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Mainstream, VOL LX No 25, New Delhi, June 11, 2022

Comrade Dange: The Struggle for National Unity and Against Imperialism Event held to commemorate S.A. Dange’s death anniversary | Archishman Raju and Nandita Chaturvedi

Saturday 11 June 2022

by Archishman Raju and Nandita Chaturvedi

The 22nd of May, 2022 marked the 31st death anniversary of freedom fighter and champion of worker’s rights, Sripad Amrut Dange. The event was marked by a meeting at the All India Trade Union Congress in Bengaluru, held by the Gandhi Global Family. This was one in a series of events held by the Gandhi Global Family to mark the 75th anniversary of India’s independence in Bengaluru. Several trade union activists and members, scholars, students, lawyers and admirers of Dange’s legacy were present at the event.

The event was addressed by two speakers. The first was Meghna Chandra, scholar on the world peace movement, race, and urbanization based in Loyola University, Chicago. The second speaker was veteran trade unionist, activist and law professor Babu Mathew. Meghna Chandra first described the situation in the United States, and spoke of the immiseration of the working class in the U.S., the violence of the prison-industrial complex, the effects of deindustrialization, unemployment, poverty as well as the opioid epidemic. She said that the U.S. empire is in a state of crisis and the objective conditions are today conducive to fulfilling Dange’s vision.

Meghna stressed that there were crucial lessons to be drawn from Dange’s legacy. The first of these was Dange’s focus on the anti-imperialist struggle. She spoke of how Indian revolutionaries, including Dange, had always known that the nation would have to fight neocolonialism for their own path to socialism. The second point she made was that Dange understood the significance of the independent nation state. She said that the Indian state was an instrument of the agency of the people, against neocolonialism and monopoly capitalism. She framed Dange’s support of Indira Gandhi’s programs in this context. Lastly, she said that Dange always connected the struggles of the Indian people to the world movement. She talked of Dange’s contribution to the World Federation of Trade Union, of which he was vice-president for 9 terms. Further, she spoke of Dange’s championing of the New International Economic Order, which was based on economic self determination for the third world.

She ended her talk by addressing the situation today. She stressed that the world situation was undergoing a radical shift, and the era of the Western dominated world order was ending. Giving the example of the Trump movement as a movement against the Western elites, she said the American state was in grave crisis. She spoke of the war in Ukraine and compared the West’s treatment of Russia to their treatment of Indira Gandhi’s India during the emergency. She said there was an emerging multipolar world, and that India had to play an important part in it. She ended by saying that the Indian revolution, started by the freedom struggle, was incomplete, and that it was up to all those present to continue it and complete it through unity and struggle.

Babu Mathew said Dange must not be seen as an individual, but as part of the Indian communist movement. He said that Dange’s contribution to the working class in India, and his building of AITUC is most important. He began his presentation by speaking of the Communist Party of India and its role in the freedom struggle. He talked of how the international communist movement affected the Communist movement in India. He said that Communists missed an opportunity in India by not fully participating in the independence movement, which is one of the most unique and important movements in the world, and had a clear anti-imperialist character. He also said the Communists missed an opportunity to take part in the Constituent Assembly, which produced one of the best constitutions in the world.

He said that Dange’s theoretical contribution of distinguishing between the national bourgeoisie and the monopoly bourgeoisie is most important. He said that Dange supported and recognized the importance of the public sector in the Indian economy including economic policies articulated in the industrial policy resolution. He said that 1991 was an important departure point when Manmohan Singh presented his budget at a time when India was facing a balance of payment crisis. He said that the Washington Consensus forced India to privatize, open up to foreign investment and force the withdrawal of the state, beg for technology attached with intellectual property rights. He said that this was an assault on the working class and on India’s self-reliance, which was historically assisted by socialism. He said that institutions in India were being infiltrated by the right-wing and the Kesavanand Bharati decision was in danger of being overturned, which would fundamentally hamper the independence of the judiciary and its role in interpreting the constitution. Finally, he said, we must go back to Dange’s fundamental lesson which is to fight monopoly capitalism. For this, he said all mass organizations of India must come together on a common minimum program.
The presentations were followed by extensive discussion. The discussion served to clarify how we identify the class nature of the sections that will come together against monopoly capitalism, the importance of institutions like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the nature of the conflict in Ukraine and the role of western imperialism in creating it, and the importance of the communist parties in contemporary times. The session was chaired by member of district committee CPI, Com. Parthasarthy who presented a dissenting view on the role of Nehru and the Congress in the freedom struggle. It was attended by prominent scholar G. Ramakrishna, AITUC Bengaluru President M Deepak, editor of Hosathu magazine, Dr. Siddanagowda Patil, prominent lawyer B T Venkatesh and others.

In revisiting Dange’s legacy of searching out an Indian path to socialism, his concept of unity and struggle, his simultaneous defense of the Russian Revolution and the Indian Freedom Struggle, his stress on the importance of an independent self-reliant Indian state and national unity, the discussion looked for ideas which carry contemporary relevance and are an important guide for the path forward in the country.

(Authors: Nandita Chaturvedi and Archishman Raju are associated with the Gandhi Global Family and Saturday Free School, USA. This event was part of a series of events planned to commemorate 75 years of India’s independence this year.)

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