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Mainstream, VOL L, No 39, September 15, 2012

Rich and Varied Fare

Monday 17 September 2012, by Barun Das Gupta


The Independence Day Special Number of Mainstream presented a rich and varied fare. The first part of Kobad Ghandy’s series of articles on “Questions of Freedom and People’s Emanci-pation”, written as it is “in a jail within jail (the high-risk ward), with lathi-wielding cops brea-thing down one’s neck 24 hours a day, denied access to even the normal jail facilities” shows a freshness of mind and an undaunted optimism for the future rarely found in prisoners doomed to long years of imprisonment in sub-human conditions.

Even from behind the bars and living in total seclusion, his mind poses questions that every Communist has to face and answer. Why did one half of the world that was under the sway of communism pass under the sway of capitalism? And this at a time when the capitalist world is going through one of its worst crises? Why have the national liberation movements been replaced in many places by Islamic ‘resistance’ which, in some countries like Afghanistan, betray extreme forms of fundamentalist bigotry and fanaticism? What has given birth to the ‘billionaire princelings’ in Mao’s China?

Ghandy’s observation that “there can be no social/political/economic freedom if the indivi-dual is bound in chains” seems to have come out of a deep realisation. Indeed, why in every socialist country governed by a Communist Party democratic centralism was supplanted by bureaucratic centralism and the dictatorship of the proletariat, that is, dictatorship of a class by, in stages, dictatorship of the party, of the Polit-Bureau and ultimately of one individual—the General Secretary of the party? Lenin wrote in his polemic against Kautsky, The Proletalrian Revolution and Renegade Kautsky that “Proletarian democracy is a million times more democratic than any bourgeois democracy. Soviet power is a million times more democratic than the most democratic bourgeois republic.” Why in the post-Lenin era did social developments in the Soviet Union reduce Lenin’s vision of democracy into a caricature?

Unless honest and truthful answers to these questions are found, it would be very difficult to revive the international communist move-ment despite all the factors favourable for such a revival. In the present era the communist movement cannot advance and bring into its fold tens of millions of people all over the world and from different walks of life, without honestly accepting the centrality of democracy in a party that claims to be Communist. I am looking forward to Ghandy’s next instalments.

Subhash Gatade’s “Once there was Hindutva Terror” exposes the hypocrisy of the Hindu communal Right which seeks to present truth in simple aphorisms like “all Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims”. Gatade has painstakingly compiled a record of acts of terrorism of the Hindutva brigade. If these elements are allowed a free run, India will end up being a Hindu Pakistan. The other article by M.N. Buch, captioned “Enigma of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh”, blows the myth that the RSS is a non-political cultural body devoted exclusively to character-building and exposes the fact that it is very much a political body with a definite political ideology and political objective which is sought to be achieved through its political front, the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The essay on “The Future of Democracy” by Balmiki Prasad Singh, whom this writer knew during the former’s days as a senior IAS officer in Assam, is eminently readable. His rich experi-ence as an administrator has helped him take a look at the development of democracy from an angle very different from that of a professio-nal politician (of any hue and persuasion).

His observation that “It is true that the State-controlled development system did not succeed in eliminating poverty and illiteracy” and then counterposing it to “the alternative model of market economy” seems superficial. There was nothing basically wrong with the system as such and its objective. What was wrong was the people who worked the system, or rather did not allow the system to work to achieve the aims for which it was set up. If the system was used to develop local leadership and local initiative from them, things would have worked differently.

September 4, 2012

Barun Das Gupta
Salt Lake City,

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