Thursday, January 21, 2010

Marxists worked on their minds, and their penetration was more enduring

Jyoti Basu's demise is not the end of an era... We should take this opportunity to highlight one important phenomenon, which was concentrated mostly in pre-Independence Bengal, viz. the shift of a large majority of revolutionaries -- particularly from the Anushilan Samiti circuit -- from Nationalism to the Communist movement.

An auxiliary reason for this development was British aid: revolutionary prisoners were given Marxist literature, because the British knew that the Communists opposed terrorist violence and aimed for a mass uprising in the long term, thus leaving British (and other oppressors') lives out of harm's way until the time of the Revolution, which moreover might never materialize. […]

After the success of the Bolshevik revolution in 1917-20, it was but natural that activists of a revolutiony temperament worldwide would feel attracted to Marxism. At least, they did so wherever an alternative was lacking. In Italy, many joined the Fascist movement and grabbed power in 1923 on a very similar wave of revolutionary enthusiasm.

India have an alternative? The freedom movement was captured by M.K. Gandhi in 1920 and left no room for revolutionaries, whom Gandhi emphatically disowned and condemned. The fledgling RSS, founded by an Anushilan Samiti disappointee, Dr. K.B. Hedgewar, renounced politics and preferred work in the sphere of culture, social self-organization and "character building". Hedgewar rejected offers to integrate his volunteer corps with the Hindu Mahasabha in political work for national independence and for the safeguarding of Hindu interests.

So, it is likely that many revolutionaires, initially motivated only by love of India and freedom, turned to Marxism not because of this ideology's intrinsic strengths, but for lack of a native ideological alternative. Revolution-minded people obviously could not reconcile with Gandhian nonsense, anymore than the moderate constitutionalists (including the young Jinnah) could. They wanted to act decisively against the British colonialists, and also against backward social forces hampering the devolution of the fruits of freedom to the masses. Naturally they had no patience with muddle-headed Gandhism and associated anachronisms. […]

Nobody in
India seemed to understand the challenge and the need for a convincing native alternative. Sri Aurobindo lamented that the mind of the Hindus had become dysfunctional, but he too failed to formulate an alternative, let alone to work for it. After his personal experience with the failure of the armed struggle, he soon retired from politics and, while giving lucid comments on political evolutions, never came out again to provide practical leadership.

All this while, Gandhi worked on people's emotions, but the Marxists worked on their minds, and their penetration was more enduring. Thus we see a long list of freedom fighters taking up Marxism and Socialism of various varieties. Not all these men and women were Marxists in the true sense, they only wanted to serve the national cause but not in the Gandhian way. Thus, the problem was a lack of native Indian/Hindu vision and an ensuing line of action.

We should not paint each and every Communist as a villain, but highlight the fact that a true native ideological narrative needs to be developed from scratch and articulated. This would address a historical lacuna in
India. Indian Marxism will die a natural death only when such a vision emerges. POSTED BY KOENRAAD ELST AT 2:03 PM

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