Study Circle 23 of 2019: The Concrete Analysis of the Concrete Situation

Dear comrades and friends,

DYFI CUC organised the twenty third study circle of this year yesterday. We read the Chapter 4 – Imperialism: World War and Civil War of Lenin: A Study on the Unity of his Thought by Georg Lukacs.

The chapter talks about what Lenin was able to do with the theory of imperialism – not so much groundbreaking economic work, but groundbreaking analysis of what imperialism meant for action. Lenin was the only one at the time who was able to give a guideline for concrete action, in the backdrop of imperialism, because his was a theory of the class forces active under imperialism. As Lukacs says:

For Marxists the concrete analysis of the concrete situation is not the opposite of ‘pure’ theory; on the contrary, it is the culmination of all genuine theory, its consummation, the point where it therefore breaks into practice.

The chapter then talks about two flawed ways of assessing bourgeois and proletarian revolutions: one, to think that if a revolution is a bourgeois revolution, the only task of the proletariat is to support that revolution; two, to assume that all revolutions in an imperialist age will be proletarian revolutions. Both these approaches mechanistically divide bourgeois and proletarian revolutions, and ignore revolutionary elements in both. 

The chapter also briefly talks about what revisionism means in the context of war and civil war. We discussed the nature of the revolution in Nepal. Next week, we will read Chapter 5.

Revolutionary Greetings,

Central Unit Committee,

Democratic Youth Federation of India – Delhi 

Study Circle 22 of 2019 – Lenin, The Revolution and the Party

Dear comrades and friends,

DYFI CUC organised the twenty second study circle of this year today. We read the first three chapters of Lenin: A Study on the Unity of his Thought by Georg Lukacs.

The text is helpful introduction to the writings of Lenin, as it considers his work as a whole. The first chapter talks about how the actuality of the revolution (the fact that the misery of the proletariat contains a revolutionary element) is distinct from the imminence of the revolution (the idea that revolution is around the corner). When theories are formulated with the actuality of the revolution in mind, as Lenin’s were, individual events are seen as parts of a whole, a journey towards liberation, and not just by themselves.

The second chapter talks about why Lenin considered the proletariat as the leading class of the revolution, even in Russia where it did not constitute the majority of the population. The objective class position of the proletariat, and the fact that it was the growing class while the peasantry was a declining class, provided the basis for this conclusion.

The third chapter explains why a vanguard party of the proletariat is required. It shows how political questions and organisational questions cannot be separated, that is, how organisational forms are determined by, and determine, political conditions. As Lukacs explains:

Both the old idea – held by Kautsky among others – that organization was the precondition of revolutionary action, and that of Rosa Luxemburg that it is a product of the revolutionary mass movement, appear one-sided and undialectical. Because it is the party’s function to prepare the revolution, it is – simultaneously and equally – both producer and product, both precondition and result of the revolutionary mass movement.

We discussed what it meant for the party to stay “only one step” ahead of the masses, particularly for thorny questions such as those of religion, and the difference between a compromise between ruling classes (like landlords and the big bourgeoisie) and true class alliances.

Next week, we will continue reading this book.

Revolutionary Greetings,

Central Unit Committee,

Democratic Youth Federation of India – Delhi

Study Circle 21 of 2019 – What Drives History?

Dear comrades and friends,

DYFI CUC organised the twenty first study circle of this year yesterday. We completed reading Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism by J. Stalin.

In the second half of the essay, Stalin talks about what the chief determining forces of the development of society are. He considers and dismisses the idea that geography or population growth determine societal development. He then shows that the mode of production of material values – food, clothing, footwear, houses, fuel, instruments of production, etc. – which are indispensable for the life and development of society – is the chief determining force of societal development. 

The mode of production includes the means of production as well as the relations of production: the technology and apparatus used for producing, as well as the relations of people to this technology and apparatus, and consequently to each other.

He then elaborates on two features of production: the constance of change, and the fact that change always begins with changes in the productive forces. From the essay:

The first feature of production is that it never stays at one point for a long time and is always in a state of change and development, and that, furthermore, changes in the mode of production inevitably call forth changes in the whole social system, social ideas, political views and political institutions – they call forth a reconstruction of the whole social and political order. 
The second feature of production is that its changes and development always begin with changes and development of the productive forces, and in the first place, with changes and development of the instruments of production.

We talked about what this means for philosophical determinism; whether socialism is inevitable because of the development of productive forces, or whether barbarism is a possibility; and the relationship between changes in religion and changes in the mode of production in Rome, the USSR and in India.

Next week, we will likely continue reading on Marxist philosophy.

Revolutionary Greetings,

Central Unit Committee,

Democratic Youth Federation of India – Delhi

Study Circle 20 of 2019: Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism

DYFI CUC organised the twentieth study circle of this year on Sunday, July 21. In this session, we studied half of the text, ‘Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism’, authored by J. Stalin in 1938.

The text is a simple and basic introduction to Dialectical Materialism, which can be described as a method of studying a system on a material basis, by understanding the various contradictions within it. The changes that arise in, or the evolution of, the system in question is a result of opposing forces exerted by these contradictions within it.

The etymology of the word ‘Dialectics’ goes back to the Greek word ‘Dialego’, which, Stalin wrote, “was the art of arriving at the truth by disclosing the contradictions in the argument of an opponent and overcoming these contradictions.”

While Marx learnt about Dialectics from Hegel, Marxist Dialectics is different from the latter’s in that it is Materialist. Hegel, who was an idealist, believed that consciousness has the original or objective existence, while what the consciousness perceives – namely matter – exists only in the consciousness.  

Contrary to Idealism, Materialism is the understanding that the matter exists in the objective world, independent of the consciousness which perceives it, and that consciousness itself is a product of matter. 

As Marx points out, “Our consciousness and thinking, however supra-sensuous they may seem, are the product of a material, bodily organ, the brain. Matter is not a product of mind, but mind itself is merely the highest product of matter.”

While Marx closely studied Ludwig Feuerbach who led the charge against Hegel’s idealism and sides with him in the materialist camp in opposition to the idealists, he nevertheless pointed out that Feuerbach’s approach to materialism had a serious flaw. Along with discarding the idealism of the Hegelian method, Feuerbach also discarded the dialectics in it.

This leads to a kind of materialism that tends to assume the forces which govern a system under observation to be a given or static, without questioning what the tussle between which contradictions gave rise to these forces in the first place, or, for that matter, the resolution of which of the contradictions can bring about what kind of changes to these governing forces themselves.          

Thus, Feuerbach, despite being a fierce advocate of materialism, “remained… bound by the traditional idealist fetters.” Freeing materialist thought from these fetters, Marx and Engels reaffirmed the objective existence of the material world, and established that the changes that occur in it, or to it, are a result of the opposing forces exerted by the contradictions that exist within. 

This applies not only to the physical world, not only to the evolution of humankind, but also to the development of human societies – to its evolution from one form of organisation to another (primitive communism to slave society to feudalism to capitalism).

In the next session of the study circle, we will be completing reading and discussing the remaining half of the essay in which, by drawing on the development of tools from stone age onwards, Stalin seeks to demonstrate the relationship between the productive forces of a given society relations and “relations of production”, i.e the relationships that emerge between humans as a result of their relation to the means of production. For example, slave and slave-owner, lord and serf, worker and capitalist.

Study Circle 19 of 2019 – Is Fascism Imminent?

DYFI CUC organised the nineteenth study circle of the year yesterday. We concluded our series on fascism by reading “Is Fascism Imminent?” by P. M. S. Grewal.

The article analyses the current political system in India to understand whether it is fascist or whether fascism is on the anvil. It refers to the Communist International’s understanding of fascism as the ‘most terroristic dictatorship of capital.’ It goes on to show how our parliamentary system is working quite well at furthering the interests of the Indian ruling classes and so, in essence, they do not have a need to bring about fascism. The article speaks of examples of pre-WWII and post-WWII fascist regimes. The former consisted of countries with a well established developed monopoly bourgeoisie (Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan) while the latter came about in the form of imperialist intervention as well as a section of the indigenous bourgeoisie, in response to a perceived threat of growing mass support for the communist party and elected left government in Indonesia and Chile respectively. In both these cases large scale massacres of leftists occurred.

The question of whether fascism has overtaken all Indian institutions is important because it determines what the Left parties should do in response. If the regime was truly fascist, a united front of all anti-fascist parties and forces would be necessary. The article argues that in India today such a strategy does not make sense, because Left parties have to fight both communalism and neoliberalism, and allying with neoliberal (and even communal) opposition parties weakens the fight against conditions that create fascism. That does not mean, however, that the RSS is not a fascistic organisation.

We discussed strategies in overcoming the barrage of imagined threats, divisive rumours and exploitative superstition being promulgated by the propaganda machinery of dominant parties. We discussed the importance of using newer forms of organising workers, unemployed people, and the pervasiveness of caste. We spoke of the role of social media and what the Left ought to do about it, and debated about whether most Indian people were really secular as the article claimed – and what this would mean for how the Left understands secularism.

Next week, we will read more about Marxist economics.

Study Circle 18 of 2019 – The Saffron Siege

DYFI CUC organised the eighteenth study circle of the year yesterday. We continued our series on fascism and read The Saffron Siege (also attached) by Nidheesh J Villatt. 

The article is the result of close investigatory journalism in Kerala, where the author finds that the political violence between RSS and CPI(M) cadres in Kerala is nearly always instigated by RSS, at attempts to gain a foothold in the state. The history of RSS in Kerala is explained, beginning from MS Golwalkar’s description of what he calls hostile elements in India: Muslims, Christians, and communists. The RSS has historically used violence to crush workers’ movements, for instance through their collaboration with capitalists to attack and intimidate agitating Ganesh Beedi workers, who went on to set up their own cooperative. In fact, there has always been a class nature to the violence inflicted by RSS – they have given communal flavour to capital-labour struggles, and have sided with, and been helped by, capitalists and landlords. We spoke of how the Kerala CPI(M) leadership, including the Chief Minister, has not shied away from facing violent attacks – including bullets.

The article also describes how the RSS indoctrinates children into violence through games and training in the use of weapons. At RSS shakhas, senior leaders often ask their recruits to visualise communists and Muslims during physical training. The takeaway was that the central role of violence in the political project of RSS is often obscured in mainstream commentary.

We discussed how this has been true for such organisations elsewhere as well, for example, in the way that Krishna Desai, a militant left trade unionist and CPI MLA, was murdered in 1970 in Mumbai by Shiv Sena workers. Shiv Sena had extensively campaigned against him and the mill workers’ union.

We discussed how even though RSS can be described as a fascistic organisation, that does not mean we have a fascist state – that would require all forms of democratic institutions to be eliminated entirely. We talked about the importance of issue-based resistance and coalitions in India today, rather than a vague anti-fascist front.

Next time, we will continue our series on fascism. 

Revolutionary Greetings,

Central Unit Committee,

Democratic Youth Federation of India – Delhi

Study Circle 14 of 2019: Value, price, and profit

DYFI CUC organised a few study circles in this interim, but we unfortunately do not have updates – hence we are counting today’s study circle as the fourteenth of this year. After having completed Wage Labour and Capital, today we read the first six chapters of Value, Price and Profit.

The book consists of speeches delivered by Marx at the First International, in response to John Weston’s arguments against a general increase in wages. Weston posited that if workers fought for a general increase in wages, the increase would simply be transferred by the capitalist to commodity prices. An increase in commodity prices would mean that the real wages of the workers would remain the same, given that their purchasing power would decrease.

Marx shows that this reasoning is based on several flawed assumptions. That wages determine prices is not a given, and that a certain general level of profit is required for production to continue is also not. Weston is unclear about whether there is a universal economic law about the level at which general wages should remain, or whether this depends on the will of the capitalist – if the former, the law is not presented and defended; if the latter, wages can be made to change against the will of the capitalist as well. In any event, there is a constant downward pressure on wages, that does not affect commodity prices in the opposite direction – meaning that the rates of profit and rent change, are not cosmically determined. Marx shows that, in fact, a general increase in wages would mean that either that commodity prices remain unchanged as the rate of profit declines, or that an increased demand for necessities and decreased demand for luxuries causes a temporary rise in the prices of necessities, which is fixed as capital moves to increase the supply of necessities to match demand. Marx uses historical examples to validate this.

At the heart of Weston’s argument is an erroneous theory of value, and the idea that profit arises at the point of exchange. Marx shows how this is impossible, and develops the labour theory of value. 

Next week we will continue reading the remaining chapters. 

Revolutionary Greetings,

Central Unit Committee,

Democratic Youth Federation of India – Delhi

Study Circle 13 of 2019: Wage, Labour and Capital

DYFI-CUC organised the thirteenth study circle of this year yesterday. We read the first five chapters of ‘Wage Labour and Capital’ (WLC) by Karl Marx — a pamphlet introducing some basic concepts in Marx’s critique of classical political economy.

It consists of lectures delivered by Marx before the German Workingmen’s Club of Brussels in 1847, and was first published in 1849 as an (incomplete) series of articles in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, the German newspaper published by Marx between 1848-49. 

WLC (as retrospectively edited by Engels after Marx’s death to conform to Marx’s ideas as they had changed and crystallised in later decades) begins by explaining what wages are. It is commonly assumed that wages are what the capitalist employer pays a worker in return for a certain amount of labour for a certain amount of time (time-wages) or for a certain task (piece-wage). In other words, classical political economy assumes that the capitalist buys the labour of the worker and pays wages in return. 

However, the text clarifies that what the capitalist buys is not labour, but the labour-power of the worker. It goes on to explain that labour-power is a commodity — just like any other commodity that is produced for the purpose of exchange and thus has an exchange-value. This exchange value estimated in money is called its price. 

Wages, therefore, are simply the price of labour-power.

Next, Marx talks about the factors determining the price of any commodity — competition between sellers, competition between buyers, competition between buyers and sellers, and the laws of supply and demand under capitalism. However, the text makes it clear that a price can be said to have ‘fallen’ or ‘risen’ only in relation to the cost of production of the commodity — supply and demand merely cause the price to fluctuate either above (rise) or below (fall) this cost of production.  The price of a commodity expresses (in the form of money) the ratio or proportion in which one commodity can be exchanged for another commodity. If the price of a one commodity rises, then the price of some other commodity can be understood to have fallen in proportion to the rise in price of the first commodity. 

The cost of production of commodity is determined by raw materials, wear and tear, etc. as well as the labour-time necessary for the manufacture of the commodity.

Just like the price of any other commodity, the price of labour-power — or wages — is determined by the cost of production of the labour-power. 
This cost of the production of labour-power consists of the minimum necessary costs for the maintenance of the worker (social reproduction) so that the worker can continue to sell her labour-power, besides the cost of training the worker, if there is any.

Next, Marx talks about the nature and growth of capital. Capital, he says, consists of the raw materials, the instruments of labour and the means of subsistence that are used in production of new raw materials, new instruments and new means of subsistence. However, all of these components of capital are products of labour over periods of time in the past — or ‘accumulated labour’. 

But this accumulated labour becomes capital only when worked upon by ‘living’ labour (that is, when the exchange of labour-power takes place), which preserves and multiplies the exchange value of this accumulated labour, producing yet more capital.

Next week, we shall continue reading Wage Labour and Capital, and finish the remaining four chapters.

Revolutionary Greetings,

Central Unit Committee,

Democratic Youth Federation of India – Delhi

Study Circle 12 of 2019 – Communism cannot be learnt by rote

Dear comrades and friends,

DYFI CUC organised the twelfth study circle of this year today. We read three short texts to refresh our understanding of Marxism.
We first read Lenin’s The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism. Lenin talks of Marxism as the successor of German philosophy, English political economy, and French socialism. The three component parts are then philosophical materialism, the labour theory of value, and class struggle. 

To read further on materialism, dialectics, and the accusations levelled against Marxists about being metaphysical, we read the first part of Stalin’s Anarchism or Socialism?. This is a defence of Marxism against Anarchism, and also a simple explanation of how Marx took the dialectical method but not the metaphysical theory from Hegel.

We then moved on to reading Lenin’s The Tasks of the Youth Leagues. Lenin addresses this to the youth of the USSR, tasked, as a generation growing up under socialism, with building communism. Lenin expounds on what communist morality means, how class struggle continues under socialism, and what education under socialism ought to be like. The central point is that communism cannot be taught through its conclusions or slogans; we still need to learn of all accumulated human knowledge and derive communism for ourselves through learning and practice. In other words, communism cannot be learnt by rote.

As usual, do send us your thoughts and suggestions, including suggestions for reading material!

Revolutionary Greetings,

Central Unit Committee,

Democratic Youth Federation of India – Delhi

Study Circle 11 of 2019 – Caste, Class and Property Relations

DYFI CUC organised the eleventh study circle of this year today. Last week we had started our readings on caste and class, and this week (on Ambedkar Jayanti!) we continued. We read nearly all of BT Ranadive’s Caste, Class and Property Relations

The essay has had three primary strands so far:

1) Caste in feudalism and colonialism; how the existence of caste was beneficial for the British

2) Caste as understood and grappled with by the leaders of the freedom struggle, and how their class position meant that they did not seek an annihilation of caste, but moved through cultural revivalism (even support for the caste system) and merely social reform. Yet, they were able to build a mass movement under bourgeois leadership. 

3) Phule and Ambedkar’s complete rejection of caste, and how the project was co-opted by feudal and capitalist interest, and thus did not reach its logical conclusion in agrarian revolution and upending land relations. Periyar’s life is an example of what happens when the anti-caste movement delinks itself from the anti-imperialist movement.

Ranadive also speaks of how the communist party was the only party to link the question of caste with that of land relations; how the formation of new classes through industrialisation meant that the unity of the toiling masses was impeded by the existence of caste. He stresses the importance of attacking casteist ideology, and the folly of thinking that caste will disappear when class disappears. 

At the same time, without a change in the production relations, caste can never be fully annihilated. In Ranadive’s own words on the Congress leadership,

“Unable to think of a basic liquidation of land relations the national bourgeoisie adopted social reforms as their watchword in the struggle for national unity. Education, social mixing, inter-caste dinners, statement in public meetings that ‘We are Indians first and last’ beyond this the class alliance of the bourgeois leaders did not permit the national movement to go.”

Our discussions focused on the land redistribution that was supposed to take place in India, how there never was substantial land redistribution, how in places like Bengal, where it did take place, the incidence of caste atrocities was lower. We spoke of the changing nature of the demand for reservations in the background of the public sector being throttled. Upper caste resentment is being weaponised to divert attention from the fact that jobs and public education are themselves receding. 

Next week, we will complete this essay, and then vote on what to read next.