Activism and Militancy: Empire of the Sands. Note Quote.

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Negri writes:

In the post-modern era, as the figure of the people dissolves, the militant is the one who best expresses the life of the multitude: the agent of biopolitical production and resistance against Empire […] When we speak of the militant, we are not thinking of anything like the sad, ascetic agent of the Third International […] We are thinking of nothing like that and of no one who acts on the basis of duty and discipline, who pretends his or her actions are deduced from an ideal plan […] Today the militant cannot even pretend to be a representative, even of the fundamental human needs of the exploited. Revolutionary political militancy today, on the contrary, must rediscover what has always been its proper form: not representational but constituent activity.[…] Militants resist imperial command in a creative way. In other words, resistance is linked immediately with a constitutive investment in the biopolitical realm and to the formation of co-operative apparatuses of production and community.[…] There is an ancient legend that might serve to illuminate the future life of communist militancy: that of Saint Francis of Assisi. Consider his work. To denounce the poverty of the multitude he adopted that common condition and discovered there the ontological power of a new society. The communist militant does the same, identifying in the common condition of the multitude its enormous wealth. Francis in opposition to nascent capitalism refused every instrumental discipline, and in opposition to the mortification of the flesh (in poverty and in the constituted order) he posed a joyous life, including all of being and nature […] Once again in postmodernity we find ourselves in Francis’s situation, posing against the misery of power the joy of being. This is a revolution that no power will control – because biopower and communism, co-operation and revolution remain together, in love, simplicity, and also innocence. This is the irrepressible lightness and joy of being communist.

Once again it is particularly difficult to find any ideas that bear any relation to classical Marxism in the extract above. For Negri, the militant [activist] becomes an individualist who confronts the capitalist system in a “creative” way and who draws his own revolutionary strength from his or her own very uniqueness and his or her capacity to identify with the conditions of the masses. On top of this, the hero of this type of militancy is St. Francis of Assisi! In reality, genuine Marxist activists are able to place themselves at the vanguard of the working class, not only because they have won the trust and respect of workers through their ideas but also because they are able to connect with the political consciousness of the working class at a particular given moment and raise it towards the accomplishment of the socialist transformation of society. These types of activists never act on the basis of their own individuality, but know how to use it by linking it up with the individualities of other activists and put it at the service of the revolution. The political activist is in no way some sort of dour killjoy, but is the driving force of a whole class, the proletariat.

For the activist, being part of the proletariat also means not being afraid to represent it. On the contrary, each day of the activist’s life is dedicated to advancing the working class in its quest for the final victory. The Marxist activist’s revolutionary duty is to organise and lead, without ever becoming separated from his or her own class. Lenin, in a critique of Rosa Luxemburg’s conception of party organisation – which he saw as a vanguard based on revolutionary discipline – says the following in “Left-wing communism, an infantile disorder” about how the discipline of the proletariat’s revolutionary party can be maintained.

First, by the class-consciousness of the proletarian vanguard and by its devotion to the revolution, by its tenacity, self-sacrifice and heroism. Second, by its ability to link up, maintain the closest contact, and – if you wish – merge, in certain measure, with the broadest masses of the working people – primarily with the proletariat, but also with the non-proletarian masses of working people. Third, by the correctness of the political leadership exercised by this vanguard, by the correctness of its political strategy and tactics, provided the broad masses have seen, from their own experience, that they are correct.

All this has little to do with the ideal kind of activist described in the pages of Empire. In conclusion, we have a good suggestion for bringing Negri’s theory face to face with stark reality. What would happen if Negri’s “activist” went to a factory gate, or any other workplace at the beginning of the day’s shift, and invited the workers to “have fun” and “disobey”, in order to subvert the established order? We do not claim to know the conditions of every single workplace or factory, but we are certain that in those places that we know and where we often go to give out leaflets and organise campaigns, the level of alienation and fatigue caused by waged labour under the control of the capitalists is very high. Activists going to workers and proposing to them the type of activity that Negri suggests would be lucky to get away with less than a scratch! Again, once petit-bourgeois theories are confronted with the reality of the situation, they show their completely bankrupt nature.

Role and Nature of Religion in Thomas Hobbes

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Hobbes’ three presentations of political philosophy may be with less justice called theological-political treatises. Hobbes with dual intentions becomes an interpreter of the Bible, in the first place in order to make use of the Scriptures for his own theory, and in the second place in order to shake the authority of the Scriptures. When Hobbes grants the theological motivation of political philosophy a last refuge in the discussion, which treats of the natural State, he indicates the connection between theology and the natural State in particular. As the natural State becomes less and less important to Hobbes, the theological arguments also become less and less important. Originally, when he had not yet conceived the idea of an artificial State, he was incomparably more under the spell of the theological tradition.

The space devoted to the criticism of religion increases considerably on the way from the Elements of Law to Leviathan and is accompanied by the deepening of the criticism. The fundamental question: On what authority does one believe that Scripture is the word of God? Is answered differently in different presentations. In the Elements of Law: On the authority of the Church, the successors of the Apostles. In De Cive: Not on the authority of the Church, but on that of Jesus. In the Leviathan: On the authority of the teachers whose teaching is permitted and organized by the sovereign power, i.e. one confesses verbally, for thoughts are free, that Scripture is the word of God, because secular authority commands this confession. But in all three presentations, Hobbes contends that all that is needed for salvation is the belief in Jesus as Christ. In earlier presentations, the belief in the immortality of soul belongs to these premises; whereas in the later works, the resurrection of the body is tacitly substituted for the immortality of the soul. The Leviathan finally openly opposes the resurrection of the body to the immortality of the soul and admits only the first as grounded in the Scriptures. Hobbes declares that unconditional obedience to the secular power is the bounden duty of every Christian. His question: is the Christian obliged to obey the secular power when that power forbids him the profession of his faith? is answered in the earlier presentations with the finding that the right and duty of the Christian in such a case is only passive resistance and martyrdom, while the Leviathan denies the obligation and even the right of martyrdom to the ordinary Christian who has not the special vocation of preaching the Gospel. In the De Cive it is a Christian dogma that Christ’s Kingdom is not of Earth but that of Heaven; in the Leviathan on the other hand, the Kingdom of God under the Old and also under the New Covenant is to be understood as a purely earthly Kingdom. In the Elements of Law, Hobbes defends the Episcopal constitution of the Church, whose rightness is proved by the fact that Christ in virtue of his sovereignty enthroned his Apostles. He also denies that in the Christian hierarchy there was a high priest to whom the individual bishops were subordinate. In the later presentations he rejects the Episcopal constitution, even the view that officials of the Church can be instituted by any ecclesiastical authority which is not in every respect dependent on the secular authority. The apparent contradiction of the general tendency of the Elements of Law on the one hand and of the later presentations on the other, is explicated by the fact that in the later writings, Hobbes attaches much less value to conformity with the teachings of the Scriptures. That Scripture vouches for priestly rule is from now on not an argument for priestly rule, but an argument against Scripture. Thus the single apparent exception is in reality the strongest corroboration of the assertion that on the path from the elements of Law via De Cive to the Leviathan Hobbes drew farther and farther away from the religious tradition. One may say, that Hobbes kept pace in his way, which was not very edifying, with the development from Anglican Episcopalianism to Independentism.

In the earlier presentation of his political philosophy, Hobbes is relatively close to Anglican Episcopalianism. Hobbes’ personal attitude to positive religion was at all times the same: religion must serve the Sate and is to be esteemed or despised according to the services or disservices rendered to the State. This view may be seen as early as the introduction to the translation of Thucydides where Hobbes defends his author:

In some places of his History he noteth the equivocation of the oracles; and yet he confirmeth an assertion of his own, touching the time this war lasted, by the oracle’s prediction. He taxeth Nicias for being too punctual in the observation of the ceremonies of their religion, when he overthrew himself and his army, and indeed the whole dominion and liberty of his country, by it. Yet he commandeth him in another place for his worshipping of the gods…So that in his writings, our author appeareth to be, on the one side not superstitious on the other side not an atheist’.

The fact that Hobbes accommodated utterances of his unbelief to what was permissible in a good, prudent subject justifies the assumption that in the decades before the Civil war, Hobbes for political reasons hid his true opinions and was mindful of the maintenance of theological convention. He says:

‘I long infinitely to see those books of the Sabbaoth, an am of your mind they will put such thoughts into the heads of the vulgar people, as will confer little to their good life. For when they see one of the Ten Commandments to be jus humanum merely, (as it must be if the Church can alter it), they will hope also that the other nine may be so too. For every man hitherto did believe that the Ten Commandments were the moral, that is, the eternal law’. It is noteworthy that Elements of Law defend a much more conservative ecclesiastical policy than do other writings.

As for the natural religion, he was skeptical originally and throughout which is more than the maintained its skeptical outlook. He considered any natural knowledge of God, which is more than the knowledge that a First Cause exists, completely impossible. Thus he systematically excluded revealed and natural theology from philosophy. To keep up an appearance that he attacked only scholastic theology and not the religion of the Scripture itself, Hobbes fought his battle against natural theology in the name of strict belief in the Scriptures and at the same time undermining that belief by his historical and philosophical criticism of the authority of the Scriptures. An apparent progress in his Biblicism indicated of his real progress in his criticism of natural theology, and thus was a proof that he originally judged natural theology more favourable than revealed theology. According to the Elements of Law, the binding force of natural law is based on natural knowledge of God; according to the later presentations it is based on revelation. The Elements of Law bring forward the proofs of the existence of God more emphatically and in more detail than does the Leviathan; for if one compares the formulation of these two works, one positively begins to suspect that in the Leviathan the argument is not seriously meant. The connecting link in this case as so often is in De Cive, where Hobbes says that without revelation atheism is almost inevitable. The traditional arguments for the supremacy of the monarchy, which are atleast mentioned in the earlier presentations, rest on assumptions of natural theology. Finally: in the elements of Law, there is a remark countering the ‘supernaturalists’ hostility to reason, to, which there is practically no parallel in the later works. Hobbes also fought his battle against supernaturalism with his weapons of materialism. At all events, as early as in 1641 in his correspondence with Descartes he defends the conclusions of his materialism with reference to God and the Soul. Before the complete elaboration of his materialism and particularly during his humanist period, when he had not yet freed himself from the authority of Aristotle, he in principle recognized natural theology.

{Securities Transaction Tax + Commodities Transaction Tax + Revenue Foregone} = A Recipe for Illusionary Scam

Are Transaction Tax and Securities Transaction Tax synchronous? If by chance these are used interchangeably, then the rate is not 0.5%, but in accordance to a slab where sale/purchase, or transaction effects on options or futures, where it is valued in premium in the case of options and actual trade price in the case of futures. Moreover, Securities Transaction Tax differs from intra-day to inter-day transactions. Two crucial factors are the distinguishing parameters here: buying securities and selling securities would attract different STT, and is often resorted to avail exemption in case of long-term capital gain. The rate of taxation is determined by the Government. All stock market transactions that involve equity or equity derivatives like futures and options are liable to be taxed under the STT. Now this last sentence is redundant, but points out to commodities and currencies that stand out exempted from STT. If one talks of stocks, bonds and commodities in the same breath, albeit preliminarily, as different from what the governmental figures exhibit – the latter dips the figures, while it should have been higher according to those in the opposition, then clearly commodities and currency trades should have different taxation structure in the stock exchanges. But, that isn’t the case, for commodities are never traded on the stock exchanges, but on the commodity exchanges, and regulated by Forward Markets Commission and not by SEBI. Further, commodity derivatives can be settled by delivery, unlike security derivatives, which could only be settled by payment or receipt of differences. So bearing this differentiation in mind, where does one see commodities vis-à-vis securities under the rubric of revenue receipt?

I understand it has no truck with revenue foregone (it actually has, and I won’t dismiss it so simplistically!! but for brevity I am presuming it merely). Revenue Foregone is more of a myth in regards to the common misunderstanding surrounding the same. Section 5A (1) of the Central Excise Act 1944 empowers the Union Government to lower tariff rates below levels prescribed in the schedules, and are specifically applicable to mass consumable goods and more often than not are not tax sops to corporations. On the other side, Customs duty concessions are mostly for imported goods and used as inputs for exports as defined under Section 25 (1) of the Customs Act, and thus many a times run the risk of being included on the revenue foregone side, while it is mainly to boost India’s exports more competitively on the global market scene. Taken these two, the myth of Revenue Foregone only proliferates either as giveaways to corporations, or as political decisions taken on behalf of corporations, while the real demand from these corporations seldom make such warrants.

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Taxation on the money made via share market trading depends largely on the purpose for which share transactions are done. An individual can trade shares for business purposes or as an investment activity. In both these cases, the STT that is levied by the Government, varies. Why this obsession with STT is the obvious question? Because: STT is fast, transparent and effective. Since tax is levied as soon as the transaction arises, instances of non-payment, wrong payment etc. are reduced to a minimum. The net result of this is, however, it pushes up the cost of transactions. Now, while calculating the estimated potential of revenues from such taxes, the possibility of migration of trade volume is generally not taken into account. Hence, actual revenue mobilized in most cases does not correspond with the estimated potential, because the revenue potential is a function of the elasticity of trading volume with respect to transaction cost/STT spread. On the issue of volatility, things settle down to an ambiguity, and as far as stock exchanges are concerned, one cannot overlook it. The impact of transaction tax on volatility is a function of market microstructures. If market fundamentalists out-number noise traders, then STT will not only affect the latter, but also have a disproportionate effects on the former, leading to a fall in the trade volume and liquidity and inversely rising volatility. This inconclusively questions the veracity of transaction tax and STT, and the two are synchronous with STT and others being merely under different headings of taxation.

Let us leave behind CTT for the time being, as that would complicate matters since we are talking stock exchanges here and not commodity exchanges. Only thing, I’d like to point out then is not using commodities for revenue receipts, if such receipts are generated from stock exchanges as there is a categorical error in bringing them on a similar platform. If one goes into different heads and nomenclatures, what good does it bring about looking at transaction tax stripped off its components is something I find difficult to fathom? Would it not defeat the purpose if one is looking at volume or volumes of trade and revenue receipts under these? Looking now briefly at CTT. First proposed in 2008, it was met with extreme opposition, and CTT was proposed again in the Budget in 2013, but only on Non-Agricultural Commodities such as Gold, Silver, Aluminium, Crude Oil among others. This time the Bill was passed & CTT was levied on Trades in Commodity Futures on & after 1 July 2013. With the introduction of CTT in commodity trading, trading volumes on the MCX and other commodity exchanges in India have seen a dip as high as 50% – 60%. It has also driven away smaller segments of the volume contributors away from the segments since scalping, jobbing, etc have become an unviable and expensive proposition.