ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Question of Democracy

Bernard D’Mello’s intervention “Where Is the Magazine? Indian Semi-Fascism and the Left” (EPW, 11 October 2014) testifies that passions and dreams are still alive in our political imagination. The author has charted a broad trajectory of counter-hegemonic resistance against neo-liberal capitalism and Hindutva politics in India. His exploration of the interfaces of finance capital, consumerism, and the mass psychology of “semi-fascism” opens up new pathways of social science research. We should particularly applaud his revisiting Rosa Luxemburg’s “The Accumulation of Capital” for a theoretical understanding of the ruthless state violence in the tribal lands of central and eastern India. It should be emphasised in this context that Marx argued in volume 1 of Capital that “primitive accumulation” precedes capitalistic accumulation. Rosa’s argument that ruthless violence is an organic part of penetration of capital into non-capitalist territories signifies an original contribution to Marxist theory. It enlightens us to understand theoretically the multiple instances of violence unleashed by the State and corporate giants in tribal lands in contemporary India.

Bernard D’Mello has given a call to the Left to “transcend its visceral sectarianism” for giving leadership to the united/popular front against neo-liberal capitalism and semi-fascism unfolding in India. The actualisation of this political imagination requires a democratic mindset on the part of the Left. But, the track record of Marxists on the question of democracy is dismal. The different concepts of democracy they experimented with could be labelled as the parliamentary, the participatory and the vanguard models of democracy. After a thorough analysis of the Marxist experiments with different models of democracy, Joseph V Femia, in his seminal book Marxism and Democracy, arrived at the following conclusion: “In practice, Marxism has achieved nothing better than vanguard dictatorship, differing from one country to another only in its degree of brutality and cynicism”.

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