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.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Revolution Betrayed!!!

The other day I met up with some old comrades at a meeting. We were all at one time either Marxists of one form or the other or in agreement with some of the basic tenets of Marxism and considered the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia to have been a game changer. All of us had since moved away from Marxism and Communist parties for various reasons. However, while I had later become a conscious anarchist and so had come to the conclusion that the spirit of the October Revolution had been betrayed by the Bolshevik Party (The Russian Social Democratic Party had two factions, one was called the Bolshevik or majority faction and the other the Menshevik or minority faction) and Lenin in particular, the others still considered Lenin and his contribution to be game changing. In the debate that ensued, I was surprised to find that the others were not even aware of the results of the huge archival research that has been done post the opening up of the Soviet archives in 1989 which reveal the sinister way in which the Bolshevik party suppressed Soviet democracy after it seized power following the revolution. This kind of refusal to face up to the reality of deviation from the goal of establishing true people's power is one of the main reasons for the marginalisation of the left all over the world.
There is one special aspect of the first decade after the revolution that needs to be discussed in detail as it holds great importance for any future mobilisation. This is the relationship of the centralised party with the organs of people's power - the Soviets or small factory councils and peasant councils. Contrary to what he wrote just before the revolution in "State and Revolution", Lenin summarily rejected the fundamental concept of "All Power to the Soviets" and instead concentrated all power in the Politbureau of the Bolshevik Party. Since the Party in 1917 had a very thin mass base restricted to the industrial areas of Petrograd and Moscow and almost no mobilisation among the peasants and since it was immediately faced with the counter revolutionary backlash from the ousted monarchists and bourgeois elements, in the initial years the Bolshevik Party was able to convince the industrial workers that the Soviet State could survive only by being run in an authoritarian militaristic way while fighting the Civil War. There was what was called "War Communism", in which grain, meat and vegetables was taken from the peasants in large quantities forcibly to fund the war and also to feed the cities. The workers in factories were made to toil hard and forbidden from striking work or from running their establishments by themselves.
However, once the Soviet State won the civil war by the end of 1920, the peasants and the workers became restive and demanded that true socialism based on grassroots soviet democracy in the factories and the farms should be implemented and the authoritarian control of the Bolshevik Politbureau eased and civil freedoms and rights allowed. The control of the heights of the economy should be with the Soviet State but the running of these establishments should be in the hands of factory councils or soviets. The main demands were -
free and secret elections to the Soviets, 
freedom of speech and press, 
the peasants' right to work their own land as they wished and 
the legalization of small scale private industry 
 The Bolsheviks would have none of this, however, and decided to crush the workers, soldiers and peasants who were making these demands. The strongest group that were in support of this democratisation of the Soviet State were the sailors at the naval base in Kronstadt near Petrograd. These sailors had played a crucial role in the victory of the October Revolution when it was their storming of the Winter Palace that finally led to the overthrow of the Conservative Government that had come to power after the February Revolution earlier following on the abdication of the Tsar. When the Bolshevik Party refused to accede to their demands the sailors of Kronstadt rose in rebellion and this led to a fight with the Soviet army ending in the massacre of the sailors who preferred to die rather than surrender and fought to the last as shown below.
Following this the Bolshevik Party tightened its authoritarian control over Russia even further but was faced with silent opposition from the workers and active revolt from the peasants who refused to give up their produce to the Soviet State. Given the fact that the Bolshevik Party still did not have a big enough mass following especially among the peasants in the country side it found that ruling by military repression alone over such a vast country, which was in reality an empire, would be very difficult. So, mainly at the behest of Lenin, a New Economic Policy was introduced in 1921. While the military control of society continued and civil freedoms and rights were denied, the NEP allowed peasants to sell their produce in markets and only a tax was levied on them. Small enterprise was also allowed but control of the major economic sectors of heavy industry, banking and transport and also military production were retained by the State. The State factories and services were run on a managerial system according to western industrial practices and workers were not allowed to unionise or form soviets. Thus, a form of State Capitalism came into play under the control of the Bolshevik Party.
This then brings up the crucial question regarding how post revolutionary states and societies should function. Especially when revolutions take place in backward countries and are immediately put under pressure by more developed imperialist countries who sponsor counter revolution. The revolution in Russia took place because the State had been weakened due to its participation in the imperialist World War I and it survived because this war had also weakened the winning imperialist powers to an extent where they were not able to provide enough support to the Russian counter revolutionaries. Contrary to the plan he had enunciated earlier for a truly democratic grassroots Soviet system, Lenin after the revolution immediately clamped down on civil liberties and continued with a repressive authoritarian system closely controlled by the Politbureau of the Bolshevik Party. Faced with revolt, he crushed the opposition, clamped down on debates within the party and initiated capitalist management of industries and the functioning of markets and small enterprise. It was clear that a big country like Russia cannot be ruled by a clique of people who still did not have enough power and resources and in one way or other the common people have to be given a say. Instead of allowing civil freedoms and rights, what the Bolsheviks did was to suppress them but allow private enterprise, peasant production and capitalist managerial control of workers in industries. By the time Lenin became terminally ill and finally died in 1924, the revolution had been betrayed and its emancipatory potential had been scotched. After 1928, when the Soviet State had become powerful enough, the New Economic Policy was withdrawn and Stalin, who had become the supreme leader, initiated a terror campaign against the peasants to collectivise and mechanise agriculture. From authoritarianism, Russia morphed into totalitarianism.
Often, when we work at the grassroots, even in our small organisations surrounded as we are by a hugely powerful Capitalist and Neo-imperialist system, the question of how to decide on our courses of action crops up and we have to choose between authoritarian or democratic decision making. I am happy to say that in Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath we always choose in favour of democracy even if on many occasions it leads us into trouble because the majority view of a situation turns out to be flawed in the end!!! Only if there is a firm belief in democracy at the grassroots and decentralised social, economic and political systems, are solutions to the serious problems that beset us at present likely to emerge.

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