Mainstream Weekly

Home > 2021 > Letter To Kanhaiya Kumar | Murzban Jal

Mainstream, VOL LX No 1, New Delhi, December 18/December 25, 2021 (double issue)

Letter To Kanhaiya Kumar | Murzban Jal

Friday 17 December 2021

by Murzban Jal

The time is out of joint, O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right.
— William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Dear Mr. Kanhaiya Kumar

In normal times one could greet you as “comrade Kanhaiya Kumar” for this is what many people thought you to be when you captured the imagination of the nation a few years back when the slogans of “Jai Bhim, Lal Salaam” along with the cry of freedom resonated. You then (at least in popular imagination) stood for resistance against not only the political elites who live in their false pride of authoritarianism and totalitarianism, but also entire class and caste-divided patriarchal society where the political class as a whole was seen not merely in absolving themselves of the crimes done by the class and caste oligarchs, but who literally celebrated and rejoiced in these crimes. After all, politics in India was supposed to be involved in social democracy (to say the least) and politicians (who swore on the Constitution and the democratic and anti-colonial values that it stands for) were not to be seen marching (with or without their fascist jackboots) along with feudal chieftains, capitalists, shady bankers and born again millionaires of the world.

But then these are not “normal” times. Call it whatever—the “New Normal” or the “Post-Normal”—times are not normal for “the time is out of joint” [1]. In Shakespeare’s grand tragedy, it is Hamlet haunted by the ghost of his dead father who is portrayed to be born to set things right. Hamlet curses. But do our modern Hamlets in the illusion that they are born to set things right at least lament, if not curse?

Yes these are most certainly not normal times. These are absurd times. In Shakespeare’s tragedy there is only one Hamlet, but in India we have many Hamlets all who imagine who are born to set things right. Unlike Shakespeare’s tragic hero, none of our Indian Hamlets curse for this.

Yes these are not normal times for in a “normal” state one evolves. It was Hegel who had said that there is no going back into history. But because of these strange times more and more people (belonging to the political class) intend with firm determination to march backwards into history.

A few years back it was thought that you stood for an alternative where freedom could be truly possible, freedom from caste, patriarchy, class, capitalism and imperialism, where the ghost of Manu would stop haunting India and would where this awful ghost would be put to eternal rest. But then you joined the Congress party (the GOP, or the Grand Old Party as it imagines itself to be like the Republic Party in America). “Jai Bhim, Lal Salaam” would then have to substituted with “Jai post-Bhim, post-Lal Salaam”. For authentic freedom, one sought authentic freedom fighters, maybe Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar, but one could get at best a postmodernist, with his post-Ambedarism and post-Marxism. It was Jürgen Habermas who said we live in the world of “posties”. You proved that.

When you joined the GOP you evoked Gandhi. Great nostalgia was also evoked, “tolerance”, “peace”, “brotherhood” and rest of blah, blahs. What you did in the process is that you not only buried Ambedkar and Marx, but you buried truth itself, primarily because you paint a completely wrong picture of Indian politics by falsely eulogizing Gandhi, just as the Pakistani political establishment have falsely eulogized Mohammed Ali Jinnah. One needs to recall Ambdkar here:

We have on the horizon of India two great men, so big that they could be identified without being named—Gandhi and Jinnah, What sort of a history they will make may be a matter for posterity to tell. For us it is enough that they do indisputably make headlines for the Press. They hold leading strings. One leads the Hindus, the other leads the Muslims. They are the idols and heroes of the hour. .........It is necessary to make some observations upon their temperaments and methods with which they have now familiarized us. I can give only my impressions of them, for what they are worth. The first thing that strikes me is that it would be difficult to find two persons who would rival them for their colossal egotism, to whom personal ascendency is everything and the cause of the country a mere counter on the table. They have made Indian politics a matter of personal feud. Consequences have no terror for them; indeed they do not occur to them until they happen. When they do happen they either forget the cause, or if they remember it, they overlook it with a complacency which saves them from any remorse. They choose to stand on a pedestal of splendid isolation. They will themselves off from their equals. They prefer to open themselves to their inferiors. They are very unhappy at and impatient of criticism, but are very happy to be fawned upon by flunkeys. Both have developed a wonderful stagecraft and arrange things in such a way that they are always in the limelight wherever they go. Each of course claims to be supreme. If supremacy was their only claim, it would be a small wonder. In addition to supremacy each claims infallibility for himself. Pius IX during whose sacred regime as Pope the issue of infallibility was raging said— “Before I was Pope I believed in Papal infallibility, now I feel it.” This is exactly the attitude of the two leaders whom Providence—may I say in his unguarded moments—has appointed to lead us. This feeling of supremacy and infallibility is strengthened by the Press. [2]

If you have ever bothered to read Ambedkar ever in your life, you could have got a better picture of Gandhi—the “great and infallible leader” for the Congress and now for you, the individual with the “great soul” as against us the masses with “lesser souls”—as one who consciously created the politics of “hero worship”, with himself, of course, as the “great hero”. Thus:

Never has the interest of country been sacrificed so senselessly for the propagation of hero-worship. Never has hero-worship become so blind as we see it in India today. There are, I am glad to say, honourable exceptions. But they are too few and their voice is never heard. Entrenched behind the plaudits of the Press, the spirit of domination exhibited by these two great men has transgressed all limits. By their domination they have demoralized their followers and demoralized politics. By their domination they have made half their followers fools and the other half hypocrites. In establishing their supremacy they have taken the aid of “big business” and money magnates. For the first time in our country money is taking the field as an organized power. The question (that one needs to pose is): Who shall rule—wealth or man? Which shall lead money or intellect? Who shall fill public stations, educated and patriotic free men or the feudal serfs of corporate capital? [3]

This is what Ambedkar said in 1943. For him, Gandhi with his phantasmagorical mission of “spiritualization of politics” was actually commercializing both religion and politics. You completely forget this deep history and after following the general falsification of history, you jump at the ghosts of Godse and Savarkar that have been unleashed by the right-wing and then you lament (like the GOP) that times are no longer of “tolerance”. And since you have jumped at ghosts claiming that you are going to battle with them, you must be well trained in the fine art of exorcism.

So, well, dear ex-comrade, you have joined the GOP so as to fight ghosts! And why have you done so? You have done so because these ghosts are not “tolerant”, ghosts that stink of intolerance. But most importantly who don’t you say what “tolerance” really means? After all, for the political elites does “tolerance” not imply tolerance to bear the terrible sufferings brought on by capitalism? “Tolerance” after all means nothing but pacifying revolutionary desire—to “tolerate” job loss, pay cuts, being struck by mysterious viruses, not to forget getting lynched by fascist mobs.

So are you not being sentimental since you do not talk of the political economy of intolerance—capitalism in general and neo-liberal capitalism in particular which is nothing but the era of late imperialism in permanent crisis—that is creating the lumpen fascist gangs running amok all over the country? Let us recall Ambedkar once again who now has to be purged from your “New Imagination of the New Normal” since it is altogether impossible to reconcile Gandhi (whom you not only want to evoke, but put on the pedestal as the person who would not only shower peace and blessings on the poor and the oppressed, but have nothing to do with the transcendence of poverty and oppression) and Ambedkar (whom you once evoked when you sang songs of freedom):

Sentiment must be outlawed from the domain of science and things must be judged from an objective standpoint. [4]

Sounds familiar does it not, recalling the good old fellow of revolutionary politics who stressed on the makings of theory and that “without revolutionary there can be no revolutionary movement” [5]? But then who cares, after all, do we not live in times extraordinary where extraordinary people must descend to set things right?

But then there are also people who refuse to playact Hamlet and insist on the importance of theory and that that behind democratic politics there must be what Hegel called der Begriff the concept or the notion that builds rigorous theory which then spells accurately what problems exist and the possible solutions. And der Begriff,as Ambedkar would insist, has no place for sentiments.

But then with a bolt of lightning, you joined the GOP. What is the basis for this? Why did you do this? Did you imagine that you too would join the ranks of the Indian Hamlets who want to set things right? The basis of this is that you after joining the Congress you will do tukde tukde to the BJP. The captain of your team will be Rahul Gandhi. The dragons will be killed and the windmills will be destroyed just as Don Quixote so famously destroyed windmills and slew dragons. Then what do we see in this New Drama? We see that the great Don is waiting for the famous Sancho Panza come marching in the scene of Indian politics singing:

Thou shall discharge the duty of a Christian, and do good for him that wishes thee evil. [6]

This is the fundamental basis of your politics after your conversion to the good faith of the GOP. You want to be Hamlet like Rahul Gandhi, but instead have now become Sancho Panza to the good Don. See the nice picture that you are painting when you claim to do tukde tukde to the BJP. There is no place for labour here, no place for the terrible consequences of capitalism yet existing, of US barbarism that commits heinous crimes all over the globe that goes unchecked, of the nuclear deal that the good Don fought for, not to forget the climate apocalypse. For the “New You” there is nothing called “capitalism” and “imperialism”.

So what would the good Don’s stand on imperialism be? Let us refresh your not-so-fresh memory to 22nd July 2008 when the good Don gave a speech in parliament supporting the Nuclear Deal which the GOP headed by the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh signed with the US headed by George Bush, the head of the imperialist world. Here it seems (at least for you) that there is no evil. After all, is not the USA, the abode of capital accumulation also at the same time the abode of the “free world” that showers goodness on the entire world? One could also ask: “Why are the crusaders of “tolerance”, and “brotherhood” faithful followers of the US mode of liberal thinking?” Your seeming argument, when you joined the GOP, is that liberalism must be nurtured, not knowing that liberalism has nothing to do with “tolerance” and “brotherhood” and everything to do with colonialism and imperialism whose chief aim is defense of private property and the Yankee way of life and that liberalism is not the solution to capitalism and fascism but their precise breeding ground.

Recall, if you can, how the good Don in 2008 said that “there is a serious problem in India, and the problem is our energy security”. [7] When asked whether poverty was not the single biggest issue, he said that “poverty was directly related to energy security”. Well so, one may ask you, where has capitalism gone with regards the question of poverty? After all, is not Manmohan Singh the same man who ushered in officially, as the Finance Minister, neo-liberal capitalism with its anti-worker, anti-dalit, anti-women, anti-peasant, anti-poor, anti-socialist and pro-rich policies?

Recall again the same cruel day of 2008 when the enlightened Don explained that he went to a village in the Maharashtra and met two poverty-struck women (one whose husband committed suicide) and was convinced that energy security would help India get over the poverty problem where suicides would be a matter of past history. What he was actually saying was that dependency on American imperialism would solve the problem of poverty in India Poverty for the god Don is not a matter of class and monopoly capitalism. It has to do with the lack of energy which the American imperialists would give in abundance, just as they gave in abundance all the goodness to the people of Afghanistan.

At surface level it seems that the Congress and the BJP are battling it out in the mythical war between liberalism and fascism. But look below these mere appearances. Look at the level of essence and one will see that this battle is completely illusory. It must be noted here that while the Congress party before independence collaborated both with the British as well as with the Hindu right-wing Hindu Mahasabha, the almost similar type of collaborationism with imperialism and right-wing forces is evident even today. After all, who had the locks at Ayodhya broken so that the ritualistic puja could take place from whence Advani rode on a Japanese Toyota car pretending to be an ancient warrior riding an even more ancient chariot unleashing communal carnage all over the country?

That is why it is important to state that liberal democracy does not fight fascism, it aides it. The lotus of fascism blooms in the muck of liberalism. What one also understands is that the struggle between the Congress and the BJP is the struggle between two forms of decadent capitalism. The struggle between the Congress and the BJP can also be seen as the struggle between two political clans fighting for monopolistic control of the nation.

Since you have decided to proclaim Rahul Gandhi as the leader to fight the BJP, one must note that his struggle against the BJP is the struggle where he (Rahul) now appears not as a secular democratic man of the masses, but as a holy Brahmin and a devotee of the Hindu gods with his holy thread. Gandhi attacks the Prime Minister, not on political reality, but on elitist grounds that only aid the further rise and consolidation of power of the BJP. One must note that Modi incidentally belongs to a subaltern caste. Note Rahul’s attack, which is merely symbolic (and nothing else).

One needs to go back slightly into history to see the Congress’s attack on the BJP and Modi. The initial liberal democratic attack on Modi came from one of Gandhi’s (now ex) aides, Mani Shankar Aiyar. It was Aiyar who had called Modi “neechaadmi’”, roughly translated as “low person”. [8] That this idea of “low person” also is reflected in the casteist and racist idea of the “polluted person” must be noted. That the taboo of pollution and the totem of purity are central to the Indian caste order has thus to be noted. After classifying Modi as “lowly-polluted”, Rahul Gandhi then calls him a “chowkidar’” (watchman) who is literally “chor” (robber). [9] Modi, for the good Don, is thus a low caste person and a worker-turned-robber and nothing else. That there is complete elitism in this liberal democratic argument must be stated.

Fascism globally has emerged triumphant only from the womb of liberalism and its elitism. Look at Italy in 1922, Germany in 1933 and Iran in 1979. The list is just too long. What you will see is that all the fascist leaders—Mussolini, Hitler and Ayatollah Khomeini—appear on the scene of history initially as leaders of not the entire nation, but as leaders of the subaltern and oppressed masses. Fascism is a movement of the plebian déclassé masses and Rahul Gandhi is doing exactly what the Italian, German and Iranian elites did. He, by proclaiming to be the born-again Brahmin wearing a holy thread cursing the “chowkidar’” (watchman) as “chor” (robber), is pushing the déclassé masses to the rank and file of the fascists.

Look once again at the good Don and his criticism of the BJP. It has nothing to do with fascism and imperialism. Instead it has to do with the Rafale deal and the purchase of Dassault Rafale fighters. The good Don goes in the nitty-gritty of this deal, the so much more was paid for the fighters and the blah, blah, blah. The Don refrained (and yet refrains) completely and absolutely from critiquing the war industry and imperialism. He does not say that Asia should not be the battleground for realizing surplus value of imperialist capital accumulation. Instead he continuously talks of “Chinese aggression” on Indian soil and Modi is unable to handle “Chinese aggression”. If this is the case (Rahul’s silence on the Military Arms Complex and the following of the American line vis a vis China) then why did you join the GOP? And if the good Don wins the next general elections and becomes Prime Minister, would you lead his army in battle with the Chinese?

There is no rational answer from your end. Instead when Rahul Gandhi is being critiqued (from within and outside the GOP) you say that the great Don must not be criticized otherwise the mills and the dragons unleashed by the BJP would destroy everyone. But you forget the good old bearded philosopher who talked of “ruthless criticism of all that exists [10]. But then why do you say that Rahul Gandhi must not be criticized? Is it because you imagine that he lies beyond human existence like other supermen who hate criticism? You say that criticism of him must not be permitted for it aids the rise of the BJP, as if he is the sole and only person fighting the BJP and everyone in India is an absolute idiot.

But then is it not the case that your thinking is based on the Stalinist cult of personality which you learnt so faithfully from the OMs (meaning the Official Marxism of the communist parties)? And if this is the essence of your conversion to the good faith of the GOP then do you not at the same time believe in the theory of history where history is portrayed as the history of the “hero” and the “great leader”? Then is not your entire thinking fundamentally flawed?

Yes, your conversion to the GOP is based thus on the theory of the “great heroes” and “grand leaders” and that these great and grand leaders are the makers of history. To this you add the Manichean factor of the struggles between good and evil—the GOP and the GOP alone is good who will valiantly fight the forces of evil. This theory finds its concrete grounds when you pit Rahul Gandhi against Modi and Amit Shah. But you find and even more solid foundation for your theory of great leaders when you contextualize politics in India as the conflict between Gandhi and Godse. If your forgetfulness of capitalism and imperialism must be noted, so also one must note you recalling the mythical battle between Gandhi and Godse. It seems that for you Ambedkar never existed. You completely forget Ambedkar’s trenchant critique of Gandhi and the entire reactionary mystico-religious ideology that he espoused.

Just because the BJP has raised the ghost of Godse and recalled Savarkar you intend to fight these specters. But then a ghost is nothing but a ghost, and does not really exist except in the minds of deluded people. Then why do you think that you must support the Don and the mythical battle between Gandhi and Godse? Don’t you know that good old left politics cannot be substituted with metaphysics, theology and mythology?

There has clearly been general and regular falsifications of history and the fascists and Stalinists have mastered the macabre technique of this falsification. It seems that you have also been bit by the bug of falsification. To say that there was a contradiction between Gandhi (“Bapu” for you and your comrades in the GOP) and Godse and their ideologies is nothing but pure fiction. Recall from time to time revolutionaries like Trotsky, Ambedkar and M.N. Roy castigating Gandhi and his type of politics as being appendages of not only the upper caste nationalist leaders, but primarily of British colonialism. For Ambedkar, Gandhi and the Hindu Mahasabha were two sides of the same coin and flipping this macabre coin would not solve the problems of Indian people.

Read for instance Ambedkar’s Pakistan or the Partition of India where Ambedkar debunks the Congress and Gandhi as claiming to be at the forefront of the independence movement. For Ambedkar, “Bapu” was at best the leader and ideologist of the “Dominion Status” where India was to be part of the British Empire:

That notwithstanding the resolution of 1927, the Congress continued to believe in Dominion Status and did not believe in independence, is amply borne out by the pronouncements made from time to time by Mr. Gandhi who is the oracle of the Congress. Anyone, who studies Mr. Gandhi’s pronouncements on this subject from 1929 onwards, cannot help feeling that Mr. Gandhi has not been happy about the resolution on Independence and that he has even since felt necessary to wheel the Congress back to Dominion Status. [11]

In fact, it was the Khilafat Conference that was for complete independence [12] with Muslims being at the forefront of the anti-colonial movement. Ambedkar quotes Maulana Hasrat Mohani as the President of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Conference in 1931 who while condemning the compromising character of the Nehru Report said the following:

But unfortunately Gandhiji very soon went back upon his words and (1) while in jail he told the British journalist Mr. Slocombe that by complete independence he meant only the substance of independence, (2) besides, when he was released on expressing his inclination for compromise h e devised the illusory term “Purna Swaraj” in place of complete independence and openly declared that in “Purna Swaraj” there was no place for severance of the British connection, (3) by making a secret pact with Lord Irwin he definitely adopted the ideal of Dominion Status under the British crown. [13]

What we get from Ambedkar’s text is an altogether different reading of Indian independence and the role of “Bapu” and the Congress. If this, indeed, is the case then for what reason did you leave the communists and join the party of Dominion Status (“DS”)? After shouting your affiliation to Bapu would you also shout “long live the Queen”?

Recall Lenin (whom you must be familiar with, but now embarrassed) when he talked of “concrete analysis of concrete conditions”. [14] Recall when he demanded a “vigilant attention to the theoretical aspect of the revolutionary movement of the proletariat” and for the “ruthless criticism of the Bernsteinian and other anti-revolutionary tendencies in our movement”. [15]

Now where do you stand with your evoking of the politician of the Dominion Status? Do you feel that you need to become a revisionist and become a counterrevolutionary in the Indian democratic movement? Marxism, and this also you must have learnt, is built on solid theoretical grounds. It does not deal with cheap rhetoric, nor does it get scared of fascists. For Marxism, democracy is something very, very important and this does not imply aping the west and their cretin parliamentary system. Instead, as Lenin pointed out, democracy implies the “abolition of class domination”. [16] If this is the case, why did you not talk of this alternative model of democracy? Or are you waiting for Rahul to firstly understand this model and then implement it?

Getting Bapu and Godse is more like evoking characters from Agatha Christie’s murder mystery. Thus, for Agatha Christie, the question was: “Who killed who and blah, blah, blah...?” Now what you want to do is supplement real history, the real struggle of Indian independence, with some stale murder mystery.

Thus your talk of Bapu and his valiant fight with the British (not to forget his fight with Godse and Savarkar) is really nothing but fiction. In actuality neither “Gandhi(ji)” nor “Bapu” ever existed. Both were created by the colonial and Nehruvian elites. But even this Nehruvian creation would not have had any life if it were not from the crazy assassin who converted Gandhi into a martyr for the liberals and himself for the fascists. Gandhi did pretend to be many characters in history and one character was that of Jesus. Jesus needed to be crucified so as to become immortal. Gandhi knew that. Godse crucified him. The rest is history. It was Manmath Nath Gupta who said that:

Had that stupid and shortsighted fellow (meaning Godse) allowed Gandhi to live his natural life, and die a natural death like all mortals, he would have, I am quite certain, grown weightless like, say Vinoba Bhave. [17]

“The verdict is overstated”, so Anderson says, for “the kernel of truth in it is written in what would have become of his ideals today: a face on a banknote”. [18] Nehru stamped Gandhi’s face on banknotes and made capital with it. And it is to the banknotes that we need to critical examine. For there we have not merely Gandhi’s face, but something much worse, a blood bath. For:

If money, according to Augier, “comes into the world with a congenital blood-stain on one cheek”, capital comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt. [19]

The questions are: “Who presently is making capital from the raising of Bapu and his assassin from the netherworld? Would not this murder story actually help the consolidation of power of the fascists? Would it not obfuscate the grand revolutionary narrative of class struggle and the overthrow of bourgeoisdom with petty anecdotes and lies derived from the cranium of the ruling classes, one faction wanting liberal democracy and the other fascism? Then are you not unwittingly fighting for the stabilization of capitalism (with its liberalism)? Don’t you know that fascism is inexorably bound to capitalism and imperialism and one cannot underestimate the might and power of fascism by reducing it to a crazed assassin? Why does Rahul Gandhi not ever talk of fascism and the methods to fight it instead of talking of random persona draw from his phantasmagorical cranium? And lastly when the revolutionary upsurge truly begins on which side of the barricades would he stand?” We know of course which side Gandhi stood on.

   It was Ambedkar who had famously said that “the Mahatma appears not to believe in thinking” [20]. The questions are: “Do you believe in thinking? Or do you want to be seen as Sancho Panza marching with Don Quixote? Or, even better, would you prefer to be Hamlet roaming haunted castles murmuring”:

The time is out of joint, O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right.


[1William Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’, in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (London: Cambridge University Press, 1983), Act I, Sc. IV, p. 850.

[2B.R. Ambedkar, ‘Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah’, in Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, Vol. 1 (Bombay: Education Department, Government of Maharashtra, 1979), pp. 226-8.

[3Ibid.

[4B.R. Ambedkar, ‘Castes in India’, in The Essential Writings of B.R. Ambedkar, ed. Valerian Rodrigues (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 262.

[5See V.I. Lenin, What is to be Done? (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1978), p. 25.

[6Ibid.

[7See ‘Rahul Gandhi in Parliament on Nuclear Energy’, in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhJTeS2DUc8

[8See ‘Mani Shankar Aiyar calls Narendra Modi ’neech aadmi’’, in Economic Times, Dec 07, 2017.

[9This is in reference to the Rafale arms deal which the BJP government did with the French government

[10Karl Marx, ‘To Arnold Ruge, Letters from Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrbücher’, September, 1843’, in Marx. Engels. Collected Works, Vol. 3 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), p. 142.

[11B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or the Partition of India,Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, Vol. 8(Bombay: Education Department, Government of Maharashtra, 1990), p. 286..

[12See Ibid., p. 288.

[13Ibid.

[14V.I. Lenin, op. cit.

[15Ibid., p. 24.

[16Ibid., p. 10.

[17Manmath Nath Gupts, Gandhi and his Times as quoted by Perry Anderson in his Anderson, Perry, The Indian Ideology (Gurgaon: Three Essays Collective, 2012), p. 45..

[18Ibid.

[19Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1983), p. 711.

[20B.R. Ambedkar, ‘Reply to the Mahatma’, The Essential Writings of B.R. Ambedkar, ed. Valerian Rodrigues (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 318

Notice: Mainstream Weekly appears online only.