The political marketplace is a curious thing. It attracts a wide range of political entrepreneurs. Some sell reformism, others revolutionism. Such is the power of the societal capital named politics. What is important for us to do is to make dispassionate observations without situating ourselves in one camp or the other [by camp, I do not mean ideological camps but the sectarian groupings found in the Left side of the political bazaar]. Only then shall we begin to find some loopholes in the often contradictory arguments found in the communiques on elections from the leftist factions (for instance, how does one reconcile the fact that a group is supporting one of its members as an “independent” candidate and even taking out a rally in its support on one hand, while ostensibly “criticising” elections on the other. At least so far, I have not been convinced by the justifications for the same and I don’t think I am the only one).
Most of these booklets or pamphlets or posters will typically point out some basic stuff like the duplicity of the bourgeoisie politicians, how the mainstream parties are hoodwinking the masses, how elections after every four or five years cannot be real democracy, the casteist or patriarchal language of election propaganda etc. Of course, these need to be pointed out. But in these oft repeated routine exercises just before elections, what is often missed is the extremely class determinist nature of discourse of these left groups. While they do manage to generate good critiques of the hyper patriarchal tones of bourgeois politicians, the leftists seem to miss out the importance of power per se as a fundamental player in the scheme of things.
Power as in the earning the right to claim representation, which is the fundamental problem of any “representative democracy”. Speak with any of the ideologues of these radical left groups or read their typical pre-election bourgeoisie party bashing literature and you may find that the logic of representation is not deconstructed enough, at least not to the point of problematizing it from the point of view of insufficiency of directness in democracy. In other words, it is almost considered as a given that representative democracy is the norm and all it would require to correct the system are some well meaning leaders from the left to flush out the corrupt bourgeoisie politicians but these leaders will prove their worth through revolution and movements and not through elections, so on and so forth.
This is of course a rather vanguardist approach which demands scrutiny. The power of “representing” in the present system is the power to dominate. In other words, the present system of representative democracy cannot be defined adequately without incorporating the question of power, where the individual voter has been stripped off a very important right, that of representing herself, i.e. self representation. This does not necessarily mean being present in every meeting but at least in some crucial ones and has a voice that is not considered less credible for any reason whatsoever. Given, then, the current representative “democracy” is defined not just through the class lens but also through the lenses of power relations, any critique of this system as well as any suggestion of an alternative too will be totally inadequate unless it grapples with the question of power.
Now, no one is saying that the task is an easy one. After all, one can come up with the counter argument that representative democracy may have its pitfalls but that is our best bet – after all, not everyone in a country of 120 crores can be involved in every decision making process. That argument, unfortunately, while stating an undeniable fact, actually is not getting to the crux of the matter. That is because pure direct democracy is not being posed as an alternative, given the feasibility issues which any child can see as well. It is the dialectics of praxis that is being invoked through the dissection of the present representative democracy through the lens of power. In other words, by asking one to critique the system from the perspective of power inequalities, it is encouraging the engaged observer to grasp another dimension of reality hitherto overlooked, thereby paving the way for simultaneously, dynamically and dialectically constructing the architecture of a more democratic polity. Borrowing from bourgeoisie politics [in this case, the vagaries of hierarchical politics] just because there is no ready-made blueprint of an alternative betrays a misunderstanding of dialectical praxis.
Even a cursory glance at the concrete nature of politics of the “third stream” will actually reveal ample scope for such critiques to be used for self reflexivity. In other words, “Am I doing the same stuff that I find objectionable in what I am criticizing”? This is the question that I want to raise regarding the rather patronizing and hierarchical culture of subtle domination in the form of leaders [read: hegemons], the Marxist Leninist construct of which is reasonably clear in our heads.
Analysis of Status Quo, Self Introspection and Conceptualization of the Alternative will go hand in hand, each complementing and shaping the other. To overlook the dialectics of this process will be to miss the revolutionary potential of enquiry.