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The Crisis of the Left

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.

The Crisis of the Left
driven by economics, i e, the political arrangement must be such that it does not thwart, but on the contrary carries forward or at least permits the realisation of Prabhat Patnaik the immanent tendencies of capital. From

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.

This is the text of a lecture delivered in Kolkata on 13 October 2009.

Prabhat Patnaik (prabhatptnk@yahoo.co.in) is at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Economic & Political Weekly

EPW
october 31, 2009

T
he Indian Left is facing a crisis at present, of which the electoral reverse suffered by it in the recent Lok Sabha elections is but a mundane expression. This crisis, in my view, is essentially a theoretical crisis, not just in the obvious sense that in a philosophy that sees theory and praxis as an integrated totality, every practical setback must ipso facto reflect some theoretical failure, but in the more basic sense of its having developed an implicit theoretical ambiguity at its core. Since this crisis can be overcome only by overcoming the lack of theoretical clarity that exists practically at the moment, I shall mainly deal here with certain theoretical issues. For doing so, however, I shall begin with some preliminary remarks on Marxist theory.

1

Capitalism according to Marx constitutes a “spontaneous” system (to use Oskar Lange’s (1963) term), in the sense of being self-driven, in accordance with its own immanent tendencies. This view has profound implications for our perceptions of capitalism and socialism. For instance, the “individual” who is supposed to “arrive” under capitalism as a “free agent” turns out to be no more than a mere mediating agency through whom these immanent tendencies work themselves out. (Marx himself had seen the capitalist as “capital personified”, i e, the capitalists’ actions did not reflect the exercise of “free choice”, but were themselves “dictated” by the immanent tendencies of capital which trapped the capitalists into a Darwinian struggle that made them act in particular ways.) It would follow from this that even “individual freedom” was possible only under a system that overcame spontaneity, viz, socialism.

Likewise, if there are immanent tendencies arising from the economic functioning of capital, then it would follow that politics in a bourgeois society must be

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this it would again follow that authentic democracy, where people become subjects of their own history, is possible only under a system that overcomes spontaneity, viz, socialism, where the operation of the economy is shaped by people exercising political control over it, i e, where politics drives economics. In short, the case for socialism arises from the fact that capitalism as a spontaneous system is incompatible with human freedom; freedom can be realised only in a system that overcomes this spontaneity, viz, socialism.

Of course, there may be historical conjunctures where the balance of class forces may be such that the proletariat and its allies acquire sufficient weight to exercise political power to thwart the realisation of capitalism’s immanent tendencies, to “reform” capitalism to make it more humane. But such “reforms” make the system dysfunctional, necessitating either further “reforms” in the direction of further socialisation of the ownership of the means of production, or a slide-back to a situation where the immanent tendencies of capital get realised in an unconstrained manner. In short, every systemic intervention in the functioning of capitalism sets off either a dialectics of further intervention or a dialectics towards the negation of such intervention, or, as I would put it, either “a dialectics of subversion of the logic of capital” or “a dialectics of subservience to the logic of capital”.

Two Kinds of Dialectics

I mentioned above that every systemic intervention sets up either of these two kinds of dialectics. But the systemic intervention itself, and the prevention of such intervention, are themselves part of these two alternative kinds of dialectics. We can therefore say that class struggle under capitalism takes the form of effecting either one of these dialectics – either the dialectics of subversion of the logic of capital or the dialectics of subservience to the logic of capital.

It follows that Marxism is not a “stage process of centralisation of capital. Capital theory”: it does not say that the dialectics is always coming together in larger and

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of subversion of the logic of capital must begin only at a certain “stage”, only when capitalism has reached a certain “stage”, that there is some optimum time when the proletariat, and the party that brings theoretical comprehension to its ken, should “launch” this dialectics of subversion. On the contrary, this dialectics of subversion is inherent in class struggle; the proletariat’s access to socialist theory, brought to it by the revolutionary intellectuals, only ensures that class struggle is conducted “scientifically”, and hence productively, and leads to the overcoming of “spontaneity”, i e, to socialism. True, the success of the dialectics of subversion in going beyond the system would depend upon the conjuncture, but the unleashing of the dialectics of subversion is intrinsic to the system, is part of its existential reality. Every strike, every act of resistance, every protest against subservience to the logic of capital, is ipso facto a part of the dialectics of subversion, which therefore is organically linked to the system itself.

Dialectics of Subversion

It follows, then, that any group of intellectuals, or any political formation, that advances a “stage theory” and advocates on its basis a postponement of, or a “temporary” withdrawal from, the dialectics of subversion of the logic of capital, necessarily gets detached from the proletariat and its allies, and willy-nilly becomes a part of the dialectics subservience to the logic of capital. Of course, to say that proletarian political formations must always be part of the dialectics of subversion of the logic of capital is not to say that they must always and immediately be engaged in attempting a revolutionary overthrow of the system. That is naive and ultra-Left. The dialectics of subversion is not synonymous with the immediate attempt at revolutionary overthrow; to argue otherwise is to assert, entirely erroneously, that being ultra-Left or accepting the dialectics of subservience to the logic of capital, are the only two alternative courses of action.

Remarkably, however, the spontaneity of capitalism extends even to a spontaneous tendency towards overcoming the dialectics of subversion. And this occurs through the larger blocks, but workers take time to overcome their fragmentation. Hence the process of centralisation of capital is simultaneously a process stealing a march on the workers, of overcoming the resistance of the workers. For instance if 10 capitalists own 10 factories, then the workers in any one of them can strike for and even obtain a wage increase. But if all 10 factories are owned by one capitalist then he can always shift production from one particular factory to another, thereby defeating the striking workers in any one particular factory, unless the workers in all 10 factories come together under one organisation and strike together. Since the latter takes time, centralisation, which is part of the spontaneous tendency of capitalism, constitutes also a spontaneous mechanism for stealing a march on the workers, for overcoming the dialectics of subversion. In particular, when centralisation takes the form of globalisation of capital, where capital can move freely across nations but workers are organised at best within individual nations, the ability of capital to overcome the dialectics of subversion to its logic gets considerably strengthened.

Centralisation of capital, I just mentioned, constitutes an immanent tendency of capital. But one can go further. The downgrading or displacement, not just of small capitalists, which is what centralisation of capital refers to, but of peasants, petty producers, artisans, fisherfolk, small traders, retail shopkeepers, and independent craftsmen by big capital, which is under the command of the big bourgeoisie, is an inherent trait of capitalism, an immanent tendency that is of crucial importance in societies like ours.

2

The post-second world war period was one historical conjuncture when the balance of class forces within capitalism in the metropolis, especially in Europe that had been ravaged by the war, favoured the proletariat. In France and Italy, the communists emerged as by far the most significant political force; in several other countries, the social democrats came to power on working class support, including

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PERSPECTIVE

in Britain, where Winston Churchill, the war-time prime minister, was defeated in the post-war elections despite having acquired a halo during the war. Though the introduction of Keynesian demand management, together with welfare state measures, within the capitalist system, meant defending capitalism immediately against the socialist threat, it also meant a systemic intervention in the functioning of capitalism.

In third world countries, decolonisation brought, outside of the socialist countries, independent bourgeois-led states into existence, which, even while building capitalism in their respective countries, did so within a dirigiste regime. Third world dirigisme, even while building capitalism, entailed, in deference to the legacy of the anti-colonial struggle, a systemic intervention in capitalism, a fact that led even an astute observer like Michael Kalecki to categorise such regimes as “intermediate regimes” under the hegemony of the petty bourgeoisie. This categorisation was off the mark, since dirigisme was ushering in capitalism, and not some alternative system of “state capitalism” (the state capitalist sector, or the public sector, as it existed, helped the development of capitalism), and hence the State could be characterised only as a bourgeois-led State; but it recognised that there was something different about this capitalist development, that it was capitalist development marked by a systemic intervention in what capitalism normally looks like.

Check on Immanent Tendency

One aspect of this intervention in countries like India that concerns us here is that it kept in check the immanent tendency of capitalism to downgrade and displace petty producers, especially small traders, middle and rich peasants, and small capitalists. On the contrary, large segments of the peasantry were offered cheap credit from nationalised banks (which had to meet a target in this regard), subsidised inputs, assured prices backed up by a procurement mechanism set up by the State, extension services, protection from the world market, and insulation from the vicissitudes of the world price movements. The fact that the benefits of such measures were unevenly

Economic & Political Weekly

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distributed across the peasantry, and that they ushered in a process of capitalist development in the countryside, based both on the erstwhile landlords and rich peasants (not to mention “gentlemen farmers” from urban areas), should not obscure the role they played in checking the immanent tendency of large capital to downgrade, destroy and dominate petty production.

The process of centralisation of capital, taking the form of globalisation of capital, especially of finance, and the formation on the basis of it of an “international finance capital”, has played a crucial role in replacing these dirigiste regimes by neoliberal regimes, and in reimposing upon countries, both in the metropolis and in the third world, the dialectics of subservience to the logic of capital. This change from dirigisme to neoliberalism in countries like India has been accompanied by a change in the position of the big bourgeoisie: from asserting its relative autonomy vis-a-vis imperialism, and hence, despite collaborating with imperialism, representing in a certain sense national interests and national aspirations with regard to imperialism, it has got closely integrated with international finance capital and seeks a strategic alliance with imperialism.

Crisis of Peasant Agriculture

But the neoliberal regime has once again brought in its wake the tendency towards the downgrading and decimation of petty production, exhibited above all in our country through a crisis of peasant agriculture that has led to 1,84,000 peasants committing suicide. But it is not only the peasantry and the petty producers who are the victims of neoliberalism. Large segments of the working population have seen an increase in their hunger and penury in the neoliberal period.

Just one bit of statistics will suffice to make the point. The proportion of the rural population having less than 2,400 calories per person per day, which is the official definition of “poverty” in India, has increased between 1993-94 and 2004-05 from 74.5% to 87%; and the proportion of the urban population with less than 2,100 calories per person per day has increased from 57% to 64.5% over the same period.1 But the increase in distress caused by

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neoliberalism also makes it possible to build a united resistance against it. In particular, neoliberalism creates the historic possibility of forging a workerpeasant alliance.

The political survival of capitalism has hinged crucially upon the fact that it has been able historically to enlist the support of the peasantry against the proletariat, with the argument that an attack on capitalist property will be followed by an attack on peasants’ property. It is this that caused the fall of the Paris Commune: the French peasants’ support for Thiers rather than the Communards was crucial in the defeat of the Commune. On the other hand the success of the Bolshevik Revolution and subsequent socialist revolutions was because of the ability of the working class to enlist the support of the peasantry.

Historic Opportunity

In countries like India where bourgeois leadership over the anti-colonial struggle could not be replaced by working class leadership, the reason for it lay in the bourgeoisie’s continued sway over the peasantry (which is why the post-independence dirigiste regime took steps to thwart the immanent tendency of capital to downgrade and destroy petty production). Neoliberalism loosens this sway because it unleashes this immanent tendency which had been held in check during the period of dirigisme. This creates a historic opportunity for the success of the dialectics of subversion of the logic of capital. In short, the Left, far from facing a crisis, should, for this reason at least, be making great advances in the present conjuncture.

3

Needless to say, the task of carrying forward the dialectics of subversion of the logic of capital falls not just on the political formations and mass organisations of the Left, but also on the state governments run by them. The fact that the Left in India runs three state governments is indicative of its political importance and of the popular support it enjoys. It is an achievement that the Left can take satisfaction from. But the significance of this achievement lies precisely in the fact that it is as much a result of the dialectics of subversion of the logic of capital, as a means of carrying forward that dialectics.

Two Constraints

There are however two obvious constraints that come in the way of the Left governments, and, by implication of Left mass organisations which cannot pursue a trajectory completely independent of the Left governments, in carrying forward the dialectics of subversion. One is the role of the urban middle class. As capitalism in India runs the risk of losing peasant support, it has succeeded in garnering to itself the support of the urban middle class, which has done well from globalisation and the neoliberal policies unleashed by it. Unlike in Latin America where financial crises, caused by the phenomenon of financial liberalisation, have given rise to deep real crises, having an adverse impact not only on the workers, peasants and agricultural labourers, but also on the urban middle class, in India no such deep crises have occurred in the neoliberal era that could make the urban middle class disillusioned with the system.

This new-found support base of the system is ironically a result of the Left’s intervention itself (which does not of course mean that the Left should not have intervened the way it did). The Left’s successful resistance to financial liberalisation and capital account convertibility has stood the economy in good stead, in warding off the sort of financial crises that have affected every other major region in the world apart from China. This has resulted in the maintenance, till now, of a high growth rate in the real economy, whose beneficiaries have been not the workers, peasants, petty producers and agricultural labourers, but, apart from the big bourgeoisie, the “financial class”, the landlords and sizeable capitalists in both urban and rural India, the urban middle classes. They have developed a stake therefore in the neoliberal regime and have become a major new prop for the big bourgeoisie and a source of local support for imperialism.

Difference between India and Latin America

This is a major difference between India and Latin America and explains why the Latin American Left has been in the ascendancy while the Indian Left is facing a “crisis”: the latter has not yet garnered the support of the peasantry which would be forthcoming in the new situation, even as it has lost ground among the urban middle classes, who have as yet been beneficiaries of the neoliberal dispensation.

The importance of the urban middle class however lies not just in its numbers. It is the class from which the literati, the media-persons, the academicians, and the “makers of opinion” are recruited. Just as it plays the historic role of producing the elements that act as the carrier of revolutionary ideology to the proletariat, likewise it can also play the role of producing the elements that act as the carrier of the ideology of subservience to the logic of capital to the same proletariat. Which elements come out predominantly from the urban middle class at any juncture depends inter alia upon the material experience of the urban middle class itself. The urban middle class therefore can play the role in certain conjunctures, such as the one that prevails in India today, of ideologically subverting the dialectics of subversion of the logic of capital, even by exerting influence on sections of the Left to proceed in directions that are contrary to its historical mission.

The second constraint arises from the enormous pressure on state governments exercised by the central government that is the main driving force behind neoliberalism. The fiscal squeeze on state governments is the chief instrument for exercising such pressure. Given this overall fiscal squeeze, the central government works relentlessly, through a variety of weapons, to impose upon state governments, including especially the governments led by the Left, the dialectics of subservience to the logic of capital. These weapons include: a host of centrally-sponsored schemes, designed by agencies like the World Bank, which the state governments have practically no option but to accept; a continuous pushing of the “Public-Private-Partnership” model for developing everything under the sun from infrastructure to higher education; an entrapping of states into a syndrome of competing against one another in offering concessions to capitalists for initiating “development”; and so on. Class struggle, in short, is refracted

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through centre-state relations, with the former being the agency for pushing upon the latter an agenda of subservience to the logic of capital.

4

These pressures, being exerted on the one hand by the urban middle class that wants “development” within the neoliberal regime so as to create even better opportunities for itself, and on the other hand by the central government that represents big bourgeoisie interests and hence presses for a strategic alliance with imperialism and closer integration with international finance capital, to the detriment of the mass of working people, become particularly powerful because they act in a certain theoretical-ideological context. This context consists in the prevalence within certain segments of the Left of two specific theoretical positions.

The first believes that globalisation is a “modernising” force and hence the Left should not turn its face against it. This is an old argument that has always enjoyed a certain currency in progressive-liberal circles. Its fallacy consists in the fact that, as in “dual economy” models in economics, it sees society as consisting of two disjoint segments, the modern and the traditional, without looking at the dialectical inter-relationships between the two.2 The fact that the so-called “modernity” engendered by the penetration of imperialism, much like the “modernity” introduced by colonialism, has the simultaneous effect of strengthening anti-modernity is missed by it.

Diverse Ways

This strengthening happens in diverse ways. Sometimes it is a direct fallout of imperialist strategy itself, such as in Iraq where US invasion has had the effect of exacerbating the Shia-Sunni divide and destroying the secular fabric of that society. Sometimes it is the unintended consequence of, or the response to, an imperialist-supported “modernity”, such as in Iran, where imperialist greed for oil led to the installation of the Shah, whose systematic and brutal victimisation of the communists and progressive nationalists left the space open only for the Islamic clerics to emerge as the principal opposition.

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PERSPECTIVE

Sometimes, as in Afghanistan, the “antimodernity” used as part of imperialist strategy changes into an anti-imperialist movement and comes to haunt imperialism as a Frankenstein’s monster.

In short, any acceptance by the Left of imperialism as a “modernising” force and hence a dilution of anti-imperialism for that reason will have the effect of permitting the anti-modern forces to don the mantle of anti-imperialism, and hence of actually thwarting “modernity”. The only agency under whose aegis “modernity” can develop in societies like ours is the Left, for it alone combines a “modern” outlook with implacable opposition to imperialism that squeezes the people. Any compromise in this implacable opposition on the ground that imperialism too is after all a “modernising” force, only has the effect of weakening the Left and strengthening the “anti-modern” elements in society. But, as mentioned earlier, there are segments within the Left that get impressed by the so-called “modernity” of imperialist globalisation, and this creates conditions for the dialectics of subservience to the logic of capital to take root even within the Left.

The second position, related to the first, believes that India’s integration into the world of globalised capital, and the associated set of neoliberal policies, is leading to the development of “productive forces” in the country (of which the high growth rate being experienced by the Indian economy is taken as evidence), and is therefore historically progressive. Since a mode of production becomes historically obsolete only when the relations of production underlying it become a fetter on the development of the productive forces, capitalism in our country has not yet fully run its course. The Left-ruled state governments, therefore, should utilise the as-yetunexhausted potential of capitalism for developing the productive forces in their respective states.

Four Problems

There are four basic problems with this argument. First, it is a throwback to the “stage theory” discussed earlier, and is therefore methodologically erroneous. The question at any moment before the proletariat and the political formation that

Economic & Political Weekly

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october 31, 2009

arms it with theory is not whether to accept or oppose capitalism, but how to carry forward “the dialectics of subversion of the logic of capital” even while working towards the development of the productive forces within a bourgeois society, a task that may have fallen upon the Left in a particular conjuncture. Not to recognise the centrality of this latter question, as mentioned earlier, will lead to an isolation of the Left from the proletariat and its allies, i e, from the basic classes.

Second, this argument is methodologically wrong for another reason, namely, it restricts the immediate choice only to the binary opposites of accepting or opposing capitalism, which is analogous to the binary opposites mentioned earlier: subservience to the logic of capital, or attempt at an overthrow of the system. This is the immediate binary choice that both the ultra-Left and the neoliberals pose before us. Indeed the ultra-Left position and the neoliberal position are identical (“identity of opposites”), in that both believe that the only immediate choice before society is either subservience to the logic of capital or an attempt to overthrow the system. This problematic is wrong.

Third, the conception of the “development of the productive forces” it puts forward is extremely narrow. The development of productive forces refers neither merely to the level of technology3 nor merely to the mass of “things” that the society can produce at any time. The concept includes the development of the “producers” themselves. As Marx had said in The Poverty of Philosophy:

For the oppressed class to be able to emancipate itself, it is necessary that the productive powers already acquired and the existing social relations should no longer be capable of existing side by side. Of all the instruments of production, the greatest productive power is the revolutionary class itself. The organisation of revolutionary elements as a class supposes the existence of all the productive forces which could be engendered in the bosom of the old society.

It follows from this that the dialectics of subversion of the logic of capital, without which there can be no “organisation of revolutionary elements as a class”, is itself a part of the process of development of productive forces under capitalism. To think of the development of the productive

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forces separately from carrying forward this dialectics of subversion is wrong.

And finally, even if we take the “development of productive forces” in the narrow sense as referring only to “things”, subservience to the logic of capital is neither necessary nor sufficient for Left-led state governments, even within a bourgeois society, for ushering in such development. It is not sufficient because all states are vying for capital investment, and mere subservience to the logic of capital will not be enough to attract capital investment. It is not necessary because, notwithstanding all the hurdles placed by the central government, alternative means of undertaking investment, for example, through the public and cooperative sectors, do exist and can be used. Indeed, such alternatives can be used to put a ceiling to the level of accommodation that can be provided to the capitalists, to set, as it were, a “reservation price”, that clearly indicates that the state government can go thus far and no further. Using these alternatives therefore is an important part of a strategy of carrying forward the dialectics of subversion of the logic of capital even while carrying out the task of “developing the productive forces” within a bourgeois society.

5

But, it may be asked, what concretely does “subversion of the logic of capital” mean? For the political formations and mass organisations of the Left it has a clear and well-known meaning. But what about the Left-led state governments? There is no formula that these governments have to follow, but subversion of the logic of capital must mean checking wherever possible the operation of the immanent tendencies of capital and insulating the “basic classes” in every possible manner from the consequences of these tendencies. Given the Constitutional limitations on these governments and the enormous pressure exercised by the union government to make all state governments subservient to the logic of capital, this is not an easy task, but the nature of the task is clear.

It certainly means preventing all direct forms of primitive accumulation of capital, such as the forcible dispossession of the peasants from their land for “development”, or the forcible curtailment of the activities of the fishermen (such as what a new central government legislation is threatening); but it also means preventing less directly visible forms of primitive accumulation, such as through turning the terms of trade against peasants and petty producers (which is what the Indo-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement will entail for large segments of Kerala’s petty producers). The state government may not always succeed in preventing all these measures, but it has to struggle against them and also provide whatever succour it can within its limited means against the adversity they cause. It also means making full use of whatever residual welfare schemes exist within the central government’s budget, struggling for more such schemes, struggling to rid them of their neoliberal integuments, and formulating schemes at the state level within the limited means at the disposal of the state governments to provide succour to the basic classes against distress, since every such succour strengthens the ability of the “basic classes” to struggle. And above all, as already mentioned, it must mean enforcing a “reservation price” vis-a-vis capital, by having alternative possibilities of effecting investment other than through the enticement of capital. To say all this is not to suggest that the Leftled governments are not doing these things, but they must be seen as part of an alternative strategy, a strategy of subversion of the logic of capital, rather than as a set of mere empirical measures. The acceptance of a theoretical perception with a conscious focus on such an alternative strategy alone will overcome the Left’s current theoretical ambiguity.

Industrialisation

An example will illustrate the need for this perception. Much debate has taken place recently about the need for industrialisation in West Bengal. While many critics of the Left have argued against industrialisation, if not always explicitly then at least implicitly, they have been rightly criticised for taking a “Luddite stand”. The capacity of modern large-scale industry to generate employment is limited, so that the hope that such industrialisation will absorb labour reserves to any significant extent is a far-fetched one (which indeed is an argument for exploring the possibilities of industrialisation in a more comprehensive sense, going beyond the mere implanting of modern large-scale industrial units). But, even if such industrialisation does not significantly absorb labour reserves, insofar as the products of such industry are used in the country, not having such industries would entail reliance on imports, on foreign loans, and hence eventually on imperialism, which must be avoided.

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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