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This chapter discusses the problematic of dual power as a significant issue in the annals of revolutions. The politics which constitutes the theory of dual power and is able to make sense of this feature and build around it is essentially a matter of organising this power, strengthening, defending and developing it as a feature of a particular situation. This can be called a new practice of power. In the revolutionary writings of Marxism, dual power is not presented as a doctrine, but as explanations of situations and suggestions of paths ahead. Hundreds and thousands of militant activists died in armed struggles in postcolonial countries on the basis of an agenda of creating dual power or a “red political base”. Yet there was no pure “red” power that could be brought on this earth and sustained by a programme, unless this idea of dual power had emerged in that programme as a feature of the society at a particular juncture in the history of struggle. Perhaps, then, we can see in the history of dual power not only the presence of an irresistible idea, but also the demand that scientific analysis be given utmost importance with respect to great ideas that have animated the spirit of revolutions.
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On these see the detailed discussions in Ranabir Samaddar, Neoliberal Strategies of Governing India (London and New York: Routledge, 2016).
V.I. Lenin, “The Dual Power”, April 1917, Lenin Collected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964), volume 24, pp. 38–41— https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/apr/09.htm (accessed on 26 November 2016).
To be truthful, Gramsci’s ideas on “war of position” do not easily lend themselves to a straightforward formulation. Surely, the “war” is more than a metaphor in the formulation of the idea of “war of position”, that is to say the proletarian strategy to build forces gradually and incrementally, against the concentrated might of the State. However, the related ideas of hegemony and civil society also play crucial roles in this understanding. On this, Gramsci seemed to suggest two things: (1) In modern liberal democracies, direct confrontation may not necessarily threaten the dominant structure as long as its credibility and authority is firmly held up by civil society. In this condition a “war of position” within civil society will entail resistance to domination with culture, in place of pure military strength, making a “war of position” the process which would gradually build up the strength of the social foundations of a new State by creating alternative institutions and alternative intellectual resources within existing society; (2) To the extent dual power is an issue of war of position, the power has to be mapped concretely, nationally—exactly in the same way that in war a theory of how to conduct warfare is useless without specific investigations into the terrain, logistics, positions of the troops, their deployment pattern and so on. Antonio Gramsci, Selections from Prison Notebooks, eds. and trans. Quentin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, (Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 1996), p. 238. Indeed, Gramsci seemed to be unaware of Lenin’s writings on dual power, when he commented that Lenin did not have time “to expand his formula” and “the fundamental task” of reconnaissance of the terrain “was a national one” (p. 238).On this see also the discussions by Comrade Azaad, “Clarifications of the terms on Dual Power”, 2013— https://ri-ir.org/2013/11/08/clarification-of-the-terms-on-dual-power/ (accessed on 24 November 2016); also Amil, “Towards the War of Position: Gramsci in Continuity and Rupture with Marxism-Leninism,” Uprising: Journal of Revolutionary Initiative 4, September 2013, pp. 19–31.
V.I. Lenin, “The Dual Power, https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/apr/09.htm (accessed on 27 November 2016).
V.I. Lenin, “April Theses: The Tasks of the Proletariat in the Present Revolution, April 17, 1917”, Pravda, 20 April 1917— http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1917-2/april-crisis/april-crisis-texts/april-Theses/ (accessed on 27 November 2016).
Mao Tse Tung, “Why is it that Red Political Power can exist in China?” 1928, Selected Works of Mao Tse Tung, Volume One, https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-1/mswv1_3.htm (accessed on 28 November 2016).
Even though, like the guerrilla movements and zones in many postcolonial countries, massive trade unions have acted as pillars of parallel power in bourgeois democracies; likewise, the armed presence of anti-fascists was also a dual power in immediate postwar Europe. However, class compromises and dependence on the State for exercise of this armed power and power of organised labour reduced the contradictory nature of the duality and made them complementary. We require a deeper study of the way in which armed power in Western Europe evaporated in the process of European reconstruction, and the theory of dual power was consigned to waste.
While leading peasant struggles in South China, Mao wrote in 1928, “The significance of the armed independent regime of workers and peasants in the Hunan–Kiangsi border area, with Ningkang as its centre, is definitely not confined to the few counties in the border area; this regime will play an immense role in the process of the seizure of political power in Hunan, Hupeh and Kiangsi through the insurrection of the workers and peasants in these three provinces. The following are tasks of great importance for the Party in the border area in connection with the insurrections unfolding in Hunan, Hupeh and Kiangsi: Extend the influence of the agrarian revolution and of the people’s political power in the border area to the lower reaches of the rivers in Hunan and Kiangsi and as far as Hupeh; constantly expand the Red Army and enhance its quality through struggle so that it can fulfill its mission in the coming general insurrection of the three provinces; enlarge the local armed forces in the counties, that is, the Red Guards and the workers’ and peasants’ insurrection detachments, and enhance their quality so that they are able to fight the landlords’ levies and small armed units now and safeguard the political power of the border area in the future; gradually reduce the extent to which local work is dependent on the assistance of the Red Army personnel, so that the border area will have its own personnel to take charge of the work and even provide personnel for the Red Army and the expanded territory of the independent regime.”— https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-1/mswv1_3.htm#s4 (accessed on 28 November 2016).
“Why is it that Red Political Power can exist in China?” (accessed on 28 November 2016).
Immanuel Ness, Southern Insurgency: The Coming of the Global Working Class (London: Pluto Press, 2016). Based on focused studies of workers’ activism in China, India and South Africa and a global comparative analysis, Ness destroys the ill-founded belief in the decline of the working-class movements and shows how, in the context of massive migration, new production techniques, changes in patterns of unionisation and new issues of labour security, working-class movements are being reconstituted on a global scale, and “Southern insurgency” is the flag of that reconstituted militancy of the working class. See particularly Tables 2.5–2.9 (pp. 40–50).
The workers’ blog Gurgaon Workers News noted that the supply chain of Maruti started in Mujesar, a village in Faridabad.— http://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no3/#fn1 (accessed on 5 October 2014); this section draws heavily on the study by Mithilesh Kumar and Ranabir Samaddar of the Maruti struggle, “Autonomy in India: Tactical and Strategic Considerations on the New Wave of Workers’ Struggles”, Viewpoint, January 2017— https://viewpointmag.com/2017/01/23/autonomy-in-india-tactical-and-strategic-considerations-on-the-new-wave-of-workers-struggles/ (accessed on 3 February 2017). I am grateful to Mithilesh Kumar for his inputs.
Hard Drive: Working Conditions and Workers’ Struggles at Maruti, A Report by People’s Union for Democratic Rights, New Delhi, July 2001.
Driving Force: Labour Struggles and Violation of Rights in Maruti Suzuki India Limited, A PUDR Report, New Delhi, May 2013.
Khap panchayat is the local association dominated by upper-caste landowners ruling over few villages. They act as quasi-judicial bodies that pronounce harsh punishments on the deviants based on customs and traditions, often bordering on regressive measures. They are notoriously anti-women.
The curtains came down on 10 March 2017 when a local court convicted 31 workers while acquitting 117 others of the charge of murdering the manager at Maruti-Suzuki’s Manesar plant five years ago. On the legal dimensions of the violations of Maruti workers’ rights, see “Merchants of Menace—Repressing Workers in India’s New Industrial Belt, Violations of Workers’ and Trade Union Rights at Maruti Suzuki India Ltd”—Report of the International Commission for Labour Rights, New York, n.d.
Driving Force; This entire account of struggle by Maruti workers draws from Mithilesh Kumar and R. Samaddar, “Autonomy in India: Tactical and Strategic Considerations on the New Wave of Workers’ Struggles”, Viewpoint, January 2017— https://viewpointmag.com/2017/01/23/autonomy-in-india-tactical-and-strategic-considerations-on-the-new-wave-of-workers-struggles/ (accessed on 21 April 2017); on some aspects of workers’ struggle at the Maruti plants, see also G. Sampath, “Before and After Manesar”, 2012, www.ecologise.in and republished in Frontier, 49 (39), 2–8 April 2017.
This is of course an extremely simple version of a large corpus of writings. For details, see, Patrick Cuninghame, “Autonomism as a Global Social Movement”, Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society, 13, 2010, pp. 451–464; Sylvere Lotringer and Christian Marazzi, Autonomia: Post-Political Politics (New York: Semiotext(e), 1980); and Georgy Katsiaficas, The Subversion of Politics: European Autonomous Social Movements and the Decolonization of Everyday and Life (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2006).
Several experiences besides the Maruti workers’ struggle bring home the question of power as the immanent one in proletarian politics in postcolonial India. We can mention two here: The first and the most pronounced experience is of the great railway strike of 1974. Since there are two detailed accounts on workers’ power as evinced in the general strike of 1974, we did not repeat the discussion here. However, readers are advised to read Stephen Sherlock, The Indian Railway Strike of 1974: A Study of Power and Organised Labour (New Delhi: Rupa, 2001), and Ranabir Samaddar, The Crisis of 1974: The Railway Strike and the Rank and File (New Delhi: Primus, 2016); The second instance is of the experience of the iron ore miners in Dalli-Rajhara in Chattisgarh in the 1980s and 90s in organising militant movements along with building alternative institutions of life; on this Punyabrata Gun and Sankar Sanyal (eds.), Sangharsh O Nirman: Sankat Guha Neogy O Bharater Sramik Andolaner Anya Dhara (in Bengali— Struggle and Rebuilding of Life: Sankar Guha Neogy and a Different Trend in the Indian Working Class Movement, (Kolkata: Anustup, 2015). This account is remarkable for its documentation of what it calls the “third strand” of workers’ movement in India (pp. 76 88)—the first being the constitutional, reformist trade unionism fostered by the parliamentary Left, the second the radical-extremist struggles led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), and the third being called as the plan of “struggle and reconstruction” ( sangharsh o nirman), which included workers’ movement for alternative economic policy, drawing and fighting for plans alternative to the State’s policy for mechanisation and automation in Bhilai steel plant (pp. 207–230), programmes for workers’ health and literacy, besides continuous work on developing political consciousness of the workers and linking up with other centres of struggle (p. 47).
For details of the general strike by the workers of the Indian Railways in 1974, see Stephen Sherlock, The Indian Railway Strike of 1974: A Study of Power and Organised Labour and Ranabir Samaddar, The Crisis of 1974: Railway Strike and the Rank and File.
On the Kanoria Jute Mill struggle, Prafulla Chakrabarty, Tin Lekhaye Kanoria Jute Miller Sramik Andolan (Kolkata: Kolkata Prakashan, 2014); Kushal Debnath, “West Bengal: The Neo-Liberal Offensive in Industry and the Workers’ Resistance”— http://www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/rdv9n1/westbengal1.htm (accessed on 16 October 2014); for a brief history of the autonomous workers’ movements in India with specific reference to West Bengal, http://sanhati.com/articles/347/ (accessed on 4 December 2016).
Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume 1 (1867), trans. Ben Fowkes (London: Penguin Books, 1990), p. 682.
Lenin distinguished a trade-union secretary from a tribune of the people; the people’s tribune is the leader who responds to all instances and forms of oppression. Lenin wrote that a revolutionary must be a “tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of people it affects.”—W hat is to be Done, Selected Works, Volume 1 (New York: International Publishers, 1967), pp. 154–6.
‘The St. Petersburg Strike’, Lenin Collected Works, vol. 8 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964), pp. 91–93.
In 1902, when the Belgian workers under the leadership of the Belgian Labour Party launched yet another general strike after resorting to repeated large-scale strike actions, with at least four mass strikes in 1886, 1887, 1891 and 1893, Rosa Luxembourg criticised the Belgian Labour Party for tactical incompetence. She said a general strike forged in advance within the fetters of legality is like a war demonstration with cannons dumped into a river within the very sight of the enemy… “Of course, even during the revolution, mass strikes do not exactly fall from heaven.”—Rosa Luxemburg., The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions, 1906, http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1906/massstrike/ch04.htm (accessed 20 January, 2016).
Frederick Engels, ‘Introduction to Karl Marx’s The Class Struggles in France, 1895— https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1850/class-struggles-france/intro.htm (accessed 21 January 2016).
‘On Strikes’, Lenin Collected Works, Volume 4 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964), pp. 310–11.
On the discrete and the plural nature of sovereignty in India before the colonial time, see Margaret Frenz, From Contact to Conquest—Transition to British Rule in Malabar, 1790—1805 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003), Chapter 5, “Concept of Rule in Malabar”, pp. 141–169.
C.A. Bayly, Indian Society and the Making of the British Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 36.
On the emergence of regions as parallel centres of power, Mahendra Prasad Singh, “Indian Federalism: Myth and Reality”— The Frontier, Volume 49 (20), 20–26 November, 2016— http://www.frontierweekly.com/articles/vol-49/49-20/49-20-Indian%20Federalism.html#sthash.qVYOGFrC.dpuf (accessed on 4 December 2016).
I am here drawing from Louis Althusser, Essays in Self-Criticism, trans. Grahame Lock (London: New Left Books, 1973), pp. 165–66.
- The Problematic of Dual Power
- Chapter 7
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