ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Special IssuesSubscribe to Special Issues

The Bolshevik Heritage

The Russian Revolution of 1917 is one of the most enigmatic events of modern history. It arose out of massive popular disgust with war; yet heralded a civil war leading to an even greater loss of life. The revolution began with a quest for democracy, yet resulted in a regime wherein the political police took centre stage in the lives not only of political opponents but of the ruling party itself. It was legitimised in the name of the soviets, yet in three years these organs of workers’ power were reduced to shadows of their former selves. Its success was based upon a worker–peasant alliance, yetthat alliance was torn to shreds long before the collectivisation of the 1930s. Was it one revolution or two? Was the second one the “real” revolution or did it put an end to the aspirations of the first? Did Bolshevism signify living proof of the so-called Marxist “laws of history,” or the completely contingent nature of historical events? These questions are part of the enigma of Bolshevism. A century after the revolution unfolded, we have the benefit not only of hindsight, but also of a massive, hitherto unseen archive, made accessible after 1991. An entire century passed in the shadow of 1917.It is time to think of it afresh.

Revolutionary Democracy in 1917 and the Bolsheviks

It was the highly proletarianised Bolshevik party that was central to revolutionary democracy coming into being in 1917, but the bulk of the non-Bolshevik left chose to go along with liberalism. Hostile to any notion of revolutionary democracy in opposition to bourgeois institutions, the major non-Bolshevik left parties felt more at ease with the liberals than with the “dark” proletarian masses, who appeared uneducated or semi-educated, and who seemed to be moved by illusions rather than the left intelligentsia’s doctrinaire understanding of Marxism. What mainly killed the fledgling revolutionary democracy was the reluctance of the other socialist parties to form a government with the Bolsheviks on the basis of an acceptance of the Congress of Soviets as the foundation of that proposed government’s power. The Left Socialist Revolutionaries pulling out of the Soviet government and the coming of the Civil War did the rest.

Why Leninism and Bolshevism Are Not the Same

The essay closely investigates and questions the assumptions that Leninist theory is more or less a consistent whole, which must be accepted or rejected in its entirety, and that Bolshevik policy under Tsarism was the direct result of Leninist theory—that Bolshevism and Leninism are synonyms. It tries to determine the position of Lenin’s theory in its historical-materialist context, concentrating on his method of analysis and his theories of proletarian consciousness and the revolutionary party. It then deduces some important internal inconsistencies in Lenin’s methodology and organisational theory, and attempts to prove that Bolshevik practice was in no way Leninist. What then follows is a brief formulation of some consequences.

Bolsheviks and Feminists

Marxist attempts at integrating gender in the class-struggle framework was uneven in the Russian revolutionary movement. A class reductionism often held back the Bolsheviks, but contests with the liberal feminists, as well as the objective reality of more women entering the labour force, led to changes. Women activists took the lead in this. The Revolution of 1917 saw a much greater degree of women’s involvement. Women workers provided leadership in the early stages of the February Revolution, though it often remains unacknowledged by mainstream (including mainstream left) historiography of the revolution. At the same time, gendering the practice of class went hand in hand with a sharp rise in class issues against undifferentiated feminism, for liberal feminism supported the war and the bourgeois Provisional Government.

The Russian Revolution, the Third International and the Colonial Question

The establishment of the Communist International and the installation of Soviet power contributed to a new understanding of the colonial question, as revealed in the deliberations of the Comintern Congresses. The setback of the European revolutions largely contributed to the recognition of the crucial importance of the colonial question by the Comintern, ideologically and organisationally. But the relations between the communist parties in the colonies and the metropolitan countries, together with the growing “Russification” of the Comintern, blocked many of its possibilities.

Rereading Das Kapital in the 21st Century

Marx’s Capital (three volumes) offers a unified framework to make sense of some of the most troubling issues facing humanity today, in particular, rising economic inequality, deepening economic instability, and growing unsustainability of human–nature interactions, signifying a looming planetary crisis. To the extent that the text throws light on capitalism in the abstract that transcends the unique features of the English or European context, it offers us various insights and critiques about how to understand and intervene in societies beyond Europe.

The Structure and Content of Das Kapital

Karl Marx’s magnum opus, Das Kapital, presents an analysis of the long-run dynamics of a mature capitalist economy. The analysis is conducted at two primary levels of abstraction—“capital in general” (where competition between individual capitals is abstracted from) and “many capitals” (where the phenomenon of competition between individual capitals is introduced)—and the presentation is organised into three volumes. In terms of structure, the analysis in the first two volumes is located at the level of “capital in general,” and the analysis in the third volume is located at the level of “many capitals.” In terms of content, the first volume analyses the production and accumulation of surplus value; the second volume investigates the problems of realisation of surplus value; and the third volume analyses the mechanisms that lead to the distribution of surplus value into income streams of different fractions of the ruling class—as profit of enterprise, commercial profit, interest and rent (and monopoly profit more generally). The three volumes together give a comprehensive picture of the workings of a mature capitalist economy and highlight its long-run, contradictory tendencies.

The Significance of Marx’s Theory of Money

The highly abstract formulation of Marx’s theory of money in Capital, Volume I is just the first step of a materialist analysis of concrete monetary phenomena. His concrete analysis of monetary phenomena in Capital, Volume III has remarkable resonance in today’s world. While Marx emphasised the primacy of production, he saw capitalist dynamics as being deeply entwined with money and finance.

A Marxist Approach to Understanding Ecology

Two seminal books, John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York’s The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth and John Bellamy Foster’s The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet suggest that the rift between humanity and nature must be analysed in its intertwining with other kinds of alienation, all stemming from the adverse effects of the very nature and structure of capitalist society. Nothing short of an eco-social revolution is required to deal with the social and ecological crisis.

Capital(ism), the Progenitor of Socialism

After clarifying the question of “socialism” in Marx’s understanding, this paper draws from “Capital”—Marx’s economic writings in the period 1857–81, including manuscripts in different notebooks and his correspondence with different people—to throw light on his argument concerning the genesis of socialist society from the contradictions of the existing one.

Promise and Performance of the Forest Rights Act

The Forest Rights Act, 2006 has the potential to democratise forest governance by recognising community forest resource rights over an estimated 85.6 million acres of India’s forests, thereby empowering over 200 million forest dwellers in over 1,70,000 villages. However, till date, only 3% of this potential area has been realised.

Political Economy of Community Forest Rights

The various dilutions, contradictory policies and litigations challenging the constitutional validity of the Forest Rights Act reveal the range and depth of opposition from an entrenched forest bureaucracy on the one hand and non-state actors on the other. The lack of implementation support to it also indicates a refusal of the political system to embrace the historic opportunity created for democratic governance of forests in India.


Back to Top