by Anjan Chakrabarti & Anup Dhar
Politics begins where the masses are, not where there are thousands, but where there are millions, that is where serious politics begins. — Lenin
Think of all the people in Tagore’s Red Oleander, residing perhaps in post-independent India –– who did not have names and were identified as mere numbers, 21F, 79D, 84M, etc. — forming their own party with the assistance of Nandini, the female rebel protagonist (Ranjan — the other rebel protagonist had already been killed by the King) and challenging the King, the Gosain (clergy), the Adhyapak (professor) and a host of other sycophants; throw in also the madness and music of Bishu Paagla (Bishu, the mad one), the carnivalesque anarchism of the multitude — and you have something like the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
There is little doubt that the rise of AAP, especially since its extraordinary electoral success in Delhi, has transformed at least some of the political language in India. Using ‘corruption’ — itself a term that needs much unpacking, even deconstructive work: as the ‘entry point’ (to some this would nevertheless appear to be a simple entry point; we shall try to show how it is not simple with respect to India) and then connect it to a host of other related processes. It has inaugurated a new political language and praxis that is in turn a critique of what AAP has designated as the Indian ‘political system’ and the political class. The appreciation of the overdetermined nature of reality by at least leading AAP functionaries has given to its political praxis immense flexibility and the option to shift the focus of public attention and critique from region to region, issue to issue. Consequently, as it moves from Delhi to Haryana to Uttar Pradesh to Gujarat to Karnataka and even to Maharashtra and so on, what it means to be AAP mutates.
A mutating AAP thus threatens to emerge as an embodiment of varieties of discontent depending upon the context in which it makes an appearance. As a whole, those who criticize AAP for only focusing on corruption fail to fathom its interrogation of the relation between corruption and other processes (i.e. processes other than corruption), and its ability to mutate by virtue of its keen appreciation of overdetermination. This is not to say that its critique of the Indian political system is the only critique that has been or can be made, but the nature of it is certainly unique. As such, AAP has been the latest important addition in forwarding structural shortcomings of the Indian political system.
Despite its mutating abilities and at times amorphous forms, there is at least one concern ingrained in AAP which can be clearly distilled out as constituting its critical position. This critical position, we believe, is related to the special situation that AAP has opened in the present Indian political system. It pertains to the argument that the relationship of corruption and other social processes have generated an unparalleled social division in India — between a special privileged group khas who are gainers and the vast majority of commoners, aam, who are the losers. The AAP movement has not only led to a focus on corruption in politics but also the ‘politics of corruption’ in creating this social divide.
By bringing to connection the twin problems of corruption and social divide, AAP proposes a solution that combines what has been lying dormant thus far — swaraj or self-rule — with strict laws, disclosures, regulations and monitoring (at times ‘raids’ in dwellings of women and non-white foreign nationals — which we do not approve of) at the state level. The AAP imagines a political system in which the aam aadmi (and we must not forget the aam aurat party) — people who were mere numbers since Independence — will determine the ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘where’ of their social life; it will connect with and pressurize the state to rule on its behalf and hold its organs accountable. It thus seeks to open an alternative ‘place’ for democracy (beyond the right to vote), perhaps at the larger social level, and attempt twining with state-centric democracy. If the state-centric democracy signifies the centrality of the individual (the liberal impulse) then the political at the domain of social or grassroots democracy inaugurates the appearance of multitude or collectivism (contrary to liberalism) (Montag 1996). How the two ‘places’ of democracy and governance could be aligned (with all their inherent contradictions) to re-signify and restructure the ‘space’ of political democracy in India — is a question that confronts AAP now. How does one reconcile the ‘chair’ of the Chief Minister — which signifies cool calculated top down Machiavellian rationality and is expected to be that for all time to come — and the ‘aam aadmi Arvind Kejriwal in dharna‘ leading the multitude against the central government?
No wonder the Indian media tilted towards the ‘right’ and ‘Capital’ finds this all ‘mad,’ ‘anarchist,’ and inexplicable. The logic of state-craft (one supposedly for the people) and the logic of people’s movement/agitation (against the government) have indeed been seen as polar opposites. How they could become opposite sides of the same coin or conceptual-practical apposites is therefore an open question. A predicament awaits AAP: what AAP does in this situation and to this situation that it has prized open remains not only a vital question regarding AAP but also for AAP. However, rather than thinking of it as a AAP specific question, we believe this to be a question for all who seek a variant of such a political (dis)order when referring to the ‘deepening’ of political democracy. Derived from its critique of the Indian political order, this constitutes, we believe, one of the questions thrown up by the irruption that is AAP. On an immediate note, how this question will be resolved will determine the fate of AAP even though like all irruptions which throw more questions than answers it will perhaps linger on.
Leaving aside the matter of the resolution of this question for the time being, there is little doubt that AAP’s efforts to deepen grassroots political democracy in India’s khas political culture is already having its unique set of effects, including on corruption and the conduct of other political parties. While it would be foolhardy to expect AAP to develop as an immediate alternative to the corrupt duo Congress and BJP who has dominated the language of Indian national politics in the last two decades, there is a chance by virtue of its occupied place to emerge as a long run alternative. As it exists as a ‘party with a difference’ there is much that is of value in the AAP led (new) social movement. Whether that ‘value’ can be sustained in the form of an alternative would depend upon its ability to negotiate the two spaces of democracy (state and grassroots) and how it sets up the relation of political democracy with that of the economy and particularly ‘Capital,’ a matter we would want to focus on.
In this context, it is our understanding that without addressing the question of surplus, surplus appropriation and particularly class exploitation, AAP’s three targets of putting an end to rampant corruption, attacking the divide between khas and aam, and establishing swaraj shall largely remain unfulfilled: this is of course not to say that AAP shall have to fulfill all our expectations and our (secret) dreams of a democratic India and undo all the ills of 60 years of Independence. As such, the movement for deepening grassroots political democracy needs to be supplemented by a systemic transformation of the way in which the wealth of the nation is produced, appropriated and distributed (at present AAP is focused more on development justice as we shall consider). In fact, the two are related.
More specifically, the provisional framework we propose is the following: grassroots political democracy is incompatible with capitalism, even with Narayan Murthy’s ‘compassionate capitalism;’ hence grassroots political democracy must be conjoined with economic democracy for the khas-aam division to be challenged and swaraj to be realized. This in turn implies that for AAP to be true to its principle of swaraj and equality, it must oppose exploitative organizations of surplus, including capitalism. To be careful and clear once again, the point of our intervention is not to criticize AAP or to score points by indicating its shortcomings, but to help clarify, secure and solidify an already encouraging albeit somewhat fledgling social movement. It is also to alert us to the impending danger of the chicanery of ‘Capital,’ which can undermine the radical part of AAP’s agenda including the already precarious twin problems of democracy we have forwarded.
Our discussion evolves in three parts. The first argues for taking AAP seriously. This is a response to the Left critique of AAP that at times borders on its dismissal; we find the Left critique counterproductive. We think AAP should be treated as an exciting moment (albeit and in spite of the problems in the general perception and thinking — including gender insensitivity — of many of its functionaries) which opens up a few unthought-of opportunities for the people of the country. Our position is akin to the way Marx looked at the Paris Commune, not as a ‘socialist revolution’ but an event with enormous possibility to evolve into something more dramatic than what it already was (an example that may multiply into more examples). The second part contains a very brief technical note on class, surplus and exploitation that will enable us to organize our intervention in part three. Finally, our main discussion expands on our above-mentioned remarks.
AAP as event/revolution?
Should we treat AAP as merely another addition to the Indian political system or as something out of the ordinary? It is our conjecture that something ‘extraordinary’ has indeed happened. One can look for the ‘origin’ by going into the past or the pre-history. One can look into the ‘future to come.’ However, we feel that there is also a need to make sense of this algebraic ‘x’ we call ‘extraordinary.’ While our discussion in this section is by no means a full-scale analysis, we do express the urgent need for recognizing and grappling with the problem. It is also to inquire if we can find ways to analyze something out of the ordinary without reducing it to deterministic or teleological models.
One can delineate two strands dominating public opinion: on the one hand, we have ‘democracy’ — “in its entirely corrupt representative and electoral form” — and on the other hand, one has ‘freedom’ — “reduced to the freedom to trade and consume” (Badiou, 2012: xii). Where do we place AAP? What is taking place here? What place is AAP taking up? What sense can we make of this somewhat “incalculable emergence” of AAP? Is AAP an event where events “happen in certain times and places which unlike the minor contingencies of everyday life, rupture with the established order of things” (Badiou, 2012: xxvi)? There is however “no [absolute or certain] ground to these events, they have no [direct or immediate] assignable cause, nor do they [or could they] emerge from any other situation” (Badiou, 2012: xxvi).
Or is AAP a revolution of sorts? While some may (with good reason) find this question itself an exaggeration, there is still a need to pose it. Taking-off from the readings of Alexis de Tocqueville and Augustin Cochin, Francois Furet (1981) delivered a unique reading of the French revolution by seeking to isolate and analyze it as a radical rupture in space-time curvature that transformed French society. According to Furet, a revolution is a rupture, which cannot simply be traced to extant political and social facts but which introduces in the process of its making something new and that defies old categories, facts and identities. Tocqueville called this phenomenon “virus of a new and unknown species,” the outbreak of an unknown spirit — that makes revolution radical and transformative. Is AAP then a revolution of sorts? Its infectiousness, the way it contaminates imagination, the somewhat unknown nature of it and the outbreak of affect, at times riotous, as it permeates the length and breadth of urban India with extraordinary speed reminds us of Tocqueville’s invocation. Given all of the above, the question of whether AAP is an event or a revolution cannot be put aside but needs serious introspection.
Needless to stress, the emergence of AAP has done ‘something’ to the urban Indian psyche. The AAP has also opened the possibility of taking the political history of India in a different direction. This rupture — however small or insignificant — needs to be analyzed and not denied or disavowed. Perhaps old languages and categories, including determinist and historicist paradigms of the Left, shall be inadequate and shall fail to explain and capture AAP’s somewhat unique form and logic.
There is more. Taking-off from Furet’s method of analyzing history, we would consider a revolution — however partial or limited — to be creative, inventive (not just innovative), and as transforming the situation and as creating in the process a new mode of political thinking and praxis. In short, the point is to recognize that revolution (and not just the event), on its own, contains a self-defined political logic which cannot be reduced to any other process and which creates its future path in ways that cannot be predicted. It is the open-ended potentiality embodied in such process that needs to be attended to and to which we draw attention. A revolution is thus not merely an irruption but additionally telescopes the defiance of the logic of erstwhile history that emphasizes continuity and preservation of consensus.
Its relation to the consensus — the points of reference and departure — needs to be carefully delineated to make sense of this event. If we agree that the emergence of AAP should be put to serious interrogation about its possible revolutionary potential (in the sense we referred to), a historical analysis of AAP must study the character and dynamic of such irruption itself and the uniqueness of the situation, if any, it has created. If it fails to evolve into its potentiality even then, at least for what it has signified and the questions it has opened up for posterity, AAP warrants serious introspection. We believe such an unpacking of the history of AAP, moving in turn through the history of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), the Right to Information (RTI) and Jan Lokpal Bill movement, the uprising in the aftermath of the Delhi December 16th rape case awaits us. One can perhaps then begin to understand the spirit of carnivalesque anarchism of the multitude surrounding AAP, which is both its strength and problem.
We thus are faced with two questions. First, what is AAP? What sense can we make of its emergence? Is it a site evenementiel (Badiou, 2012: xxxii) — an evental site — “an entirely abnormal multiple; that is, a multiple such that none of its elements are presented in the situation” — where the site, itself, is presented, but ‘beneath’ it nothing from which it is composed is presented — where, as such, “the site is not part of the situation” (Badiou, 2012: 175)? Or is it a revolution in the making? Or, is it the making of a possibly failed revolution? Second, how do we understand “the long slow process of supplementation that may follow the occurrence of an event” (Badiou, 2012: xxvii)? In what manner, if at all, does AAP open the door to further irruptions/ruptures? In short, where does AAP go from here? What roles will the historical actors participating in it play in ‘the future to come’? What will be the issues that will get fore-grounded and what will fade? Treating the appearance of AAP as an open-ended possibility (that cannot be fundamentally reduced to the past or the future) makes engagement with these questions relevant and unavoidable even though risky; risky because no matter our answers, no future can be crafted with certainty.
With these clarifications, let us ask a simple question: how would we assess (not judge) the success or failure of AAP? How do we ask whether it has lived up or can live up to the fundamental promise and premise it has forwarded? Since we have argued that its struggle against corruption, against the entrenched aam–khas division and its grassroots work for the realization of swaraj are the three fundamental or core elements, it is only fair that we form our assessment of its success or failure on these criteria; and not examine it, at least, in this essay, on issues like gender, caste, race, ethnicity, religion, on which AAP is looking to be fairly weak, old-fashioned and is frequently running out of ideas (see Bakshi (2014) for a necessary gender critique of AAP). Our intervention becomes relevant here. It is here that we would like to remind that our attempt to bring class, surplus and exploitation into an analysis of AAP is not to smuggle in Marxism or Marxist critiques (far from it), but to make the point that without confronting the questions emanating from this evaluative terrain there is a significant chance of AAP failing to deliver on its own promise. In short, if AAP wants to deliver what it seeks to, an engagement with class, surplus and exploitation is unavoidable. At the moment at least, it is looking weak on this ground. We shall of course have to argue why that is the case.
Class, Surplus, Exploitation
Production of goods and services are a result of labor processes whereby labor power is activated on material forces of production. Labor process in turn encapsulates a class process. The process of consumption of labor power or the labor process contains ‘necessary labor’ whose equivalent, as per contract (market or socially determined), is paid/returned to the workers as remuneration (in wage or kind) and an excess component called ‘surplus labor.’ Two observations follow: (i) produced goods and services contain both necessary and surplus labor and, (ii) the direct producers (workers) are only partially remunerated for their effort in producing goods and services. Following Resnick and Wolff (1987), we define class as process of performance, appropriation, distribution and receipt of surplus labor.
Surplus labor can take the form of surplus product (if the produce in which surplus labor is embedded is directly consumed as in households) or surplus value (if the produce passes through the market before being consumed). Surplus labor can be appropriated in three modes: self-appropriative (performed and appropriated individually), exploitative (performers of surplus are excluded from appropriation) and non-exploitative (collective of performers and appropriators are the same). It is important to note that class process cannot occur alone. Instead, varied organizations of appropriation (self-appropriative, exploitative and non-exploitative) appear in multifaceted settings in conjunction with non-class processes (i.e. other economic, political, cultural and natural processes); class and non-class processes (that includes corruption too) constitute one another in determining those settings and society itself. Our focus in this essay is on the class organization of exploitation.
There is another way of conceptualizing the distribution of surplus, particularly relevant for our concern. Surplus can be divided into production and social surplus (Chakrabarti, Cullenberg and Dhar 2008; Chakrabarti 2013). Production surplus consists of distributive payments to those condition providers (moneylenders, bankers, etc.) who are securing the conditions of existence of performance and appropriation of surplus; this pertains to class distribution. The other part of surplus is social surplus, which are payments towards distinct social needs — poverty related, unemployment benefit, etc.; this pertains to developmental distribution. Because total surplus is the sum total of the two, an increase in social surplus would have an effect on the amount left to be distributed for the immediate condition providers of production. Clearly, the appropriators of surplus (such as capitalists) will be opposed to developmental distribution beyond a point like water and electricity subsidy for the urban poor, like food security, like MGNREGA because their ability to distribute surplus and retain ‘more profit’ shall be compromised; also, those who are immediate receivers of surplus pertaining to class distribution will also oppose since portion of the surplus they receive could be negatively impacted. It is hardly surprising that these groups and their cohorts tend to oppose any expansion of the existing basket of developmental distribution; in fact, they argue for its shrinking.
One must note here that while AAP has not paid much attention to class organization of surplus, it has made development distribution one important component of its agenda. Since coming to power in Delhi its policy to provide subsidy on power and water is an exemplification of surplus being directed towards social needs. One reason for taking AAP seriously is definitely its active approach to developmental justice, that is, its commitment towards deepening distribution towards the fulfilling of the social needs of the urban poor (and not the needs of Delhi capitalists, which earlier governments had focused on). As argued, it is bound to have an effect on the retained surplus to be distributed for production and would invite criticisms from those (the khas) who stand to gain from it. We shall come back to this issue of developmental struggle at the end of the paper.
Our central concern and point of intervention here is however the issue of the class organization of appropriation in general and its specific form of exploitation particularly which AAP has not been able to fathom fully perhaps; this is a lacuna in its thinking that can have consequences over time on its radical agenda, including on developmental justice. If developmental struggle is not connected to exploitation and class distribution (as part of the systemic reproduction of the economy and society) it will, as we understand, undercut AAP’s developmental struggle and more tellingly the radical component of its agenda. Let us for the rest of the discussion concentrate on the organization of exploitation per se and see the ramifications of this issue for AAP’s social and political agenda.
Aam–Khas, Swaraj and Corruption
The social organization of exploitation entails that the mass of workers are excluded from the appropriation of the surplus that they themselves create. This implies that the process of production of goods and services will be haunted by a schism between those who produce and those who appropriate the surplus. By this criterion, at the least, capitalist, slave and feudal class processes are exploitative organizations of surplus. Thus the few who come to possess the discretionary funds of society share it with the immediate condition providers (bankers and moneylenders, merchants, big shareholders, upper echelons of management/bureaucracy and even the top layer of the state bureaucracy). Income, status and power associated with sitting over and controlling massive quantum of values entails a special privilege that makes this group khas. They are khas not because they are politically powerful and exclusive with reference to state (which they can be and usually are), but fundamentally for the fact that they have exclusive access to possessing/amassing wealth. They emerge as the privileged keepers of wealth of society, its human embodiment.
The rest of the society or the mass of the aam aadmi (and aurat) — including the mass of productive and unproductive workers in private and state enterprises (spanning agriculture, industry, formal, informal, brothel, university, etc.), small traders, lower echelon of managers and supervisors, etc. — are excluded from not only the wealth that they create or help create but that exclusion extends to participation in decision making pertaining to its creation and distribution. The latter too is the exclusive privilege of khas; or, to put it differently access to that privilege is one reason why some become khas. Class division qua organization of exploitation is intrinsically related to income division and hierarchy inside the enterprise. In short, organization of exploitation is sustained and secured by the absence of grassroots economic democracy in how, where, when and what we as the aam produce and who gets to appropriate, distribute and receive the wealth that the aam help create. In AAP’S own language and rhetoric then, exploitation would embody the division between aam and khas and exploitation entails the abrogation of swaraj inside the enterprise.
Further, the fact that swaraj is absent inside ‘enterprises with exploitative relations of production’ has a wider impact on grassroots political democracy itself. The exclusive wealth personified by khas enable them to, as borne by the Indian experience, control media (information, opinion, etc.), influence state policy and program (this connection is well known), create and influence think-tanks and educational institutions, and often control religious institutions, etc. It perpetuates ‘politics of corruption’ thereby seriously undermining the honesty and depth of even grassroots political democracy, AAP’s immediate agenda. To think that every space other than state is pure or correctable with minor reforms is misplaced; such an understanding would fail to account for the systemic production of social including class division and corruption as also the relation between the two. Tagore ridiculed the idea of grassroots political democracy (referring to the USA) in the absence of economic democracy (within and outside enterprises) thus. “Money formulates public opinion there, and the evil power of money crushes everything opposed to the self-interest of the rich. This cannot be called a government of the people, by the people, for the people” (1963a: 18). Elsewhere, he avers, ‘‘Thus democracy becomes like an elephant whose one purpose in life is to give joy rides to the clever and to the rich” (1963b: 32).
Organization of exploitation thus not only implies a class division in terms of aam and khas by way of excluding the producers from the appropriation of surplus/wealth, but it also points to the absence of self-rule or swaraj. Can swaraj be reached or be made effective in the absence of economic democracy? Class organization of exploitative relations secure and sustain the social division between aam and khas and empties the possibility of swaraj in the ‘economy’; decision-making remains the privilege of the few. In short, without a dialogue between appropriative justice (end of exploitation) and economic democracy (decision making and participation of the workers), there can be no swaraj. There is another way to look at this: pursuit of political equality is incomplete and self-defeating without the pursuit of economic equality in terms of the organization of surplus (its performance, appropriation, distribution and receipt).
Consternation over the division between aam and khas is not unique to AAP. The concern is global. The recent Occupy Movement with its critique of 1% (or 10%) garnering wealth, power and prestige also points to the aam and khas division; ‘Occupy’ itself symbolizes the aspiration of swaraj or self-rule. By arguing that economic division or income division and political division or absence of democracy (including on economic matters) are related, it thus connects the vast income division with the failure to achieve swaraj. The missing linkage in these important movements is the failure to connect the income division and lack of economic democracy with the organization of exploitation. That is why their criticism of capitalism fails to be backed by an alternative to it thereby making it difficult to sustain the movement or give it direction. In short, as in case of AAP, it must be backed by the realization that the aam and khas division along with absence of swaraj is connected to class exploitation. The process of unknotting the aam–khas division too cannot be achieved without a systemic transformation that includes, among others, questioning of exploitation.
To be careful, the problem as we see being envisaged by AAP is not that the division between khas and aam needs to be reformed. Rather, the issue is this division itself, that is, the problem is systemic. If that were the case, then we do not see any alternative to questioning exploitation. Non-exploitation literally means the dissolution of the division between creators and keepers of wealth since, under this condition, the producers of wealth are the ones who appropriate and distribute the surplus; it signifies what can be called appropriative justice (DeMartino 2003). Associated with it, self-rule inside enterprises means that decision regarding ‘where,’ ‘what,’ ‘how’ and ‘who’ of the production structure and of the created wealth therein will be decided collectively, that is, by some political criterion that is shared by all. There is a scope of misunderstanding here which often takes the form of the impracticality of economic democracy. It follows from the argument against ‘participation’ based on the logic that not all members are equally informed and skilled to make decisions on the allocation of resources, techniques of investment, financial management, and any number of specialized and highly skilled decisions.
Similar to the argument against political democracy that citizens are not always competent to make informed decisions, it could be inferred that the workers and other stakeholders are not in general qualified to participate in collective decisions. Hence, they should not be made participants in the decision making process of the enterprise. This argument is misplaced for the following reason. Participation does not imply that all members be competent with respect to all matters or even that they agree on all matters. Responsibility for various activities can be delegated by members. The minimum requirement is that all members participate in deciding on matters in their workplace. The collective/community may decide to delegate many allocative, financial, or investment decisions to highly skilled personnel of their choice, who then might insist on an array of interventions with respect to the enterprise, which in turn would require ratification by those who have delegated the authority in the first place.
Again, the point is that the delegation and ratification of such decisions be collectively made and is thus democratic. If democracy has any value then it is not clear as to why one should accept undemocratic arrangements pertaining to exclusion and non-participation when the same is considered as unacceptable elsewhere in society. We understand that the domain of (Gandhian) swaraj is larger than economic democracy, but without economic democracy there is no swaraj either. To make a comparison, if decision-making in Mohalla Sabhas and Gram Sabhas are considered indispensable by AAP, then it is not clear why such Sabhas will not be acceptable inside the enterprises where a vast number of people spend most of their waking hours. What is special about these places that they can be ‘excluded’ from the pursuit of swaraj?
Finally, is exploitation an instance of corruption? On the injustice of exploitation and capitalism in particular, Marx suggests, “Capitalists are like hostile brothers who divide among themselves the loot of other people’s labor.” He repeatedly referred to exploitation as “robbery,’ ‘theft,’ ‘embezzlement,’ and surplus value ‘loot’ or ‘booty,’ and capitalists ‘usurpers’ and so on. Now, if by corruption we mean some or all of these (which we believe it does, at least the way AAP looks at it), then the relation between exploitation and corruption is palpable. It may be said that capitalist exploitation is legalized, that is, institutionalized. This though points to another kind of social institutionalization of corruption and the attempt to reduce injustice to law; with exploitation legalized, there is as if no injustice. One can then look away from this kind of corruption, which is tantamount to looking away from corruption itself. In short, the institutionalization of corruption that AAP has criticized so effectively with respect to state apparatuses needs to be complemented by the institutionalization of corruption in the domain of the ‘economy’ and the private enterprise; otherwise, the problem and solution of corruption will only remain partially addressed.
AAP also has been effective in separating questions of justice from law. Otherwise, it could not have made a demand for Jan Lokpal that challenges existing law on the issue of corruption with respect to the state. On that count, it is important to complement the challenge to existing law on corruption (Jan Lokpal) with a challenge to the existing (property and labor) law on exploitation. Without questioning the institutionalized legitimacy and ability of khas (read, capitalists, feudal lords, masters and the elite and their associated cohorts) to appropriate and ‘keep’ the wealth created by others’ labor, the battle against corruption will only be half won; with the somewhat dangerous implications that khas will wield their wealth, prestige and power to ultimately undercut any concessions or changes in developmental distribution made now. The battle against corruption must be total and not half-hearted if it is to be, as Arvind Kejriwal seeks, “another freedom struggle to free India from corruption.” The struggle for freedom is also a struggle for mass awakening against exploitation and the economic dictatorship of the khas.
To put matters somewhat succinctly, the AAP movement needs to be complemented by an effort to achieve appropriative justice and economic democracy if corruption, the division between aam and khas and the absence of swaraj is to be questioned. There is every possibility that the explosive potential of the AAP movement will be compromised, undercut and destroyed by the wicked game of ‘Capital’, Indian and Global. This has been Capital’s role in the annals of modern history (one can show case by case) and we believe this game has already begun with the attempt to undermine the radical component of the AAP agenda (for example, in the media). Two immediate examples come to mind. The first is the notable disinterest and undermining of swaraj among the Indian khas and in the institutional spaces they control or have influence over; the suspicion of, and at times ridicule to which, the idea of Gram Sabhas and Mohalla Sabhas are being subjected to exemplify this animosity.
The second is the attack on the water and power subsidy provided by the AAP government in Delhi on grounds of ‘inefficiency’ or wastage of resources, in a scenario where the major beneficiaries of this subsidy would be the aam aadmi and aurat. The fierce attack on AAP’s attempt to enact and institutionalize developmental justice has thereby provoked hostile reaction from the khas and the media it controls. If the AAP is to retain its movementist spur as a way to re-imagine, re-signify and restructure the Indian political system in the manner it has laid down, there is no escape from the following hard choice: to be for or against ‘Capital.’ This is an inescapable choice if it is to remain steadfast in its objective of ending the division between aam–khas, ending corruption and establishing swaraj. On all the three questions, ‘Capital’ with its organization of exploitation and economic dictatorship stands on the other side.
But then what will AAP be without these questions. The danger staring at AAP is not that it may have to confront and even negotiate with ‘Capital’ but that it could be appropriated within the logic of ‘Capital,’ without even realizing, without even making sense of its ramifications. There is always a thin line between the making and the unmaking of a revolution. It is our contention that while AAP has created a new situation with a series of questions and has opened up a number of possibilities it seems to be presently tentatively probing, at times with unease, as it is on route to ‘what to do’ in this situation and to this situation.
1.Bakshi, Pratiksha. 2014. “The politics of raid governance Aam Aurat versus Khas Aurat.” http://kafila.org/2014/01/25.
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5. DeMartino, G. 2003. “Realizing Class Justice.” Rethinking Marxism. Vol. 15, No. 1.
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7. Tagore, Rabindranath. 1963a. The co-operative principle. Kolkata: Visva-Bharati.
8. Tagore, Rabindranath. 1963b. The robbery of the soil. Compiled by S. Bandopadhyay. Kolkata: Muktomon.
9. Furet, François. 1981. Interpreting the French Revolution. Elborg Forster (Translator). Cambridge University Press.
10. Montag, W. 1996. “Beyond Force and Consent: Althusser, Spinoza, Hobbes” in Postmodern Materialism and the Future of Marxist Theory: Essays in the Althusserian Tradition. Ed., Antonio Callari and David F. Ruccio. Wesleyan University Press: Hanover and London.
[Thank you Anjan and Anup for this insightful essay.]
Anjan Chakrabarti is Professor of Economics, Calcutta University. He is the author of’ Transition and Development in India (with Stephen Cullenberg), Dislocation and Resettlement in Development: From Third World to ‘world of the third’ (with Anup Dhar) both published by Routledge; and ‘world of the third’ and Global Capitalism (with Anup Dhar and Stephen Cullenberg) published by Worldview Press. He has recently edited a book with Sarmila Banerjee called Development and Sustainability: India in a Global Perspective. Springer: New Delhi (2013).
Anup Dhar is presently Associate Professor, School of Human Studies, Ambedkar University, Delhi. He was also a medical doctor and holds a PhD in Philosophy. He was one of the founder members of ‘From the Margins: a journal of critical theory in a postcolonial setting’ – Kolkata (1998-2003). He is currently a member of the editorial board of the Annual Review of Critical Psychology. He has also published in journals such as the Cambridge Journal of Economics, Collegium Anthropologicum, Rethinking Marxism and Economic and Political Weekly.
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