At the time of the establishment of the Congress Socialist Party (CSP) on May 17, 1934 in Patna, under the chairmanship of the patriarch of the Indian Socialist Movement, Acharya Narendra Deva, two goals were clear: to achieve the independence of the country and to enhance the pace of the organised efforts towards establishing a socialist system. To achieve both of these goals, it was necessary to strengthen the true anti-imperialist spirit. At the first All India Congress Socialist Party meet on October 21-22, 1934 in Mumbai, the outline of the detailed programme in the direction of creating a socialist society was accepted, JP had said: “Our work within the Congress is governed by the policy of developing into a true anti-imperialist body.”
As was seen later on, the founders of the CSP were in favour of creating a socialist system through a fruitful dialogue between Marxism and Gandhism. Gandhi had opposed the formation of the Congress Socialist Party. But the founder leaders did not retaliate and attack Gandhi in return. The relationship and dailogue between the two continued till the death of Gandhi. This trend did not cease even afterwards: JP remarked on the establishment of the Congress Socialist Party: “Gandhism has played its part. It cannot carry us further and hence we must march and be guided by the ideology of Socialism.” He joined the Sarvodaya movement, and Lohia presented a revolutionary interpretation of Gandhism. After independence, in the same spirit, a dialogue was establshed with Dr Ambedkar, although he unfortunately passed away while the discussion was still on.
The founder leaders of the CSP were Marxists, but they were not simply Communists working under the international communist movement. They were in the midst of the Freedom Struggle; they spent long terms in jails during the Civil Disobedience Movement and the Quit India Movement. The founder members were clear that freedom (of the country, society and individual) is a pre-requisite for a true anti-imperialist spirit.
A socialism which follows external dictates, and a ‘revolutionary’ democracy born out of the dictatorship of one-party rule were not acceptable to the founder leaders of the CSP. The decision to create the Socialist Party separate from the Congress after independence, had far-reaching consequences in the direction of democracy and the strengthening of the parliamentary system. For the socialist leaders, participation in the democratic process was not a strategy. The dream of an independent nation, which was inherent in the premise of progress towards socialism, was one which would never again be enslaved, via an active political-cultural-intellectual participation of the marginalised sections—Dalits, Adivasis, Backward, Women, poor Muslims—in the Indian social and economic milieu. Despite what Gandhi had said, the leaders of the Congress did not dissolve the Congress after it had achieved its goals; but the Socialist leaders, after an initial hesitation, disassociated themselves from it. They succeeded, to some extent, in making a dent in the rule of the Congress after a sustained long struggle of two decades. Even if we do not accept any other achievement of the anti-Emergency struggle led by JP, the reinstatement of democracy is a lasting achievement, which is with us even till this day. The first warning of the attack of neo-imperialism, which has been continuing since the last three decades, was given by the socialist leader and thinker, Kishen Patnaik.
The current Indian politics also has two goals: the defence of our independence from the onslaught of neo-imperialism and the establishment of a socialist society. This work can only be done by associating with the inheritence of the Indian Socialist Movement, the foundation of which was laid along with the establishment of the Congress Socialist Party in 1934. Without this determination and initiative the celebration of the 82nd foundation-day of the CSP will be merely ceremonial. Though there must be some real sentiment behind such ceremonial programme, it has many disadvantages. All those who have been hand-in-glove not only with the Congress and BJP but with Anna Hazare, Kejriwal-Sisodia, Ramdev-Shree Shree, V.K. Singh etc. are socialists—this sends a totally negative message to the new generation. This is the reason why the youth are not coming out in clear support of the Socialist movement. They are apprehensive that most politicians conduct their personal political business in the name of socialism. This business, obviously, runs under the all-pervasive business of neo-liberalism thus strengthening the grip of neo-imperialism.
At this juncture, the first lines of the poem written by Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena at the demise of Lohia, are worth remembering:
“See, how their stock soars!
Those, who promise redemption
for a fee … ”
The author teaches Hindi at Delhi University and is president of Socialist Party (India)