Kosambi Circle meeting 3 notes

16 February 2020

1600 – 1900

Meeting notes


This was the third meeting of the KRAC, total of 40 people attended, 18 in person and 22 via zoom.


Updates were discussed like the setting up of the website and recent developments.


The idea was to discuss some basic verbiage and cover large parts of the concepts introduced in the manifesto. For initiating the conversation we started on basic verbiage. For introducing verbiage two videos had been used, the school of life video on Marx and the AzureScapegoat video on some left verbiage. It was also stated that the former was a liberal capitalist reading of Marx and had small errors.


It was agreed upon that while the lens of the reading circle is not necessarily socialist, it is a materialist lens. There will be an assumption that a material world exists and history will be conceived accordingly. Societies develop via altering material conditions and not ideals, etc. A bit of philosophy including materialism, idealism, etc were touched including non western philosophy (Daoism was lightly discussed). We discussed how capitalism is different from previous class societies. Feudalism was discussed as was rent. The change from feudalism to capitalism, with a part of the serf class becoming townspeople (burghers) . Past peasant rebellions like the ancient Yellow Turban rebellion etc were talked about. The various French revolutions including the social revolution were discussed.


Then we talked about the Paris commune incident (the first modern Workers' state) in some detail and how it changed the nature of the international socialist movement which till that point had anarchists (like Proudhon) and a lot of utopian socialists. There was discussion into why the Paris commune may have failed. At this point the differences between anarchism and Marxism were gone over as was the Marx Bakunin split. The line from the 1872 preface of the Manifesto where Marx is alluding to the commune was described. It was discussed how Marx stated his kind of socialist analysis is different from other kinds of socialism in that time, including utopian and religious ones.


Continuing the discussion of verbiage at this point the differences between “orthodox” and “revisionist” kinds of scientific socialism was touched. Within the former the basic characteristics of the Russian movement, German communism, including Luxemburgism (the evolution of SPD party was talked about though the details of the second international will be visited later) and left communism etc were discussed in short. De Leonism was also compared to these. The two main strands of the Russian movement, Bosheviki (Lenin) and Mensheviki (Martov) were introduced. The main characteristics of Leninism (democratic centralism, anti-imperialism, vanguardism) were discussed. The sort of nebulous categories like “democratic socialism” and “social democracy” were discussed and contrasted, with the later having changed its meaning significantly from Lenin's time. Someone asked a question about Tony Benn. It was decided to go into depth of Lenin's and Luxemburg's writings in the future. Also, we discussed the phenomena of class collaborition was discussed in context of both social democratic reforms and fascism, with people bringing in examples from India as well. It was also discussed if social democracy is any different from just welfare.


It was discussed “what is class” according to Marx and what is a material relation. Then the concept of alienation, surplus value, labour theory of value, and commodity fetishism were lightly touched. In their context the early labour movement was also discussed including what were the enclosure acts and how the 8 hour work day was struggled for (this was discussed in the context of “free time” as worth organising around). Social relations (like marriage), both bourgeois and proletarian were contrasted and Engels' ideas were introduced. It was talked about how Marx changed his opinion on the class nature of the 1857 revolution in India. Lenin's connection with the anti imperialist movement, early revolutionaries, etc were discussed. At this point some historical movements including Dalit Panthers were talked about. People also debated the class characteristics of the Chinese state. The concept of free time was talked about it detail and how a hypothetical socialist society will organise differently. Capitalist work ethic was dissected as well as issues in soviet society.


At this point we begin in earnest with the manifesto.


The part where Marx is talking about capitalism as an inexorable leveling force, doing away with feudal, patriarchal trappings was talked about. People discussed caste in relation to it. It was talked about if just a socialist party taking over the state is enough, or what struggles will begin from that point. The part where Marx talks about the job of communists is to constantly raise the property question, and ally with whoever is pushing the social relations forward in what country was discussed in the Indian context, what it means for supported which electoral party in which state, and both recognising the limits of electoralism and yet using that to oppose fascists. “Turning back the clock” and distinguishing reaction from plain conservatism was discussed and Marxist progress was contrasted with what the manifesto calls “aristocratic socialism”. The part where Marx talks about property and distinguishes property under capitalism to personal property one may have was thoroughly discussed.


Someone asked if AI is pointing towards post capitalist possibilities where value is not created by labour and this was discussed and largely refuted. The various other kinds of socialisms in the manifesto, especially reactionary socialism and conservative/bourgeois socialism were discussed in the Indian condition. Finally it was decided that the next meeting will also be on the manifesto as so much of it requires finer examination and discussion. Time runs out here.