‘Fractured freedom’ of  Kobad Ghandy is a classic in it’s own right but with aberrations

Fractured freedom

Without doubt Comrade Kobad Ghandy  in book  ‘Fractured Freedom” has taught us a lot about the weaknesses inherent in the Communist Movement ,giving all of us a great insight into it. Most pertinently it taps on issue of the individual subconscious. Kobad Ghandy proves the spiritual essence of a revolutionary. In it’s own right the work is a classic and should be read by every progressive intellectual. He teaches us that even the Leninist party is not the be it all for revolutionary democracy to reach a pinnacle and how Socialist societies and armed movements neglected the spiritual aspect .In many ways Kobad reminds me of late Punjabi revolutionary writer Satnam and the Post-Maoist philosopher Joshua Moufawad Paul. I would still rate Ghandy far more progressive than many ideologues, as he aspires to create a more democratic party ,taking the experiences of the Chinese Cultural Revolution as a standpoint. He is a more progressive critique of Stalinism. than many. In many ways Ghandy’s eclectic thinking today is a product of the loopholes prevailing within the Communist Movement. Past Socialist Societies neglected libertarianism but that should not be allowed to upset the tide of the organised movement. Both wish to incorporate post modernist ideas. Kobad is the by –product of the liberal influence within Maoism. His reflections are pertinent in how even Maoist cadre do not have sufficient political education who he encountered first hand in jails. I admire Kobad for giving such tacit support to the Caste question, treating it as an integral part of the Communist Revolutionary Movement. Above all he makes us all question whether a Leninist or Maoist party concept has to be developed further to create greater democracy.

Ghandy is relevant when he narrates the psychology of individualism of workers who find escapist routes and bear the same culture or orientation of the oppressor classes. In day to day life I can recount thousands of time when I could witness ho psychology is influenced by the culture of individualism .At the airport I remember trolley retriever cueing for tips and involved in smuggling. In transport industry rickshaw drivers more than often over charge customers. We have to ask ourselves why so many industrial workers do not join the ranks of the organised movement and how even oppressed masses are swayed by Communal politics. Permanent workers don’t even side with contract workers. The social media has completely entrapped the minds of youth today worth imperialist culture. His points make me probe into why so many cadres are lost to revolutionary organisations or the movement and the current that is obstructing any new roses to bloom.Ghandy is a crusader against mechanical approach to Marxism-Leninism.

Personally I respect Kobad for imbibing Freudian ideas as study of human behaviour is an integral part of Marxism. Still at important junctures Freud would have to be refuted when he claims Human relations are only about sex instinct. Kobad echoed the views of Che Guevera and in some of his writing s ressurected Che’s vision of transforming the inner essence of man. Kobad’s emphasis on the subconscious has vital importance as it penetrates the spiritual aspirations of the opressed. Kobad re-enforces my view that only 2 line struggle within a Communist party like that in the Cultural Revolution can save a socialist state or convert it into a Communistic one. He makes us question whether Leninist or Maoist proletarian dictatorship concept too had inherent shortcomings. I praise Ghandy as a crusader against fascism. I am most touched by his deep admiration for late wife Anuradha Ghandy..

Ghandy does nor berate the Maoist movement on a whole but just points out it’s glaring weaknesses. He is critical of Jharkhand movement but still shows great admiration for work in Dandakaranya region.In his book he narrates how mass movements faced the wrath of state repression which led to collapse of the mass movements, with the revolutionaries getting cut off from the masses and either becoming victims of state repression or roving rebels.

Where Kobad is ecclectic in book ‘Fractured Freedom’ is when he brings everything back to the individual as the centre. Ghandy fails to highlight the aspect of the massline .To me he does not adequately defend the contribution of Marx, Lenin or Mao .On failure of Communism he praises China under Mao and achievements of the Cultural Revolution in China but shows scant respect for the concept of the Leninist party. Instead of defending the achievements of Socialist Russia till 1956 and China till 1976 Kobad instills sheer pessimism into a Communist cadre. I wish he spoke about Grover Furr’s revelations of Russia under Stalin, whatever the gross errors of Stalin, and referred to the work of intellectuals in recent times in defending the Cultural Revolution. Ghandy also undermines concept of democratic centralism. Most significant some genuinely leftists\ cadre raised questions on his writings. He fails to foresee that the Cultural Revolution was the first attempt f its kind to combat revisionism within a Socialist Society and refer to why mistakes in massline and rightist trends within the Peoples Liberation army were the main reasons. True there were excesses like the red guard depredations or attacks on intellectuals and artists in a most sectarian manner but the Western media completely stripped any credit to the achievements .He fails into delving into the root of the setback which laid in mistakes in implementing Leninism .Kobad patronises the New left or  Post Modernist writers like Louis Althusser,Zizek and Alan Badiou .In my view Post modernism has to be refuted tooth and nail to defend the kernel of Leninism. Ghandy did not highlight the Demonstration sin Russia still glorifying leaders like Lenin and Stalin ,particularly on 150th birthday of Lenin and 75th anniversary of Victory in World war 2,nor the demonstration sin Chin today upholding the goals of the Cultural Revolution. I would the other way and blame failure or setback in the Communist Movement in not properly grasping the teachings of Marx, Lenin or Mao, going to the extent of treating Maoism as a separate entity.

I feel Ghandy missed out on the ideas of Carl Jung who was convinced every problem in essence was a spiritual one. No revolution can be won without an inner spiritual change, which was morally shown in Russia, China, Vietnam or Cuba. Still Ghandy in my view should have thrown light on the historical changes of globalisation that tried to bury Marxism and not found fault with the ideology of Communism itself. It is in absolute contrast to late Sushil Roy who felt Bolshevisation of the party was very weak and thus looseness was created. Ghandy to me runs down Marxism and the organised movement by claiming youth in Andhra or Telengana are politically apathetic. He is critical of dogma but is very general and hardly touches on aspects of mass line or introspect into fundamental aspects of Marxism- Leninism. To me his criticism of lack of proletariat is immature if you analyse the destructiveness of globalisation .By claiming Communist ideology has received a major setback he is doing no justice to the great achievements in the past Socialist Societies like Russia and China ,albeit the grave errors. Ghandy does not delve into the root cause of the setbacks. I very much doubt his late wife Anuradha Ghandy would have endorsed his views which are inclined towards post modernism.

Ghandy has no lines for the failure of the mass line in terms of the building of mass organisations or military line in the Charu Mazumdar era which is prevailing even today.When I met him I was surprised that he had no knowledge in the crusade for the mass line against left adventurism by comrades like T.Nagi Reddy or D.V.Rao.Ghandy does not reflect how today it is the failure of subjective factors for launching protracted peoples war that are leading to reversal and weakness in the movement. He makes no mention of the  ideological political struggle waged by Nagi Reddy streams like Centre of Communist Revolutionaries of India that later merged into the CPRCI(M.L.)Infact I hope a polemic is written by the Communist Party Re-Organisation Centre of India (Marxist Leninist) evaluating the book . He vaguely speaks about dogma within the Indian Communissts, but projects no concrete alternative to developing the proletarian revolutionary line in the era of globalisation. No light is thrown on how we have to change method of organising the industrial labour class, who are so segregated or divorced from each other, in their place of work.

I somehow contemplate what would have been the fate of Kobad if he had joined the ranks of the mass line of the T Nagi Reddy variety culminating into the CCRI and later the CPRCI) ML) .It was the weakness of this trend in not having the creativity to consolidate and win over cadres who were swayed by revolutionary heroism of squad actions. I question why such groups could not win over cadre like Kobad Ghandy.I would have loved a dialogue between Kobad and the late Harbhajan Sohi.

Below is rebuttal of Kobad Ghandy to a criticism from Manish Azad , of his book ‘Fractured Freedom.’ MA here refers to Manish Azad.

Kobad Ghandy

It is good that there is a debate on the questions raised as only through debate can we get greater clarity on issues facing the communist movement worldwide in a period when capitalism is on an aggressive spree rampaging peoples’ lives and the environment. But the way this is presented is typical of the Indian left many of whom do not analyse their own practice (and its relevance) but are adept at sarcasm without serious content. In my reply as MA has only raised questions and provided not a single answer, before answering him, I will first ask him some questions; next I will like to touch on his methodology and finally I will take up the points he raised:

Some Questions 

What does Manish Azad (MA) feel is the reasons for the setback of revolutions/socialism worldwide?

What are the reasons for the stagnation in the communist/revolutionary movements in India?

What are his reflections of the growth and development of his own group/party ( I assume he is part of one though it is not mentioned) and as he feels revolution is inevitable when does he expect that his organisation will achieve it.

What were the reasons for the reversal of the GPCR, that too immediately after Mao’s death.

While recounting past revolutions – Paris Commune, Soviet, GPCR – he does not mention the Chinese revolution; why?

He mocks at the point I make that armed revolutions have only been successful during wars between the ruling classes; could he recount which revolutions he considers successful in peace times.

While negating the Bhakti movement and being silent on Ambedkar, Phule and Periyar he does not elaborate what should be the stand of the Marxists in India to the caste/dalit question. Please elaborate.


MA’s methodology seems to be exactly the type which ails much of the left movement which I have tried to counter is Section III of my book Fractured Freedom. It is in the Chanakya style: pitting Anuradha (a dead person who cannot reply; that too a person he doesn’t probably know) against me; misquoting and misinterpreting points (I will elaborate in the answers); branding a different view to discredit it (Frankfurt School, Liu Shao Chi, etc); continuing in the dogmatic tradition treating Marxist texts as some Bhagvad Gita rather than a guide to action and not even trying to assess the cause for stagnation/setbacks in the movement. And finally, being totally uncritical to one’s own practice; thereby giving the impression that it is perfect following the Marxist classics to the T. I will ignore the sarcasm in my answers as it does not warrant comment at such low levels and only deal with the issues raised.

Answers to the main points

Bihar-Odisha Movement : By his emphasis on it one expects he is a field activist of that movement and based on that experience has passed a number of comments. He misquotes and says that I say the movement has turned into ‘gangs’. My point was only recounting what I witnessed of the Maoists in Jharkhand jail and not a comment on the entire movement, which I know very little about. When I do talk about the movements in various areas getting cut off from the masses it is in the light of repression by the state.  What I mention is a standard cycle which MA would have himself witnessed in his own personal experience (if he has ever faced repression). Here I have recounted what I was told in jails about the AP and Odisha movements and also my own experience. That is: huge mass movements were built under revolutionary leadership; then massive state repression is brought in and the mass movement collapses (a section killed/imprisoned and a small section capitulating); then the revolutionaries are cut off from the masses and either become easy targets or are forced to becoming roving rebels. I presented this as a problem the movement faces, but instead of seeing it and giving suggestions of how to face this dilemma MA acts like the ‘holy cow’ sticking to the classics. This does not help in solving the problem at the grass roots and sticking to dogma rather than using Marxism as a guide to action does not help tackle this issue. No one has negated anywhere the struggles against the upper-caste sena in Bihar, but it would have been more relevant to state the present condition (which I am not aware of) rather than recounting events of two to three decades back.

Question of happiness-freedom-new values: Again MA resorts to misquoting saying I have shifted the agenda from fighting for ‘equality’ to fighting for happiness. It is clearly stated that the fight for equality should be part of the fight for happiness. And as far as the question of ‘new values’ and the ‘Anuradha model’ MA seems to go hysterical sometimes branding it as the same as the ‘Frankfurt School’, sometimes as Liu Shao Chi’s ‘How to be a Good Communist” (criticised by Mao and the Cultural Revolution) going so far as to state that the ‘Anuradha model’ is an ‘elite model’…… but nowhere does he state whether communists should change themselves as part of changing society. That too he is silent on the issue in a country like India where Brahminical and caste values are ingrained in us from birth. Here I am not seeking to go into a debate of the ‘Frankfurt School’ nor on Liu Sha Chi’s book as this is not the place (and neither has MA countered those arguments, he has only used it to brand) but what MA needs to consider is why the GPCR which also sought to change values, failed and the entire process was reversed after Mao’s death. But then MA is probably not particularly interested in improving practice and learning from past history but more interested is scoring points. Again on the question of ‘Freedom’ he says why have I not quoted Marx? What is the significance merely quoting Marx, without linking it to the fact of what that freedom entails in real practical life and organisational work. Merely taking quotes to prove the ‘purity’ of one’s thoughts is intellectualism and does not help practice.

On the question of Utopia again MA seeks to brand it, by referring to Engels’s ‘Utopian Socialism’ without in anyway linking what I have said to what Engels said over one and a half centuries back in a particular context. And then he immediately jumps to another issue saying that new ideas cannot come form a clash of differing views. This is the very negation of dialectics and typical to the small group mentality that exits in many a Marxist circle which cannot countenance a differing view and immediately seeks to brand it rather than argue the point out.

Finally, it would be good if Manish Azad instead of resorting to Brahminical semantics discusses the concrete points with the aim of bettering our practice and achieving greater success in revolutionary growth (let alone change). The communist movement has existed in India since 1925 and we need to assess how far it has evolved in this time (nearly a century) and why it is still on the back burner. I would welcome such criticism which would help bring more clarity to the complex issues facing movements not only all over the world, but more particularly in the specific conditions of India.

Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist. Toured India, particularly Punjab .Written on Mass movements ,,Massline,Maoism on blogs like Democracy and Class Struggle and frontierweekly .An avid cricket lover too who has posted writings on blogs like Pakpassion Indian Cricket Fans and Sulekha.com.

Email- [email protected]



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