Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Jacobinism in the time of Revolution

One aspect of most initially successful revolutions is Jacobinism - a tendency among a coterie that is the vanguard of the revolution to kill those who do not agree with it not only from among the overthrown establishment but also from the revolutionary formation. Beginning with the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in England which pre-dates the French Revolution of 1789, which was followed by the rule of the Jacobin club from which the term originates and up to the later even more massive Russian and Chinese revolutions there has always been this Jacobinistic tendency of the ruling coterie to put to death or expel those who dissent. This, tendency becomes even more pronounced if the revolutionary formation happens to have charismatic leaders. Somehow, the principles of grassroots democracy and justice which inform the revolutionary formations during their struggle phase and which form a significant part of the goals of the revolution, are sought to be discarded by the leaders of the revolution once they are in power. Eventually this leads to the defeat of the original goals of the revolution.
This denouement was especially marked in the case of the Russian revolution. Immediately after the revolution, the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) led by Lenin still had to contend with the white counter revolutionary challenge sponsored by the western capitalist nations and so perforce had to implement a "military communism" of hard rationing supervised by a bureaucratic state apparatus so as to be able to produce the weapons and armour necessary to win the civil war and maintain the supply chain to the cities and towns. The Bolsheviks had eagerly hoped that the Communists who had some mass following in Germany would sooner or later bring about a proletarian revolution in that industrially more advanced country and so provide material and moral support thereafter to the precariously poised Russian revolution. However, these hopes were dashed as the ill planned and ill timed Spartacist uprising of the German Communist Party was ruthlessly crushed in 1919 and put paid to the hopes of a more broad-based communist capture of state power in the advanced capitalist countries leaving the Russian communists to fend for themselves.
So by the time the Russian Communists overcame the counter-revolution by 1920 through their own devices, the nascent industrial sector in the largely agrarian and feudal economy of Russia was close to dissolution. The biggest problem therefore was how to revive industrial production in particular and the economy in general and "catch up" with the western industrialised capitalist nations. This is when the Bolsheviks decided to put socialist ideas on hold and instead adopt capitalist management techniques in the factories to revive production and also allow market forces to play so that the vast middle peasantry of kulaks could be included in the process of rebuilding the economy through the continued exploitation of the landless serfs who were converted into badly paid wage labourers. The anarchists who were in control of a large number of the workers' soviets and trade unions argued that the responsibility for the organisation of production in factories should be that of the freely elected workers' soviets and trade unions and this policy should be followed in the rural areas also. They argued that the workers had borne much hardship during the fight to overcome the counter-revolution and they should now reap the benefits instead of being subjected to more deprivation. Instead, they pointed out, bourgeois elements, which had no sympathy with the revolution had infiltrated the factory management, the bureaucracy and even the party during the earlier phase of military communism and were sabotaging the revolution. Dissatisfied by their living and working conditions the workers and peasants began to go on strikes in February 1921 demanding a more open democratic dispensation.
Lenin and the Bolsheviks would have none of this, however, as it constituted a challenge to the authority of the Bolshevik party and the tight control over the government, that it had developed in the course of the civil war. They advanced the need for maintaining party unity as an excuse for clamping down on the burgeoning open debates and the formation of factions representing alternative viewpoints so as to maintain their monopoly of power. Thus arguing speciously that the proletariat in Russia was not advanced enough to be able to control the economy and government on its own and so needed the party to guide it, Lenin came down hard on the anarchist opposition. Punitive action was begun against the striking workers in Petrograd and Moscow. As things came to a head the naval unit stationed at the port of Kronstadt near Petrograd, which happened to be aligned with the anarchists came out in support of the workers' demands. This unit had earlier played a crucial role in the victory of the Bolsheviks in the revolution of 1917 as the professionally trained core of the final military assault on the seat of bourgeois power, the Winter Palace in Petrograd and so commanded immense respect among the working masses. The situation worsened as workers and peasants all over the country joined the workers in Petrograd and Moscow in demonstrations protesting against the bureaucratic and military control of the economy and polity. The Bolshevik government resorted to police and military repression to suppress this opposition. The sailors of Kronstadt mutinied against the Bolshevik government demanding an end to centralised party control of the economy and greater freedom of decision for the workers and peasants. So the Red Army in full force under the command of Trotsky was sent in to deal with them on March 7th 1921. After putting up a brave fight for ten days those anarchist sailors were massacred to the last man. It was given out by the Bolsheviks that these sailors were counter-revolutionary agents bent on sabotaging the proletarian revolution. With that the Russian revolution began its descent into bureaucratism and eventual dissipation.
Its not surprising, therefore, that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) too is following a similar path. Of course the coming to power of the AAP in Delhi is not a revolutionary occurrence in the strict sense of the term but its landslide legislative victory won by the voluntary contributions of time, skills and money of lakhs of people against the huge power of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is akin to a revolution in many ways. Also since it does not have control of the repressive arms of state power in the form of the police and the military it also cannot carry out the kind of murderous purging that the Jacobins and the Bolsheviks did. But once again the way in which dissidents who raised foundational points regarding inner party democracy and justice have been booted out of the main decision making bodies of the party smacks of the same kind of impatience with grassroots democracy and the right to dissent as displayed in the earlier revolutions. In AAP's case, the pitch is even more queered by the fact that Kejriwal has an overwhelming presence and has dominated the electoral campaign and so now has tremendous mass support within and without the party as compared to the dissenters who do not have the same charismatic presence or mass support. 
The experience of the Russian Revolution and the more recent upheavals within the AAP should make us ponder about the inherent incompatibility of  grassroots democracy with running a centralised government with the aim of providing equality and justice in a world controlled by capitalism. It must be remembered that right from the mid 1650s capitalism first in its mercantilist form, then in its industrial form and now in its financial form has been in the ascendant, severely limiting the possibilities of pursuing equality and justice for the masses. The AAP Government in Delhi is severely handicapped in terms of resources and power to be able to fulfil its promises of providing free services and corruption free governance as were the French, Russian and Chinese revolutionary governments before them. In such situations earlier during the French, Russian and Chinese revolutions the ruling coterie tended to stifle dissent and demands for greater democracy even when these demands emanated from a much larger section of the revolutionary formation than it has done in the case of the AAP. After all an overwhelming 75 per cent of the National Executive Council of the party voted in favour of giving the incumbent group the upper hand in deciding the affairs of the party and most of the others abstained. (Even though it does look superficially as if the party is a one person show, there is in fact a fairly big grouping of leaders around that one person and so it should be treated as a group). In all such instances the coming to power takes place after a hard fought struggle and those who have led that struggle are naturally very possessive about the victory and the power gained. There is no doubt that Arvind Kejriwal and his close aides who have fought the notoriously unwinnable, because of the money and muscle power involved, first past the post elections as candidates promising clean governance and free or cheap public services against the corrupt might of the BJP, have achieved a singular victory and so are concerned with delivering on their promises. Since their task is cut out given the limited resources of the Government they head, they have thought it prudent to get rid of those who are raising points of procedure and principle. It remains to be seen whether they will be able to buck the historical trend of Jacobinism, in the earlier such ascents to centralised state power by radical political formations, eventually biting the dust at the hands of capitalist manipulation!!!


Anonymous said...

After being wiped out in Lokshabha, Arvind felt desperate to come back to Delhi - as it was the last opportunity for surviving AAP. To win, possibly he had to compromise some principles by himself - which others did not like. And possibly, had he gone per other’s idealistic way, Delhi would not have been won ! He refused to fight Bidhansabha elections in Hariyana too - and here also he clashed with others. So, started the ego battle - which is natural to more educated people that AAP comprises of, as compared to other parties which are cadre based & a bit lesser educated

I don’t think such a heavy dose of ‘Jacobinism’ is relevant here. .

He crossed the 1st barrier to revive AAP. Only way he can sustain further on to do good work for Delhi. But as you said, there resources are limited - and more importantly, the central Govt is BJP.

Rahul Banerjee said...

Since you say that winning power and clinging onto it is important for AAP then you have to accede to the possibility of Jacobinism because that is what has happened in the past and has happened now. Only difference being that since the State Power is of a limited variety the ruling coterie has not been able to resort to killing or arrest!! They however, did resort to verbal violence during the national executive meeting and flouted all rules of holding such a meeting democratically. It remains to be seen whether the AAP after coming to power can bring about an improvement in governance or whether its incipient compromises will slowly increase and transform it into a corrupt party like others.

pralllad said...

Mr Banerjee, u said "they flouted rules holding holding such a democratic meting". Well, just before delhi election, one of the rebel senior AAP man praised arvind's BJP rival (BJP lady) and called her best chief min candidate. May be that does not fall under democratic behavior, but people has to be sensible when they work in a party. What has happened in NEC is a reaction, but i agree it was bad. However, do not criticize by seeing one sided viewpoint.

Look, i am a lower middle class delhi businessman. What he has done has benefited us in those 49 days and presently also. After a long time, i have seen a politician person at least thinks for us. I will not give a long list here. Pl do not boo him out - untill he fails or does corruption.

Rahul Banerjee said...

Dear Prallad, I have not written off the AAP or Kejriwal and have not also sided with those who have rebelled but have just compared the situation currently prevailing with that earlier in history. It might well transpire that AAP will succeed in providing better governance than has been the case so far despite the many hurdles that it faces.