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Archive for April, 2018

Marx’s concept of class-Richard D. Wolff

Posted by admin On April - 3 - 2018 Comments Off on Marx’s concept of class-Richard D. Wolff


Originally published: Logos Journal by Richard D. Wolff (Winter 2018 Vol. 17 No. 1)   |
Concepts of Class
The concept of class poses profound problems for theory and practice. This is true across the academic disciplines and in the confused incoherence around “class issues” when concepts of class surface in economic, political and cultural discourses.

Since 1945, the Cold War and its lingering effects prevented many discussions of social trends, events, and crises from considering their class causes, components or consequences. For many, loyalty to capitalism and/or hostility toward its critics took the form of refusing to use concepts like class. The very idea of class when applied to the U.S. or advanced capitalism anywhere was rejected with claims that it was outdated (since modern capitalism homogenized nearly everyone into a vast “middle class”).1 Many dismissed class analysis because it was “tainted by a lack of objectivity” (a quality that they located in the concepts they used instead of class). Only quite recently, following the 2008 global capitalist crash, have concepts of class resurfaced in many minds and therefore in much public discussion.

What might be called the return of the repressed discourse of class is problematic because there is no one concept of class. The word, like the concept, entails multiple, significantly different meanings among those who think and communicate using it. Only a small minority of users explicitly identifies and justifies which meaning it prefers. Most users think, speak, and write as if the particular concept of class they use is the universally agreed concept. Because that is not the case, discourses using class categories are often confused and misunderstood. When the relation between class and social change arises as a practical matter, the problematic nature of class as a concept becomes historically urgent.

At least as far back as Ancient Greece people analyzed their own and others’ societies by dividing populations into social sub-groups according to their wealth and/or incomes. Much as they classified populations for some purposes according to gender, height, weight, and age, for other purposes, such as understanding social conflicts, they could and did classify by wealth or income. Classes were the nouns applied to the subgroups derived from applying the verb to classify. Economic classifications generated the rich and the poor, the two polar classes. It was then a small step to subdivide populations into further subgroups located in the middle between the rich and the poor. Such subgroups – middle classes – held more wealth and/or received more income than those designated poor but less than those designated rich. Classifications into rich and poor presupposed some notion of private property to provide a boundary between one person’s wealth and/or income and another’s (much as age classifications presupposed some accepted way to measure and thereby differentiate each individual’s age).

Ever since ancient Greece, many people analyzing societies have used that concept of class defined in terms of owned wealth and/or income to think, speak or write about social problems and to undertake actions for their solutions. Thus, for example, citizens, leaders, observers, and so on might say that a society suffers from tension and conflict because of its particular divisions among rich, poor, and middle classes. They might offer solutions entailing changed modes of distributing wealth and/or income or perhaps redistributing them after an initial distribution. Their class analyses and class-focused solutions – defined in terms of class qua property – represented what they believed to be useful, effective contributions to social betterment.

Another, equally ancient but quite different concept of class also still in wide usage defines it in terms of power wielded over others. People using this concept classify populations they scrutinize into those who give orders to others and those who take and follow orders from others. One is the powerful class while the other is the powerless class: the ruling class and the ruled. As with the property-based concepts of class, those who used power definitions of class also interspersed middle classes, members of society who both took orders from some while giving orders to others. Now as for thousands of years many people make sense of the structures, changes, problems and solutions for societies by examining what they take to be their class structures: their organization into subgroups with more or less power over one another.

With two different concepts of class, class analyses could and did yield different understandings when applied to actual societies. Classifying populations according to who has and does not have property, including middle classes, yields different subgroupings from those resulting from classifications according to the power wielded (or not) over others. The social distribution of property is not identical to the social distribution of power. In any society, the individuals and subgroups who own the most property may or may not wield the most power, and so on. When thinkers and writers used the same term, “class analysis,” while defining it differently, confusion could set in. When they were unaware of definitional differences and so did not acknowledge, identify or justify which definition they used, confusion was certain.

Periodically in human history, social revolutions took “class” seriously. Revolutionaries then undertook to change a society’s class structure as a key, necessary component of the social transformation they sought. These transformations can be summarized as establishing equality and democracy. Revolutionaries committed to class-qua-property concepts focused on redistributing wealth and income or reorganizing how they were distributed initially. Their goal was a much more egalitarian distribution of wealth and income. In contrast, revolutionaries who conceived of class in terms of power rather than property focused on redistributing power and/or reorganizing how power was distributed initially. Their goal was a much more democratic distribution of power.

Not infrequently, class analyses worked with both property and power concepts although rarely with much self-consciousness about the problems raised by two different definitions. So, for example, property theorists of class made the simplifying presumption that altering the social distribution of wealth and income would necessarily and correspondingly alter the social distribution of power. Similarly, power theorists of class could run the same determinist argument in the reverse direction: changing power distributions would necessarily alter the social distribution of property. Sometimes, analyses and activists made another, related and simplifying assumption, namely that those with wealth would acquire power too and those lacking either would likely lack the other too.

Across thousands of years of European history, class analyses rose and fell in their popularity and use for understanding social structures, changes, problems and solutions. Likewise the two basic definitions of class alternated in terms of which prevailed or, sometimes, how they were combined into composite definitions. Yet a certain insufficiency and failure dogged the class revolutions that punctuated European history even when they “succeeded” in the sense that revolutionary forces defeated those who wished to avoid revolutionary change.

Despite the progress they achieved, their goals of egalitarian distributions of wealth and income and/or democratic distributions of power were never reached. For many, those failures provoked a fatalism that held the goals themselves as beyond human reach. Others turned to question the thinking that had guided the revolutions. They asked whether something had been missed or misunderstood about social structures, changes, problems and solutions by successive revolutionary movements. If rectified, might that something enable revolutionaries finally to achieve their twin goals of equality and democracy?

Marx’s New Concept of Class
Marx was one who asked such questions. In producing his answer Marx generated another new and different concept of class even as he also made frequent use of the ancient property and power concepts of class inherited from previous generations of revolutionaries. Marx believed that those generations had not achieved their basic goals of equality and democracy because they had not understood a basic process in all societies that had worked to undermine their revolutionary projects. Because they did not understand and transform that process, their revolutionary projects failed. Even when their revolutions did achieve significant and socially progressive changes in property and power distributions, those did not progress to the levels of equality and democracy they had hoped and worked for. Often, the progressive changes they achieved could not be sustained beyond a few years. For Marx, the personally transformative example of such limitedly successful revolutions was the French Revolution. It overthrew feudalism but its goals of liberte, egalite, fraternite were not achieved.

Marx’s Capital presented his analysis of the missed social process – basically the production and distribution of the surplus as we shall show below. Capital explained how this class-qua-surplus process helped to shape the social distributions of property and power. The failures of previous revolutions (such as the French) to achieve genuine, sustainable equality and democracy (liberte, egalite, fraternite) emerge as consequences of their not recognizing, understanding, and transforming this class-qua-surplus process.

Even though Marx devoted much of his life to the research and exposition of his new surplus conception of class, many readers and followers since have missed the originality of his new and different concept. They read his work instead as if it were an important new application of the old property and power concepts of class to analyzing capitalism. That is indeed one of Marx’s contributions. However, to see only that misses the crucial importance of his new class-qua-surplus concept both to understanding and getting beyond capitalism. Marx’s focus on the surplus thus carries over into our time too as a key component of critical social analysis demanding recognition and application.

In Capital, volume 1, Marx identifies his new notion of class early. He defines it as a distinct social process that occurs together with the physical labor process within the activity known as production. In production, workers labor – men and women use brains and muscle – to transform naturally occurring objects into useful products. They labor with raw material inputs, tools, equipment, buildings, etc. that constitute their means of production. But the labor process is not the same thing as the class process. The class process refers to a different connection among the people engaged in production than the labor connection where they collaborate to produce a specific product.

Class, for Marx, refers to how, in production, a surplus gets produced. All human societies produce such surpluses. However, societies differ in how they organize the production and distribution of this surplus. In Marx’s view, there have always been subsets of populations in communities (from families through villages to whole nations) that have performed labor in the production of goods and services. Those subsets have always produced more output than they themselves consumed: the “surplus” output or simply the surplus. That surplus has then been distributed to other persons inside or outside the community.

The class structure of a community or society is then its distinct organization of the production and distribution of surplus. Specific individuals are designated, consciously or unconsciously, by custom or deliberation, to produce the surplus. Those same or other individuals receive the surplus and distribute some or all of it to still others whom we can call recipients of distributed shares of the surplus. Each community or society designates which individuals can receive distributed shares of the surplus, consume them, and thereby live without themselves doing any work to produce the surplus. Likewise, other people are designated to do work that does not itself produce a surplus but rather provides conditions for the labor of the workers who do produce the surplus. Such enablers of surplus production by others need to receive a distribution of the surplus produced by those others: that distribution provides the enablers with their own consumption and with the means for performing their enabling functions. For example, a person who keeps the necessary records of what surplus-producing laborers do is such an enabler; so too are the persons who clean up residues of production, who make sure the surplus-producers keep to their tasks, etc. Marx differentiated between “productive” workers (those who directly produced surpluses) and “unproductive” workers (the enablers who provided needed conditions for surplus production). Both productive and unproductive workers were needed for any class structure to exist and persist, but their relationship to surplus production was crucially different. One kind of worker produced the surplus while the other, the enabler, lived off distributions of that surplus.

The earlier pre-Marxian concepts of class (qua property or power distributions) had no place for such a surplus concept of class. When those pre-Marxian concepts were applied to understand and/or transform societies, the results were class analyses that did not recognize, know, or use the surplus concept. Their social analyses and prescriptions did not take into account how the societies they scrutinized organized the production and distribution of surpluses. They were, in effect, blind to the existence and social effects of society’s class (qua surplus) structure.

Marx’s Capital introduced the class-qua-surplus analysis and advocated using it to transform society. He did so in the belief that past revolutionary projects for social equality, democracy, and liberty, limited to pre-Marxian concepts of class, could have done better and gone further had they also understood and applied the class qua surplus concept. Marx saw his own contribution to theory and revolutionary practice as precisely enabling that application.

Such application meant that revolutionary projects had henceforth to address and change how society organized the production and distribution of its surpluses. If the society’s class-qua-surplus structure were not transformed, then even the egalitarian, democratic and other reforms won by revolutionary struggles would be insecure, would eventually be undone by the unchanged class-qua-surplus structure. To cite a modern example, the transformations of property and power distributions achieved by the 1917 revolution in Russia were eventually undone by the unchanged organization of the surplus across the production sites of the Soviet Union.2

In Capital, Marx spelled out the change he sought in societies’ class-qua-surplus structures, the change required to surpass the limitations of past revolutions. That change was from the past’s exploitative class-qua-surplus class structures to the non-exploitative class structure Marx advocated. By exploitative, Marx explicitly explained a class structure in which the people who produced the surplus were different from the people who appropriated and distributed that surplus. In slave economic systems, slaves produced while masters appropriated and distributed surpluses. In feudal economic systems, serfs produced the surpluses appropriated and distributed by lords.

Marx’s Capital explained that in capitalism, laborers in production – those whose brains and muscles directly converted raw materials and means of production into finished products – thereby added value to the values embodied in the raw materials and means of production used up in production. The “value added” by the direct laborers plus the value of used-up means of production equal the value of the output. “Value” is the metric because, in the capitalist economy Marx was analyzing, products took the form of commodities, products that passed from their producers to their consumers by means of exchanges in markets. Exchange is what attaches value to the products of human labor if and when they pass from their producers to their consumers by way of market exchange.

For Marx and his value theory, the value of the capitalist product is simply the addition of two components. The first is the value carried over to – embodied in – the finished product in so far as production used up a portion of the raw materials, tools and equipment, and relocated them in the product. The second component is the value added by living labor as it worked on and transformed those raw materials by means of those tools and equipment. Exploitation exists in capitalism, Marx showed, because the value added by direct laborers in their labor activity during production generally exceeds the value paid to the direct laborers for performing their labor activity.

In other words, a portion of the value added by labor in production is a surplus: the excess of the value added by their labor over the value of the wage they receive. The capitalist who appropriates that surplus is the employer in the capitalist system: a person or persons other than the direct laborers who produce the surplus. The capitalist employer also distributes that surplus after having appropriated it. Thus the capitalist exploits the direct laborer (proletarian) much as the master exploited the slave and the lord the serf.

Capitalism did NOT liberate slaves and serfs from exploitation. Rather, it merely changed the form, the particular social organization of continuing exploitation.

Equality and Democracy
Capitalist exploitation negates social movements toward egalitarianism. The exploitation makes production a conflict-ridden tension between the worker and the employer. The former’s self-interest leads to demands for higher wages – to enhance and secure his/her standard of living – in exchange for the labor performed. The employer’s self-interest seeks to extract more surplus from the direct laborers and pay the least possible to enablers. Usually, the disparity in resources brought to their conflicts favors the employers over the employees. Surpluses appropriated by employers tend to rise faster than real wages. This growing inequality ramifies throughout capitalist societies undermining whatever egalitarian tendencies might characterize their political and cultural aspects.

Of course, capitalism’s inequality tendencies can interact with its other dimensions (e.g. capitalist cycles) to provoke political and cultural backlashes that reverse capitalism’s inequalities. The reversals prove temporary because they are undone (reversal of the reversal) by capitalism’s underlying inequality tendencies. Thus, for example, the U.S. left in the 1930s (CIO unionization drives, large socialist and communist parties) forced a reversal of the extreme inequality built up in U.S. capitalism before 1929. Although that reversal lasted to the 1970s, it was then undone by the reassertion of capitalism’s usual underlying inequality tendencies. They reasserted themselves precisely because the underlying, exploitative class-qua-surplus structure of U.S. capitalism had not been transformed by the left’s social struggles and reforms of the 1930s or thereafter.

Similarly, capitalism’s organization of the surplus directly contradicts democracy and undermines it too when, temporarily, democratic moments occur. The direct contradiction lies in the organization of typical capitalist enterprises, large, medium and small. A tiny subset of the persons engaged in and by the enterprise usually owns and directs the enterprise: in corporations, for example, this subset comprises major shareholders and the boards of directors they select. The tiny subset can and virtually always does exclude the mass of employees from any participation in ownership or direction of the enterprise. The democratic logic – that persons affected by decisions have the right to participate in making them – is denied entry into the capitalist enterprise. In the market, one-person, one vote is displaced in favor of the altogether different one dollar, one vote. In the U.S., the democracy celebrated in the political sphere is banished from the economic sphere of social life.

This absence of democracy from the workplace – where adults spend most of their waking lives – undermines the capacity as well as the desire of individuals for democracy in politics. At the same time, the inequalities generated by capitalism provide employers with the disproportionate financial resources to shape politics and culture to their liking as opposed to that of the largely excluded masses. The results in the U.S. are democratic political forms but little real democratic content of politics. Periodic upsurges of democratic demands and even the occasional achievement of democratic reforms fail to last because the unchanged class-qua-surplus structure of capitalism works systemically against them.

Across Capital, Marx elaborates his class analysis of capitalism. In the first volume, his goal is to show where capitalism’s production and appropriation of surplus occur. In Capital’s second and third volumes, Marx explores how capitalists distribute the surpluses they appropriate from direct laborers. The surplus distributions are aimed primarily to secure certain conditions for the continuation of class exploitation, to provide means of production and consumption to the range of enablers of capitalist exploitation, its unproductive workers. These include supervisors who make sure direct laborers do their work, security guards who protect the enterprise, and an army of other enablers such as the secretaries, clerks, various managers, sales and purchasing personnel. This argument is spelled out in detail for the capitalist class process elsewhere.3

Capitalist production of the surplus positions and sustains the producing worker and the appropriating capitalist as its two poles. Capitalists’ surplus distributions to unproductive enablers thereby secure their capitalist positions as the surplus appropriators and distributors. The production of the surplus enables its distribution and vice-versa. For Marx, the class structure of the capitalist system refers to its unique organization of the production and distribution of the surplus.

Of course, the class structure’s reproduction is not assured or self-contained; it depends on all the myriad dimensions of its environment. The appropriators’ surplus distributions merely try to secure the class structure’s conditions of existence and reproduction by shaping as many of those dimensions as it can identify with the surplus available for those distributions. The surplus distributions may or may not succeed. Capitalists may not appropriate enough surplus to distributed the requisite quantities. There may be enough surplus, but the appropriators may divert too much to their own consumption or too little to secure one or another particular condition of existence of the class structure. How the surplus is distributed will shape the evolution of the class structure and thus the amount of surplus it generates. A class structure’s continual changes can and eventually do include its transformation into another, different class structure.

The Class Structure of Communism
Aspects of the capitalist class structure and of class-qua-surplus as a concept become clearer when applied to a non-capitalist class structure and, in particular, to the communist class structure as envisioned by Marx. The difference between the two class structures is simple and straightforward. Communist class structures are defined by the absence of exploitation. The producers and appropriators of the surplus in a communist class structure are the exact same people, whereas in the capitalist class structure, they are different people. In an enterprise whose class structure is communist, the productive laborers collectively are also the appropriators of the surpluses they produce. It then follows that they are also the surplus distributors. The productive laborers displace the capitalists who literally disappear from the communist class structure.

Of course, such communist producers/appropriators/distributors of the surplus need to sustain the enablers of the production of the communist surplus, the “unproductive” workers in communist enterprises. The distribution of communist surpluses defines two positions at its poles: the “productive workers” who are also the appropriators and distributors of the surplus, at one pole, and the recipients of distributed shares of the surplus, the “unproductive” workers at the other pole. As in all class structures, the process of distributing the surplus is the object of struggle between distributors and recipients. However, the key difference separating the communist from all exploitative class structures is this: in the latter, the exploiting class interposes itself between the productive and unproductive laborers. In the communist class structured enterprise, the productive and unproductive laborers negotiate directly with one another to determine together both the size and the distribution of the surplus.

The significance of this difference is huge. First, capitalists are in the position of distributing portions of the surplus to themselves (as owners, share holders and/or as top managerial executives). These portions are often and for obvious reasons large. The deep tendency toward inequality exhibited in and by capitalism is closely linked to who distributes its surpluses. The small minority that decides the distribution in capitalism serves itself and thereby worsens inequalities over time. The distribution of the surplus decided by productive and unproductive workers democratically acting together and without any capitalist would be much less unequal.

Second, consider the example of a technical change in the methods of production available to an enterprise, a change that both enhances profitability but is also ecologically dangerous or toxic. The capitalist enterprise will likely choose to implement the change because the extra profit means more to distribute. The capitalists making the decision are few and can finance escapes from the toxic consequences in terms of their living locations etc. The communist enterprise will likely choose otherwise, since its collective decision-makers (productive and unproductive workers deciding democratically) will weigh the health risks and costs that they, their families and neighbors will have to bear if the toxic technology is used. One cause of ecological damage would be reduced by a class change from capitalist to communist class structures in enterprises.

Third, consider the example of moving production from a relatively high-wage to a relatively low-wage location. Capitalists have been doing that in large numbers for nearly half a century, leaving north America, western Europe and Japan for China, India, Brazil and so on. Capitalists made those choices for their enterprises because relocation enabled them to extract more surpluses. They used those additional surpluses to better secure their conditions of existence but also to pay themselves higher salaries, dividends, etc. Had their enterprises been instead organized as communist class structured enterprises, their decision-makers (their productive and unproductive workers together democratically) would have evaluated relocation differently in terms of its impacts on them and their communities. The alternative class structures with their different sets of decision-makers would have identified, counted, and weighed costs and benefits differently and so reached different conclusions and decisions. The massive relocation of capitalist enterprises since the 1960s would have been far, far less of a social phenomenon had communist class structures of enterprise played larger roles in our economies.

On a more general level, inside a capitalist enterprise, its governance – the process of defining and choosing among alternative courses of action in and by the enterprise – is undemocratic. In the corporate form of capitalist enterprise – the major form in our time – the board of directors makes the basic decisions of what, how and where to produce and what to do with the net revenues and the profits. Boards of directors typically include 12-20 individuals elected by shareholders, or more accurately, by the few major shareholders (since elections assign one vote per share and share ownership is highly concentrated). The hundreds or thousands of corporate employees – the vast majority of persons working in those enterprises – are excluded from participating in the decisions made by the board of directors. Those employees depend on and live with the consequences of board decisions but have no role in making them.

The opposite is the case in a communist enterprise. There, the combined productive and unproductive workers collectively and democratically make the decisions assigned to boards of directors in capitalist enterprises. The democracy of enterprise governance intrinsic to the communist class structure supports and reinforces democracy in the governance of residence communities. Democratizing the enterprise – in class terms, converting it from a capitalist into a communist class structure – is a way of converting formal into real political democracy.

The Varieties of Class Analyses
The basic logic of class-qua-surplus analysis entails asking the same basic question wherever and whenever production occurs in any society. If, at any site in a society, human beings are using their brains and muscles to transform objects given in nature into what they or other human beings deem useful objects, then production is happening there. The following question then applies: is a surplus being produced at that site? If the answer is yes, class analysis follows. That is, the specifics of the production and distribution of the surplus are investigated to determine how they participate in shaping the economic, political and cultural aspects of the society in which the production occurs.

We can answer the class analytical question with a simple “no.” Production can occur without the production of a surplus being involved. When someone walks through the woods and carves a piece of wood into a figurine the carver gives to a nearby child, no surplus – and hence no class process – is involved. If, however, the carving in the woods is by a wage-receiving carver with a knife and raw wood provided by an employer who receives and sells the resulting figurines, a surplus is involved. Class analysis does then apply.

So far – and in the tradition of most economic analyses – we have limited discussion to the enterprise as the social site of production. Now we can relax that limit. Production occurs at other social sites such as the household and the state, among others.

In households over the last two centuries, as capitalist class structures have spread across enterprises, capitalist class structures have NOT similarly prevailed among households. Households certainly are sites of production. Raw foods are transformed by labor, tools and equipment into finished meals; unclean rooms and clothing are transformed into neat and clean residences and outfits, and so on. Moreover, the direct performers of the labors of cooking, cleaning, etc. produce more output than they themselves consume, a household surplus. It is possible to identify the appropriator and distributor of that surplus and hence to pinpoint the class structure of the household.

Across most U.S. history, the traditional household displayed an internal class structure quite different from the capitalist class structure of most enterprises. Inside households, no wages or market exchanges or profits existed. Rather, elaborate customs and traditions, often sanctified by religious doctrines and rituals, specified who produced the surplus, when, where and how, and likewise who appropriated it. Traditional rules of home and family life likewise governed to whom (to which enablers) the appropriator distributed what portions of the household surplus to secure the conditions of existence of the household’s class structure.

In traditional U.S. households, the adult wife produced the household surplus, often helped by children once they were old enough to work. The husband appropriated the surplus and distributed it to others inside and outside the household in ways likewise sanctioned by traditions and religions. In these households, the surplus-performing wives were not the slaves of their husbands, nor their wage-earning employees. The wives were not equals in a communist class structured household sharing the surplus producing but also surplus appropriating positions inside households. Rather, the typical household class structure in the US most resembles the feudal class structure of medieval Europe.4

It follows that modern “capitalist societies” have a much more complex and variegated class structure than economic analyses and the adjective “capitalist” have recognized. Their households have often been the sites of very different, non-capitalist class structures. That means that individuals in those societies were engaged with, participated in and were shaped in part by multiple, different class structures. Class-qua-surplus analysis generates a much more complex, nuanced analysis of individuals and groups than merely locating them in relation to property and power distributions or merely locating them in relation to the particular surplus organization of enterprises.

The state may also be a social site of production and class. This occurs, for example, if and when officials of the state establish – as their state function – productive organizations in which surplus are produced, appropriated and distributed. Popular language has often depicted these organizations as “state enterprises” precisely because they do what enterprises outside the state do. Thus state enterprises have become differentiated from “private” enterprises in recognitions of what we here describe as production and class occurring in the state. In the U.S., for example, state governments own and operate state institutions of higher learning that produce and sell college and university credits to students; the federal government sells postal services and train services to the public; local governments sell transport services; and so on. In such state institutions, surpluses get produced, appropriated, and distributed. Such institutions include productive and unproductive workers. Unlike households, the class structures at the site of the state – in state enterprises – do largely replicate the capitalist structure found in private enterprises.

Class-qua-surplus analyses of the state have some provocative implications. For example, increasing the size and productive role of state enterprises – say at the expense of private enterprises – has nothing to do with any change in the society’s class structure from capitalist to something non-capitalist, say “socialist.” Such an argument misunderstands what class means or defines it in terms other than the organization of the surplus. Government enterprises can, and in modern times often have been, capitalist in their class structures just as private enterprises have been. More government and less private production merely changes the site of capitalist class structures; it has not been a displacement of capitalism for an alternative system – at least so far as class–qua-surplus is concerned.

Only if the state enterprises were organized to produce and distribute surpluses in a different, non-capitalist way would the shift from private to state production also entail a shift from capitalist to non-capitalist class structures of production. If state enterprises were required to operate as communist class structures, for example, such that their productive workers would also function, collectively and democratically, as appropriators and distributors of the surpluses they produced, then the shift from private to state would coincide with a shift from capitalist to communist class structures of production.

Class & Income
The class-qua-surplus analysis of income is simple and straightforward. An individual obtains income by being a performer of surplus labor (and therefore paid a wage or salary for that performance) and/or by being a recipient of distributions of the surplus. The capitalist is merely a middle-person, someone who appropriates the surplus and then distributes it. Little income accrues to the capitalist per se (indeed, corporate boards of directors typically receive little pay for their services on such boards).

Productive workers who produce surpluses get wages – the non-surplus portion of the value added by their labor. Unproductive laborers also get wages, but those are portions of the surplus appropriated by capitalists from productive laborers. Capitalists then distribute such portions to unproductive laborers for securing certain conditions of existence of capitalist production. Class-qua-surplus analysis thus differentiates productive from unproductive wages. These are different payments for very different things: either producing surplus or else enabling others to produce surplus. Productive and unproductive laborers may or may not recognize, be conscious of their differences. They may think of themselves as nearly identical, say by focusing on their shared experience of being paid wages. Or they may differentiate themselves by the specific tasks they do such as white collar versus blue collar.

Class-qua-surplus analysis differentiates them otherwise, according to their very different relationship to the organization of the surplus. One produces it while the other enables that production in exchange for a distributed portion of the surplus. From the standpoint of class-qua-surplus analysis, concepts such as “the wage-earning class” or “the working class” are problematic. All wage-earners or workers are not occupants of the same class position. They divide into two different class positions likely to generate different perspectives on how the economy and society function, different notions of what is to be done to improve and change the economy, and different social change strategies.

Of course, if the goal is to unify productive and unproductive workers into a combined social force, then class-qua-surplus analysis would entail the need to recognize and accommodate their class differences to construct and sustain that unity. Assuming the unity because they are all wage-earners, working class, etc. would not be strategically appropriate or likely very effective. Indeed, to head off such unity, capitalists and their ideological supporters have long stressed other differences among wage-earners (age, gender, race, skills, education, ethnicity, white versus blue collar, etc.). Just as constructing unity among them has required learning to recognize and accommodate the reality of those differences, it also requires doing likewise for their class-qua-surplus differences. Otherwise, efforts to build unity risk failure.

Relatively few individuals become rich from the wage or salary payments they earn as producers of surplus. Wealth accrues chiefly to those in a position to secure large portions of distributed surpluses from the surplus appropriators. Major shareholders thus secure wealth by receiving dividend payments. Top managers secure huge salaries and pay packages that are surplus distributions. Lenders and landlords obtain interest and rentals from appropriators of the surplus who secure access to money and land – conditions of their surplus appropriation – by distributing such portions of the surpluses they appropriate. Here lies another importance of private property since that is what allows the owners of means of production (land, money, etc.) to withhold it from production. Those owners enable access to their means of production – so production can occur – only if they get interest and rental payments from the surpluses appropriated and distributed in capitalist enterprises.

Because a communist class-qua-surplus structure effectively democratizes the enterprise, the productive laborers appropriate and distribute the surplus they produce. The specific recipients of the surplus and how much of it is distributed to each of them is decided by the collective of both productive and unproductive workers. Theirs will be a far less unequal distribution than what results from the undemocratic surplus distribution decisions of major shareholders and boards of directors (who tend to give themselves the largest distributions).

Class Struggles
Marx’s class-qua-surplus analysis crucially differentiates class struggles. First of all, the major focus is upon class as the object of struggle, not its subject. Given the complexities of class analysis discussed above, the notion of a “class” as a social actor is very problematical. Class-qua-surplus as the object of social struggles has a quantitative and a qualitative dimension. The quantitative dimension concerns (1) the size of the surplus produced and appropriated, and (2) the sizes of the portions of the surplus distributed to its various recipients. Social groups struggle over those quantitative dimensions. For example, productive workers struggle with capitalists over the size of the wages paid to them, the length of the working day, and other aspects of the production and appropriation of the capitalist surplus. To take another example, capitalists struggle with governments over the size of the portion of the capitalist surplus delivered to governments as taxes on profits. Class struggles over the quantitative dimensions of surplus production and distribution are a more or less constant feature of class structures, slave and feudal as well as capitalist.

Sometimes, accumulated political and cultural conflicts coalesce with economic conflicts to provoke struggles over the qualitative dimensions of class-qua-surplus. Then the object of struggle is, for example, a capitalist class structure for enterprises versus a non-capitalist class structure. In the United States today, a social movement embraces worker cooperatives as a preferred alternative to capitalist corporations. Much of that movement does not yet grasp the relationship between such a movement and Marx’s definition of the class differences between these two alternative organizations of enterprises’ production and distribution of surpluses. Nonetheless, it represents an early stage in a class struggle over the qualitative dimensions of class.

↩ Revealingly, at the same time in the USSR applications of class analysis to the USSR were likewise banished on the parallel grounds of their irrelevance to the post-class structure of Soviet society.
↩ See this argument made in detail for the entirety of Soviet history: Stephen Resnick and Richard Wolff, Class Theory and History: Capitalism, Communism and the USSR. New York and London: Routledge, 2002.
↩ See Resnick and Wolff, Knowledge and Class: A Marxian Critique of Political Economy. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1987, chapter 3; and Wolff and Resnick, Contending Economic Theories: Neoclassical, Keynesian and Marxian. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012, chapter 4.
↩ See the detailed class analyses of households gathered in Graham Cassano, Ed., Class Struggle on the Home Front: Work, Conflict, and Exploitation in the Household. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Note that if households were reduced to sites where no production was undertaken, where only consumption occurred, class-qua-surplus analysis would not apply.
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‘Left needed now more than ever before’-Interview with Bilgrami. By JIPSON JOHN and JITHEESH P.M.

Posted by admin On April - 3 - 2018 Comments Off on ‘Left needed now more than ever before’-Interview with Bilgrami. By JIPSON JOHN and JITHEESH P.M.


THE following is the second part of the interview with Akeel Bilgrami. The first part was published in the Frontline issue dated March 30, 2018.

Secularism is essentially a modern idea that originated in European circumstances where the epistemological premise and actual practice of secularism was based on the simple idea of separation of church and state. But in multireligious societies such as India, defining secularism both theoretically and practically gets difficult. Some say that secularism is pseudo and Western and not suited to India. Some others—and this is generally accepted—such as S. Radhakrishnan, and later the Supreme Court of India, characterised secularism as “Sarva Dharma Sambhava” in the Indian context. You go beyond that and bring the priority of political ideals while defining secularism. Is Indian secularism flawed? How would you define secularism?

The first thing we need to do is to distinguish between secularisation and secularism. “Secularisation” is the name of a process of social and ideational transformation. The process was first studied under that name by Max Weber. Weber used such terms as “disenchantment” to further elaborate the nature of the process of secularisation. This transformation was characterised in two different rhetorics—“the death of God” and “the decline of magic”. These different ways of characterising it were respectively tracking a decrease in belief or doctrine on the one hand, and religious practice and rituals on the other. Loss of belief in God or in the myths of creation and so on was one aspect, the doctrinal aspect of secularisation. Decrease in churchgoing and in religious dietary habits or pious habits of dress and so on was the other aspect, the practical aspect of secularisation.

“Secularism”, by contrast, is not the name for a general process of social and ideational transformation of this sort, but the name of a much more specific thing, a political doctrine. It’s not concerned with loss of religious belief and practice but is rather an attempt to steer the polity and its institutions and its laws away from the direct influence of religion. (Indirect influence is another matter. Where there is not much secularisation, there is bound to be some indirect influence of religion on the polity, but secularism seeks to prevent any direct bearing of religion on the polity.)

This distinction, even though it is important, is obvious. It is obvious because it is possible for a person to be secularist without being secularised. A highly devout (therefore not secularised) person can be completely secularist. Also, some place can be completely secularist without being much secularised at all—such as the heartland of the United States.
You rightly say that it originated in Europe—both secularisation and secularism did. And your question is about secularism in particular, not secularisation. In coming to understand what secularism is (as with all concepts of that sort) one has two tasks. One is the historical task of tracing genealogically its sources and rationale—when and why it emerged, what function it served, and so on. And the second task is to give an analysis of the concept, to define it or, if not define it, at least to characterise it in analytic terms. And we have to balance the historical and the analytical sides of our understanding. If one’s analysis or definition completely ignored the historical rationale of the concept, it would be just an arbitrary stipulation. One has to keep some faith with the genealogical sources in history and intellectual history as one applies the term at a later time and in different places. So, it’s a complex business.

Let’s ask what prompted the rise of “secularism” as a concept and a doctrine about politics and the law? Here is a narrative I have told in various writings, which I think abstracts from a lot of detail but nevertheless tries to capture a broad and minimal historical truth and a truth of conceptual history.

In 17th century Europe, with the scientific revolutions that came to establish what we call “modern” science, older ways of justifying the state and the exercise of state power that appealed to the “divine right” of the kings and queens who personified the state came to be viewed as outdated. As a result, at first, high philosophy was mobilised in what is called “social contract” theory to justify state power and this was done in different interpretations of the contractualist ground for the state by Hobbes and Locke. But these philosophical theories did not really resonate with ordinary people. Legitimacy for state power with a wider appeal had to be forged. So, a new form of justification of state power was sought, neither in theology nor in high philosophy, but in human psychology. What do I mean by that? Before I say what I mean, let me also point out another development just at that time, the spawning of a new kind of entity by the Westphalian peace, the nation, something for which a more centralised kind of state power was needed, integrating hitherto much more scattered locations of power. Slowly, this kind of state and this new kind of entity, the nation, were indissolubly fused, a fusion that was expressed by a hyphen, the nation-state. Now, to return to the matter of the justification of the state: as I said, there was a turn from divine right to human psychology. One had to create a feeling in the populace to ground the legitimacy of the state. But the feeling was not to be directly for the state but rather for the left-hand side of the hyphenated conjunction. It was to be a feeling for this new phenomenon called the nation with which the state was undecouplably joined, thereby legitimising the right-hand side of the hyphenated conjunction, the state and the exercise of its power over the territory of the nation. Only later, this feeling came to be called “nationalism”.

But the key question remains: how was this feeling generated in the populace of these newly emerging “nations” in Europe?
All over Europe, this was done by an absolutely standard method—finding and naming some segment of the population within the territory, declaring them to be an enemy, an external enemy within the nation, and declaring further that the nation was “ours”, “not theirs”. The Jews, the Irish, the Catholics in Protestant countries, the Protestants in Catholic countries… are all familiar examples of these targets. Much later, when numerical and statistical forms of discourse began to be used to study society and politics, terms such as “minority” and “majority” were coined and this strategy came to be called “majoritarianism”. Frequently the majorities and minorities involved in these nation-building exercises were religious ones. That’s Europe for you, Europe and its history of the rise and consolidation of nations. If you think what is happening in India today is uniquely ours, it really all started in Europe. The very idea of such nationalism is European.

Now, as a result of this religious majoritarianism, there were very often religious minoritarian backlashes against it and this gave rise to tremendous civil strife in European nations, and in the face of such strife it began to be felt that religion itself having such a political profile was the problem, even though the initial fault line lay in religious majoritarianism. And so it was that secularism emerged to correct this religious source of strife by steering religion out of the orbit of the polity and its institutions, steering it to places of personal life only or at most to sites of “civil society”, which was defined as the space of public life that was outside of the orbit of the polity and the law. That is the origin of secularism, a doctrine constructed to repair a very specific damage done by the pursuit of European ideals of nationalism.


So, are you saying India followed Europe in this trajectory?

That’s the interesting thing. Through much of the last century, it did not. It would be hard to spell out in detail what I mean by that—you may want to look at a long article I’ve written on precisely the question you are asking (It’s in the Oxford Companion to Indian Philosophy). Let me sum it up as best I can.

In it, I present the analysis above of the origins of secularism and I argue that the reason why neither Gandhi nor Nehru (yes, not even Nehru) talked of secularism at all through the long freedom movement (except a little bit in the 1940s) is precisely that they thought that the damage that secularism was constructed to repair had never occurred in India. They understood very well from Europe’s history the context in which secularism is relevant and they made it clear that India never provided that context because India had never gone through that process of nation-building that is peculiarly European. In other words, neither of India’s two most prominent leaders subscribed to secularism in those long years. There really is no difference between Nehru and Gandhi on this point. So the question is, what was their thinking during those decades of the freedom movement, if, for this reason I am giving, secularism was not central to their thinking?
I think if you take a careful look at The Discovery of India, Nehru’s view (and Gandhi was much more explicit on the matter) was that unlike in Europe, India’s unselfconscious pluralism of the last many centuries was never undermined by this form of nationalism. That book by Nehru is often misunderstood as being the Nehru who departed from his modernist outlook. This is a misunderstanding. What he was really reaching to say in it is that India’s so- called spiritual unity of the past must be understood as being deeply pluralist in both religion and culture. It was not a unity based on the exclusion of religions other than Hinduism but an inclusion of other religions and cultures in a completely unselfconscious pluralism. And, in his mind, this pluralist historical unity provided the ground for a freedom movement that would replay that pluralism in the theatre of anti-imperialist mobilisation, a mobilisation that would reflect that pluralism which included all religious groups. This would constitute a quite different nationalism from the nationalism in Europe. It would redefine nationalism as inclusionary anti-imperialism. And, as a result, secularism would be beside the point since secularism is relevant only when a quite different nationalism generates a damage that I presented in my remarks above, and which secularism is then introduced as a self-conscious political doctrine to correct that loss of this unselfconscious pluralism.

Now, of course, this interpretation of Nehru’s (and Gandhi’s) thought on these issues would only be confirmed or verified if their actions supported it. And in that paper, I look to their efforts at various moments in the freedom struggle to mobilise in this inclusionary way to confirm it—such as the Khilafat movement and the Muslim mass contact campaign, and the dynamic and progressive effects of these movements on Indian politics.

Hence, I would say that in pre-independent India, secularism did not loom large in the thinking or rhetoric of the main leaders of the freedom struggle except towards the end of that struggle when it was clear that in the acrimonies prior to Partition there was a kind of religious strife that was mimicking the European model. And I think that this fact that I am stressing (i.e., secularism not looming large as an issue in India in all those years of the freedom movement) is entirely in keeping with the historical rationale for secularism. In other words, the historical European context for the rise and relevance of secularism was simply missing in India, in the eyes of both Gandhi and Nehru.

OK, if that is the historical rationale for secularism, would you now say a bit on the analytical part of how to understand secularism? How would you define “secularism” in India? Do you agree that it is a different secularism?

No, I don’t agree with that. Amartya Sen said many years ago that secularism in India was not the Western idea of separation of church and state, but rather it was the idea of the state maintaining a neutrality and equidistance between different religions. (Actually, you quote Radhakrishnan, and apparently it was Radhakrishnan who had said it before Sen—as Irfan Habib pointed out to me. But I have only read Sen, and also Charles Taylor who has been saying the same thing as Sen though not about India.)
I don’t believe there is any peculiarly Indian secularism. I think these views are based on a misunderstanding and they don’t illuminate things either historically or analytically. There was indeed a lot of talk about neutrality between religions—you will find it, for instance in the Karachi Resolution of 1931 adopted by the Congress—but it was never intended as a definition of “secularism”. Not at all. What, then, is the relation between such talk of neutrality between religions and secularism? Well, in order to answer that you have to first turn from the historical points I’ve been making to give what you are asking for, an analytical account or definition of secularism.

In India, “secularism” came to be defined just as it was in Europe, but we have not been clear about what that definition is because existing definitions have too frequently relied on thoroughly misleading slogans and metaphors such as “separation of religion and state” or “wall of separation between religion and state”. In Europe, once religion, in the realm of the polity, became a target of secularist policy for the historically motivated reasons I have mentioned above, the familiar and celebrated formulation of a range of rights and constitutional principles became the natural and obvious source from which secularist policy sought to target and constrain religious practices from directly entering the orbit of the polity.

These were precisely the sources which became relevant in the Indian context after Independence, and talk of secularism was inevitable in the constitutional issues that came to be debated and resolved through the legal process in the reform of religious law in the Hindu Code Bill. Thus, in order to define secularism (whether in Europe or in India), we have to look at how all this was done and draw a definition out of it. Clearly, a definition that uses the metaphor of the wall of separation will not do since the state was violating or perforating that wall by interpreting and re-interpreting Hindu law in order to reform it. That makes nonsense out of the metaphorical definition of secularism since it would amount to violating secularism (by this metaphorical definition of secularism) in order to bring about secularist reforms of religion. That is why I think we should abandon the metaphor and the slogan of separation as confused and formulate things differently, giving a different analytic account of secularism that accurately models what happened in Europe—and in India during the 1950s.

How, then, would you define it?
As I said, you have to look at constitutions and lawmaking and reform, and when you do you will find that both in Europe (France does not quite fit the pattern, but let’s put that aside for now) and the United States and in India, two basic conditions were taken for granted in any analytical understanding of secularism. 1) There was a constitutional commitment to religious freedom, to freedom of religious belief and practice. And, 2), there was a constitutional commitment to certain rights and principles that did not mention either religion or opposition to religion—commitments, for example, to freedom of speech or to gender equality, and so on. And I have defined secularism by first specifying these two commitments and then pointing out that there was a third higher-order commitment which says that if there is any clash between these two first-order commitments, then commitment 2) must be placed before commitment 1). I call this a lexicographical ordering. It basically says that if any religious practice whose freedom to be exercised is granted by 1) clashes with any principle or right articulated in 2), then these latter principles or rights will have priority over that religious practice. That’s it. That’s the meaning of secularism—two first-order commitments and one higher-order commitment about how to order them. That’s exactly how religion’s direct influence on the polity was kept at bay in Europe and in Indian reforms, even while allowing quite a lot of religious freedom in constitutions. In this definition or characterisation of secularism, I have not said a word about any wall of separation, but instead tried to capture what that metaphor was very confusedly trying to get at.

Now, France—and also Kemalist Turkey—didn’t always quite fit this analytical characterisation of secularism, partly because they did not always have the same commitment to 1) above. Does this mean that my definition of secularism is wrong? I don’t think so because in failing to stress 1) both these countries crossed over from secularism to state-sponsored secularisation. And I am only trying to define secularism.


So, what do you have to say about all this talk of neutrality and equidistance between religions that are said to define secularism in India?

I think that is just confusion. There was constant talk about such neutrality but it should not be used to define secularism. Secularism is secularism, whether here or in Europe, where it began. And this lexicographical ordering definition captures what is meant by it. This talk of neutrality is not an alternative definition of secularism, but rather it should be seen as a side-constraint on the only definition of secularism there is—the lexicographical ordering one.

What do I mean by a side-constraint? Well, when you apply or implement the lexicographical ordering that defines secularism, you must apply it neutrally and fairly to all the different religious groups, not favouring any.
So, for instance, the side-constraint was violated in Britain when in the case of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, the British government gave lexicographical priority to 2) (in particular the constitutional right to free speech) over the Muslim religious belief in censorship of blasphemy, but failed to give the same lexicographical priority to 2) when there was a demand from Christian groups led by Mary Whitehouse that Kazantzakis’ book The Last Temptation of Christ be banned for blasphemy. Rushdie’s book was not banned, Kazantzakis’ was. The state failed to show neutrality between Christianity and Islam and the side-constraint was violated.

So, I would say that the neutrality idea is only relevant to the implementation of secularism (as this kind of side-constraint), but it is not relevant to defining what is being implemented, secularism—which has only the one definition it has always had whether in Europe or here, captured in the lexicographical ordering idea.


You mention the Hindu Code Bill as a secularist move in India, but there has also been a great deal of discussion of Muslim personal law remaining unreformed to this day. How does that affect secularism in India? That does not fit your definition of secularism, does it?

Yes, that’s been the subject of intense discussion in recent decades. But it does not do anything to alter my view of what secularism is.

I think one way to interpret the refusal to reform Muslim personal law—in my view, the wrong way to interpret it—is to see it as a kind of granting of minority rights to a minority religious group in the domain of family culture. And many Muslim leaders in the Constituent Assembly debates did argue for leaving Muslim personal law unreformed on those grounds. But I don’t think their view is what carried the day. If it had, it would have been a repudiation of secularism in the lexicographical ordering sense that I am characterising it.

But, in fact, the refusal to reform Muslim personal law was not done in the name of granting minorities some special “rights to their culture”, as it is sometimes said. Rather, I think it should be seen as a kind of affirmative action move. That is a slightly misleading thing to say because the analogy with affirmative action is not perfect.

But, imperfect thought it is, there is a point to the analogy. What I mean is that because of what Muslims had gone through as a result of Partition (the trauma and the loss of their numbers to large-scale migration to Pakistan, loss of their zamindari in India, the inevitable loss of their language, and so on), it was argued that they should be allowed to retain their own personal laws until such time as they recovered their confidence from their trauma and these losses to be able to accept the state’s eventual reform of their personal laws.
This temporal qualifier makes it clear that the lexicographical ordering secularist ideal was not being put aside for Muslims by this concession to their personal laws (as it would have been if the concession was made in the name of giving them some minority right to their own culture), but it was only being put in abeyance for them (just as affirmative action gives certain advantages to minorities till such time as they are able to join the majorities in one or other respect, materially, psychologically…). So, nothing about granting them their own laws amounted to a repudiation in principle of the lexicographical ordering conception of secularism.

I don’t deny that there is a question now about how long this situation of unreformed laws has lasted. But the fact is: that question has been marred by the politics of Hindutva, which constantly raises this whole issue as a part of their general harassment of Muslims. And, in turn, when there is such harassment, the intended confidence that Muslims were supposed to have acquired over the years to eventually accept state reform of personal law, is precisely what they have not psychologically acquired.

In that paper of mine I mentioned earlier, I talk of the tremendous confidence that Muslims gained, especially in Bengal in the C.R. Das period (but really in many other parts of the country as well and at the level of all classes) as a result of the dynamic effects of the Khilafat movement. It is this confidence, engendered by the effects of these inclusive mobilisations, which prompted them to support all sorts of progressive policies—for example both on the question of women’s suffrage and on the reform of land tenancy.

If you compare the present ethos for Muslims in India with what Gandhi, Nehru and others were trying to create with such inclusive efforts as the Khilafat movement, you will get a sense of how far we have travelled from the nationalism of Gandhi and Nehru.

What would you say are the consequences of this major change in the kind of nationalisms in India from the period before Independence to the present? Is Hindutva nationalism a completely new thing or did it always exist?

You know I have rather strong views on this subject. First of all, let me just finish the line of thought I had started about secularism and then address this important question you raise.

I had said that secularism was and is relevant when there is a damage of a certain kind to be repaired. And I said that leave alone Gandhi, even Nehru argued that there was no such damage during almost the entire period of the freedom struggle, so secularism was irrelevant to the Indian context. This just follows from my point about the historical context for the relevance of secularism.
In fact, I would argue that the European model of nationalism only set in, in India, as late as the 1980s. The reasons for this are various and it would be too long to go into them in detail. But since the 1980s the European model of nationalism that I presented in answer to your initial question has been replicated in India, and, therefore, secularism is absolutely and centrally and urgently relevant in our time and place. If Gandhi were alive today, he would be the strongest voice for secularism, and he would be mobilising millions against this deplorable regime.

Now, to turn to your last question, in a way I’ve already answered it by saying that nationalism of the European variety set in in India only in the 1980s. But I know that there are a lot of people who say that Hindutva was already there in the 1920s and was present in the Mahasabhite element even with the Congress since then. And, of course, Hindutva ideologues now say that the Khilafat movement, which I was describing as a highly inclusive movement with dynamically progressive effects on Muslims, was in fact a disastrous communal mobilisation of Muslims that sowed the seeds of Muslim communalism. (Actually, this is said not only by the Hindu Right, it is also said by many secularists, including secular Muslims—I just recently heard Javed Akhtar make that claim. Even Jinnah said that sort of thing, though in Jinnah’s case it was really a fear of the mass politics unleashed by Khilafat that motivated him to say things like that.)

I think these views are quite mistaken. They are not good historical sense. When thinking of the historical past in these ways, I think we have to distinguish conceptually between two things, distinguish between what I would call “roots” and “antecedents”. There were, no doubt, antecedents of Hindu nationalism (and Muslim communalism) going back a long way. But those were not the roots of current Hindutva nationalism.

For something to be the root of some current phenomenon, one has to historically track an organic causal path from the earlier episodes and attitudes to the current events, but there is no such tracking that is or can be plausibly made by people who take this view of things.


Can you say what was special about the 1980s that made possible the Hindutva turn that you say did not really exist in any deep sense before?
Well, there is a lot to say about that. It is a complex set of circumstances in which it emerged. It needs careful study and elaboration. I couldn’t possibly even begin to say all that needs to be said. But let me just say that one salient factor was the rise of a certain kind of caste politics as a consequence of the Mandal Commission report. This politics alarmed upper-caste Hindus and they used all the power of their ideological (and cultural) surround to start a concerted nationwide campaign to try and give the impression (a false one, of course) that Hinduism was not divided by very serious caste divisions as the aftermath of Mandal was exposing it to be. And in order to trump up a unified and undivided picture of Hinduism, they turned to exactly the European model—finding an external enemy within the nation, the Muslims, to be despised and subjugated. It was a very deliberate ploy and it was effective in transforming the relatively low-key Jan Sangh politics to the high-intensity Bharatiya Janata Party politics and the politics of the Sangh Parivar that we have been witnessing in these past three decades.

All this is being replayed right now, though it is not OBC [Other Backward Classes] but Dalit politics that is exposing how divided Hinduism is, so there is the same intensification of hostility against the Muslim external enemy to try and conjure a fake carapace of Hindu unity (even as Dalits too are being viciously attacked behind the carapace).

I also think we must be honest and admit to another more subtle and less conspicuous, but not negligible, factor that emerged just a little before the 1980s which helped later in the successes of Hindutva politics in the 1980s. We cannot deny that the Hindu Right in our country gained some moral high ground in the fallout of the mobilisations against the Emergency because they showed some courage in resisting Indira Gandhi’s Emergency regime in a way that the centre-Left (who were much more powerful then than they are now) certainly did not. Of course, it is a moral high ground they did not deserve at all because they have turned to an authoritarianism that is even more sinister than what we saw during the Emergency, so it has become clear that their motives in opposing the Emergency were quite cynical. But the perception of the Hindu Right as a potentially central force in Indian politics certainly did gain from the reputation they had gained during the opposition to the Emergency. And that potential came to be actualised a few years later.

There’s a lot more to say but I won’t try and say it now.


Can you speak more on the first point about caste? There is a great deal of agitation around caste issues again now. What is your position and what generally should the Left position on this kind of identity politics be? All these issues arose during the Mandal period and they are arising in a different form now, when the focus is more on Dalits. Is Left politics capable of accommodating caste identity politics?
This is a question that has dogged the Left for a long time, and though the issues are difficult, it is not as if there can be no clarity on what is at stake. Some on the liberal Left (for very different reasons from the upper-caste Hindus) opposed the Mandal Commission report, as you will recall. They were simply wrong. There is no need for the Left to oppose affirmative action of that sort. It’s a crass liberal qualm, showing no humanity or sympathy for historically oppressed people. In the West, it’s a kind of faux-liberal attitude that conservatives invoke. They invoke, like a mantra, all this ridiculous talk of “standards” and “merit” that will be abandoned by Mandal-style affirmative action in the reservation policy. I constantly heard it in Delhi drawing rooms when I was there during the Mandal period, including in some of my own family’s drawing rooms. I remember saying in a television interview in Delhi, when asked whether a merit-based form of employment and education would not be undermined by Mandal, that “such merit as I had, I exercised for about twenty minutes a month—for the rest, almost anyone could do what I did”. That is not just a flamboyant thing to say. I mean that entirely seriously.

This entire line of liberal thought is just tiresome scaremongering by the more privileged middle classes. It is just an expression of middle-class careerist anxieties about previously deprived people making inroads into their own prospects. There is no serious or convincing reason for opposing affirmative action of this kind. And the Left never really opposed it. It was only metropolitan liberal and liberal-left types who did, including students and prospective students (with careerist tendencies) of that class.

But putting aside Mandal itself, there is the rise of caste-based parliamentary politics in its wake that has dominated Indian politics ever since the Mandal period and it is undoubtedly an identity politics. And you ask: what should the Left’s general position on this be? I suppose you ask this because the Left has always stressed class identity over other forms of identity, even often arguing that other forms of identity parochialise politics in a way that class struggle does not.

I think the issues here are quite straightforward and not difficult to sort out.
It would be quite wrong to stress class identity over other identities if that amounts to a denial that there are other sources than class status or material inequality that give rise to the disrespect that some people show towards another. There are many other sources of disrespect, and (even though class and caste overwhelmingly do coincide) caste status is certainly an independent source of disrespect from class—and a very deep and pervasive one in our country, just as race is in the country of my domicile. These other forms of disrespect are deeply embedded in the practice of discrimination at different levels, including discrimination that lead to stark material inequalities, but not restricted to that. Such discrimination and disrespect often need to be addressed directly and not just indirectly via the general addressing of material inequalities in society, on which Left analysis often focusses and sometimes focusses too exclusively. Various forms of legislation can address it directly, as can various regional and local policies of upliftment, and, of course, affirmative action policy in one or other form is the most standard way of such direct address.

But having said that, the Left is certainly right about one thing. Let me get to it, by asking a question: If the gains that have been made in India for many backward castes as a result of caste-based parliamentary politics (or the gains that have been made on the race and gender front in many democratic capitalist countries) had deeply undermined capital or, to put it less abstractly, if they had deeply undermined the corporate stranglehold in these societies, including in India, would those gains have been allowed to happen? I think the answer has to be “No!” And if that is the right answer, then that is some kind of proof that class identity is, in some sense, more basic than these other identities of caste, gender, and race. Now, you could, of course, put this question in converse form: If the gains made in removing class inequalities had undermined Brahmanism or patriarchy or racialism and so on, would those gains have been allowed to happen? But the trouble is that I don’t have any confidence in how to go about answering this latter question, partly because the first clause of the question (the antecedent of the conditional, the clause which begins with “If…”) has so manifestly not been realised in fact. Perhaps the answer here again is “No”, but I can’t marshal the right form of evidence for that answer with the same assurance as I can about the previous question that reveals the more fundamental status of class over other categories.


Can you speak more concretely to the political scene as you find it today? Earlier you had said in “Frontline” that we have a movement vacuum in India, and you said the Left cannot do anything just by itself at the moment and that a wide spectrum—united front—set of alliances was needed to fight what you described as the “compulsively authoritarian” and “neoliberal” government in power today. If that is the case, then what about the emerging Dalit movements? And what kinds of alliances or movements are needed to challenge the right-wing Hindutva politics?
Alright, first, just to express my abstract point in more concrete terms, and then answer your further question, it would be foolish to deny that measurable amelioration has come from caste-based parliamentary politics. When we look back a century or so from now at Indian democracy in this period since the late 1980s, we will observe that one of the real achievements of democracy (one person, one vote) in our country since Independence is that groups such as Lingayats, Yadavs and others, who had no power or prosperity hitherto, have gained some in recent decades. How can anyone resent such improvement in the lives of people without being mean-spirited? So, the point cannot be to deny that these advantages have accrued from democratic identity politics for people who never before had any status or material chances in life.

But no such gains have been made by Dalits and, in fact, their oppression has been intensified in the open season for it, that has been declared in the society at large by the very presence of this quasi-fascist government that is in power. It is very heartening that Dalits have shown real agency in fighting this oppression in the last two or three years.

Muslims, by contrast, have gone into their shells in fear of the menace that surrounds their daily life (it does not have to be overt violence against them, though as we know there is a great deal of that too, just the menace of the constant possibility of impending violence—something well-captured in a fine film by Nandita Das called Firaaq, if you recall—has struck terror in Muslims and they have withdrawn from fighting back as they did in the period after the Babri Masjid destruction).

But Dalit movements, in response to a series of recent episodes of brutality against them, have been one of the only bright things in the horizon of Indian politics. And someone like Jignesh Mevani’s mobilising words and actions have articulated more forcefully and elegantly, and less ponderously, the point I made above about what is correct about the Left point of view on identity politics and what is also importantly correct about caste identity politics, too, regarding the discrimination owing to sources other than class. He is valorously struggling to articulate an integration of what is right in both points of view and out of this might emerge a more vibrant politics of the Left. It is a quite fresh kind of politics because even as it articulates the “empowerment of oppressed castes” side of Ambedkar, it also at the same time articulates the “annihilation of caste” side of Ambedkar.

In that sense, it is a real advance on the caste-based politics that we know of from the post-Mandal period. I think the latter, by and large, only stressed the empowerment side. It was a politics of bargaining only and thus it remained an identitarian politics. What we are seeing today is something larger and that is really most encouraging.

Can you please say a little bit about the role for Left politics in relation to these emerging forces?
It has to be said that it is young leaders like Mevani and Kanhaiya Kumar and others (and there are other small sparks such as, for instance, the farmers’ meet in Delhi in November 2017) who are showing more energy and initiative than many of the well-known Left leaders in parliamentary politics.

If the organised Left were to come out of its demoralisation and join these forces and movements in alliances both inside and outside of parliamentary politics, then a serious threat to the current regime’s wide sway could emerge.

To start with, the most local of issues, the total destruction of JNU [Jawaharlal Nehru University] that is going on, could be one immediate focal point of an extended strike and protest and movement in which political parties could be joining and supporting the youth much more in their honorable campaigns. What is being done to JNU is a particularly destructive manifestation of the general destruction of higher education institutions in India by the present government that can bring together protest movements not just among the mass of progressive students (as well as progressive faculty and administration) on the country’s campuses but also get the support of political parties; and this can eventually be integrated with a general campaign against this government on other fronts that are already under way, especially the Dalit movements.

Just ask yourself, how did the Left [in the U.S.] under [Bernie] Sanders gain a foothold and build that up to a nationwide momentum recently; how did Lula [Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva] and [Evo] Morales do it some years ago in Brazil and Bolivia, how is [Jeremy] Corbyn doing it in Britain right now—precisely by finding actually existing focal points of this kind and integrating them so that they are not isolated efforts.

So, for instance, Sanders got overwhelming support from American youth by vociferously, and with assiduous grass-roots activism, taking up the ongoing issue of student debt, which is a major problem for them; and he took up health insurance, which is a major problem for not only the elderly but the marginalised immigrants and the impoverished classes generally…; and he took up housing issues, which have been a heartbreaking cause of suffering for so many ever since the foreclosures in the financial crisis of 2008; as well as general employment issues from that period that remain a problem for both young and middle-aged citizens, and he brought these different groups and ongoing issues together in an integrated nationwide movement, for these are nationwide problems even if they have local points of focus that can be addressed by local organisations.

So also in India, the attack on higher education, the policies that continue to create unemployment and impermanent and casualised employment, the appalling condition of health care, the chronically pervasive farmers’ and land issues, to name just a few, affect a wide variety of different groups that are waiting to be taken out of their isolation and brought together.
While the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh] is busy doing its own sinister grass-roots work, the Left has not really shown that kind of organisational energy on these issues on which the wide span of such urban and rural mass suffering occurs.

The last major leader of the organised Left with any serious mass politician credentials was [V.S.] Achuthanandan. I’ve only mentioned movements, but within the domain of parliamentary politics there is also much scope for alliances. And these are essential in this particular moment in Indian politics.

The very fact that Congress did not field a candidate to combat Mevani, who stood as an Independent in Gujarat, is a sign that the Congress is willing to make sacrifices to make alliances with Left and progressive forces.

This is not the technocratic side of the Congress that was represented by Manmohan Singh and his economic advisers (one hopes they will never dominate that party again) but roughly the Sonia Gandhi side that stressed the unemployment and food schemes in the UPA [United Progressive Alliance] days and that led the opposition-wide agitation a couple of years ago against the Land Acquisition Act. This is not the side of the Congress that pays homage to Hindu sentiments just before elections, hoping to gain a few more votes. But it is a sizeable side of the Congress. And there is also the AAP [Aam Aadmi Party] and its offshoots as well as a range of regional parties.

There is serious scope in all of these to form alliances, but hard work needs to be done in order to make it happen. There is a defeated lassitude in the organised Left which has prevented them from doing the work needed to arrive at a common platform with other parties to fight for a wide range of representation in Parliament and in regional Assemblies wherever possible, working assiduously to formulate a common set of demands that these parties within such an alliance can all agree on, going back even more seriously than before to schemes for employment and food that they had forced the first UPA regime to take on (and adding to it schemes for health, education, housing, land issues, labour rights), and stressing secularism as well as the end of caste oppression. This sort of effort alone could recover the mass base for the organised Left that it once had. To fail to see this has no effect other than to make the Left even more irrelevant in the future.

It is time to get this wretched government out of power, not just to make occasional speeches and write occasional op-eds. And the Left has had a remarkable historical role in shaping Indian politics over the last century. It cannot abdicate that role now, when it is needed more than ever before in the face of an absolutely intolerable government, the likes of which we have never seen since Independence—criminal (there is no other word for it, this is a criminal government) in the violence it allows and encourages against oppressed minorities and castes, and criminal in the grotesque transfers of wealth it oversees from the poor to the elites, not to mention the large-scale criminal corruption of the corporate elites that has been going on with the support of this government, even as the government perpetrates a complete hoax about fighting corruption.
It is time to stigmatise these elites and this government as the real “anti-nationals” in the country, which they manifestly are, and to do so openly and without fear both in movements and in Parliament.

If the Left doesn’t show leadership in trying to forge a wide-ranging united front of opposition, such agency that has been shown by the Dalits will remain unsupported and begin to feel deeply betrayed.

It is unlikely that any other group than the Left can or will take the lead in drawing from the other parties, who could be natural allies, a common platform by which this can be done. It will need cooperative tact and hard resolve, organisational skills and grass-roots energy, something right now only being shown by Dalits and some student leaders.

But is there not going to be the standard objection that all these schemes for employment and food and health can only be pursued by first growing the economy and that growth is precisely what the Modi government is seeking? What would you say to that objection that is made by this government and its ideological supporters among economists?

I am not an economist. And it helps not to be one in order to recognise that economists shroud the justification of these criminal transfers I mentioned in high-sounding theories and jargon that precisely invoke the argument that you have just cited in admirably direct and simple prose in your question.

But I do know enough to say in response to that argument, that the kinds of schemes that we are talking about that increase the social wage of ordinary people actually produce growth (a quite different kind of growth, of course, than the bubble-generated growth of neoliberal economies, a growth that can be sustained rathero than end up in a crash). They increase the purchasing capacity of the vast mass of ordinary people and that in turns expands the market at home and that in turn increases the investment to meet it.

It is not for nothing that the period in the West in which this was tried and done (roughly the 30-year period after the end of the Second World War) was called “The Golden Age of Capitalism” with high rates of growth. This is a point so obvious and straightforward that you don’t need to be an economist to understand it. Anyone can understand it—in the plains of the Ganges, in the fishermen’s villages of Kerala, in the slums of Mumbai, in every corner of the land and by the humblest and least educated citizens.

It is the duty of the Left to spread this understanding to all those places and people, but the Left does not have the mass base to do it by itself, it has to make the necessary alliances and shape a common platform that is based on such an understanding, both in parliamentary politics and outside in movements. I am getting repetitive and sounding like Polonius, saying what every sensible person already knows.

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1919-1922: The Workers’ Opposition and Appeal by members of the Workers’ Opposition group for support against Bolshevik forces trying to silence their dissent within the party. Distributed at the Eleventh Russian Communist Party Congress in 1922

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Alexandra Kollantai

A short history of a group within the Russian Communist Party that struggled against the increasing party bureaucracy and for trade union control over industry which, by 1922, had been forcibly disbanded by the party.

The Workers Opposition began to form in 1919, as a result of the policies of War Communism, which set a precedence for the domination of the Communist Party over local party branches and trade unions. During the civil war, the Workers Opposition began agitating against the lack of democracy in the Communist Party as a result of the centralising actions of the party’s bureaucracy. The Workers Opposition, composed almost entirely of unionised workers (with particular strength amongst metal workers), argued for the restoration of power to local party branches and trade unions and was led by respected veteran Bolsheviks such as Alexander Shliapnikov, Alexandra Kollontai and Sergei Medvedev.

At the Ninth All-Russia Conference of the Communist Party in September, 1920, discussions on the growth of party bureaucracy and the running of the Soviet economy led to great controversy. Where Lenin argued that it was the role of party bureaucrats to teach unionised workers how to administer the nation’s economy, the Workers’ Opposition took the opposite line; that it should be the trade unions themselves, not party bureaucrats, who should take on the task of building the communist economy. As Alexandra Kollontai wrote in her seminal Opposition pamphlet:

“There can be no self-activity without freedom of thought and opinion, for self-activity manifest itself not only in initiative, action and work, but in independent though as well. We give no freedom to class activity, we are afraid of criticism, we have ceased to rely on the masses: hence we have bureaucracy with us. That is why the Workers’ Opposition considers that bureaucracy is our enemy, our scourge, and the greatest danger to the future existence of the Communist Party itself.
The Workers’ Opposition has said what has long ago been printed in the Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels: the building of Communism can and must be the work of the toiling masses themselves. The building of Communism belongs to the workers.” – Alexandra Kollontai, The Workers’ Opposition

The group demanded that industrial administration be made the responsibility of unions and that unions would control the national economy as a whole. Though having substantial support amongst the Communist Party’s grassroots, the party’s leadership refused its platform wholesale. Lenin even went so far as to state that the party “must combat the syndicalist deviation, which will kill the Party unless it is entirely cured of it.” (Lenin, The Party Crisis). The Opposition also argued that to combat bureaucratisation all non-proletarians should be expelled from the Communist Party and administrative government positions. They also argued that such positions should be elected, not appointed.

It should be pointed out, however, that the call of the Workers’ Opposition for control of the national economy to be handed over to the unions was not as honourable as it first seems. The All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions was entirely an arm of the Bolshevik state by this point, concerning itself primarily with disciplining workers rather than fighting for improved conditions. They were entirely different from the factory committees, which had been organised at the grassroots by the workers themselves. In 1918, Shliapnikov even went as far as to say that the factory committees were putting control “in the hands of a crowd that, due to its ignorance and lack of interest in production, is literally putting a brake on all work” (quoted in Carmen Sirianni’s Workers’ Control and Socialist Democracy: The Soviet Experience). Though the Workers’ Opposition repeatedly argued that communism could only be built by the workers themselves and were in favour of total union control of the economy to achieve this, it was by no means the same as actual workers’ control of the economy. To put it bluntly, they preferred that the bureaucrats running the economy be from the unions, rather than the Communist Party.

Such internal ideological problems that the Workers’ Opposition suffered from were related almost entirely to their inability to reject some of the central tenets of Bolshevism and break with the Russian Communist Party entirely. Generally, members of the Workers Opposition were experienced grassroots Bolshevik organisers from working class backgrounds who had spent a lifetime agitating amongst their class. As such, they naturally had a loyalty to the organs of class power which had been thrown up in times of struggle.

However, their simultaneous loyalty to Bolshevism and the Party confused the issue of the revolutionary organisation’s role and its relationship to the working class. So while they may have argued that the “the building of Communism can and must be the work of the toiling masses themselves”, their inability to reject the vanguardism of authoritarian socialism meant that they also argued that “The RKP [Russian Communist Party – libcom] is the sole responsible political leader of the revolutionary struggle in construction of the worker and peasant masses.” (Shliapnikov, On the relations between the Russian Communist Party, the soviets and production unions).

Reading the texts of the Workers’ Opposition, one glaring fact is that though they repeatedly argued for union control of the economy and greater democracy within the Communist Party, they did not challenge the political domination of the party itself. Though the Workers’ Opposition wanted greater union control of the economy, actual positions of administrative power were to be elected through the party local branches. The basic problem which the Workers’ Opposition had with the Russian Communist Party was that it was appointing bureaucrats into positions of power from the centre rather than electing them at a local level. They did not intend to challenge the Communist Party’s monopoly of power itself.

The events of Kronstadt, and their reaction to it, show most clearly these problems. As Kronstadt erupted in opposition to the Communist domination of Russia and demanded a return to the slogans of “All power to the soviets”, the Workers’ Opposition sided with their party and many even volunteered to help with the military assault on the uprising. Kronstadt marked a problem for the Workers’ Opposition: why was their class attacking the Communist Party, the only “responsible political leaders of the revolutionary struggle”? Their inability to break with the vanguardist baggage of Leninism meant that they ultimately found fault with their class and not with the new state bureaucrats.

Even with such a doting loyalty to Leninism, however, the Workers’ Opposition was too great a deviation from the orthodox Leninism of the party. At the 10th Party Congress in March 1921, the positions of the Workers’ Opposition were rejected, its ideas condemned, and they were ordered to disband.

Though the Opposition’s members continued their agitation, they would still find themselves under attack by the Communist Party bureaucracy. Shliapnikov talked of how Workers’ Opposition members were edged out of the party, sometimes systematically transferred to different districts, sometimes expelled from the party entirely. Similar actions were taken against unions which had a traditional loyalty to the Workers’ Opposition. For instance, the 1921 metalworkers’ union conference voted down a list of recommended candidates for the union leadership from the Communist Party’s Central Committee. This vote, however, was ignored and the party leaders appointed their own candidates into office, done to remind the metalworkers who was in charge as their union had been a hub of Workers’ Opposition activity.

By 1922 the Workers’ Opposition would finally be defeated. The 11th Party Congress would see the party leadership put forward a motion to expel the leaders of the Workers’ Opposition from the party. Though the Opposition’s close links with the grassroots of the party meant that the motion failed, the group was now almost entirely disbanded as a result of the concerted effort of party leaders. For instance, of the 37 Workers’ Opposition delegates to the 10th Congress, only four managed to return as voting delegates to the next congress. Following such pressure, the Workers’ Opposition collapsed.

In their Appeal of the 22, distributed at the party congress in 1922, they pleaded with the delegates of the Comintern to recognise the “repressive measures against the expression of [their] opinions within the party” and help “to end all these abnormalities”. These cries for help, however, fell on deaf ears.

In 1926, the remaining members of the Opposition briefly joined the Left Opposition led by Trotsky, who, now finding himself out of favour with the party bureaucracy began struggling against the growing bureaucracy and lack democracy he helped to create. Indeed, the fate of Trotsky would resemble that of the Opposition. After abandoning the Russian working class in favour of political power and party loyalty, the Workers’ Opposition was hounded out of the party and many of its leaders (including Shliapnikov and Medvedev) would later be tried and executed for their minor deviations from orthodox party ideology. Just like Trotsky, the Workers’ Opposition would be destroyed by the authoritarian structures they helped create with their desertion of the Kronstadt rebels marking the final defeat of the only force in Russia which could have rescued them from their fate.



Appeal by members of the Workers’ Opposition group

Appeal by members of the Workers’ Opposition group for support against Bolshevik forces trying to silence their dissent within the party. Distributed at the Eleventh Russian Communist Party Congress in 1922.
Dear comrades!

From our newspapers we have learned that the Executive Committee of the Communist International is discussing the “united workers’ front,” and we consider it our communist duty to inform you that in our country the “united front” is in bad shape not only in the broad sense of this term, but even in its application toward the ranks of our party.

As the forces of the bourgeoisie press on us from all sides, as they even infiltrate our party, the social composition of which (40% worker and 60% non-proletarian) favor this, our leading centers wage a relentless, corrupting struggle against all, especially proletarians, having their own opinions, and they apply all kinds of repressive measures against the expression of these opinions within the party.

The attempt to bring the proletarian masses closer to the government is declared to be “anarcho-syndicalism,” and its advocates are persecuted and discredited.

In the trade union movement, there is the same picture — suppression of worker spontaneity and initiative, struggle using all means against heterodoxy. The unified forces of the party and trade union bureaucracy, taking advantage of their position and authority, ignore our congresses’ decisions about laying the foundations of worker democracy. Our union communist fractions, even the fractions of entire congresses are deprived of the right to manifest their will in the election of their own leaders. Bureaucracy’s tutelage and pressure has gone so far, that party members are threatened with exclusion and other repressive measures if they elect whom they want instead of those whom the higher-ups want. Such methods of work lead to careerism, intrigues, and servility, and workers respond to this by leaving the party.

Sharing the idea of the united workers’ front as it is interpreted in point 23 of the theses, we appeal to you, with the sincere wish to end all these abnormalities, which stand in the way of the unity of this front, first of all within our RCP(b).

The situation within our party is so difficult, that it impels us to turn to you for help and in this way to eliminate the impending threat of a split in our party.

With communist greetings, members of the RCP(b):

M. Lobanov, party member since 1904
N. Kuznetsov, party member since 1904
A. Polosatov, party member since 1912
A. Medvedev, party member since 1912
G. Miasnikov, party member since 1906
V. Plashkov, party member since 1918
G. Shokhanov, party member since 1912
S. Medvedev, party member since 1900
G. Bruno, party member since 1906
A. Pravdin, party member since 1899
I. Ivanov, party member since 1899
F. Mitin, party member since 1902
P. Borisov, party member since 1913
M. Kopylov, party member since 1912
Zhilin, party member since 1915
Chelyshev, party member since 1910
Tolokontsev, party member since 1914
A. Shliapnikov, party member since 1901
M. Borulin, party member since 1917
V. Bekrenev, party member since 1917
A. Pavlov, party member since 1917
A. Tashkin, party member since 1917
A. Kollontai, party member since 1898
Zoya Shadurskaia*

* Shadurskaia was also a party member, but the year she joined was mistakenly omitted from the document.

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