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Mainstream, VOL 60 No 45 October 29, 2022

Bolshevism, Metaphysics and Fascism. A Note On The Left’s Debacle In India | Murzban Jal

Saturday 29 October 2022

by Murzban Jal

In the first place I do not know the meaning of Bolshevism.—M.K. Gandhi, ‘Bolshevism and Discipline’, in Young India, 21 August, 1924.

Writing in 1924 M.N. Roy then in the flush of revolutionary zeal said in an article ‘Mahatamaji and Bolshevism’ published in Vanguard that Gandhi did not know the meaning of Bolshevism was “indeed a very damning confession made by one standing at the head of a great popular movement”. [1] Roy’s assertion is of great importance, especially today, when not only do the liberals and the right-wing recall him, but also when the left seems enamored by him. For the left, Gandhi needs being recalled; the Gandhi who is not only said to be an apostle of peace, but also the Gandhi was against fascism.

For the Indian Parliamentary Left, led by the CPI(M)—an argument that they draw mainly from the Congress party—there is the figure of Gandhi who lead the freedom movement against British imperialism, the figure of Gandhi who ultimately got shot by Godse. Gandhi was good, Godse was bad, so this argument goes. Gandhi was tolerant and peace loving, Godse was intolerant and was filled with hatred. Scientific reasoning, of course, knows that the world is not broken in neat Manichean binaries. Even closer reasoning would say that this entire debate of Gandhi vs. Godse, followed by the Hinduism vs. Hindutva debate is utterly false created by an economic and politically bankrupt bourgeoisie and swallowed by the liberals and political leftists, the leftists who are in actually the OMs (Orthodox Marxists), who swear in the name of Marx, but who have buried Marx many, many years back.

Look for instance at D. Raja, the esteemed General Secretary of the CPI, who said on May 17 2019 just a few days after the left and secular forces were routed in the National Elections. In his article ‘Political Ideology vs. Lived Reality’ published in The Indian Express he says that that the Indian Constitution stands for “plurality and tolerance” as against the RSS’s plan to create a “homogenous identity” for India. [2] He further says that the right-wing is silent went it comes into removing “hurdles created by caste hierarchies in improving the economic and spiritual well-being of the so-called “lower castes””. [3] What he implies is that besides Ambedkar and Periyar, Gandhi was also involved in fighting “Brahmanical Hinduism”. [4] While it is clear that both Ambedkar and Periyar were revolutionaries in fighting caste and its entire superstructure called “Hinduism”, it is also clear that not only did the Congress not participate in this democratic movement, but actually were involved in being blind to this revolution.

Anyone who reads Ambedkar would know that for him, it is Gandhi and the Congress party who were responsible for the counterrevolution. For him, there could not be any difference between Hinduism and Hindutva and that this difference was drawn by upper caste elites who wanted to sabotage the Cultural Revolution. It must be noted that the “Hindu demography” and the “Hindu imaginary” were created not by the RSS, but by Gandhi.

One of the reasons for the complete rout of the secular and left parties in 2019 is that they refuse to listen to the masses. Instead it is the BJP which has its ears on the ground and not only listening to people, but talking to them and being with them. Fascism, remember, is a mass-based plebian movement. One cannot underestimate it by writing articles on how Hinduism is catholic and tolerant while Hindutva is fascist. Masses are not interested in Hinduism, nor are they in the least interested in Hindutva.

Instead of being caught in the fairyland of religions, one must understand that a mass psychology of fascism is being created. Masses want action. The liberals along with the revisionists and reformist parliamentary left want reform, peace and love. In other words they do not want action.

So, one asks, when Gandhi did not know what Bolshevism means, why does the left (which is supposed at least in theory to not totally abort Bolshevism) go on the “other side”, the side of bourgeois comprise? And why does the left borrow the ideology of Gandhi vs. Godse and not talk of capitalism and imperialism which are in terminal crisis? The problem with the Gandhi vs. Godse argument is that it is totally bourgeois and is in direct support of the capitalist order in India.

Another example of revisionism is T.J. S. George who writing in Mainstream said: “Imagine the Pope criticizing Jesus Christ. If that is too ecclesiastical, imagine Sitaram Yechury rewriting Karl Marx. Actually we cannot imagine either because the Catholic Church and the Communist Party are rule-bound doctrinaire establishments that do not brook deviations”. [5]

While George’s criticism is directed to the RSS, especially after its leader Mohan Bhagwat initiated a sort of Glasnost, his comparing with the Vatican and communist parties is what needs a critical and revolutionary response. For George, neither the RSS nor the Vatican or the communist parties can “deviate” from their “first principles”. This means of course that all three of them (RSS, Vatican and Marxism) have these “first principles”.

George does not use the term “first principles”. He talks of “rule-bound doctrinaire establishments” and “deviations”. A deviationist is one who ceases to follow the path of the “founders” as found in the original doctrine. As we know the “doctrine” of Christianity is the doctrine of the Original Sin. The Christian deviationist is one who does not believe in this Original Sin.

What then is the doctrine of Marx and the RSS? Do they too have the notions of the Original Sin? Do both have fundamental and immutable principles that cannot be critiqued? Why has George brought in the analogy of the RSS and the communist parties? Why does he say that Sitaram Yechury cannot rewrite Karl Marx? One could however ask: “Has Yechury not already rewritten Marx, a rewriting that began with the revisionist tendency of the Second International that culminated in the Stalinist counterrevolution against Revolutionary Bolshevism?” This leads us to the next question: “What is the “doctrine” of Marx?” It was Marx who has talked on communism as a synthesis of humanism and naturalism [6] where one understand humanity as the basis of society (not the gods and the devils, not non-violence and violence, not Gandhi and Godse, not Hindus and Muslims) and Engels who had said that this doctrine of communism is the “doctrine for the conditions of the emancipation of the proletariat” [7] One could further ask: “Are not the principles of internationalism and humanism fundamental principles of Marxism?” What then does “deviationism” mean in Marxism?

At a cursory glance one can say that by “deviationism” one means the Stalinist ideas of socialism in one country, bureaucratic despotism, the confusion of state capitalism with socialism, the abandonment of internationalism, talism, parliamentary cretinism, economism, abandonment of mass line, etc. Deviationism then means a complete kneeling down before capitalism. It also implies that one has become a capitalist roader and flying cockroach of imperialism. Both Raja and George stand for revisionism and deviationism. Both are perplexed by the march-past of the BJP. They do not know what to do, except to mutter angry statements and then recall Gandhi.
It was Lenin who in his 1909 ‘Conspectus of Feuerbach’s Book Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion’ that appears in his Philosophical Notebooks quoting Feuerbach said that, “nature is a primordial, primary and final being”. [8] Further:

For me....in philosophy...the sensuous is primary; but primary not merely in the sense of speculative philosophy, where the primary signifies that beyond the bounds of which it is necessary to go, but primary in the sense of being derived, of being self-existing and true. [9]

It is imperative to recall this here, for both liberalism and fascism built on the principle of spirituality learnt this nonsense of “spirituality” from 19th century European bourgeoisie. The Indian national movement fighting British colonialism imbibed this spirituality in politics. Now this spirituality is turned into fascist myth. Both liberal spirituality and fascist myth negate understanding and reasoning. What one needs, in contrast to spirituality and mythology—is what Lenin calls in his ‘Conspectus of Hegel’s Science of Logic’ “reason that understands” and “understanding that reasons”. [10]

Reason is totally opposite to the melancholic dreams of the Congress and the revisionist parliamentary left. It is also totally opposed to fascist mass hysteria. In fact we say that the revolutionary understanding of reason (reason that is inexorably linked to human freedom) in critiquing both liberalism and fascism goes to the roots of contemporary political chaos itself. Both the melancholia of the Congress and the hysteria of the fascists stand on the terrible edifice built on the reformist and anti-revolutionary character of the Indian national movement. The cult of non-violence also emerges here. Instead of creating new forms of resistance against class rule, our revisionist (D. Raja is just one example) recalls not Marx, not Lenin and Trotsky, but Gandhi. Why does he do so? He does so because he is a confirmed revisionist. He does not bother to understand as to why Gandhi who is an apostle for both the rightists as well as the liberals needs to be appropriated by the left. He also does not understand that the cult of non-violence is just another form of bourgeois tactic for their cunning rule. Here we recall Roy once again:

The cult of non-violence exercises a deadening effect on the popular energy, and the inevitable consequence of it is the weakening of the national struggle. [11]

It is in fact this cult of non-violence that has given way to the fascist cult of violence. Our revisionists must understand that the liberal cult of non-violence and the fascist cult of violence are woven together, just as liberalism and fascism are woven together. The way out from this mess, is to move beyond the discourses of liberalism and anti-liberalism, of non-violence and violence. One needs to borrow a terminology from Hegel, the terminology of Aufhebung, whereby one can literally transcend the discourses of liberalism and anti-liberalism, an Aufhebung that also transcends all possible class discourses.

There is without doubts that the state of the political left in India has never been as hopeless as it is now. This is because they have abandoned all principles of revolutionary struggles, abandoned these for Nehruvian and Gandhian nostalgia.


[1M.N. Roy, Mahatmaji and Bolshevism’, in Selected Works of M.N. Roy, Vol. 11, 1923-7 (New Delhi: Oxford University Publishing, 1988), p. 312.

[2D. Raja, ‘Political Ideology vs. Lived Reality’, in The Indian Express, May 17, 2019.

[3Ibid.

[4Ibid.

[5T.J.S. George, ‘A Revolutionary Turn in RSS? in Mainstream, Vol. LVI No 45, October 27, 2018.

[6Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1982), pp. 90, 92, 136, 142.

[7Frederick Engels, ‘Principles of Communism’, in Marx. Engels. Selected Works, Vol. One (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977), p. 81.

[8V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 38, Philosophical Notebooks (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1972), p. 66.

[9Ibid.

[10Ibid., p. 88.

[11M.N. Roy, ‘The Cult of Non-violence’, in Selected Works of M.N. Roy, Vol. 11, 1923-7 (New Delhi: Oxford University Publishing, 1988), p. 152.

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