The Parameters of Resistance

By Bagchi, Amiya Kumar | Monthly Review, July-August 2003 | Go to article overview

The Parameters of Resistance


Bagchi, Amiya Kumar, Monthly Review


This is written as a very meager tribute to the work done by the Monthly Review group led by Paul Sweezy, Leo Huberman, Harry Magdoff, Harry Braverman and all their colleagues to alert us during the last half century and more about the dangers posed by rampant capital to freedom in every region of the world. Namaste, sentinels of freedom at Monthly Review.

As imperialism spirals out of control, and as the manifestations of its wickedness penetrate every pore of human existence everywhere, the resistance against it also has emerged from every cell of social and political organization, taking many diverse forms that defy easy encapsulation. As the forms of protest and resistance have multiplied, the problem of choosing an appropriate political strategy has become that much more difficult. Is the resistance to be mounted only globally? Are we to fight only licentious finance and the greed of marauding transnational corporations and leave everything else to be settled after that global fight is won? Or are we to fight every little tyranny everywhere--the corruption of municipal officials, the arrogance of party bosses seeking to control local democracy, and the callousness of public hospital authorities? And are we to treat as enemies every political formation that provides succor and comfort to such petty tyrants and overweening bureaucrats? *

In much of the third world, including the subcontinent of South Asia, a line seems to divide the anti-systemic or anti-imperialist struggles into two groups. On the one hand, there are those who believe in the necessity of squaring up for battle against global transnational capital and fighting to reverse the policies that have allowed it to subvert and control all major governments. The adherents of this view think that long-term strategies for capturing state power have to be pursued toward that end. On the other hand, there are others who are convinced that the fight against tyrannies that are crippling the lives of people has to be conducted here and now.

In fact, the political activists, if that is a name we can give to the first group, have to deal with local issues-and they have to prove their sincerity and competence in dealing with them. Such constructive engagements are necessary, in addition to their ideology, for them to build their base of support and strengthen popular resistance against the oppression of capital and the state apparatus. There are also some among the moral resisters, to give a name to the other group, who are not averse to seeking the help of the state apparatus to right the wrongs they are fighting against. But there are some moral resisters who think that the state, as such, is an evil institution and its embrace is to be avoided at all cost.

This division, however blurred at the edges, between the political activists and the moral resisters has often made it difficult for resistance movements to unify in the past. The division has generally been described as one between those movements whose ideologies focus on the control of state power and those that often seek to remedy evils without bothering about who controls the state. By and large, so-called neutral academics have approved of the moral resisters in preference to those they see as seeking power. The division has also been described as a divide between the communist or socialist view of resistance movements and the Foucauldian view, with its focus on the cellular nature of oppressive structures and their inevitable appearance under any state, however benignly it may try to operate.

I have never been able to accept this dichotomy as a valid representation of today's resistance to imperialist capitalism, that is, the actual capitalism of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The fight against imperialism must encompass all aspects of life including the forms of ideology, the state apparatus, and the so-called civil society as well. That fight has to be fought by uniting all genuine anti-imperialist formations. …

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