist politics has kept a blind eye to. Which is somehow reflective in the ideological stagnation the left parties in India. Somehow we need a moment to go back and reaffirm Marx and his ideas to entangle and locate the problem.
Why we need to rethink Marx again? This is not merely an abstract question. Neither is it for a lazy soul to have a ready-made answer to the given problems. As mentioned above relating to the ideological stagnation of the left. It is a real question. Having larger political consequences and impact in the way we think of our society and ourselves as products of this very society itself.
Marx had something serious to contribute to this world full of confusion. Something very serious about Marx is that he became a Marxist very early in his life. A point not understood seriously even by his self-proclaimed disciples. Here is a very serious approach and the spirit he adopted and internalized during his youth which transformed him into becoming a Marxist.
A young Karl Marx wrote, in the form of a published open letter to Arnold Ruge: “But if the designing of the future and the proclamation of ready-made solutions for all time is not our affair, then we realize all the more clearly what we have to accomplish in the present-I am speaking of a ruthless criticism of everything existing, ruthless in two senses: The criticism must not be afraid of its own conclusions, nor of conflict with the powers that be.”
The disciples of Marx who invoke his grand name in every other instance need to understand this more seriously and urgently. In his grand name there cannot be ideological excuses and justifications for practices and world-views absolutely antagonistic to these. (One of the real problems left has indulged in is to justify it’s Anti-Marxist policies and agendas in the name of ideology.) Marx and Marxism for that matter cannot be a curtain behind which one can do whatever one wishes to. It is a practice and a worldview based on self-criticism and criticism of whatever existing. And I do not absolve of the parties being above self-criticism. The problem with left parties today is that they has assumed a life of their own above ideology and their tactic to twist ideology in a way to justify their problematic and pathetic official positions. A close reading of the history of communist parties will bring to light this problem.
The ideological and political stagnation of the left should be viewed in this perspective. It is not the failure of the left politics as such. It is the failure of the leftist parties who have abandoned Marxism. The ideological weapon of Marxism at its crux is criticism. And there is no single communist party today upholding this. Marxism minus self-criticism becomes a dogma not a science and occasionally a doctrine like a state “official ideology” to persecute or silence criticisms. Criticism is the life blood of Marxist politics and when it is replaced by empty sloganeering then it takes no time to assume a life of a doctrine to even justify power relations. And with passing time become the agents to maintain the existing state of affairs.
Chepal Sherpa is a PhD research scholar, CPS/SSS, in JNU New Delhi. He is associated with the left students movement and a member of Bhagat Singh Ambedkar Students Organization (BASO) recently formed in JNU. Writes on various political and social issues in different journals and platforms.