You may be under the impression that Prakash Karat is responsible for the utter and abject defeat of the Left in the elections and he should resign forthwith. You could not be more wrong.
To understand how the Left’s thrashing is actually a triumph, you have to know dialectics, which all Marxists swear by. According to Georg WF Hegel, “Everything that surrounds us may be viewed as an instance of Dialectic.” Realising that wasn’t clear enough, he elaborated, “the finite, as implicitly other than what it is, is forced beyond its own immediate or natural being to turn suddenly into its opposite.” What that means is defeat suddenly turns into its opposite, or victory, in this case for the CPI(M). The thesis of defeat combines with the antithesis of victory to drive both history and Comrade Karat bravely onward.
But should we take Hegel seriously? After all, Marx attempted to stand Hegel on his head. That was probably because he was the Baba Ramdev of his time. Let us therefore consider Marx’s friend Engels instead, who laid down the three laws of dialectics. These are: The Law of the interpenetration of opposites, the Law of the negation of negation and the Law of the transformation of quantity into quality. Their link with the Left’s performance is obvious. The first law says that electoral defeat is interpenetrated by victory, the second the negative performance will be negated and the third postulates that the Left’s meagre quantity of seats in Parliament will be transformed into an excellent quality of seats, possibly because they are well-padded. Dialectically, the Left has actually won.
What do postmodern, post-structuralist post-Marxists have to say about it? Jacques Lacan echoes the dialectical position when he says the Real involves the convergence of opposites. We all know the Lacanian drive extracts ‘jouissance’ or enjoyment from the failures of desire, thus proving that the Left can derive a masochistic enjoyment from its failure to get a decent number of seats. To quote the well-known hyper realist Homer Simpson: “You tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.” What, anyway, is the point of winning? Did not Jean Paul Sartre point out “Nothingness lies coiled at the heart of Being—like a worm”? He didn’t specify what kind of worm and if it is a tapeworm, he may have been wrong about the location—they live in the intestines of Being, rather than at its heart.
Nevertheless, there is much truth in Sartre’s words. As the famous semiologist Scolari said, “Thanks for everything and we will see you at the World Cup.” What the…? Ooops, sorry, Scolari manages Brazil’s football team—the semiologist was a chap called Guattari, who said, “Every consciousness pursues its own death, every love-passion its own end, attracted by a black hole,” clearly a reference to the CPI(M), although I think it’s a red hole. Incidentally, Guattari’s pal Deleuze exhorted us in his book Capitalism and Schizophrenia to “Bring something incomprehensible into the world!” which is why I am writing this.
Finally, in Lenin’s words, “What is to be done?” Consider the important contribution Comrade Karat has made to post-Marxist theory. Where Engels had talked of the ‘withering away of the state’, Karat has gone much further and posited the revolutionary concept of the ‘withering away of the Communist party’. It has been an unqualified success.
(Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint. The views expressed by the author are personal.)