Response To Remarks On Anarchism By Narendra Modi

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In January, during a poll address, India’s Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi, in reference to Mr Arvind Kejriwal said, “Have you ever seen a political leader calling himself an anarchist? If so, join the Naxals. Naxalism cannot be brought to Delhi. Delhi can’t be surrendered to anarchy”. I will be examining and responding to this from a Libertarian-Socialist perspective.

First problem with this remark seems to be that it does not provide us with any background what so ever about Anarchism. What it is and what Anarchists believe, and as matters relating to anarchism are quite deliberately driven out of mainstream culture, it is easy to mystify and distort its meaning. Also as we will see that anarchism has many variants and this attack does not even provide us any clue as to which school of thought within anarchism Mr Kejriwal associates himself with. And as I tried to find out for myself what type of anarchist Mr Kejriwal might be, I soon realized he never made that clear (in interviews). I confess I have not yet read his book ‘Swaraj’, which should be the basic text for understanding his philosophy. But I’ll nonetheless try to examine his anarchism on the basis that it derives from pseudo-anarchist theory and even more so superficial practices of Mohandas Gandhi, who himself derived it from the works of Christian-Anarchist Leo Tolstoy, Thoreau and Chinese and other anarchist movements that were taking place at the time. And also Pacifism which is not exclusive to any particular anarchist philosophy but varies in practice from person to person and situation to situation.

Mr Kejriwal is a member of a political party and an electoral candidate (and now the Chief Minister of Delhi). Anarchists are exclusively against parliamentary government as a form of action for social change (the only exception to this that I can remember are four anarchists who joined the Marxist party [PCE] and the central government during Spanish revolution in 1937). It should be understood that there are no doctrines within anarchism, therefore, Mr Kejriwal can very well be an anarchist and be an electoral candidate, which evidently seems to be the case. But I don’t see him supporting Trade Unions or utilizing any other form of anarchist methods. I therefore doubt him being an anarchist, at least not an Anarcho-Syndicalist. And as for his stance on capitalism and neo-liberal policies, they are not very clear as well. As anarchists are very critical of and hostile towards it, his clear views would have been helpful. Yesterday, while addressing his supporters after his victory in Delhi elections he proposed that “Rich and Poor in Delhi will develop together”. He does not even seem to be conscious of the class conflict. He also proposes “women empowerment” by first empowering highly authoritarian and centralized Police forces and increasing surveillance on general population. An anarchist would have rather preferred educating women and men on feminist and sex studies and providing women with means by which they can defend themselves, instead of making them dependent on police force. And more centralization of power and police control is counterproductive to any democracy and for anarchist any cause as well. Hence, it is very improper to portray what Mr Kejriwal is doing as anything “anarchist”.

Second and maybe the most important point in this post – Naxalites are NOT Anarchists. Naxalites are Maoist-Communist guerrilla , which is a fragment of Maoist Communism (movement), which in itself is very different and contradictory to any Libertarian Communist belief like Council Communism, of that of thinkers and activists, like Anton Pannekoek and Rosa Luxemburg. Anarchists oppose all sort of statist, authoritarian forms of Communisms like Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, even more severally than we oppose representative democracy, as the latter is comparatively freer and desirable than any of the totalitarian State-Capitalism that call themselves communisms. The only similarity one can draw from Anarchism and Naxalism is they both are anti-capitalist in nature and oppose the state, but the alternative which both favor and the means by which they chose to bring the change about are polar-opposites.

Where Naxalites employ the use of violence and terror on the state and on civilians to remove the free market with state control over economy and representative democracy with totalitarianism. Anarchist favor trade unionism, peasants and workers movement, creating alternative economies to replace state control with federations of freely associating communes and capitalism with gift economies, participatory economies, mutualist markets etc. The difference between Anarchism and Naxalism is much more stark than that between the state and naxalists as both favor violence when population goes against their will.

I think it will be appropriate to draw out some of the key points on which anarchist and all Marxist traditions diverge. Both traditions emerge out of Workers movements and Socialist movements of 18th century. And both were part of the First International (International Workingmen’s Association) in late 1800s, where Marx was a leading figure. But soon the differences in strategy and aims grew deeper, where Marxist suggested a vanguard party should be at the front of revolution of emancipating the workers (it’s worth remembering that it was Marx who said “only workers can emancipate themselves”, but well…), the anarchists suggested the state and capitalism can only be abolished at the same time as state is very capitalistic in nature and the power of the state is corrupting. As Bakunin said, “Take the most radical of revolutionaries and place him on the throne of all the Russia or give him dictatorial powers . . . and before the year is out he will be worse than the Czar himself.” And either the State must be destroyed or one must “reconcile oneself to the vilest and most dangerous lie of our century….Red Bureaucracy.”
Some anarchists withdrew from the International while some were kicked out. Bakunin’s prophecy of red bureaucracy came true. Spanish revolution (a popular and widespread anarchist revolution) was crushed by combined forces of Fascists, Communists and Liberal democracies. In Russia Anarchists were killed as the Bolsheviks took power. It is quite clear that Marxists and Anarchists are not the same, neither believes in actions.

So the remark,” Naxalism cannot be brought to Delhi. Delhi can’t be surrendered to anarchy” is very misleading and aims to distort and provide a very violent image of Anarchism, at the same time belittling its radical yet humanist roots by associating it with Mr Kejriwal. I can almost appreciate the ingenuity of this propaganda. But in an already hellish environment for activists and social critics in this country, where student movements and activists groups are harassed and violently assaulted on regular basis (see [1][2][3][4][5]), labeling Anarchists as Naxalists and hence bringing them directly under the radar of Operation Greenhunt is devastating and, to me personally, threatening.

My appeal here is not to Mr Modi or Mr Kejriwal, but to the citizens of this country. It is something to be proud of, I guess, about this country that mass consensus still has some effect in decision making (at least when it comes to matters of Supreme Court) but this force can as easily be used by the state, which I would argue is the case, to form consensus based on misinformation and distortions and invoking nationalism and patriotism to repress the part of the population which does not agree with it. It is very crucial that the population has a clear understanding of the topics when the state (and corporations), for its own interest, want to keep them delusional about them, topics like alternative politics and economic theories like anarchism. When quite literally lives of activists depends on it.

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