(This is the English translation of my article in Hindi written in 2012 to mark the 70th anniversary of Quit India Movement or August Revolution. The article was published in ‘Yuva Samvad’ and ‘Hastakshep.com’. In it an attempt was made to delineate the inspiration and facts behind the movement, and the sentiments of the Indian people and leaders who participated in it.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ program and the BJP government in its ‘Sankalp Se Siddhi’ campaign had made hollow references to the Quit India Movement on its 75th anniversary in 2017. A counter-article titled ‘How to Revive the Spirit of Quit India Movement’ (People’s Voice, 21 August 2017) was written by Ram Puniyani to expose the hollowness of the campaign of the PM and his party. The article also came out in a Hindi translation. However, Puniyani ji did not adequately mention the multiple layers of the inspiration, character and facts of the Quit India Movement in his article.
The RSS is governed by a mindset that remains outside the currents of the national history of modern India. Therefore, it does not have a meaningful relationship with the figures, ideas, and events of national importance. This remains its fundamental flaw, from which the will to overcome is not visible even after gaining political power. That is why the RSS behaves absurdly with the national history, the Indian Constitution and important personalities and distorts them in an irresponsible manner. But when the opposing camp of the RSS ignores the facts of national history, it helps the RSS.
The article is re-issued with minor edits on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of August Revolution. I hope young friends will find time to read the article and contemplate on the question of neo-imperialist slavery being imposed by the ruling-class.
Explosion of will to freedom
“Here is a mantra, a short one, that I give you. You may imprint it on your hearts and let every breath of yours give expression to it. The mantra is: ‘Do or Die’. We shall either free India or die in the attempt; we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery. Every true Congressman or woman will join the struggle with an inflexible determination not to remain alive to see the country in bondage and slavery. Let that be your pledge.” (Excerpt from Gandhiji’s speech at the All-India Congress Committee meeting)
Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia wrote a long letter to the Viceroy of India, Lord Linlithgow, on March 2, 1946. That letter is important and was appreciated by Gandhiji. The letter brings out the brutal and conspiratorial character of British imperialism. Lohia wrote that letter from jail. After playing an underground role for 21 months in the Quit India Movement, Lohia was arrested in Bombay on 10 May 1944. He was imprisoned first in Lahore Fort and then in Agra. He was given inhuman torture by the British police in Lahore Jail. After two years of imprisonment, Lohia was released in June 1946. Meanwhile, his father passes away, but Lohia did not accept coming out of jail on parole. It was in his absence that his father was cremated.
The Viceroy had accused the Congress leaders of planning armed uprising during the Quit India Movement. He also blamed that the people who took part in the movement were indulged in violent activities. In the midst of the intense global developments and debates at that time, the Viceroy was trying to show that British rule was a very just system and the Congress and the Indian people who opposed it were violent and autocratic. There was only a year or two left in the attainment of independence, but the Viceroy was pretending as if he had a birthright to rule India forever!
In the letter, Lohia, refuting the Viceroy’s allegations, put forward the horrific atrocities of the British rule on the unarmed people. He said that many Jallianwala Bagh happened in the country while suppressing the movement, but the people of India, showing divine courage, fought non-violently for their freedom. Lohia also rubbished the Viceroy’s statement in which he said that less than a thousand people were killed in the Quit India Movement. Lohia challenged the Viceroy that he had actually killed fifty thousand patriots. He said that if he is allowed to roam freely in the country, then he can give proof of this to the government. Lohia wrote in the letter, “If we had planned an armed insurrection and our crowds were asked to resort to violence, believe me Linlithgow, Gandhiji would today have been securing a reprieve for you from a free people and their government.”
Showing the Viceroy his barbaric face, Lohia wrote, “Your men have stripped Indian mothers naked, tied them up to trees, made play with their limbs and killed them. You talk of fascist reprisals; your men have raped and killed wives of patriots you could not seize. Yes, the time will soon be ripe for you and your people to face this evidence.” In those moments of distress, Lohia, filled with hope that the sacrifices have their cost, wrote to the Viceroy, “But I am not unhappy. It has ever been the destiny of India to suffer for others and to take man away from his erring path. The history of the unarmed common man begins from the Indian Revolution of 9 August.”
However, several prominent leaders of the Congress themselves remained indecisive till the end for troubling the ‘democratic’ England fighting against the ‘fascist’ forces in the war. Lohia has mentioned them in his letter. But Lohia himself was not in any dilemma over his decision to drive out the British from the country. Had he had the same dilemma as the ‘modernists’, he would not have been able to engage in the struggle of the people with full devotion and strength. He clarified, “We are curious about the future. Whether you win or the Axis, there will be gloom and darkness all around. There is glimmer for hope. Free India might be able to bring this war to a democratic termination.” (See, Collected Works of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, Vol. 9, Ed. Mastram Kapoor, pp. 176-181)
In fact, in 1939, Lohia had urged Gandhiji to start a Satyagraha movement in protest against the war, suggesting a four-point plan in order to establish lasting peace in the world: “1. All enslaved countries should be freed and should have governments elected on the basis of universal adult frachise and panchayat system; panchayats should formulate their constitutions according to the same principal. 2. All countries should be treated equal, no country should have special privileges and every individual should be free to travel and settle down anywhere in the world without prior permission. 3. If any country invests or starts industry in another country, the invested capital and other assets should be taken over. 4. Complete disarmament should be adopted only after every country accepts these principles.” (‘Ram Manohar Lohia’ (Abridged Edition), Indumati Kelkar, p. 38, National Book Trust, 2010) Gandhiji immediately approved Lohia’s plan, but did not accede to the request to start the Satyagraha movement immediately.
According to Indumati Kelkar, the biographer of Lohia, mentioned that in March 1939, in one of his articles in opposition to the war, Lohia clarified, “For enslaved India British imperialism is as sinful as German Hitlerism or Japanese imperialism. The world cannot be safe without ending imperialism; British imperialism is responsible for nurturing fascism. Therefore, India should fight against both fascism and imperialism. Only that will make it real supporter of world’s enslaved nations.” (‘Ram Manohar Lohia’ (Abridged Edition), Indumati Kelkar, pp. 37-38, National Book Trust, 2010)
The Quit India Movement, popularly known as the August Revolution in the history of India’s independence movement, has a very important and complicated period of about three to four years. This movement was country-wide in which the people of India participated on a large scale and showed unprecedented courage and tolerance. Lohia, while quoting Russian revolutionary thinker Leon Trotsky, stated that in Russia’s revolution one percent of the population took part, while in India’s August Revolution, 20 percent of the country’s people took part. (See, Collected Works of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, Vol. 9, Ed. Mastram Kapoor, p. 129)
However, the revolt of the people took place rapidly for the first three to four months only. The lack of leadership and far-reaching planning and the repression of the British government suppressed the rebellion. ‘Quit India’ resolution was passed on 8 August 1942; Aruna Asaf Ali hoisted the tricolor at the Gowalia Tank Ground; And on the night of 9th August, top Congress leaders were arrested. Due to the arrest of the leaders, the definite action plan of the movement could not be prepared. The relatively young leadership of the Congress Socialist Party (CSP) was active, but they had to work underground. JP wrote two long letters from unknown places to guide and encourage the revolutionaries and to explain the character and mode of action of the movement. One aspect of the importance of the Quit India Movement is that the people themselves were their leaders during the movement.
The Quit India Movement has several characteristics. The underground revolutionary movement that passed through many phases and leadership and the non-violent movement of the people led by Gandhiji get united in the Quit India Movement. The threads of the Quit India Movement can also be linked with the first freedom struggle of 1857 regarding the points of similarity and difference between the two. There has been a lot of debate about whether the Quit India Movement was violent or non-violent. Gandhiji, who gave the slogan ‘Do or Die’ and who was arrested the same night, had called on the public for a non-violent movement. This was a unique non-violent call from Gandhiji when the world was engulfed in the violence of the Second World War.
JP wrote two letters ‘to the soldiers of freedom’ from secret places in December 1942 and September 1943 respectively. In both his letters, especially in the first, he raised the question of violence-non-violence at length. Gandhiji and Congress have different views on the issue of violence-non-violence, he said in his letter. He slammed the British government that it did not have the right to tell what method the people of India used to fight for their freedom. He said that at the core of Quit India Movement has been the resolve not to kill and not to hurt.
He wrote, “If there were killings in India – and certainly did – then 99 per cent of them were by British fascist goons and only one per cent by angry and outraged people. To create hurdle for the British Raj, to overthrow it by paralyzing it by every non-violent means, is the basic mantra of that program and ‘you can do everything within the realm of non-violence’ is our pole star. There is no doubt that the intellectual basis of the program which has been followed by the Congress bodies since August 1942 till now is non-violence – non-violence in the sense which has been suggested by its masters during this period.” (‘Naya Sangharsh’, August Kranti Visheshank, August-September 1991, p. 31)
The discussion that took place from the public to the leaders on the question of violence-non-violence in Quit India Movement is yet to be analyzed. The possibility of a non-violent movement in the midst of Second World War, which was synonymous with violence, and its culmination, certainly demands a serious analysis. Such analysis is necessary because most of India’s intellectuals see only the Indian side of the violence of 1857 and 1942, and never fail to condemn it. They, however, consider the colonialists to be ‘civilized’ and ‘progressive’ who subjugated three-fourth of the world by force of violence of all kinds.
Quit India Movement took place during the Second World War. So, it also had an international dimension. The international aspect of the movement was so dominant that the justification for supporting the British in the World War, and the argument that India could get its independence due to the British losses in the World War continue to prevail till this day in India. For the internationalists, the struggle of the local Indian people for independence is not of much importance. Such evaluations of India’s independence have a big role in the deplorable condition of the Indian people today. However, its roots go deeper.
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s struggle to oust the British by forming the Azad Hind Fauj also comes under the scope of Quit India Movement. The work of placing checkerboard for the partition of the country by the British and the domestic divisive forces was also completed during this period. JP has thrown light on all these aspects in his letters. Hence, those letters should be looked at once again.
The Quit India Movement was the decisive conclusion of the overall national movement for the country’s independence; It was the gateway to India’s independence. The will to freedom and the strength to achieve it built in India from various sources, was finally demonstrated in the Quit India Movement. The Quit India Movement decided that even if the leaders shared the will to freedom, the power to achieve it was decisively with the people. However, the elements who considered the British rule as divine blessing and served their self-interests were fully active even during the Quit India Movement. Who were they, this information is found in the letters of JP?
It is to be noted that Gandhiji addressed all sections of the society – public, journalists, kings, government employees, soldiers, students in his speech at the meeting of the All-India Congress Committee to make the movement inclusive. He also addressed the leadership of the British, other European countries including Allied Nations, the UN in that speech. His call of ‘Do or Die’ made to all sections and groups for the country’s independence was based on his experience of the last 25 years of struggle. Gandhiji’s decision to launch the Quit India Movement was based on a holistic view of India and the world as well. Whereas, all the leaders/organizations who opposed the Quit India Movement were representing a fragmented view of India and the world.
The major event of a society and civilization has an impact on the creative literature. The first freedom struggle of 1857 was a major event in India. Be it the fear of the British or the devotion, the struggle of 1857 remained out of the imagination of the writers for a long time. Whereas the Quit India Movement attracted the creative imagination immediately and on a large scale. The Quit India Movement has been portrayed as the most important event in Indian literature after the Partition Literature. The reason for this seems to be that Gandhi’s political actions and ideas had somewhat cut off the charm of capitalism from the psyche of the Indian elite; And, thanks to the struggle of the people, the freedom had almost arrived.
Marxist writers also wrote novels on the theme of the Quit India Movement. In Hindi, Yashpal, who considered his literature as a medium of propagation of Marxist ideology, wrote two novels – ‘Deshdrohi’ (1943) and ‘Gita Party Comrade’ (1946) – during the movement itself. It is to be noted that the Quit India Movement follows Yashpal, a political novelist of his own kind and who had been active in the armed revolutionary movement, for long. He once again depicted the Quit India Movement in detail in his last monumental novel ‘Meri Teri Usaki Baat’ (1979).
When Soviet Russia joined the Second World War, the Marxist leadership of India decided to oppose the Quit India Movement and support the British. Not only did it become the cause of bitter confrontation between the Congress Socialists and the Marxists, due to that decision the Marxist activists had become confused about the definition and criteria of patriotism and sedition. Yashpal has proved the Marxist protagonists as patriots in all his three novels. In Indian languages, including the Indian English novel, apart from the most important novels such as Satinath Bhaduri’s ‘Jagri’ (1945), Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya’s ‘Mrityunjaya’ (1970), Samaresh Basu’s ‘Jug Jug Jio’ (four volumes, 1977), several novels have been written on the incident of Quit India Movement or that incident has been mentioned. The time of Phanishwarnath Renu’s novel ‘Maila Aanchal’ (1954) is about a year before independence and a year after. A deep shadow of the Quit India Movement is found on this classic novel of Renu.
In the last months of the underground phase during the Quit India Movement, Lohia wrote his long essay ‘Economics after Marx’. Indumati Kelkar writes, “In spite of instability of underground life, continuous police pursuit, worry about the fate of the movement, lack of relevant literature, that thesis of Lohia has been considered a major contribution to the world on economics and to the views of Socialist movement. In his thesis he has interpreted Marxian economics in an original and novel way.” (‘Ram Manohar Lohia’ (Abridged Edition), Indumati Kelkar, p. 54, National Book Trust, 2010)
Indumati Kelkar quotes Lohia about the purpose of this article: “In 1942-43 when the movement against British was on, the socialists were either in jail or were being pursued by the police. That was also the time when communists following their foreign masters, had given the slogan of ‘People’s War’. I was totally confused by the spectacle of Marxism in all its contradictions. Then I decided that I would discover the essential truth of Marxism and purge it from falsehood. Economics, politics, history and philosophy have been the four main facets of Marxism and I deemed it necessary to analyze all these. But as I was in midst of analysis of its Economics I was arrested.” (‘Ram Manohar Lohia’ (Short Edition), Indumati Kelkar, p. 54, National Book Trust, 2010)
Obviously, this comment of Lohia and the article ‘Economics after Marx’ must have proved distasteful to the party communists of India at that time, who considered Marxism to be an irrevocable universal philosophy. A glimpse of this can be found in Dudhnath Singh’s important novel ‘Aakhiri Kalam’. The novel depicts the circumstances of the Babri Masjid demolition of 6 December 1992. But the timing of the novel goes back to the forties i.e., Quit India Movement. The protagonist, a professor, is a think-tank of Communist Party. The details of the communist reaction to the article came by saying ‘how did Lohia dare to write such an article’! However, the phenomenon of depiction or influence of the Quit India Movement in the novels from the event till now shows that the movement has been politically important as well as a part of our national memory.
Whatever the developments, impact and controversies of the Quit India Movement, the its core was the explosion of the long cherished will to freedom of the people of India. Under the pressure of the Quit India Movement, from the modernist middle class of India to the feudal kings, it was felt that the British would now have to leave India. Therefore, they felt concerned about protecting and strengthening their class-interest. No only iron-screw of the bureaucracy/administration and the language that governed it remained of the British; The model of development was also kept the same. The ‘democratic, socialist and secular’ Constitution of India too could not completely escape the shadow of the nexus of capitalism and feudalism. The legacy of British glory and coercion, which instilled fear in the hearts of the people of India, was retained by the ruling-class of India. It also went on to strengthen it gradually.
The glory of the ruling class in India can only be called obscene visa-vis India that has become a wreck of poverty, inflation, disease, unemployment, exploitation, malnutrition, displacement and suicides. Sitting in the small and muddy chambers of Sevagram and Sabarmati Ashram, Gandhiji found no inconvenience in conducting politico-diplomatic dialogue with the world’s largest imperial power. Not even in doing his contemplations, writings, and movements. If Gandhiji’s ideal was not right, the ruling-class could have put forward some other ideal of simplicity. Provided that there was such a wish. The ruling-class has been indulged in erecting luxury islands, one after the other, under the obscene capitalism that has been going on in the country for the last two decades.
Lohia had consistently and extensively criticized the ruling-class and polity of independent India. He described it more or less as an extension of the British Raj. Lohia must have felt that his criticism would change the character of the ruling-class; Accordingly, there will be a change in the polity and India’s arrested revolution will go ahead. However, his struggle in favour of the people in and outside Parliament could not shake the ‘prestige’ of the ruling-class. Today, when we are going to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the August Revolution, think – why? Do we want to strengthen the interest of the people? Or want to destroy the essence of the inspirational symbols, events and figures of the freedom movement by merely celebrating them?
There is a strong tendency going on in India to destroy/distort any motivation which emerges to oppose neo-liberalism. On the 150th year of 1857, the Congress had organized a kranti yatra from Delhi to Meerut and from Meerut to Delhi. Many anti-neoliberal intellectuals and activists participated in that grand governmental event. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who made all the resources and labour force along with country’s constitutional sovereignty a morsel of neo-imperialist forces, welcomed the revolution yatris who returned from Meerut at the Red Fort. It is a harsh statement, but nothing less can be said that the martyrs of 1857 could not have been humiliated more than this!
On the occasion of the 150th anniversary, for two years, the government also distributed a lot of money. Even intellectuals get excited on seeing money. Many scholars who had never read or written a line on 1857 became active in the seminars. This time the Marxists scholars celebrated 1857 with a little more enthusiasm. But at the same time their leadership also announced that there is no way of development other than capitalism. That is, the belief remained the same – the forces which fought for their independence were backward/feudal, and the British, who enslaved them, were progressive. In such a situation, the defeat of the backward and feudal powers was certain. To this day the Marxist and modernist mind of India has not forgiven the daring of those who sacrificed their lives in the quest for freedom. According to them, this country happened to be a blind well and if the British had not come, it would have remained a blind well. Therefore, it is not just the decision of the nineties that all avenues of Indian politics lead to corporate capitalism.
Lohia wrote on the 25th anniversary of the Quit India Movement, “9th of August was and will always remain a people’s event. But, as yet, 15th August is celebrated with a lot of fanfare, for on that day the British Viceroy Lord Mountbatten shook hands with the Indian Prime Minister, and gave damaged independence to a damaged country. 9th August expressed the will of the people – we want to be free and we shall be free. For the first time after long period in our history, crores of people expressed their desire to be free. In some places it was done in great strength.” Viewed from a distance of twenty-five years, Lohia, however, pointed to the weakness of that movement – the lack of consistent persistence. He wrote, “But the will was short-lived, though strong. It didn’t have a lasting intensity. The day our nation acquires a tenacious will, we will be able to face the world. Anyhow, this is the 25th anniversary of 9th August 1942. It should be celebrated well. Its 50th anniversary perhaps will be celebrated in such a way that 15th August will be forgotten, and even 26th January will be put into a shade, or will only equal it. 26th January and 9th August are events of the same class. One expressed the will to freedom and the other the will to fight for it.” (See, ‘Collected Works of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia’, Vol. 6, Ed. Mastram Kapoor, p. 591)
Lohia did not live to see the 50th anniversary of the August Revolution. His belief that people will listen to him after his death, has proved to be an infatuation. The 50th anniversary of the August Revolution fell in 1992. Where is Lohia’s wish and where is the year of 1992! This is the year when the doors of the country were opened to the loot of multinational companies while imposing New Economic Policies, and a five-hundred-year-old mosque was demolished by conducting ‘Ram Mandir Andolan’. Since then, the nexus of neo-liberalism and communalism has made India’s ruling-class a staunch enemy of the people who paved the way for independence through the Quit India Movement while facing repression from the imperialist rulers. Looking at the circumstances, it can be said that after the nineties, the repression of the people is being carried out in a more terrible way than in the colonial era.
On the occasion of August Revolution Day, we can ponder upon why the slogans of ‘MNCs Quit India’ on the lines of the Quit India Movement do not work, and why the hold of corporate capitalism is getting stronger. Why the nightmare of making the whole country a smart city and the entire population as a consumer is being sold indiscriminately? The reason is clear, the ruling-class of India is resolutely in favour of corporate capitalism. The country’s leaders, industrialists, intellectuals, writers, artists, film stars, journalists, sportsmen, janandolankari, bureaucrats, civil society activists of various kinds are engaged in the campaign to support and strengthen corporate capitalism. Those who are not a part of this grand team, it is believed that there is definitely some flaw or lack in their talent. The position of neo-liberalism and its supporters has become so strong now that even their criticism speaks of their merits and further strengthens their position!
As I have mentioned time and again, a large and strong team of hidden neo-liberals has been formed with neo-liberals. It is aligned with the ruling-class and is ever ready to destroy the political possibilities of anti-neoliberalism. In fact, the hidden neoliberals remain the bigger enemies of the masses and socialism than the outright neoliberals. The efforts of genuine mass movements and socialist politics in the face of neo-liberalism have been repeatedly corrupted by these hidden neo-liberals. They made a big attack, internationally, under the aegis of the World Social Forum (WSF) and a bigger attack, at the national level, under the aegis of India Against Corruption (IAC). All may well for the hidden neoliberals; Only politics is bad. Although their own political ambitions rarely sleep for a moment!
At least during the time of WSF there was avoidance of communalism. The slogan was ‘another world is possible’, even in a non-political form. Communalists and secularists have mingled in the movement of the IAC and they assure protection to the neo-liberal system and leadership in exchange for a ‘Jan Lokpal’. The initial slogan of the IAC’s anti-corruption movement was – ‘Manmohan Singh if you want votes, bring the Jan Lokpal law’. Now Baba Ramdev is roaming around saying, ‘Rahul Gandhi bring back black money, become prime minister’. It is heard that this Baba, a product of neo-liberalism, have chosen August Revolution Day to re-start his movement to bring back black money stashed abroad!
Mainstream media stands absolutely with neo-liberals and hidden neo-liberals, where leaders and issues being promoted as products of companies. As a result, the Indian psyche in its entirety is becoming ruler-oriented i.e., of neo-liberal attitude. People oppressed by neo-liberal policies are also in the grip of this campaign. When this process is completed, no change will be possible. Only stupid people will be wiped out. I am not convinced by the argument of the hidden neo-liberals that they put pressure on the government to make public welfare schemes for the poor. Because their help does not protect the poor, but the corporate houses.
I would like to narrate here a recent even. On 8 July 2012, a program was organized in Pune in honor of socialist leader and writer/journalist Pannalal Surana on the occasion of his entry in his 80th year. The Rashtra Seva Dal (RSD) had a major role in organizing the program, of which Pannalalji had been the president. About five hundred people from every district of Maharashtra reached Sane Guruji Memorial and congratulated Pannalalji. A check of Rs 11 lakh, raised by personal donations, was also presented to him. It would be impossible to have such a decent program in North India for a political struggle carried out outside the politics of power. I saw with my own eyes that a man came barefoot in the reception hall and took a receipt by giving his donation.
Although the program was meant to congratulate Pannalalji, but the discussion turned mostly political. Bhai Vaidya, chairman of the welcome committee, threw light on the personality and authorship of Pannalalji as well as his political struggle in the socialist movement. Chief guest Justice Rajindar Sachar, while making ceremonial remarks in his speech, addressed the president of the program, Aruna Rai, saying that he once again wants to embarrass her by appealing to join active politics. He may have made similar appeals to her on certain occasions in the past as well. He also embarrassed the second chief guest, Energy Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, by discussing the ill-effects of neo-liberal policies. Shinde Saheb’s speech was quite long. He spoke on the need and benefits of neo-liberal policies. Although Pannalalji had to thank the organizers and the well-wishers who came there to felicitate him, but under the socialist commitment and political struggle, he vehemently refuted the ideas of Shinde Saheb in his speech.
I liked that in the program of a citizen’s felicitation got to hear a good amount of political debate. But it was also surprising that Aruna Rai, a member of the National Advisory Committee of UPA government, in her presidential statement, taunted those who talked about active politics without hesitation. Her target was aimed at those who did the politics of socialism against corporate capitalism. As if, the right to engage in active politics is reserved for the party and the government of which she is an advisor! She said that she understands politics better and what she is doing is true politics. According to her, it is the effect of the same political consciousness that people are asking questions now. She also cited the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) in spreading such true political consciousness. One can guess that she must have considered MGNREGA as a nationwide school of political consciousness of her thoughts. Speaking from a high pedestal and in a loud voice, she declared that the real freedom has come when civil society activists like her have started making people aware. Aruna Rai was so narcissistic about her thoughts that she was not ready to even take a slight critical look at her belief and role.
In fact, the NGOs would have had nothing to do with the political struggle. They don’t even want to know about it. They pat their back for giving a hundred days of work for hundred rupees to the poor as a big revolution, and turn their eyes away from the fact that corporate revolution has taken place in the country. On August Revolution Day it is necessary to understand that the self-interest of these people is thickly aligned with the ruling-class. Otherwise, it is clearly understandable, if you do not agree with the ideology of any government or party, then you cannot become its advisor; Can’t take projects of that government for your social work. Whatever work is done by Sonia Gandhi’s advisory committee, of which people make tussles to become members, is for the government; And the Congress-led UPA government is a government that advocates corporate capitalism.
The interesting thing is that this game of deceiving the public goes on openly and without any guilt. Whom Lohia has described as ‘your men’ in his letter to the Viceroy, the hidden neo-liberals, who became advisors to the governments, fall in the same category. These advisors of Sonia Gandhi can be asked that you are involved in the plight of crores of mothers of India; The responsibility of malnutrition, disease, premature death, illiteracy of crores of children of those mothers rest on you; The loot of resources of the country by multinational companies, displacement of people and suicides of lakhs of farmers are not due to any divine wrath but a gift of you; Because you are an advisor to the government and a staunch opponent of politics apart from the politics of that government!
Only Way: Straight Politics
The socialist leader and thinker Kishan Patnaik, who was the first person to perceive the threat of neo-liberal slavery looming on India, believed that people’s movements should be politicized and integrated in order to oppose and substitute neo-liberalism. It was certainly a relevant and invigorating thought. Kishan Patnaik had credibility and right understanding of the problem. To achieve this objective, he took an initiative along with several senior and young socialist colleagues. In 1995, a new political party Samajwadi Jan Parishad (SJP) was formed, under which the idea of alternative politics and alternative development were put before the people of India. However, Kishan Patnaik’s hopes did not come to fruition. In all the countries of the world including India, the NGO network naturally keeps itself active to neutralize any anti-neoliberal political initiative. Kishan Patnaik died by being trapped in the same network.
Apart from SJP, there have been several other political efforts as well against neo-liberalism. In the first 10 years of liberalization, some voices were raised against it even from the mainstream politics. After the neo-liberal attack on the country by the ruling-class, a large number of political parties have been registered in the Election Commission with the motivation to counter it. But none of the efforts have been successful. Rather, such efforts are termed as detrimental for the health of democracy by the torch bearers of neo-liberalism. There are many reasons for this impasse, but the negative role of the ruler-oriented hidden neo-liberals, sometimes in the guise of janandolankari and sometimes in the guise of civil society activists, is important among them.
On the 70th anniversary of the August Revolution, if we understand that the NGO-based janandolankari sabotage the political efforts, then the way forward will be paved. They are non-governmental organizations for the sake of saying, in reality they are more governmental than governments’ own departments. They did not allow genuine resistance movements – whether of farmers, tribals, workers, small traders, low-ranking government employees or students – to advance. Charitable funding organizations like Ford Foundation and Rockefeller, and many similar award-giving organizations, which happened to be the soul-mate of global corporate capitalism, have blocked the path of socialist politics. Just as established leaders and parties do not allow workers of independent political thinking to flourish in their ranks, similarly concealed neo-liberals do not allow political initiative and process to be possible in society.
They believe that every political worker has a price, it should be paid by an NGO or a rewarding organization. Needless to say, that this concept of price and profit is a product of capitalism. They have a double shield of protection – that of the ruling-class of India and that of the global economic institutions. They can be called the ‘civil security forces’ of corporate capitalism. One more thing to be noted, people who do not know English cannot become a member of their world; They have to be the pawns of these pawns of imperialist moves. How can they tolerate the free politics of the people?
The true inspiration of August Revolution Day could be that the politics of struggle against neo-imperialist slavery and the ruling-class that imposed it should be organized and strengthened. All other socio-cultural efforts should be made to make that politics strong and multi-dimensional. However, the all-round grip of capitalism and the compulsions to survive in hardships have made the masses politically almost unconscious. In fact, neo-liberalism speeds up the process of a-politicization in the society. That is why no new political initiative gets mass support. The middle class has become politics-hater and campaigns for the same day and night. Thus, it strengthens the existing politics which runs on the strength of money power, muscle power, communalism, casteism, individualism, familyism, dynasty, regionalism etc. In such a difficult scenario, the political organization which will make a transparent and continuous political struggle to strengthen the cause of the people, will get success one day.
Although it will be very difficult to keep the concealed neo-liberals away, but without keeping them away, the politics of anti-neoliberalism cannot stand. After 20-22 years of experience, it must be accepted that if socialist political power can be established in India, it will be possible only by avoiding concealed neo-liberals.
(The writer associated with the socialist movement is a former teacher of Delhi University and a Fellow of Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla.)