On Transformative Politics: Ravi Sinha

Guest post by RAVI SINHA

Note: The text below was presented on 27th October, 2013, at the “Echoes of Ghadar” Convergence, Organized by South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI) in New York, USA.

Transformative Politics is a large subject and one always runs the risk of stating the obvious while dealing with such things. One can also go entirely wrong. But there is an even greater danger. One may end up offering banalities that are – to borrow a phrase from a famous physicist – not even wrong. In these brief comments, I will try to state what may be obvious but useful to keep in mind nevertheless. And I will also stick my neck out enough to be proven wrong if that serves a purpose.

Transformative politics, in my opinion, is necessarily the politics of the Left. In the era of capitalism, Left is necessarily Marxist, although the term is interpreted variously. In today’s world, Left, despite its historic achievements of the past and despite its global spread now, is not doing very well. Capitalism, on the other hand, despite its recurrent crises and despite our daily declarations about it being moribund, is doing quite well. This describes the basic challenge confronting the Left today.

Now, I am aware that such a description, or diagnosis if you prefer, may disappoint many and for very different reasons. Back home, in certain circles, I would expect to be heckled as someone who has given up the fight. Why else would I say that Left is not doing well and capitalism is? In other circles I would be dismissed as someone incapable of learning any lessons. After the spectacular collapse of the twentieth century socialism, should it not be obvious that time is up for the Marxist Left? In these times of various ‘posts’-, including that of post-Marxism, how can one ascribe transformative politics exclusively to the Marxist Left? Does it not smack of the same old economism, class-reductionism, vanguardism and totalitarianism? Is it not being blind to the fact that transformative politics is now powered by a rainbow of new social movements?

(Complete text available at : http://nsi-delhi.blogspot.in/2013/10/on-transformative-politics-comments-at.html)

4 thoughts on “On Transformative Politics: Ravi Sinha”

  1. If Communism has collapsed Capitalism is on a weak wicket. The day is not far off when the Economic Pundits of the world have to chalk out a new course for public good of the world at large (Perhaps Late Prof J K Galbraith would be relevant – Age of Uncertainty)

  2. i think it is useless to talk of transformative politics without discussing why the capitalists are doing so well. they have successfully broken the power of organised labour by casualising labour with the use of technology. secondly they have used the media to marginalise leftist or anti-capitalist ideology as people immerse themselves in soaps, films and sports viewing. thirdly they have held out academic theorising as a lollipop to potential activists. these days it has become fashionable to write papers on social movements and think that this will suffice to bring about a transformation. fourthly the huge increase in NGOisation has also lured many potential activists away from hard grassroots mobilisation and finally consumerism has spread far and wide among the middle classes and so they are more interested in visiting malls than in hitting the streets and fields. and of course there is the much greater power of repression as a last resort. the resources at the command of capitalism are so huge that people like us are of no consequence whatsoever.

    1. It is never useless to talk of transformative politics, although I agree that it is important to figure out why capitalism is doing well. Counting all the ways in which capital marginalizes those who refuse to come under its spell can be a starting point, but one cannot get stuck at the starting point. If capital succeeds by opening thousand fronts to marginalize those who are opposed to it, the latter cannot succeed by accepting the fight on all thousand fronts. Nor does it help to lament that there are thousand fronts to fight on. One still has to find ways to trigger processes that can potentially overcome the colossus. One still has to locate the Achilles’ heel.

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