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Leninism as Radical 'Desireology'

This essay is an inquiry in the political philosophy of Lenin with special emphasis on the understanding of Bolshevism in the contemporary era of late imperialism in permanent crises. In contrast to orthodox Marxism which has hitherto understood Marxism as state socialist and ideological, this essay understands revolutionary Marxism as anti-state and ideology as the discourse of what Marx called the "spectral person" and consequently nothing but a theory of spectres. It contrasts the old problematic of state socialism and ideology with another problematic that it calls "desireology", a new discipline that firstly emphasises the importance of understanding Hegel - the philosopher par excellence of the European Enlightenment and the French Revolution - and then transforms this understanding in the theories of the Leninist party and the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.


Leninism as Radical ‘Desireology’

Murzban Jal

This essay is an inquiry in the political philosophy of Lenin with special emphasis on the understanding of Bolshevism in the contemporary era of late imperialism in permanent crises. In contrast to orthodox Marxism which has hitherto understood Marxism as state socialist and ideological, this essay understands revolutionary Marxism as anti-state and ideology as the discourse of what Marx called the “spectral person” and consequently nothing but a theory of spectres. It contrasts the old problematic of state socialism and ideology with another problematic that it calls “desireology”, a new discipline that firstly emphasises the importance of understanding Hegel – the philosopher par excellence of the European Enlightenment and the French Revolution – and then transforms this understanding in the theories of the Leninist party and the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.

Murzban Jal ( is with the Indian Institute of Education, Pune.

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There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

– William Shakespeare, Hamlet

To be radical is to grasp the root of the matter. But for humanity the root is humanity itself.

– Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Introduction.

So long as the state exists there is no freedom, where there is freedom there is no state.

– V I Lenin, State and Revolution.

Revolutionary Humanism and the Proletariat

lara Zetkin, writing on Lenin, talked of three deplorable characters for Lenin. They are the monk, Don Juan and the philistine. According to Zetkin’s recollection of Lenin, one must “be neither a monk, nor Don Juan, but not anything in between either, like a German philistine” (Zetkin 1985: 110). And yet, it seems that these deplorable characters have not only not left the scene of politics; on the contrary, it is the monk, Don Juan and the philistine who whilst representing the revisionist characters of the 19th and early 20th centuries’ social reformists – Ferdinand Lassalle, Eduard Bernstein and Karl Kautsky – claim to speak in the name of revolution. With the heralding of this triumvirate, Marxism would become ventriloquist in character and essence. It would want (what Robespierre once called) a revolution without a revolution. Instead of being on the barricades of historical materialism, one found oneself sitting in Parliament arguing about nuclear deals and capitalist scams with the liberals, neocons and fascists. One forgot what Lenin had said in 1915: “Much has been left in the world that must be destroyed by fire and iron”.

One also forgets what Lenin said in 1917 of parliamentary democracy as the “talk shops” of “political prostitution” and that social democracy had forgotten that parliamentarism has necessarily to be abolished for a higher type of democracy (1977a: 293-97). This higher form is, as Lenin informs us, “primitive democracy” (ibid: 292). One recalls here Marx’s celebration of the archaic (1977a: 154). One thus has to be primitive in order to be the most modern of all moderns. One also has to be archaic in order to have a revolution with a revolution.

Two important questions emerge: (1) “Why is it that these three deplorable and pretentious characters continue their tragicomic ghost-walk such that history seems to be appearing more in tragic and farcical forms than in the form of revolutionary joy?” (2) “Why can we not break the continuum of the tragicomic structure of history so as to exorcise these reformist spectres and thus be able to have a clear-cut revolutionary programme suitable for world revolution in the 21st century?” There could be a number of reasons for this, reasons that go well beyond current times and beyond the scene of Indian politics. Firstly, following a certain type of peculiar logic that Žižek recently outlined where the “Event” – the term is Alain Badiou’s – (post-1917, especially after the defeat of the Hungarian and German revolutions in 1918) was lost which pushed the agenda of world revolution into the back stage of history (2009: 75, 92, 95, 127). Secondly, the “Event” was fossilised by the “event managers” where the “managers of the revolution” (meaning the NEP men after Lenin’s death in 1924) took over from the revolutionaries and became the “managers of state capitalism”. After all “the problems of the revolution”, as Lenin said in State and Revolution, “hardly concerned them”. (But the managers were not only the Stalinists. They were also the American New Dealers, Italian and German fascists, Iranian mullahs, Pakistani generals and Indian democrats.) And thirdly, instead of having the Real of the Revolution (to borrow from the Lacanian problematic), one had the Imaginary of the Revolution, or, to be precise, the Ghost of the Revolution. Since 1924 the very “Idea of communism”

– to borrow the Leninist-Žižekean term (Lenin 1977c: 69; Žižek 2009: 125) – was transfigured. We yet live in the world of transfiguration.

The tragicomic idea of history has a very rigorously defined structure – the structure of being haunted by the past of “old politics” – the structure of the old politics of liberalism, transfigured communism and fascism. One has debates more on the politics of multiparty democracy and its binary: authoritarianism, than on mass politics. What happens is a peculiar type of political distortion that does not remain merely on the political plain. It penetrates into every area of the human lifeworld. This distortion – that Lukács had immortalised as the reification of consciousness and a feeling of helplessness and known since Freud as the feeling of dread and terror, or simply the feeling of the uncanny (das Unheimlich) – remains the dominant part of class history even today. The leitmotif of this essay is to go to the roots of this distortion and the dominance of the uncanny type of tragicomic history and consequently to treat the question of revolution not as economism and parliamentarism, but as cultural and aesthetical education determined by the critique of political economy. It recalls Marx’s dictum: to produce according to “the laws of beauty” (1982: 69). It is then that one understands the Leninist politics of treating insurrection as art. Revolutionary politics becomes a dramaturgy – a theatre of the “Real”. It keeps, what Žižek calls, “the sublime feeling of enthusiasm” at its basis (1999: 139).

One has to state that besides the Young Bolsheviks (from Mavelich to Meyerhold), it was Lukács who had pointed out this cultural-revolutionary politics following the German humanist tradition, followed by Karl and Hedda Korsch in the 1930s, where politics was not understood merely as state power, nor was aesthetics only about dealing with the questions of “art” and the “beautiful”. Instead this new politics is the synthesis of art and politics (as revolutionary humanism) and thus is the study in the relation between revolution and human sensibilities. Marxism becomes the “science of revolutionising knowledge and thus revolutionising human sensibilities themselves”. As the new politics of cultural and aesthetic education – thus the politics of insurrection as art – Marxism turns to a fundamental issue: on how mass humanism as new humanism is possible as the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.

It takes two terrains hitherto disconnected – the young Marx’s theory of alienation (not known to Lenin, the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 were discovered by David Ryazanov after Lenin’s death) and Lenin’s party of aesthetical insurrection – to reformulate the theory and praxis of revolution as the spontaneous activity of the masses. In contrast to the spurious Leninists who debunk spontaneity, we understand spontaneity as authentic human praxis (Marx 1982: 66, 84). Lenin, one must note, embraced spontaneity not only in the Philosophical Notebooks (1980: 141), but also in What Is To Be Done? (1978: 53). We read Lenin therefore as the philosopher of spontaneity.

Revolutionary Proletarian Dictatorship

Since we shall be concentrating on the idea of the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat – the revolutionary dictatorship of spontaneous mass democracy as radical desireology – we must firstly state that two philosophical sites are immediately bound to it – the sites of humanism and mass democracy and that of Hegelian dialectic of contradiction, negation, negation of negation, dissolution (Auflösung) and transcendence (Aufhebung). What we learn from these two sites is that governed by the dialectic of historicism and humanism, the dictatorship of the proletariat is actualised as anti-state, an anti-state which is the transcendence (Aufhebung) of the state and the dissolution (Auflösung) of all dictatorships and all classes. Hegel’s dictum: to understand truth as a process is inserted in the Marxist theory of transition. So what new we understand from this dialectical-humanist formulation is that the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat is the negation and dissolution of all dictatorships because it is the negation of all classes.

By keeping Marx’s theory of the transcendence of the state (1964: 235) as central to this essay, we must stress that the very emergence of the idea of the revolutionary proletarian dictatorship has to appear as anti-state based itself on the mass politics of new humanism. This new theory transcends the old theory of an intermediary stage mediating between socialism (the so-called lower stage of communism) and communism proper. In this sense Leninism in the 21st century transcends Lenin himself, for it was he who did not erase the two stages in his State and Revolution. Circumstances compelled him to agree with the two stages. Circumstances now force us to erase them. By claiming that there are two stages of communism – the lower stage, where the child or the infant communist still has the birth marks of the notorious capitalist parent stamped on its unfortunate forehead and the higher stage where the terror of the parent is simply forgotten – and that in the lower stage the infant communist can take the state apparatus and imitate the neurotic and violent parent is simply not tenable. One thus directly challenges the two stages theory in the 21st century. It is Žižek who recently said that socialism is not any more a stage in the history of communism – “the infamous ‘lower phase’ of communism” – it is the “true competitor, the greatest threat to it” (2009: 96).

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And if this is indeed so – that Marxism does not compete with only capitalism, but also with socialism – how can one develop a systematic science of Marxism relevant for the 21st century? One must note here that post-Marx, Marxism (at least since Plekhanov, some will say since Engels) has borrowed more from the alien problematic of 19th century positivism and theories of evolution where spurious historicism was born whereby dialectics became more of a combination of a mechanism and sophistry. That the Second International became a bearer of this mechanical sophistry is well known. That the burden of this sophistry lies yet on our unfortunate heads is not so well known.

After all, it is not only the Stalinist counter-revolution that “parasited” on this rendering of Marxism. It was Gramsci who had said that a schizophrenic sort of combination entered leftist discourse which was half theological, half mechanical-materialist, where Marxism of the Second International with its theory of the march past of the iron laws of history was made to look like “impassioned finalism which appears in the role of the ‘substitute’ for the Predestination or Providence of confessional religions” (1987: 336). There are two problems: one that Marxist theory was wrongly formulated under the auspices of the positivist sciences, where Marxism was made to mimic the bourgeois binary: political passivity and the discourses of “iron laws independent of human will and consciousness”. Stalin canonises this formulation, but despite the de-Stalinist programmes, neither these “iron laws” disappear, nor the politics of passivity. After all, as Gramsci once stated, these iron laws that run their course with the force of their mystical “inevitabilities” – inscribed in the classical discourse of the Menshevik “inevitable revolution” – were in actuality “the clothing worn by real and active will when in a weak position” (ibid: 337).

In contrast to this formulation of spurious historicism we are going back to Marx’s original repertoire and discovering the new continent of knowledge by stating that Marxism is human natural science, or simply the natural science of humanity (Marx 1982: 99) wherein one understands what Lukács once called “the actuality of the revolution” (1974: 9-13). Not only are the problems of spontaneity, vanguardism, the place of the communist will, revolutionary violence, parliamentarism vs insurgency, the withering of the state, etc, to be understood in this problematic of human natural science – a science that understands how the masses gripped with radical theory become the weapons (Waffen) and force (Gewalte) of the humanisation of history by ending once and for all the history of class societies – but also the various understandings of Leninism from the Old Bolshevik critique of Miasnikov to Lukács, Dunayevskaya, Althusser, Lefebvre, Kevin Anderson, Carrère d’Encausse, Žižek and Simon Pirani. The weapons and revolutionary force that Marx first highlighted in his critique of Hegel (1975b: 182) – recalling his famous phrase: force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one (1983: 703) – now enters the scene of world revolutions as the weapons of mass struggle and new humanism.

On Lenin’s Laughter

We once noted that with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the evangelic announcement of the “end of history”, not only were the liberals and neocons seen on the scene of world politics, but

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also to the great dismay of the liberals and neocons, one also saw Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg and millions of poets and fighters of revolution (Jal 2011). We also saw that history was to repeat itself culminating not in farce, but in revolutionary joy. We turn to this joyous moment.

We thus move to 1908. We are with Lenin and Gorky in Capri. The 1905 revolution is crushed by the forces of the tsar. Gorky wants to discuss philosophy with Lenin and he responds with laughter. A section of the Bolshevik leadership led by Lunacharsky, Bognadov and Bazarov has taken an extreme left turn politically (they want to boycott all types of politics), but a right turn philosophically (they are influenced by the rather bizarre theory of “matter has disappeared”). They claim to be Bolsheviks but have become empiro-critics. They are seized by (to borrow Lenin’s expression) an infantile disorder. Gorky wants Lenin to have a discussion on philosophy with them. Lenin breaks into laughter. He says that he would love to meet Gorky. But a philosophical discussion? Lenin thinks not. Nevertheless, he himself goes into philosophy. His conclusion: philosophy is not only a lost path, but it is the falsest of false paths (der Holzweg der Holzwege) (1975: 320).

One here recalls Marx’s statement of philosophy as a neurotic return (Wiederherstellung) of theology and simply fit to be overthrown (1982: 127). Philosophy is thus a lost path, especially the philosophy that has turned its back onto Hegel and the concerns of the French Revolution as the phenomenology of history as human freedom. Not only is philosophy the lost path, but now the philosopher is understood as the lost person, because philosophy has forgotten its very basic question: “What is free humanity?” Philosophy shuts its eyes to what Hegel called “the fanaticism of freedom” and thus becomes the philosophy of the academicians. There is no use in involving oneself with what Lenin called “graduated flunkeys” with their “torturous idealism” whose sole aim is to prove the stupidity of materialist philosophers (1975: 320).

Thus Lenin’s laughter. After all, why discuss philosophy when the state is unleashing all its repressive terror on the masses? Why waste time with discussions on lost paths and lost people? Yet it is important to remember, as Marx had once reminded us, one cannot turn our backs to philosophy by “muttering a few trite and angry phrases about it” (1975b: 180). One has to understand this lost path (or to borrow from Marx’s lexicon) one has to understand these estranged paths, these paths of false consciousness and even falser realities, paths that lead us nowhere. And for that one needs a new discipline, a philosophy of negation, which is the “negation (Negation) of philosophy” itself (Marx 1975b: 180). Now what Marx proposes as a philosophy of revolution, an authentic philosophy of praxis, is something that has to emerge from the storm and stress of the proletarian movement where philosophy is transcended (aufheben) by making it a reality (verwirklichen). Thus one transcends philosophy by making it a reality, just as one makes it a reality by transcending it (ibid: 181).

This transcendence (Aufhebung), supersession and overcoming of philosophy, “abolishes eternal truths; ...abolishes all religion, and all morality, instead of constituting them on a new basis” (Marx 1977b: 58). One thus has “the most radical rupture with traditional ideas” (ibid). The old idolatry of words perishes. Consequently this new theory is not a return to traditional philosophising, but is the birth of a new philosophical science, a unified knowledge in the form of dialectical and historicalhumanist praxes (Marx 1982: 98; Marx and Engels 1976: 34). It seems that for Lunacharsky and company, the Marxist programme of revolution was totally misunderstood.

Lunacharsky disagreed with what he thought was Engels’s metaphysical materialism. But he did not engage Hegel’s Science of Logic, or Marx’s Capital. He did not merely skip Hegel, but also Marx. He, of course, forgot what Marx’s idea of praxis meant, especially the Marxist reading of a different practice of philosophy. In “discovering” the idealist philosophy of Mach, he actually went back to Berkeley. This little lesson from Lunacharsky is relevant today. For just as he misunderstood the dialectic and retreated into pre-Marxist philosophy, our contemporary parliamentary leftists too misunderstand dialectical materialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat as the self-activity of the working classes, only to retreat into the bourgeois binary: liberalism/ the politics of single-party dictatorships.

Two very dialectical concepts come in Marx’s theoretical revolution: Aufhebung or transcendence-sublation through a “lifting up” of philosophy at a higher historicist and humanist level; and Verwirklichung or realisation of this historicist and humanist transcendence of philosophy, not only as the philosophy of revolutionary praxis, but as revolutionary praxis itself. Marxist theory thus becomes a force and weapon that has gripped the masses. Lenin’s laughter is seen in this perspective, a perspective that he insists is found not with the academic philosophers, but with the revolutionary insurrectionist proletariat.

Now this theme of radical philosophy – a different practice of philosophy, philosophy as insurrection – is well known, but the epistemic dynamics of negation, transcendence and realisation – aspects that made not only the Bolshevik party, and the Soviets, but also the 1917 Revolution – are almost not thought within the Marxist movement. Althusser, for instance, thought it to be a useless question. Marx, for him, was yet infatuated with his youthful longing for Hegelian dialectics. It was only Karl Korsch who in his Marxism and Philosophy raised this very important Marxist question of (what is translated as) “the abolition of philosophy”, but closely tied to the abolition of the political state itself (1970: 52). Translations, one must note, are almost always notorious for misrepresentations. In Althusser’s For Marx we hear of the “suppression of philosophy” (1969: 45) where Aufhebung is said to be a “sly concept” (ibid: 82) fit to be totally discarded from Marxism. But Aufhebung (as we note contra Althusser) is not suppression. Marx was no Stalinist who wanted to suppress philosophy. Nor did he (now turning to Korsch) want to abolish it. One will have to read the Aufhebung of philosophy in a different perspective.

Let us start with our first proposal: Marxism is philosophical. To understand the idea of the revolutionary proletarian dictatorship one has to understand this philosophy. But this philosophy is different from all hitherto existing philosophies. Marx opens a new continent of knowledge: dialectical and historical-humanist materialism with the mechanism of alienation-reification-fetishism embodied in the very womb of class histories. The history of class struggles is at the same time the history of human alienation and the struggle against it. The second proposal: the opening of the new continent of knowledge has a small history of its own – the histories of the ancient Greek philosophers, the European Enlightenment and the French Revolution, the critique of political economy, Hegel’s philosophy and the radical philosophies of the non-western world.

Keeping this very complex mechanism that is unevenly structured at the back of our minds, we proceed to the most important question of the nature of Marxist philosophy. For Marx, philosophy has to become worldly, just as the world has to become philosophical (1975a: 85). And how does this happen? It happens when the human mind liberated “turns into practical energy” and thus “turns against the reality of the world” itself (ibid). There is now a “practice of philosophy”, a practice that is basically theoretical (ibid). The revolutionary programme of the realisation of philosophy has a “double-edged demand”: to turn against the bourgeois world and also to turn against hitherto existing philosophy itself (ibid: 86).

With this double-edged demand we go back to Marx’s human natural science as a different practice of philosophy and thus repose the classical philosophical question: “What is humanity?” as “What is communism and how is it actualised?” At least for Lenin, Gorky’s offer for philosophical dialogue is practically empty. Gorky is a humanist, his novels deal with the human condition. But his “philosophical offer” contains no humanity in it. For instance, the theme of “matter has disappeared” (raised by the empiro-critics) seems to be a cloak for the main issue: “the revolution is at an ebb”. Not only has matter disappeared for the “left” Bolsheviks, God now has appeared. The “left” Bolsheviks have become “God builders”. For Lenin they are not serious with the rigours of Marxist theory. His aphorism: “without revolutionary theory there can be no revolution” (1978: 25) starts haunting us once again.

Revolution as Cultural Practice

And so the transformation of theory, a theory that is most modern and best equipped in dealing with the contemporary scenario, becomes the leitmotif of revolutionary Marxism. One therefore transforms theory in order to transform society. But there is another transformation that is extremely necessary (usually ignored by mainstream Marxism): the transformation of human nature itself. It was Sweezy in Post-Revolutionary Society who reminded us of this extremely important point (2000: 42-43). The revolutionary party that is the school for the revolutionising of human sensibilities also becomes the school for transforming human nature – from the bourgeois nature (of the ownership of private property, of controlling people and destroying humanity and the natural environment) to human nature as real human nature (and not the “nature” of owners of property).

The latter nature is the nature that emerges from the alienation of humanity, whilst there is an “authentic” human nature, or what Marx calls “essential nature”, a human nature that is defined as human morality, human activity and human enjoyment (Marx 1975d: 204-25). For Marx then: “Human nature is the true

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community of humanity” (ibid: 204) where the demand is now about the “Rights of Humanity” (Marx 1975c: 199). These rights, for Marx, can never be fulfilled by the state, but by a “state” that is no longer the political state that is independent of humanity, but by the anti-state which is the “state of human nature” (ibid). One moves now from the realm of the political state (governed by the managers of bourgeoisdom) to the state of humanity, to the masses and thus to authenticity itself. Marxist authenticity is to live without classes and the state.

And since we put the theory of revolutions on a new footing, a revolution that seizes humanity by its roots, we say that this theme of the transformation of human nature becomes an essential theme for revolutionary Marxism. And this is so because Marx puts his theory of international revolution on firm philosophical foundations. Marx’s internationalism is not a contingent idea, an idea that is tied down to certain phases of history, where a Stalin could say that capitalism in the age of liberalism could have an international character, but in the period of imperialism (governed by Stalin’s imaginary “uneven law”) one had to become a nationalist and sing “long live socialism in one country!”

Let us look at Marx’s necessary theme of internationalism based on the principles of humanism. For Marx, there is indeed something called a “universal human nature” (1975c: 191) where one states that truth is not partisan, but what is true is “true for all humanity, not what is true for some people” (ibid). Thus, for Marx, communist truth does “not recognise the boundaries of political geography” (ibid: 192). It is not bound to “the illusory horizon of a particular world or national outlook”, but to “the true horizon of the human mind” (ibid). And that is why we say that Marxist politics of the anti-state is essentially philosophical where one finds a “philosophical people (who) can find their corresponding practice only in socialism” (1975d: 2002), wherein emerges “humanity’s true community”, the community of human nature (ibid: 205).

Being forgetful of this philosophical communism, communism as humanism and naturalism, one returns back to the tragic character of history where Marxism appears in its un-philosophical form – in the form of instrumental-managerial reason (one recalls here Adorno’s “administrative reason”) – a reason that is devoid of not only philosophical reason, but reason altogether. Instead of this instrumental Stalinist Platocracy, one puts the masses at centre stage that calls for the “positive transcendence (Aufhebung) of private property” combined with the “appropriation for and by humanity of the human essence (das menschliche Wesen) and of human life (itself)” (Marx 1982: 94). And thus if one asks: “what is the importance of Leninism in the 21st century?”, one will say that one has to treat the role of the party as what Korsch once called, “human sensuous activity, as praxis” (1977a: 152).

Objectivity thus is not merely “brute matter” as Sartre once thought it to be, or the Menshevik-Stalinist “objective” laws of history as the left yet imagines it to be. It does not comprise of mere “facts”, but it primarily includes the subject within its ambit. It thus has within it the idea of the revolutionary proletariat. Thus as there can be no objectivity without humanity, there can be no objective politics without the proletariat. Dialectical

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materialism now redefines objectivity as humanity’s being and becoming-in-the-world defined by labour and insurrection. Not only do humanity and labour get to be parts of objectivity, but also the praxis of revolution as insurrection. Objectivity is thus not the contemplative objectivity of the Second International (which our parliamentary left blindly mimics). Instead objectivity is defined as insurrection; in fact objectivity is to be considered as the aesthetics of insurrection. Radical aesthetics becomes an essential part of objectivity. In this way the Leninist party enters the scene of objectivity.

One insists here that this transfiguration of revolutionary politics into fetishised objectivity and thus into passivism and social democracy is not merely a problem of a certain type of politics. It is not merely a problem of tactics and strategies, but a problem of theory as theory. Thus when it is recently said that there is “an implicit theoretical ambiguity at its core”, i e, at the core of left-wing politics in contemporary India (Patnaik 2009: 27), the claim is correct. This claim is now linked to those posed by Korsch (1970: 53-56, 1977b) in the 1920s followed by those by Dunayevskaya (1991, 2002) and Kevin Anderson (1995). One recalls Lenin again: without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement. Those who think that the narrative of revolution is inscribed merely in the womb of the crises of capitalism such that the revolution would somehow happen “inevitably” are simply wrong.

Revolution is the real explosion of human freedom as a beautiful moment of universal solidarity. The party of insurrection then is the party of this beautiful moment.

Marx’s Species Being and the Leninist Party

So what does the Leninist do in this realisation of the beautiful moment? The Leninist hears the voices of the masses. It does not fear the revolution as Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev did in April 1917, nor like the Mensheviks turn their backs to the question of the revolutionary seizure of power, nor does it goof up as the Tudeh party did in Iran in 1979. Instead one recalls the early Marx’s idea of the proletariat as species being and then true to its dialectical character joins the individual with the social, a joining that one calls following the terminology of Hegel: the concrete universal. The communist party becomes the party of this concrete universal where “real individuals” (Marx and Engels 1977: 36-37) linked to the ideas of class struggle and the appropriation of the human essence remain at the base of revolutionary politics.

There are three terms in this historicist and humanist reading of the concrete universal: the individual (the individual person), the particular (the specific class) and the universal (society and history). The role of the Leninist party is to join these three elements. So what happens when one has joined these elements? This joining brings forth the site of species being – the site of anti-state politics – into the site of revolution. In this revolutionary site of humanity realising itself as species being, humanity’s individual and species-life (Gattungsleben) are synthesised (Marx 1982: 93). Just as Marx had pointed out that “We must avoid postulating ‘society’ again as an abstraction vis-à-vis the individual. The individual is the social being.....” (ibid); so too we must avoid postulating the revolutionary party as an abstraction vis-à-vis the individual. After all “humanity’s individual and species-life are not different”, to recall Marx again, “however much

– and this is inevitable – the mode of existence (Daseinweise) of the individual is a more particular or more general mode of life of the species, or the life of the species is a more particular or more general individual life” (ibid).

The Leninist party becomes the embodiment of this species character of humanity. But then it has to break old barriers – not only the barrier of the state, but also the barrier of the ideological. The party as species being is no longer “ideological”. Instead it becomes “desireological”, where revolutionary consciousness as self-consciousness (i e, conscious of its own potentialities as well as consciousness of the world) becomes the “state of desire in general” (Hegel 1966: 220, 225). To raise the level of mass consciousness to the level of insurrection as art is the part played by the science of Radical Desireology.

But one has to note that this species character of the communist lifeworld is not realised in an abstract way, in the way of abstract universals loyal to Badiou’s fidelity to the Event. There is no abstract Event, but “many zigzags on this road” (Lenin 1977e: 119), zigzags that do not pose questions in the abstract, thus do not pose only the question of proletarian emancipation, independent of the questions of gender, caste and oppressed nationalities. This species character of communism is inclusive. Since it takes “all the classes” (Lenin 1978: 69, 79, 81, 82, 85-87, 96, 125-26, 172) into its fold, it is essentially humanist. There is no “uniquely unique” standpoint understood only by the revolutionaries. The revolution is universal and yet carries a partisan character to it. Though “all the people” ought to be involved in the revolutionary struggle, some outright deny it, some stay at a cynical distance (“Really will the revolution make any difference?”) and some insist on being happy in the unhappy home of alienation, or happy in what Žižek calls “the Kantian celebration of the sublime effect of passive observation” (1999: 140).

The party thus with its many zigzags has to confront this alienation that turns human beings into bourgeois cynics. To confront this alienation it produces what Brecht called the “alienation effect” and what is known since Fredric Jameson as the “dialectical shock”. Taking this shock element with it, the party breaks the stranglehold of the “terrible sublime” of bourgeois passivity by becoming the embodiment of the species character of humanity. It has to keep the idea of human freedom as the beautiful moment of universal solidarity as central to revolutionary politics.

Ideology: Disembodiment and the Repressed Unconscious

We now come to the central concern of this essay with a rather startling claim that revolutionary Marxism is not an ideology and can never be so. Why is this so? What are one’s reasons for claiming that ideology is not only a false consciousness and the instrumental irrational of the capitalist class, but some sort of terrible nightmare where Freud’s good old repressed unconscious is replayed as the “terrible sublime” that suppresses revolutionary praxis? Now we know that the masses are not merely confronted with the repressive state apparatus of capitalism (the police, army, RSS bombers, Iranian mullahs, the CIA, etc), they are also confronted by the ideological state apparatus. In this apparatus (one ought to say: “neurotic apparatus”), political ideology in the age of late capitalism does not take an explicit propagandist form, but appears more subtly as cultural signs and depoliticised forms as represented in the culture industry. Now we also know since Adorno how this culture industry works – via the mono polistic control of the media – whereby politics functions in a rather “innocent” way, taking depoliticised forms of class neutrality. The old ideologists were the popes and the Stalinists. The new ideologists are Robert Murdoch and Robert Gates, BBC and CNN. What we see is that behind the “Idea” of this very ideological media industry is finance capital. And seeing Gates around, accompanied by the Iranian mullahs, the Zionists, Hamas and the RSS, one will see that behind bourgeois ideology is not only finance capital, but also the military arms complex. Ideology in the age of late imperialism is best manifested as the ideology of bourgeois violence. Freud’s psychotic patient becomes the best ideologist.

What one does now is to understand the discipline of ideology, not in its classical rendering from Destut de Tracy to Ralf Mannheim as the “rational” theory of ideas – thus the explication of the theories of liberalism, socialism, fascism, etc – but the one that ruptures this theory of “ideas” with the humanist, classbased critique of the ideological superstructure. The critique of ideology then becomes an extension of the critique of religion. Ideology (like religion) is then understood as nothing but an inverted consciousness of an inverted world. Its chief function is veiling social relations of production. This, as we all well know, is the intervention of the Frankfurt School. But what happens is that in this inverted and distorted consciousness, the moment of the sublime occurs (the sublime that blocks the Real of the revolution), whereby the ideologist involves himself in a fantasy comprised of “world shattering phrases”, a fantasy that has broken all connections with reality (Marx and Engels 1977: 36), somehow miming both the metamorphosis of commodities and Freud’s reading of the psychotic who is totally disconnected from reality.

Ideology is not only commodity fetishism and psychosis, but is “commoditised psychosis”, and as commoditised psychosis is also the worst form of dogmatism since it “by no means examines its general premises” (ibid: 34). Like the ancient gods who took lifedevouring forms of their own, ideology (of any sort, whether papal, fascist, Stalinist, or CNN-BBC inspired neo-liberalist) takes this same form of phantasmagorical independence from societal relations of production. And just as the ancient gods erased humanity, so too is the case with ideology. Ideology interpellates people as objects. In ideology people lose their humanity and chase “apparitions”, “spectres” and “whimsies” (ibid: 61). Ideology is then nothing but “idealist humbug” (ibid). The true ideologist, as The German Ideology notes, is Don Quixote. He is the evangelist par excellence and appears as the apostles and saints of years long gone by, as Stalin of years not long gone by, and now as Bush and Hillary Clinton, not to forget Obama – Žižek’s “Bush with a human face” – (2009: 107), accompanied by Mickey Mouse and Superman, the present messiahs of Yankee imperialism. But then

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what is Marx’s anti-ideological, materialist solution? It is to remain on the “real ground of history”, to disbelieve the evangelic tales of the apparitions (thus to disbelieve in liberalism: the master ideology of our times) and to assert that it is “not criticism but revolution (that) is the driving force of history” (ibid). The difference between the ideologist (even when he imagines he is producing a “true consciousness”) and the revolutionary is that the former “wants to produce a correct consciousness about an existing fact; whereas for the real communist it is the question of overthrowing the existing state of things” (ibid: 65).

Since we are claiming that ideology is necessarily predicated on commodity production, we must note that the process of alienation-metamorphosis-disembodiment is at work where the categories of use value, value and exchange value correspond to the Lacanian categories of the Real, Imaginary and the Symbolic. Ideology is thus:

(1) the Imaginary and the Symbolic with the denial of the Real as its necessary base, similar to the metamorphosis of commodities, where capitalism erases both use values and humanity to posit value, exchange value and the occult-like process of capital accumulation, and (2) a “projected lack” and the site of denial, where this projection of human alienation becomes a machine (like value and exchange value) that controls humanity. The basic structure of ideology is constituted in the binary: lack/surplus, i e, lack (both economic and cultural lacks) at the level of the masses and surplus at the level of the bourgeoisie. As the alienated lack it takes the form of the repressed unconscious.

It is thus important to point out that the basic structure of ideology is similar to the one of the phantom commodity, just as it is important to state that it is this ghostly objectivity that governs both the phantom commodity and ideology as psychosis. Ideology becomes thus the duplicate world similar to the mist-enveloped world of religion. It is also akin to the schizophrenic “doubling effect” that Freud pointed out in The Uncanny. And because ideology mimics the phenomenological process of commodity production, and since it mimics the core structure of abstract labour, its essential structure becomes this ghostly abstract.

One can write anything on the pages of this ghostly abstract. The fascists can justify their Auschwitzs and Gujarats; the liberals their Kashmirs, Gazas and Guantanamo Bays. And since ideology emerges from the ghostly abstract of commodity production and then mimics this ghost, it takes the form of a spurious humanisation and false democracy. The true ideologist is the true ghost, and the true ghost is the false human and false democrat. What we learn is this spurious humanisation, this false democracy, is actually only the return of mythology and theology in modern utopian dress. So what do we learn from this? We learn that humanity purged mythology and theology only to embrace it once again. Freud’s eternal recurrence of the neurotic becomes Marx’s perpetual recurrence of the ideologist. Once upon a time the shamanistic priest ruled with the rites of mythology and theology. Now the same shamanistic priest has returned with a new set of rites and new sets of messianic promises.

In contrast to the realm of the “ideological” (and the fixation with “ideas” – recall how Marx in The German Ideology claims that humanity was fixated with the “idea” of gravity and with the

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removal of this idea he believed he would not drown) – let us learn to exorcise and humanise ideas. One must also learn how to encounter the unconscious. Consequently one should cease being obsessed with “consciousness” and “ideologies”. Instead one goes into the triple critiques of alienation, political economy and the unconscious. The first thing that one encounters in this triple critique is the dominant definition of ideology that emerges in Capital: “We are not aware of this, nevertheless we do it” (Sie wissen das nicht, aber sie tun es) (Marx 1981: 88). The communist is faced with this politics of the unconscious. The communist now has become a psychoanalyst.

But then we do not simply have the politics of the unconscious. We also have a new definition of ideology: “they know it, yet they do it!” (Žižek 1989: 29). It is both these contexts that have to be dealt with. We have to deal with the unconscious (the first definition from Marx) as well as with a type of what we know after Žižek as an “enlightened false consciousness” or simply a petty bourgeois cynicism (ibid). Lenin’s important 1902 intervention comes in: understand the spontaneity of the masses and engage in the politics of the human essence. That is why the Leninist insists: keep humanity and its concerns as the basis of left politics and stop talking nonsense of the “laws” of history. After all, one must recognise: there are no inevitabilities in history, most certainly no inevitable communist revolution. It is now a matter of radical desiring. Let us from now on desire the communist revolution.

Revolutionary Desire

One moves from the politics of the unconscious to the revolutionary site of desire. Leninism is all about revolutionary desire. When he insisted in What Is To Be Done? on the role of the professional revolutionary he implied the art of desiring. This art is primarily a solution to bourgeois cynicism and to the spectacle of late imperialism in permanent crisis. One is not dealing anymore with “consciousness”. One is now in the midst of desire. Thus one is not interested anymore in changing “consciousness”. The leftwing ideologist who intends to “teach” the worker about his own situation is nothing but the bourgeois educator who remains perpetually bourgeois.

So instead of ideas and ideologies one puts “the real, corporeal human being” with its “real objective essential powers (wirklichen gegenständlichen Wesenkräfte) (Marx 1982: 135-36) at the centre of revolutionary politics. Marx’s will to revolutionary power now enters the scene of revolution. Instead of ideologies we have the natural powers (naturlichen Kräften) and vital powers (Lebenskräften)” (ibid: 136), or simply “human essential powers” (menschlichen Wesenkrafte) (ibid: 96, 111, 136) of the proletariat on this new scene of revolution. The theme of consciousness is now transcended for a theory of human essential powers.

And since the “ontological essence of human passion (Leidenschaft) coming into being” (ibid: 120) is now our focus, we say that the revolutionary party is also the party of passion. As passion it immediately confronts both capital accumulation and the state. In contrast to hitherto existing left discourse – whether Stalin, Trotsky or Mao inspired – our theme of the immediate abolishing of the state remains central to our reading of Leninism.

For it is the state (as the organising committee of the passionless bourgeoisie) that thwarts the passions of the revolution.

From State as Sham to the State as Defecation

We once stated that the state is a sham. Now we recall Freud and claim that the state is defecation. Strictly Freud is talking of money and not the state as defecation when he mentions the “connections between the complexes of interest in money and defecation” and the “money complex” emerging thereon (1991: 213). But money is not only dirty and filthy (ibid: 214). It is literally “the faeces of hell” (ibid).

Now no Marxist can have objection to this Freudian intervention. What we are doing is transforming the theory of money as defection into the theory of state as the faeces of psychotic hell. Let us have a look at the relation between gold and excrement. Now we know from Freud that gold that the devil gave to his paramour turned into excrement after he departed (ibid). We are keeping these above stated points in mind (both money and the state as shit) with special regards to the abolishing of commodity production, money and the state immediately at the dawn of the revolution.

It is from this juncture with Marx’s “free association of moral human beings” (1975c: 192-93) – the free humanity that refuses to “be educated from above” (ibid: 193) – that one is able to turn to Lenin’s “people from below”. In the 1936 letter to Benjamin, Adorno wrote that the proletariat is credited with an “achievement, which according to Lenin, it can be achieved only through a theory introduced by intellectuals as dialectical subjects” (Adorno 1977: 122). That the proletariat is able to realise itself not in a messianic way led by the infallible general secretary, but in a well-thought-out way led by the insurrectionist masses in the abolishing of capitalism and all classes is fundamental for Marx’s politics of human freedom.

After all, one very well knows that Marxism is essentially the discourse of human freedom. Since we know that the public space of species being displaces the politics of the state we cease being bewitched by the various types of state-politics. We also cease being bewitched by the so-called “democracy” that American imperialism throws at the whole world. Of course, Marxism is democratic, but this democracy is not an institutional democracy of the liberal variety that deals with the institutions of the legislative, judiciary, etc, whilst conveniently forgetting classes and humanity. It is here that one must note that not only is “democracy” a historical phenomena, but is also an overdetermined term. Therefore one must point out that there are five forms of democracy that Marxism recognises: (1) the revolutionary type that Marx decoded in his reading of the Russian commune (Obschina) and other pre-capitalist social formations based on common land (ager publicus), a democracy that leap frogs the capitalist mode of production and its liberal superstructure, (2) the classical type that emerged with the Greek polis, (3) the liberal type as enunciated by John Locke, (4) the Rousseau and Robespierre types, and (5) the Marxist form of democracy as the realisation of humanity as humanity and the universal citizen.

In this case singling only the bourgeois type of democracy determined by corporate capitalism makes bourgeoisie democracy itself a fetish for sale in the global market. One forgets that the term is itself of class origins. In this sense, as Lenin states, democracy is itself ambiguous with multiple meanings. “Democracy”, so Lenin states, is thus no ideal, but itself a “state which recognises the subordination of the minority to the majority, i e, an organisation for the systematic use of force by one class against another, by one section of the population against another” (1977a: 320). In contrast to this state of affairs, the politics of species being as the politics of the “union of free people” (Marx 1983: 82), creates an entire “new generation”, as Lenin recalls Engels, reared in new, free, social conditions which will be able to discard the entire lumber of the state – of any state, including the democratic-republican state (op cit).

And so we re-read the idea of the state with all its contradictions leading to an explosion – and explosion of human freedom that leads us to the double ideas of communism as humanism and naturalism (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844) and the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat (Critique of the Gotha Programme), a “dictatorship” that does not reinstate any form of dictatorship, but that which dissolves all types of dictatorships. The proletariat dissolves itself when it abolishes capitalism and smashes the state. Consequently the dictatorship of the proletariat dissolves all dictatorships. It is literally (to borrow Hegel’s term) the non-being (Nichts) of the state. Hegel’s negation becomes the Leninist anti-state. Because the dictatorship of the proletariat goes through the process of dissolution and transcendence, it is realised only as the anti-state. To stick to Lenin’s dialectical remarks it is a state which is not a state, a machine which is not a machine (1975a: 326). As the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, Lenin’s “crowd of civilised people” displaces the state machine altogether (ibid). The need for government consequently disappears (ibid: 334). One forgets the old language of administrative reason and learns a very different type of language:

We would therefore propose to replace the state everywhere by Gemeinwesen, a good old German word which can very well convey the meaning of the French word commune (Engels 1975: 335).

One has to insist that the commune “was no longer a state in the proper sense of the word” (ibid). Now what we get is a distinct relation between Marx’s communist polis as Gattungswesen (species being) and Engels’s Gemeinwesen. Both indicate the spaces of the “commons” that the proletariat consciously creates by seizing the means of production from the bourgeoisie and distributing it according to the principle of “each according to one’s abilities to each according to one’s labour, needs and enjoyment”. And that is why one insists that Lenin’s “proletarian state” is strictly anti-state. The proletariat in realising its very essence becomes immediately humanist, humanist in the very scientific sense that the human is opposed to things and spectres (commodity, money, capital and the state). This new state of affairs is the state of authenticity, the state of humanity as humanity, recalling the young Marx’s conception of the state of the “Rights of Humanity” which is simply the state of human nature itself (1975c: 199). And just as the real human community is not the community of commodity owners, it has to be understood that this real human community is the community of human nature (Marx 1975d: 205).

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From this new language that we have learnt, it must be emphasised that one cannot operate with the worn-out language of “old politics”. One needs to transcend this language of the liberals and the orthodox leftists, by questioning the debates of multiparty vs single party political systems. In this sense not only is the language of “so-called socialism” questioned, but one also the critical Marxist texts like Lukács’ (1988) The Process of Democratisation. One has to emphasise this point because even certain types of critical Marxists forget that the state (whether liberal or authoritarian) as defecation intervenes only when the masses “could not represent themselves”, to borrow Marx’s celebrated phrase, in order that “they must be represented” (1975e: 171). Both the orthodox and the critical Marxists forget that this representation (i e, the state as representing the “people”) is a duplicate and counterfeit representation. One has to state that the state (whether liberal or authoritarian) is the psychotic criminal appearing as the father figure, and thus becomes the above stated defecation: dirty “matter in the wrong place” (Freud op cit: 213), only when the masses are dominated by the alienation inherent in capitalism and the reification consciously created by bourgeois democracy.

And so if capitalism creates alienation, and if the state produces this psychotic filth, the Leninist party is involved in a different type of production: (1) of communist consciousness and revolutionary


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    desire, and (2) the consequently alteration of people (Veränderung des Menschen), a process that is necessary (nötig) and directly related to the question of human needs (Marx and Engels 1976: 60; Marx 1982: 90). Necessity (the necessity of communism) is understood as a “living life”, not the blind, anarchic and fatalistic conceptions of necessity practised by the parliamentary leftists, most certainly not the necessity that is born from what Lenin calls, “the lifeless bones of a skeleton” (1980: 89). Necessity becomes a radical contingency and a radical need bound to human freedom.

    We learn from Marx that this search for freedom is the driving force of revolutions and that the manifestos of freedom have to continuously written and rewritten. Meanwhile one sees instead of substituting the state with the union of free people and instead of abolishing the parliament with free humanity, the three deplorable characters – the monk, Don Juan and the philistine – marching back onto the scene of left politics in India. And here one does not hear the discourses on imperialism, wars and the human condition, not even on the idealist type of philosophy that Gorky wanted with Lenin. With the march past of these three deplorable characters one hears only silence.

    Meanwhile Lenin’s laughter is heard once again. Are the

    comrades listening?

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