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Critical of Marx's views on India, book calls Gandhi an apologist of Brahmanical system

By Harsh Thakor* 

The book ‘Of Concepts and Methods' by K Murali (Ajith) seeks to challenge the conventional approach of Indian Communist parties and elaborates how they dumped the issue of caste into the graveyard. Divided into seven chapters, the writer does not reveal a classical Marxist-Leninist touch but traverses into unexplored regions, taking an inventive approach.
The book projects the characteristics of Brahmanical fascism and how it infiltrated every sphere of Indian society. Delving into the fascistic aspects of Indian culture and the connection between Brahmanism and political fascism, it sets the tone for how intellectuals should approach and study Marxism and extricate it from mechanical tendencies.
The author narrates that in essence leaders like MK Gandhi were apologists of the Brahmanical system, endorsing many traditional values. The book illustrates that there is dialectical connection between the semi-feudal economic order and the hegemony of higher castes.
It narrates how Brahmanical philosophy was rooted in the practice of Gandhi, and in essence the Congress endorsed it. It recognises the contribution of Babasaheb Ambekar as an integral part of the revolutionary movement.
With outstanding insight and originality the book exposes Vedanta or Advaita. It most illustratively encompasses how traditional Hindu philosophy was interwoven with authoritarian rule and how colonialism absorbed the reactionary elements of it to assert its hegemony. In the chapter on materialist ethics he deals with how materialism rejects idealism or their fundamental dichotomy.
Ajith summarises the contribution of Lenin towards building the party concept, giving full justice to his efforts to create the first socialist state. He projects the people’s wars undertaken in the world as well as the achievements of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
He asserts how in important ways Mao ruptured from the practice of Stalin, traversing zones Lenin did not penetrate. A new dimension of the vanguard party too was projected, rejecting the traditional mechanical approach. He portrays instances of how new revolutionary democratic methods were cultivated to challenge bureaucratic tendencies within the party, especially in China.
Critical of post-modernist tendencies, he writes about Euro-centric tendencies with reference to writings of Marx and Engels and positive elements in the writers of the New Left. He delves into how Marx in his writings made no mention of penetration of caste with the economic superstructure.
In great detail he describes the fascistic ideology of the Savarna philosophy down the ages to the present times, which gave a crushing blow to anti-caste movements. He vividly analyses the descendents of neo-fascism of the Brahmanical Hindutva variety and how Independence of 1947 was a mere transfer of power. He writes about how as a political ideology it has its origins in the crisis-ridden monopoly capitalism of imperialist countries.
He projects the link between the repressive socio-economic order or semi-feudalism with the philosophy of Brahmanical fascism. He explains that there is virtually no dicthomy between the Brahamanical ideology and the semi-feudal system.
Ajith is critical of tendencies of personality cult within leadership. At the same time he has positively portrays contribution of Charu Mazumdar and Kanhai Chaterjee,upholding their touch with the roots of society. He probes into the sectarian aspects of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. He delves into the regions of mechanical, subjective and idealist approach by the Chinese Communist party and over idolisation. He is critical of Chairman Mao for not sufficiently countering trend of personality cult and promoting adulation of ideology.
Ajith narrates how Lenin and Mao progressively corrected some of the erroneous thinkings of Marx on Asiatic countries. He touches on the reactionary aspects of western Marxism, which in his view negated ground reality.
The main flaw of this book is it negates the proletarian essence of Leninism in junctures. It negates Stalin's role in the Comintern as well as approach to party building completely. It projects that there are weaknesses within Leninism itself and that Maoism is in many ways a rupture or dichotomy from it. Negating Stalin or ascribing Leninist or Leninism from having limitations sows the seeds of revisionism.
When projecting Brahmanical fascism it divorces from class struggle or proletarian angle and virtually projects it as the precursor of all economic exploitation. In Marxist-Leninist light Ajith does not propagate that only sustained class movements can overturn casteism.

Some quotes from the book

On Marx on India:

“Some of Marx’s views, based on faulty sources, such as the concept of an Asiatic mode of production based on supposedly stagnant village communities and a despotic state, have been abandoned by most Marxist historians. The fact that even the 'hereditary divisions of labour' congealed in the caste order (correctly seen by Marx as a decisive impediment to progress) was itself never immobile, is now widely accepted.
"Similarly his characterisation of hand spinning and hand weaving as the pivots of village society, his view on the absence of private property in land, of the paralysis of productive forces for want of means of transport, of state functions as merely plunder and public works (irrigation) also stand corrected. Marx’s opinion that British colonialism effected the 'greatest and... only social revolution...' in the subcontinent.
"To give it the halo of a 'classic' view of our history would be making a laughing stock of Marxism and a departure from the creative advances made in applying it to the study of this sub-continent. DD Kosambi, a pioneer in this matter, observed, 'The advance of agrarian village economy over tribal country is the first great social revolution in India: the change from an aggregate of gentes to a society'.”

On materialist ethics

“Given that ethics belongs to the realm of consciousness, of thinking, can there be a materialist ethics? Most idealist schools of thought rule out the very idea. If at all, it is grudgingly admitted, all that is acceded to materialism is an imperfect concept of ethics. Consider the critique of materialist ethics given by Bal Gangadhar Tilak in his Gita Rahasya. It is rooted in his definition of materialism as a system of thought that accepts only that which can be sensed by human sensory organs. What is left out in this simplistic definition is materialism’s insistence on the objective exis-tence of matter.
"Matter exists, regardless of our sensing it or not. This is the key difference it has with various shades of idealism. All of them ultimately deny the independent, objective existence of matter. Tilak’s main accusation is that materialism cannot comprehend the mind and all that comes in the mental realm. Relying on this assertion he goes on to claim that a materialist ethics, which tries to incorporate concern for mental satisfaction, must go against its own material premise."

On Brahmanical fascism

‘’Political ideology it has its origins in the crisis-ridden monopoly capitalism of imperialist countries. It is a form of bourgeois rule. The growth of neo-fascist political parties and the repeated electoral successes of Rightists in imperialist countries are directly related to the continuing economic slowdown experienced in those countries, triggered by the financial crisis of 2007-08. They are greatly aided by the resurgence of narrow nationalism, which portrays the 'other' (mostly identified as immigrants) as the main cause for economic stress.
“As a form of bourgeois rule, elements of the fascist ideology are quite often internalised by the modern ruling classes of the Third World, i.e. the oppressed countries, as well. It is blended with the autocratic, 'rule by edict' system of rule commonly seen in the past under feudal regimes all over the world. In the imperialist countries also, fascism resurrected aspects of the feudal polity, replacing bourgeois democracy’s 'rule of law' and 'formal equality.'
"But there is a difference in the oppressed nations stemming from persisting semi-feudal socio-economic and cultural relations. As a result, even when forms of bourgeois rule like the parliamentary system exist, they are inherently flawed. The blending is a permanent feature. The switch over from a formal parliamentary system with constitutionally assured rights to the blatant suppression of democratic rights, has an economic dimension even in an oppressed country.
"The difference lies in the near total permanence of economic distress. When it comes to the situation in India, the inherent flaw of the parliamentary system is often discounted or ignored by mainstream political analysts. They consider this country to be a mature democracy compared to other third world countries. The decade’s long sustenance of the parliamentary system and separation of powers between the legislature, executive, and judiciary, are given as proof. Fascist rule, like the one seen during the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi, is taken to be an aberration."
---
*Freelance journalist who has written for a number of blogs and travelled all around India

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