Gora And Class Struggle
I was reading the posted version of Gora's "Atheism Q and A". And I just had some questions and comments I thought I'd share with you.
1. From what I've read so far, it seems that Gora was a Social Democrat. That is to say that he believed that the path to social equality was through parliamentary action as opposed to armed insurrection. Do you know of his politics more specifically?
If I am correct in my take on what Gora believed, then I think he misunderstood the class dynamics within Capitalist society.
Gora advocated for a totally legal and open struggle to make reforms and legislate piece by piece a new society based on socialist principals (i.e. Redistribution of wealth, Universal health care, Common ownership and execution of means of production). I wish this could be the case, but the way bourgeois democracy is structured this becomes impossible.
Reason #1- The electoral process is built just so that this cannot happen.
- At its inception, the founding fathers created a highly bureaucratic form of representative democracy. This was designed to protect the white landowning ruling class from what Tom Jefferson called the "dictatorship of the majority".
- At present the this same electoral process has become even less an organ for the people the control their destiny than it is an auction. A market where justice, as well as control of the government, is sold to the highest bidder.
a. Campaign finance is probably the greatest tactic that the ruling class uses to control the forces of government. For example, Boeing, the head contractor for the "star wars" anti-ballistic system program has already paid over $300,000 to both candidates for the 2000 elections. Likewise, the company Lockheed Martin, who will be making the satellite components to the same program, has coughed up nearly $390,000 to bath candidates. These corporations aren't giving away this money because the candidates smell nice or because they were boyhood friends with them. It's because once these clowns get into office, the corporations expect favors and such in return. How else can you explain how a totally ridiculous idea such as the "Star Wars" system, which is basically universally derided by any qualified person not on the payroll of its proponents, to see the light of day, much less be implemented by the government as a serious project. In a newsweek poll, over 65% percent of people want more money spent on the crumbling public school system but this is what our tax dollars are funneled into. Those without the $ to influence the Government are as good as mute within a strictly legislative and electoral sense.
But please, do not misunderstand me, I am not denouncing the fight for reforms as pointless. Not at all. such a statement would be foolish! The fight for reforms is what educates the working class and builds up its confidence as well as training it fight bigger battles. One point about class society that think Gora missed was that he saw these reforms as an end in themselves. This is impossible when the fundamental nature of the system still stands. A tiny minority of people control a huge majority of the wealth in this country (something like 1% own 50%, 20% own 80%) and the vast majority own little or nothing and are forced to sell their ability to work to the ruling class. As I have stated above, this minority control the governing bodies and are in no way going to allow these reforms, which cut into their profits and such, to stand.
- Case in point the reforms of the thirties and sixties, the highest points of class struggle in the US.
a. Health care provided by the State, established in the thirties. whittled away to nothing. It took a supposed liberal who, by the way, ran on a platform of universal healthcare, took raise this countries uninsured toll from 35,000,000 in '92 to 45,000,000 and rising in 2000.
b. Abortion rights, fought for during the sixties and seventies, constantly being attacked. Efforts such as the Hyde amendment, which forbids the Government to pay for abortions, severely disadvantaging the poor. Also another attack on woman's rights to terminate a pregnancy was just narrowly defeated when the Supreme court overturned the law forbidding the practice of the fictional "Partial Birth abortion". A law that was written so vaguely that many doctors stopped performing abortions altogether in fear of their state interpreting the law in such a way that they could be charged with breaking the law.
These attacks on the reforms are not going to end as long as we allow the forces behind them to remain in a position to launch them.
Reason#2. Another problem I had with Gora's thinking was where he states that because common people vote for a bourgeois politician, then they have a capitalist outlook. This is true and untrue, I'll explain.
Marx said once that "the prevailing ideas of society are those of the ruling class". This means that (I hope this doesn't sound too condescending, but I don't know how much you know about Marxism) since the ruling class has control over the media, ( new, entertainment, etc..) that means that it's their ideas and values being beamed into your home or gracing the pages of your favorite periodical. This explains why people can blindly support a war where innocent working class people die fighting innocent working class people from another country in a war whose sole purpose is to protect "their" country's hegemony and influence over an Oil rich territory (Iraq). But the reality of it is, the gung-ho patriot worker has no vested interest in the spoils of this war, if anything he will be squeezed harder as these resources are used to strengthen the capitalist machine that extracts profit from him/her.
- The reason Gora's observation about the nature of class consciousness (or lack thereof) is incorrect is because he forgets the effect struggle has on it. Crisis is inherent to capitalism. It is a system of fierce competition that requires the corporate bodies to constantly find the cheapest labor and resources so that profits that are made can be immediately reinvested so it can stay competitive. Every thing depends on those profits. If the companies feel the crunch, than it's the workers who pay (wage cuts, lay offs, benefit elimination). When this pressure is felt, the workers fight back through strikes and boycotts. The workers begin to see throughout the course of these struggles, the reality of the situation. The class lines are drawn. It becomes "us" (the people who do the work) vs. "them" (the ones who get fat off of us). Unions are a prime example of this. In unions you won't see a CEO who desires "equality" as Gora says. You will see the people getting screwed by the Capitalists who identify with each other in their material position as a class, fighting for their own class interests, spontaneously. Therefore the conflict is between the classes, and is not a cross class ideological battle. This is because FUNDAMENTALLY, THE CLASSES HAVE DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSED INTERESTS.
I think that's it for me. I apologize for this unorganized spilling of my thoughts but the sun is coming up and I haven't slept.
I hope this gets you thinking, and as always, I would love to hear your thoughts. Also, where are you politically, if you don't mind my asking?
I like Gora, I don't agree with him politically, but the rest of what he has to say articulates what I've felt in my gut for years.
From: "Positive Atheism" <email@example.com>
To: "Ariel Cruz"
Subject: Re: Gora and class struggle.
Date: Sunday, July 23, 2000 3:19 PM
As you will see, I have very little background in political science. I like some but not all of Gora's views as they pertain to atheism, and that's about it.
I would agree that Gora misunderstood the class dynamics (among other things) within a Capitalist society, and also misunderstood (at least on paper) the fact that neither pure Capitalism nor pure Socialism will work for very long.
I have adopted some elements of Gora's personal philosophical outlook and have stated that I am skeptical about his social and political outlook. It is his views on truthfulness and on taking personal action and personal responsibility that I have incorporated into my own outlook. Much of this aspect of his outlook is what he derived from Gandhi; some of it he already held and Gandhi agreed with him.
As anybody should be able to see (and most of us don't have the political science background that you appear to have -- I certainly don't), the times and culture that Gora was working in were vastly different from anything you will find in the West. The kinds of subcultures there (mostly distinguished by specific religious views) and the sheer diversity of the people, saddled with very specific economic problems, political hardships, and frequent natural disasters, complicated by the revolution in 1947 and 48, gave Gora strong reasons to conclude that his social and political views were best for all -- even though he spent very little time outside of his country.
This is why Gora's writings will never gain widespread acceptance outside of India and outside the role they play in describing the history of one subculture in one nation. Their current willingness to remain focused and plugged in to the world-wide atheistic movement is why the Indian Rationalist Association has gained much wider acceptance outside of India, even though Atheist Centre has probably accomplished more work inside India over the long haul (probably due to Atheist Centre's initial association with Gandhi and Nehru, and complicated by Indian Rationalist Association's internal power struggles that Atheist Centre, being a family-run group, will probably never suffer).
Thanks you for the opportunity to air some of my skeptical feelings about some of what Gora has written. His writings are here to give them Internet presence and I like them for their personal philosophical and ethical values. I profoundly respect Gora for the work he has done and for many of the ideas he has conveyed to us through his writings and his work. His stong sense of principle is something to be emulated indeed. I am also intrigued by his concept of "Partyless Democracy," though I don't see how it could possibly fly in the West.
If you are going to read only one of Gora's books, read An Atheist With Gandhi. This one is excellent starting with the splendid defense of the concept of the ineffable god contained in the Introduction, and culminating with Gandhi's playful taunts and Gora's unanswerable responses. To go further, read Positive Atheism -- though the limitations of Gora's political science education begin to show to those familiar with political science. Finally, An Atheist Around The World is interesting, but here is where Gora's limitations become apparent even to someone who is not paying very close attention, because here is where some of Gora's ideas meet the real world of culture outside India, thus invalidating their potential as a universally applicable system. Gora's main problem was that he tried to make everyone fit into the same mold; I differ in that as a Liberal, I try to see everyone as being different, and try to see all those different outlooks as being valid within a context of governing or administering a state or a nation.
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