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A long-form dialogue on understanding the Left media’s mindset

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Prem Vasant
Prem Vasant
Blogger. Reader. Electronics and Politics enthusiast. Rajput and Proud Indian. Occasionally attends classes in college., and vacations in Goa when the going gets too tough.

Over the past few days, I, as well as others, have been thoroughly disturbed by what has been going on. The way the leftist media has been selectively presenting facts, committing errors of omission, often straight out lying to construct their narratives to ruin India’s image internationally and to break down the morale of the people who support the constitutional changes taking place in the country currently. Upon seeing these lies peddled by the media, a family member during a call with me, asked indignantly, “Ye log jhoont kyun dikha rahe hain? Inhe pata nahin ki asliyat kya hai, ya jhoont bolte hain? tum bade shahr mein rehte ho, tumhein pata hoga?”

As a conservative, up until now I’d been focusing solely studying the philosophy of the right. So basic economics, Thomas Sowell, Karl Popper, Paul Johnson, and other important scholars of the right. Only recently did I out of curiosity started studying a little bit of the left, and I have to say, while their ends might be wrong, the means they’re employing are quite effective. Admittedly, my knowledge of the left is very basic. But for what it is worth, here it goes. I’ll put it down in dialogue form. Hope you find it informative.

Why does the left-wing media not see that the riot was both-sided? That both Hindus and Muslims participated in it, and that there was advanced planning on part of the Muslims too? Why is it still trying to portray the Muslims as a victim minority group, when it so obviously a lot better organized and being around 15% of the country, and making up 24% of the world, is a global majority compared to the Hindus?

Because the left is not interested in the question of who is being unfair to whom. It is not a question of whether Hindus are oppressing the Muslims or the other way around. These are pretences to dupe the people into believing that they advocate for “minority rights” and “open borders” out of compassion and humanistic intentions. Their real objective is something else.

What is it?

Some kind of internationalism. An order where the sovereignty of the individual nations is severely compromised and a top-down international government has a say in every little thing national entities do. A society where all fault-lines based on religion, ethnicity, etc. disappear and only one division remains: the one based on class and class-consciousness.

I’m somewhat aware of these terms. What you’re saying sounds like Marxism. But as far as I know, Marxism failed in the Soviet Union catastrophically, so why would they try to do it again in India? And isn’t this a conspiracy theory?

It sounds like a conspiracy theory, yes, to people who have not been acquainted with this philosophy. It is not. Look, theories seem probable only in light of other knowledge that a person already has in their mind. Think about the idea of the sun moving around the earth. The idea would sound ridiculous to someone who’s not familiar with the notion of gravity, and the model of the solar system. If you were to tell a ninth-century Indian about this notion, they’d probably balk at you and call you crazy. I’m not saying what I’m stating is a scientific theory, but this is just to say that certain ideas seem senseless until you get a sense of the background propositions, the knowledge in the light of which the idea makes sense.

Okay, what you’re saying seems bakwaasbut fine, what’s the “background knowledge”?

It’ll take a bit of time. You’ll have to bear with me. And it’ll seem to have no bearing upon the present situation, till the very end. Are you up for continuing this conversation?

Sure, I have time. Go ahead.

Okay, so here we go. You’re aware that soon after the Napoleonic Wars ended in 1815, this guy Karl Marx was born. He was an almost-exact contemporary of Darwin, and from the middle of the 19th century onwards he wrote several tracts on the ideology of communism alongside another guy called Engels. So we have The Communist Manifesto and Das Capital, and a huge bunch of compiled writings, including essays on India.

Yes, yes. The idea that the bourgeoisie groups together as a class and controls the means of production, i.e. the big factories, and uses economic coercion and the power of the state to force the proleteriat — the poor industrial workers — into toeing their line. I know that this idea created havoc in Europe soon after, and reached its apogee with the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia, when the Bolsheviks headed by Lenin came to power. It quickly turned into a state of oppression, and under Stalin the state turned into a machinery of terror and the ego-maniac killed hundreds of thousands of the citizens. The state survived for the next forty years or so and finally disintegrated into fifteen repubic states around 1990. It’s often joked about since. What’s the catch?

The catch is that what we know of and what we criticize is merely Soviet Marxism. Soviet Marxism is just one type of Marxism among several others, and often when we criticize the same, we criticize its economic aspects and Marxists laugh at us because that’s not even the kind of Marxism they’re aiming for in the present. There are other schools of Marxism flourishing in the democratic world that a lot of us are unaware of. This is specially true for the India, where most of the people as it is are ignorant of political ideologies — “Are bhaiya kya hai ye left and right? Ham to insaaniyat dekhte hain …

Okay, go ahead. Tell me about those schools.

Look, when we criticize Marxism for its faulty economics we criticize classical Marxism, Marxism as it was penned down by the originators Marx and Engels. When we critize Marxism for its turning into a reign of terror, we mostly mean the Stalinist regime and Soviet Russia. What we completely ignore is Western Marxism. The Marxism that emerged in the Western European countries as Eastern European countries fell under the Soviet spell in the 1917-1923 revolutions following the October Revolution. Think about the progression of Marxist philosophy like this: Classical Marxism –> Leninism –> Leninism-Stalinism –> Western Marxism.

What’s Western Marxism? How’s it different from other forms? And this better have a bearing on India pretty soon.

Bear with me. In a very rough way, I can put it this way. In the inter-war period, between 1919 when WWI ends and 1939 when WWII begins, Marxism went a series of crises.

First, the Soviet revolutions took place only in the eastern European countries, the Balkans and the Central Asian countries, etc. In the western European countries, countries like England, France, Germany, Italy, communist revolutions failed and were repressed thoroughly by the state. Why? In Germany and Italy, the ideology of fascism took root. England had a strong democratic and classical liberal tradition, and France already had ideas of liberty and social democracy engrained into it by the French Revolution. In summary, Marxism failed to take root in the western europe. This was ironic, since these were the countries where the population of the industrial workers was the greatest. The eastern European countries didn’t have much industry, and so minimal industrial workers which constitute the proletariat, and revolutions there, contrary to what Marx had anticipated, were won on the basis of the peasants.

Secondly, after the death of Lenin in 1924, Stalin came to power, and immediately turned the state into a dictatorship. Marxist political and economic philosophy, which until then was being constantly added to by a variety of thinkers, was suddenly strangled. People either were members of the official communist party, and strictly and silently observed its diktat, or they were exiled or killed. This brought an end to innovative Marxist philosophy in Eastern Europe.

And so the epicentre of Marxist philosophy shifted to western Europe, where it had failed. Communists either were imprisoned, exiled, or concealed their affiliation and worked in secrecy.

The biggest question before these Marxists: why did we fail in the west? What happened? Why does the working class not organize together and get up in arms against their oppressors and overthrow the state? Why do they still vote and feel proud about their countries? Why do they love a nation that exploits them? Marxist philosophy had asserted so much, and much of what happened was contrary to its expectations. Marxists needed to get back to the drawing board. Analyze what happened. Amend their philosophy to explain their failure.ii

Interesting. So how did the Western Marxists alter their philosophy?

In Italy, Mussolini came to power in the early 1920s, and immediately started using the state appratus against the PCI, the Communist Party of Italy. This party was headed by a guy called Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), a small, physically-weak clever dude who would later change the course of Marxism as it is practiced today. This guy was put behind bars in 1926, where he, like Hitler, Nehru, Savarkar, Mandela, and many other political leaders, had time to meditate on his politics and write about it.

Western Marxism in its fundamentals is a progression of what Gramsi’s thought as it was conceived in the Italian prison. He challenged certain fundamental propositions regarding the how the state achieves power: most importantly, he challenged the dominance account of power: the idea which asserts that the state obtains and maintains power by force and economic coercion, that is, that the state beats people down or blackmail people economically to hold on to power. This was a commonly-accepted notion amongst Marxists of that era, and one that blew back into their faces, since quite embarassingly, the “working class” liked their state, a lot of them being fiercely nationalistic, and didn’t pay attention to the communist call for revolution in Western Europe.

But is it not true? The state does dominate. Look at China, look at Tianeman square, look at the south american countries, how they brutally beat down on protests using state power. How else does the state rule?

You must understand the basic problem that Antonio Gramsci is fighting with, which, simply put is: why are the people in democratic (and fascist) nations not responding to the Marxist call for revolution? Why do they love their countries so much? Why are they patriotic, and enroll in armies and sing national anthems with heartfelt pride for states that – according to the Marxists – are all about exploiting them?

That the state rules by force is true, but according to Gramsci, it is only part of the whole truth. Clearly, the British weren’t suppressing communist revolts by the dozens using arms. The communist revolts weren’t happening in the first place because people didn’t have that much of a problem with the government. They had disagreements, they had grievances, sometimes grave, but they didn’t despise the government like the Marxists hoped they would.

I see. So what did Gramsci propose?

He divided the factors of state power into two. The state rules by two methods: by maintaining coercion and consent.

What is coercion? Simply put, coercion is the use of force and economic sanction on part of the government to maintain power. Shutting down farmers’ protest in countryside Maharashtra by a lathi-charge? Coercion. Prosecuting you for seditious content and putting you in prison? Coercion. Firing you from your govt. job if you criticize a policy? Coercion. The state applies coercion by the use of what he termed the political society, which is constituted by the armed forces, the police, the judiciary, and so on. This much was known to the Marxists of his day.

Consent, is an innovative – and very subversive – idea on Gramsci’s part. It influences all modern thought on Marxism in the democratic countries today. Basically, consent , as conceived by Gramsci is the willingness of the citizens – the working class, mostly, but others as well – to willingly be party to their exploitation by the state. People fall in love with the state. They develop feelings of patriotism towards the state. They become loyal, fiercely so. How does the state do this? By something Gramsci called political hegemony***.*** Here is political hegemony defined:

the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class who manipulate the culture of that society so that the ruling-class worldview becomes the accepted cultural norm, the universally valid dominant ideology, which justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural and inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for every social class, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class.iii

Basically, a large group of upper-to-middle-class people who subtly control the state come together and propagandize an ideology that justifies the suffering of the working/lower class by using democratic, religious, nationalistic, ethnic, linguistic, or any other means. The oppressed people are deceived into believing it, and don’t revolt, instead consenting to the alleged oppression. Consent is generated through what Gramsci called the civil society, which are “the cultural institutions and practices that appear to be independent of politics, but in fact are not. So television, religious festivals, the republic day parade, the daily national anthem at school, the Sanskrit language, all of that is propaganda on part of the state to get your consent.

Damn, that’s … interesting.

Sounds strangely convicing, no? It seems to explain so much you see around you.

It kinda does, yeah. So … if we relate this to India, then …?

Yes, so take the Bhagavad Gita. According to the Western Marxists, the philosophy of Bhagavad Gita is simply a bourgeois ideology used by the Brahmins to maintain hegemony, or power, over the other castes. “Devote yourself entirely to me, and thinking every action of yours a sacrifice, O Arjuna, perform your dharma.” An ideologue of Gramsci’s thought might say that this is just a Brahmin ploy to maintain a social order that favours them. “Do your duty, don’t concern yourself with questions of right and wrong, don’t worry about all of those philosophical problems, go and kill your brothers.” And of course, if a Dalit reads the Gita, the message that he is supposed to glean from it is, “Do your duty, even if it is cleaning after other people’s excreta.”

Now, of course, such a convenient analysis straw-mans the Gita, and ignores all the sublimity of the scripture. It ignores the fact that this idea of surrendering your will to God is not a hegemonic ploy uniquely attributable to the Hindu scripture, but a constant motif of ancient philosophical thought. Stoicism, for instance, a mostly secular sect of Greece and hellenestic Rome, suggests surrendering your will to the Gods, and performing what is under your control, and leaving everything else to nature. It’s a doctrine that, among other things, aims to remove the doubts and fears that curtail our action when we are too attached to victory or loss to really do what needs to be done, to actually try our best to achieve our objective. God, or Gods, can be read here to mean that part of nature that is beyond your control, that even with all our knowledge of science, is still beyond our grasp. Krishna’s idea is not to hegemonize Arjuna, but to point out the existential rationalizations Arjuna is engaging in to justify his unwillingness to fight because he’s too attached to his brothers, even when they’re exploting him.

But if you will find exploitation in everything if that is only what you look for. This is not to deny that religious authorities have justified exploitation by referring to Gods, but to say that that is not the gist of all sanskritiSanskriti would by its nature – because it is a reflection of the society — incorporate elements of all aspects of the society, from the depths of depravity to the heights of sublimity, and you will find in it what you look for. The idea is to look at —

But you digress. This is not a discussion about the value of tradition. Let’s perhaps stick to Western Marxism.

Yes, right. The point is, a Gramscian theorist would see attempt at exploitative propaganda in all forms of culture and political ideology. The idea of Britain, its literature, its nationalism, its protestant religious identity, its pride, its democratic traditions all the way from Magna Carta to the modern times, is seen as a popular disguise, to feed false satisfaction into the people so that they do not revolt.

Moreover, identities of nation, religion, language, etc. disable people from marching to the beat of the drum of class-consciousness. If I’m an industrial worker and you’re an industrial worker, but I’m Hindu and you’re Muslim, or you speak Tamil and I speak Urdu, and we’re particularly proud of these identities, we’re less likely to unite as a class to fight against the “bourgeoisie.”

And so you’re saying that the idea of India, its ancient civilization, its philosophy, its Hindu cultural identity, is thought by western Marxists a kind of propaganda to generate consent to oppress the lower classes by the Brahmins?

Yes, something like that. That is why they deride everything that remotely relates to the Hindu tradition. The Indians Gods are taboo-ed, caste-strife is exaggerated, the Hindu religious identity is stigmatized. Hell, Kalidasa’s poetry and drama, which is one of the best works of literature ever produced, is barely mentioned by the intellectuals. We barely are aware of the achievements of our civilization. All this, because they think its a hegemonic ploy by the upper-classes to rule the state. Thus you have NDTV ridiculing the search for the Saraswati river – which is a perfectly genuine historical inquiry – and P.K. ridiculing Lord Shiva, and a Barkha Dutt and a Rajdeep Sardesai making fun of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam for saying something favourable to the idea of India, and other innumerable instances like that.

But why that doesn’t explain why the left is so lenient towards Islam. After all, if religion is a hegemonic strategy, then Islam ought to be considered one of the most oppressive hegemonic ideologies there are. Why is that not stigmatised?

Several reasons. The most important being this:

India, in the near future at least, is liable to nationalism founded on the Hindu identity. Nationalism, just like religion, is anathema to Marxism, since nationalism is precisely what led to its failure in western europe. By pointing repeatedly to the historic faults of Hinduism, sometimes real, but mostly imagined, the idea is to break down any possibility of national pride, so that India remains susceptible to increasing Marxist order. Hindu stigma is very important for the left in India, since it is the only thing that stands between them and nationalism. Once the Hindus really come into their own, learning of their past, learning of the crimes that have been committed upon them, the fierce pride and anger will likely obliterate the marxist left-wing.

Yes, but why not criticize Islam equally?

Because there is no threat of Muslim nationalism in India in the near future. At the most, if the demographic ratio shifts against the Hindus, it will eliminate the possibility of Hindu nationalism within current Indian borders. Since nationalism is based on historical memory iv, and what is a matter of pride to Muslims is a matter of embarrassment to Hindus and vice versa, you can be sure that a skewed demographic ratio will remove the possibility of any nationalism altogether. What, then, will remain? Either a weak state maintaining the present borders, in which case it will increasingly look to an outside, international government to conduct its affairs, or it will disintegrate into a number of non-cooperating states that will individually be too weak for their respective nationalisms to pose any threat to a globalist left-wing order.

This is also partly why a blind eye is turned to the excesses of Islam committed by the immigrants in the Western countries as well. The greater the proportion of people in your nation-state that don’t share the common historical memories vital for national pride, the weaker the state becomes, and the more susceptible to global intervention. That is one reason why anti-immigration laws are so vehemently opposed by the left.

Here is another critical idea by the Gramsci that explains the blindness of the left towards Islam’s excesses. Gramsci, in proposing a solution to dealing the cultural hegemony of the ruling class, proposed the idea of the working-class hegemony. This is a political and cultural alliance led by the marxism intellectuals, of course, and composed of what he termed subalterns, i.e. All those groups that are not part of or loosely part of the dominant hegemony. So, in the Indian context, this would mean trying to recruit first and foremost the Muslims, then – constantly failing to, but still trying – the scheduled castes, the Kashmiris, and so on. This also includes subversive acts such as trying to promote Sikh separatism, getting it to clash with the state, and then recruiting it into the working-class hegemony.

With regards to Islam, the following tenet of Gramsci’s thought is the most pertinent: “to genuinely represent the subalterns the working class hegemony has to take seriously their practices and values, even if they’re not progressive”v. This, in the Indian context means that, in order to suppress the dominant ideology which is the Hindu tradition, Islam has to be accepted by the left with all its anti-progressive elements: the intolerance, the terrorism, the expansionism, the archaic codes for women, and so on. This, simply because, in India, Islam is the biggest member of the alliance of the working-class hegemony.

I see. But clearly, Islam is not susceptible to the Marxist ideology. It aims for an order derived from the sharia, not from Marxism. To what extent then is this alliance compatible?

In their ideologies they are antithetical. Islam as it currently stands, and as it is likely to stand in the future, will never accept the Marxist ideology. Both Islam and modern Marxism are fundamentally non-nationalist, imperialist orders (even though for expedience they subscribe temporarily to these orders). Marxism strives for an internationalist order based on class-consciousness and rule of the proletariat, while Islam looks to extend the sphere of influence of the ummah, the global Muslim community, by whatever pragmatic means possible, even if it is nationalismvi. On the world scale, they’re competitors rather than allies. But, in terms of the short-term goals they want to achieve, i.e. the defeat of nationalism (that co-incidentally, is based on Hindu historical identity in India), they form a perfect alliance serving mutual interests. In European countries, you will historically see political organizations suffixed “Popular Front”, which is generally an alliance of all left-wing parties within a country. The left-liberal-islamic nexus is just that suited to the Indian sociopolitical climate.

I understand your point. I see how this alliance might work. But still it seems a bit unreasonable to suggest that all the students on the road, protesting in the universities, all the media personnel, the newspapers, the magazines, would do all of what you describe with such calculated intention. Maybe they really are just coming from a place of humanistic concern.

I agree. But here you must pay attention to a crucial analogy: there are foot-soldiers in a battle, and then there are the generals, above them is the head-of-state, and often propping his or her power is the public. The reason why the solider fights is not the same reason the general fights, and that is not the same reason why the head-of-state goes to war, and the reason the public supports or condemns the battle might yet be different. The head-of-state might have a personal interest, the general might be fighting for glory, the soldier for duty, and the public might be supporting the war because of perceived or real injustice on part of the adversary.

It is the same with any ideology. The academicians, the professors of Marxism deeply versed in the Gramscian and other Marxist thought, the media figureheads who’ve sprung from the universities where this thought is taught, might be promulgating their ideology with complete awareness of what they are doing. Some of the people studying it might also be aware. But the bulk of the public perhaps is fighting because it does not know. It has had it drilled into its head the values of “minority protection” and “Hindutva fascism” and “constitutional values” — which, by the way, they simply use to flout legal precedents and launch into judicial activism – and the public might just be fighting now out of a sense of perceived injustice that they think the Hindus are inflicting on imaginary targets. That, and that the penetration of Marxist values into the cultural domain – the civil society, to use Gramsci’s terminology – has ensured that such protestations are considered cool and righteous.

Also, Gramsci died in the early 1930s, what makes you say that his ideology is still active currently?

I’ll name you some ideological currents that derive heavily from his thought, and have moved much farther in terms of their sophistication and competence at weakening nationalisms. Admittedly I’m only sufficiently-versed with Gramsci’s thought, having not read with much depth the other schools. But they are:

The Frankfurt School. First Marxist school to be set up in a democratic society, in Germany. Horkheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse are its primary figures. This school came up with the subject of critical theory, which is a euphemism for an “ideological effort of representatives of Frankfurt School to challenge all previously accepted standards in every aspect of societal life from a Marxist perspective.”vii Critical theory is a mandatory course in English Literature deparments, and also History departments lately.

Rudi Dutschke and his slogan “long march through the institutions,” which was his notion of subverting society by infilitrating academia, beauracracy, media, and so on over a long period of time. This started happening in the 60s and 70s, and has now reached the zenith, with the left-wing inside all prominent institutions that are responsible for maintaining civil society.

In India, I can recall a few instances off the top of my head. The Subaltern school of history (which has, admittedly, had some credible historians too), of which Sudipto Kaviraj is a prominent figure, is influenced by Gramscian Marxism. Kaviraj believes that the idea of India was created in the 19th century with the British colonial state (conveniently forgetting Arrian, Megasthenes, Al-Biruni, and so many other ancient sources that define India as a definite geographical and cultural entity). Yogendra Yadav is a disciple of his. Then of course you have the journalist nexus, which I’m sure I don’t need to spell out.

So to come back to the initial point …

To come back to the initial point, which started this conversation. The reason that the left is omitting the crimes against Hindus and portraying the Hindus as evil in their narrative does not come out of misunderstanding, or a lack of knowledge on their part (“Maybe they just don’t know what is happening. Maybe because they live in their ivory towers they’re not acquainted with reality. If only they come to hinterland, to the towns in the lives of the common people, they would understand …”). Nope, this is part of well-thought-out ideology that has been institutionalized all over the world, with added verve in the democratic countries.

Indian nationalism will have to fight a strong pitched battle against it. The media will not cover your riots for you. It will not cover both sides. It is biased, certainly, but who are you complaining of the bias to? Objectivity is merely a front, behind which is a left-wing agenda being worked at with tremendous intensity. It is sad that most foot-soldiers of the left-wing might not even be aware of the ideology they’re promoting, but they’re doing it nonetheless, and have to be equally be countered.

And how do you propose Indians stand their defenses against it?

As with all battles, it starts with recognizing the enemy. People generally think of Islamism as the threat. I do not deny it. But Islamism is a visible threat, it is something that is so obvious you can’t help but respond against it. Left-wing subversion is something that is a lot more devious. It’s hazy, concealed, garbed in the costumes of secularism and superior humanistic morality, and unless you’re educated in the subject, you can’t even point to where and how it is taking place.

What is fortunate, however, is that the model for social analysis that the left has figured out are not exclusive to it. Gramsci’s thought, stripped of its prescriptive values and used solely for its general model of the society, can just as well be put to serve the nationalist objective. The left, using these models, has been successful in reaching the top echelons of the civil society. There is no reason why the right can’t use it to further their objectives.

One can use the concepts of consent, hegemony, dominant ideology, and so on to see where we’re at. The left has been very successful in manufacturing consent viii of the college students, and they’ve done it by manipulating the civil society: by infiltrating culture, the movies, the books, the newspapers. Once we’re sensitive to it, we can issue a counter-propaganda campaign. One can and should borrow from one’s foes that which can use to one’s own advantage.

Other than that, I do not know. I am yet to study the rules of political organization and agitation (which again, I will learn from the Marxists, and who’ve specialized in this area for over a century and a half now; and also, Islam with its centralized mosque-maulvi-fatwa network ix). Indians are clearly bad at political organization, and this reflects itself not only in the civil society – compare what a weak crowd we’ve been able to muster in favour of the CAA to how many people actually support it, the supporters-to-demonstrators ratio is pathetic – but also in the political-diplomatic scenario (see, our failure to negotiate to our advantage in the Kashmir dispute)x Self-education helps.

Endnotes:

i See Yoram Hazony’s The Virtue of Nationalism: consulted for the contrast between nationalist vs globalist order

ii Perry Anderson’s Considerations on Western Marxism

iii Jones’s Antonio Gramsci

iv Introducion of Swapan Das Gupta’s Reawakening Bharat Mata.

v Jones’s Antonio Gramsci

vi Chapter 1 of Jaffrelot’s The Islamic Connection

vii definition of Critical Theory at Conservopedia

viii The term borrowed from Chomsky’s book by the same name.

ix Introduction of Arun Shourie’s The World of Fatwas.

x General Ata Hasnain’s talk on Kashmir at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4L7XWn_LQE

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Prem Vasant
Prem Vasant
Blogger. Reader. Electronics and Politics enthusiast. Rajput and Proud Indian. Occasionally attends classes in college., and vacations in Goa when the going gets too tough.
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