Critical note on Prabhat Pattanaik’s: 'Indian Left in Decline'

-Rajesh Tyagi/ 6.10.2011
The process of ‘empiricisation’ is at the helm of the ‘Indian left in decline’, this is what Prabhat argues in his article published in recent issue of Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), and definitely rightly so. There is no doubt that the whole politics of so called ‘Indian left’ germinating from the CPI,  has been guided by empiricist (pragmatic) responses to the environment around, obviously an environment under domination of bourgeois.
The article however fails to bring the issue in its correct political and historical context. Devoid of this actual context, the whole debate would lose its meaning and would again end up in an empiricist response to the problem, which rather demands a far deeper analysis.

Needless to say, empiricism is not a phenomenon peculiar to Indian left, rather a consistent and sole pursuit by the parties having political roots in the Third International under Stalin, widely practised since then. This empiricisation, constitutes the praxis of a politics which is not ‘un-informed’ of the project of transcending capitalism, rather is deadly armed with a program running counter to it – i.e. the program of Stalinism.

Stalinism is nothing but the offshoot of the process of empiricisation, much trumpeted in Prabhat’s article. Abandoning of the great dream of the ‘world socialist revolution’-the battle-cry of the Third International under Lenin, and substituting it with degraded and self-serving slogan of ‘socialism in one country’ was the departure point for this empiricisation, which Prabhat’s article does not even touch upon.

October revolution had brought about a revolutionary wave over the globe, followed by an ebb in 1919-23, in the wake of temporary set-backs in Germany, Hungry, Czchoslovakia etc.  Revolutionary tendency under Lenin, albeit with a pause in prepatory mode and with an eye upon future upheavels, however, re-pledged the success of the world socialist revolution. But the second line leadership in CPSU and Comintern, in conjunction with bureaucracy, terrified at the defeats and seeking an opportunity in them, set out to withdraw from the project of ‘world socialist revolution’ the only valid project ‘informed of the praxis of transcending capitalism’.   Empiricism held the sway- international proletariat is defeated, world bourgeois has won- so abandon the world proletarian revolution and defend Kremlin. ‘Socialism in one country’- was the Empiricist-Stalinist answer of the bureaucracy to the prevailing situation, leaned in favour of world bourgeoisie, for the time being. Within no time after the death of Lenin, Stalinists aided by the counter revolutionary bureaucracy succeeded in usurping power both inside CPSU and Soviet Union and on its strenght later inside Comintern too. They great project of 'world socialist revolution', was the first casualty under the axe of Stalinist bureaucracy, who substituted it with the nationalist rut -‘socialism in one country’.

Victory and the re-stabilization of the world bourgeois, in the aftermath of failed workers’ uprisings in Europe in 1919-1921, led the bureaucracy to find an empiricist solution in abandoning the project of world socialist revolution and burying its ostrich neck into ‘socialism in one country’ and then dissolving the comintern, the world party of the international working class itself, to doubly assure the world bourgeois that the ‘project to transcend capitalism’ has been buried forever. Stalinism, became complacent with world bourgeois, apparently refusing to take to the project of ‘transcending the capitalism’ leaving the communist parties under its command to repeat the same with their own bourgeois. Indian left- the Stalinist prop- has obediently followed the command to date.
Empiricisation of Comintern and CPSU under Stalin, stood on the defeats of the world proletariat, defeats which were perpetuated later by Stalinists, inflicting defeat after defeat upon the world proletariat, from China to Spain. In these defeats, Stalinists and the bureaucracy behind them, sought more and more empiricist justifications in order to beat the retreat from the Leninist project of world socialist revolution. Stalinism was first and foremost an ‘empiricist response’ to the apparent world situation, i.e. the domination of the world bourgeois.  That being so, needless to say, empiricisation is not, as Prabhat think, the putsch of any wing of Stalinism, left or right, but the whole edifice of Stalinism rests upon this empiricisation, i.e. adaptation to the domination of world bourgeois.
As left opposition inside the Comintern under Leon Trotsky had pointed out time and again that the project of ‘socialism in one country’ was not only unviable, but also a garb for the real defencist-nationalist-bureaucratic manoeuvre, where bureaucracy  strived to enjoy the fruits of revolution, unfazed by the fate of the world working class. Trotsky showed how world capitalism had grown long ago in history beyond the national frontiers and how the productive forces cannot be reconciled on national scale.
We know today that the false project of ‘socialism in one country’, was nothing but a bureaucratic-nationalist farce, under whose garb Stalinists took to a self serving project of keeping the bureaucractic power in Kremlin intact at the cost of world proletariat and the world socialist revolution. Unfortunately Prabhat does not dwell upon this core aspect of the discourse about an informed project of transcending capitalism, the biggest in the history, hitherto existing.
What was not valid on the scale of a whole country, the same could not have been valid on the scale of a state like West Bengal? Could the left front government in its governance in West Bengal or the CPI-CPM as a whole in their politics inside a country, transcend the capitalist project?  Prabhat commits a whole mistake, in discussing the empiricisation of the ‘Indian left’ (Stalinists!) without reference to its world historic project- the program of counter revolution- Stalinism.
Prabhat is right in diagnosing the vice of ‘Empiricism’ as the superbug, infecting the whole body of left movement, but he places the chief blame on wrong shoulders. It is not the leaders of Indian left or the West Bengal, who are primarily responsible for the decline, they are disciples of Stalinism and have faithfully implemented it on the Indian soil. Prabhat is shy of tracing the origins and the trajectory of CPI, to essentially find the flawed perspective of Stalinism responsible for isolating the world working class from the great project of transcending capitalism- the project of Third International under Lenin and Trotsky- the project of world socialist revolution. Without uncovering the historic foundations of empiricisation, which was fought by left-opposition inside and outside Comintern under Stalin, the answer Prabaht offers to it remains abstract and infected with empiricist bug once again.
Now that the world project of Stalinism-the project, not ‘un-informed’ of project to transcend capitalism, but consciously informed ‘not to’ transcend capitalism, finds itself in whole tatters, Prabhat and the like of him, who for decades have adhered themselves to such program of capitulation, suddenly discover the crisis of the left, that too in empiricism of the Indian left.
The same very people who till yesterday had been defending Stalinist regimes, terming them the bastions of “actually existing socialism”, have started a new crusade, terming the essential crisis of Stalinism as crisis of the ‘left’. They obliterate the real picture that Stalinism thrived in complacence with world bourgeois and the crisis of Stalinism goes hand in hand with the present crisis of world bourgeois. They prevent the young generations of workers and toilers as to how the destiny of Stalinism is crudely bound up with that of the world bourgeois. The fact is that the decline of Stalinism is the way out for world socialist revolution.
The article is written by Pattanaik in seeming opposition to those on the right wing of the CPM demanding a whole scale shift to social-democracy and reformism as a response to the aftermath of the situation arising from the shameful defeat of Stalinists in West Bengal at the hands of Trinamool Congress, a rabid right wing party. The article though demonstrates complete inability of Stalinists even to pose the question of ‘transcending of capitalism’ in its historic context, leaving aside an answer to it.

It is ironical that other Stalinist formations like the CPI-ML-Liberation go hand in hand with Prabhat in covering up the essential linkage of this empiricisation of the Indian left to that of Stalinism as a whole. In his response to the article of Prabhat, Dipankar Bhattacharya, Gen. Sec. of Liberation, giving same empiricist response to domination of bourgeois, accepts the flawed economist notion that the actual situation cannot be overlooked. Empiricists, as Stalinists always are, forget that the existing situation is often not in conformity with its historic destiny and exists de-hors to it. Neither the Stalinist regimes of ‘actually existing socialism’ right from their birth, nor the present rule of world bourgeois as a whole, is anymore in conformity with its historic destiny. Stalinist regimes have evaporated into thin air of world capitalism, which in turn is facing acute systemic crisis. While Stalinists face a mass exodus from their camp- workers and youth disillusioned, turning away from them, are running helter-skelter from social-democracy to post modernism, more serious and honest elements among them are turning to the program of fourth international, the program of ‘permanent revolution’, in real “pursuit of a political praxis that is really informed by the project of transcending capitalism”.

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