The Nexus between Truth and Power


“Generally speaking, truth has been suffered to exist in the world just to the extent that it profited the rulers of society.”  These are words of renowned American philosopher Barrows Dunham (1905-1995).  In his book Man Against Myth Dunham argues that people like Galileo or Bruno were suppressed or even killed not because they spoke the truth but the truth they spoke was too inconvenient for the ruling class.

Inconvenient truths are the most dreaded things in the world, perhaps. 

Truths are meant to maintain the status quo.  Those who challenge the status quo are the people left out of the purview of the prevailing power structure.

Let’s take the example of Marxism.  The Communist Party of China was founded in 1921.  A protracted guerrilla war was what it took for Communism in China to usurp the existing power structure.  What the common people (aam aadmi, in Indian parlance) got was another dictatorship.  Mao and Deng and scores of other schools of thought imposed their ‘truths’ on the common people.  These truths crushed under military boots the aspirations and dreams of the aam aadmi.  Did the status quo change for the aam aadmi?  Today, the ideology has changed.  China now has a totalitarian capitalist regime.  The transition from hardcore communism to hardcore capitalism has been quite easy compared to the birth pangs of capitalism in West Bengal and the slow decadence of socialism in Kerala. 

Today China competes with the staunchest capitalist nations.  It has piled up nuclear and other weapons.  It has marauded the environment ruthlessly.  Seven of the ten most polluted cities in the world are located in China.  The aam aadmi is digging deeper and deeper into the ground water sources in search of water: at the alarming rate of 1.5 metres per year.  The Chinese soil is losing its fertility at the rate of 10,400 square kilometres a year.  25 million people have lost their jobs after the country embraced capitalism.  But there is no voice of dissent.  Has the ‘truth’ of capitalism sunk so deep in the psyche of the aam aadmi in China?  Is the ‘truth’ of capitalism as unquestionable today as the truths of science, or as were the truths of religion in the bygone days?

In West Bengal, the Marxists not only did not protect the aam aadmi but colluded with the capitalists in the recent past.  Singur and Lalgarh are the proofs.  The Marxist Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, dictated the new ‘truth’ for the aam aadmi: “Capital has no ideology or colour.”

Pinarayi Vijayan in Kerala literally proved that capital has no ideology or colour.  He grew from rags to riches too rapidly for a Marxist political leader.  When he got embroiled in the SNC-Lavalin corruption charge, he drafted his own ‘truths’ and got the ‘inconvenient’ Chief Minister Achuthanandan ousted from the party’s Polit Bureau.  Vijayan’s supporters nailed down his ‘truth’ into the psyche of the aam aadmi by means of posters, processions and demonstrations.

The aam aadmi has had truths imposed on him from time immemorial.  He has little choice but to accept those truths.  Otherwise he would be labelled a Maoist or something like that and done away with.  The ‘truths’ of the ruling class are always more important than the aam aadmi.

I began with a quote from Barrows Dunham.  Let me end too with a quote from the same: “For Galileo to assert that the earth is a sphere rotating upon an axis, when feudal myth held it to be stationary and flat, was as ‘subversive’ as for a sociologist to assert today that wars originate from the nature of capitalism.”  Dunham wrote that in 1947.


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14 Responses to The Nexus between Truth and Power

  1. Aram says:

    Dear Sir,
    No system is perfect!!
    All systems and in that matter everything that can do good is first searched thoroughly for means of misuse!!
    Every truth , every philosophy and every possible nameable thing in the world is up for grab for misuse!! Be it technology/religion/spirituality/education etc
    The nexus is much more deeper rooted!!
    Lets see if the nexus leads to the end of the world or end of man kind!!

    aram 🙂

  2. matheikal says:

    Wah, Aram, finally you’ve turned an optimist like me!

  3. Dawn and Dew says:

    I remembered Shaw’s “abnormally normal eyes,” free from popular beliefs, popular faith and even popular truth.

  4. Your blog gives a new and uncomfortable twist to the exhortation: Speak truth to power. Now, we have to ask, what kind? It depends on whether you want to survive or not. Truth of any kind will never let you live, only survive, at best.

    Appreciated it very much.

    Raghuram Ekambaram

  5. DMR Sekhar says:

    Marxists are the best enemies of Marxism.
    DMR Sekhar.

  6. feddabonn says:

    “wars originate from the nature of capitalism”

    is that necessarily so? i’d have thought wars originate from the nature of humans.

    • matheikal says:

      Feddabonn, is the human nature intrinsically so perverted as to be belligerent or is it perverted by the systems that man created, systems such as capitalism or whatever?

      • feddabonn says:

        they (human nature and created systems) feed off each other, i think.

        haven’t all civilizations through history, whatever economic system they followed, thrived on war? i would agree that some systems seem to thrive *better on war, capitalism one of them. i’d think to claim that capitalism originated wars (implying that wars were not known before C) would be a bit excessive though. even with all my love of tribal ways and values (an example as an alternative to C), i’d need to admit that tribals went to war, and practised extremely cruel methods while at it.

  7. Pravin says:

    you seem to have imbibed the leninist coolaid of imperial capitalism. thats pretty pathetic.try getting a hand on murray rothbard’s works. unlike marx’s bogus capitalist vs labor class struggle, the real struggle has always been between those who rule and those who are ruled.
    capitalism is about individual freedom.the more free a society is,the more capitalistic it is.this freedom ends when it infringes on another person’s freedom. war is antithetical to capitalism. it is natural to marxism -because it can succeed only when voluntary behaviour of humanity is extinguished.
    marxism failed due to corruption?err. to be corrupt is a human tendency-something capitalism recognizes.thats why there is the need to have a necessary evil called the government. it is marxism which makes silly assumptions about human behaviour.

    • matheikal says:

      Hi Pravin, I’m not absolutely against capitalism. I’d merely expect it to have a human face….
      By the way, my name is not Thomas.

  8. Pravin says:

    sorry about getting your name wrong,Matheikal. why do you think capitalsm doesnt have a human face?. does marxism or socialism have one?. they only pretend to have one. capitalism is not cronyism -the bastardized version of elitism that you see in the USA. that is closer to socialism -only it is explicitly for the doesnt even pretend to be for the poor.i can understand why the oppressed can be demagogued into rooting for socialism -it definitely promises heaven on earth -all paid for by the dirty capitalist’s money.
    on the other hand,
    capitalism is a voluntary system in which all human emotions including compassion and kindness play a part. if you think it is someting cold blooded, I suggest the following book so that the minunderstanding of the term can be removed: A politically incorrect guide to capitalism -by Robert Murphy. costs around 800 rupees since it is published in the US.

    libertarians are closer to capitalism-not keynesian socialists.

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