ICC public meeting in Calcutta: The only revolution possible is the proletarian revolution

Printer-friendly versionSend by email

In October the ICC held a public meeting in Calcutta attended by a large number of people from a diverse milieu. Their participation was testimony to the ICC's success in pushing for discussion and reflection. The debate that unfolded in the meeting took this process of clarification further.

Leftist mystifications

The ICC made a brief presentation on the 'revolutionary perspectives' being peddled by different varieties of leftists, in particular the Naxalites (Maoists), and others in India. Since the 1960s a large array of Maoists, in India and other 'third world' countries, have talked of a 'new democratic' revolution in conjunction with the so-called 'progressive' and 'national bourgeois' revolutions. The underlining mystification is one of 'India Mortgaged' by a 'comprador bourgeoisie', a ruling class acting on behalf of foreign interests. But because recent decades have given the most naked display of the Indian bourgeoisie's imperialist appetites, the mystifications of 'India Mortgaged' and 'national liberation' have lost their hold. Some Maoists have now come up with the idea of a national 'socialist revolution', just as much marked by nationalism and patriotism. This is the Dalit movement, the political expression of the ideology of the petty bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie among the lowest and untouchable castes, that talks of 'Dalit Liberation' instead of class struggle. Throughout the bourgeois left there are claims to have discovered revolutionary potential in forces other than the working class - peasants, tribal communities, lower castes, students, women. The proletarian revolution - the only revolution

The entry of capitalism into its decadent phase in the early 20th century did not only have an impact on the most advanced capitalist countries. The bourgeoisie was not reactionary in some countries while still retaining a progressive or even 'revolutionary' role in the 'third world'. The entirety of capitalist relations - wage labour, commodity production, money economy, nation states - wherever they existed they became fetters on the progress of humanity. Capitalism everywhere became a reactionary system. It needed to be destroyed everywhere. The only revolution that can destroy world capitalism is the revolution of the world working class, the only revolutionary class under capitalism. It's only the bourgeois left that talks of any other sort of 'revolution'. And when it does it's to mobilise the working class in the service of national capitals.

The subsequent discussion brought up the following questions:

(1) With the vast majority of the exploited population in the 'third world' being peasants, how can the ICC talk of the working class being the only revolutionary class? Can't the working class at best provide 'leadership'?

(2) The ICC talks of the peasantry splitting, but aren't there different strata in the working class too? How can you talk of the working class being the have-nots when workers own lots of things, including shares?

(3) It's fine to talk of proletarian revolution being the only revolution. But can't partial struggles, for example for the defence of environment, feminism etc work in tandem with proletarian struggles?

(4) What about the struggle of the unemployed?

(5) And finally, isn't it a bit much to talk about the counter-revolutionary nature of the Maoist movement?

Due to limited time the point on unemployed struggles couldn't be taken up, and the question of partial struggles wasn't fully developed. But there was a chance to clarify the bourgeois nature of the so-called 'struggle' for the protection of environment. Someone at the meeting gave the example of the Indian Supreme Court putting itself at the forefront of the campaigns over pollution, in no way contradicting its role as defender of bourgeois interests.

The question of peasants

When Marx spoke of society being more and more split into two great camps, that of the working class and the bourgeoisie, he was not blind to the capitalist reality of his times. He knew that the peasantry still constituted a substantial proportion of the population even in advanced capitalist countries in Europe. But owing to his deep understanding of capitalism, he insisted that the peasantry in capitalism is a class of the past. Its dreams are those of a petty proprietor, individual peasants only change their circumstances by joining the working class or the bourgeoisie (or becoming completely destitute). As a class it is incapable of waging a revolutionary struggle for the destruction of capitalism

This applies perfectly to the situation in countries like India. The peasantry has been torn into warring strata. On one hand there is the landed peasant, part of the bourgeoisie that owns local transport, flour and rice mills and other means of production. On the other hand there is the rural proletariat. In between are the peasants who need to mechanise or modernise to survive; they take on loans which they can't repay, they are pushed into indebtedness and the mass suicides of whole peasant families. These have been seen in the 'advanced' states of India (Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana). This is all part of a 'green revolution' encouraged by a 'peasant friendly' government that is helping poor peasants by giving them more loans� This stratum lives an insecure existence, their only prospects are death, despair or disappearance into other strata. Of all the classes within capitalism only the working class is capable of waging a revolutionary struggle for the destruction of capitalism.

Divisions within working class

Yes, there are divisions within the working class. But these are not expressions of different relations to the means of production. All sections of the working class are separated from the means of production and must sell their labour power for wages. When there are divisions they are often fostered by the bourgeoisie, for example, by manipulating the remnants of pre-capitalist society, as in the caste divisions in India. There is also the conscious, relentless propaganda of the bourgeoisie over differences in the working class, like higher wage rates for more skilled workers or the mystification of share-holder capitalism.

Maoism - the child of the counter-revolution

Maoism emerged as a patriotic, nationalistic current that has openly advocated, and at one time or another gone into alliances with war lords and factions of the bourgeoisie. It has played the game of one or other imperialist power at different moments. After the triumph of the Stalinist counter-revolution in Russia Maoism emerged, not as a proletarian revolutionary current, but as a child of the counter-revolution.

AM, October 2004.