Friday, 20 March 2009

On Political Relevance of Bhagat Singh

-Rajesh Tyagi; 20 March 2009

Time and again we hear that capitalist ruling classes, their leaders, parties and regimes in India, have deliberately suppressed the revolutionary essence of ideas of Bhagat Singh. 

This is undoubtedly true. But this is only half truth. The whole truth is that the parties of Stalinist Comintern and their leaders have equally contributed to this suppression. In both cases, the suppression is deliberate and calculated, as it goes to the benefit of both of them. 

While the capitalists project Bhagat Singh and his ideas in the grey shades of nationalism and patriotism, the Stalinist leadership, in addition, platters him 'simply' as a revolutionary sympathetic to the socialism of their own variant, that hardly has anything in common with revolutionary marxism and its internationalist essence.  

Stalinists and their later adherents- Maoists, attempt, but in vain, to claim the legacy of Bhagat Singh and to assimilate and identify his ideas with their own.

Did Bhagat Singh belong to or supported the official Socialism of his times, which flowed out of the fountainhead of Stalinist Comintern, that had already started to degenerate in its stranglehold? 

In that case, Bhagat Singh must have joined or at least supported the Communist Party of India, the Party of the Third International under Stalin. Why Bhagat Singh did not join or support the CPI and why CPI failed to impress the most ardent revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh? Why its appeal failed to attract the vibrant generations of young radicals, leaving them to the suicidal path of terrorism and methods of anarchism? 

Answers to these questions, can be easily traced back to the political disputes, that had emerged inside the international socialist movement of that era and that had divided the movement into two hostile camps- one led by the left-opposition under Leon Trotsky, the co-leader of October revolution alongside Lenin and the other under Stalinist rightwing, the reincarnation of Menshevism. While the former remained oriented to proletarian internationalism and world socialist revolution, the latter to nationalism, national socialism, socialism in one country. 

The thoughts and writings of Bhagat Singh, throw sufficient light on the cause of failure of the CPI, the official party of Third International, to influence the young generations of its times. 

Subordinated to the pernicious influence of Stalinised Comintern and an adherent to its nationally oriented policies, advocated and imposed by its rightwing leadership, the CPI had decisively distanced itself from proletarian internationalism by default. Inside the deadly stranglehold of Stalinist Comintern, ever since the mid of second decade of the last century, the CPI leadership, like that of many other CPs over the world, had fallen prey to its axe of nationalism.

False nationalist policies of the Comintern, centered around the defence of Kremlin bureaucracy and subservient exclusively to its sectarian ends, often at the cost of most vital interests of the international revolution, dictated the overall policies of the CPI and the course of its political practice. 

At a time when the young generation of revolutionaries under the leadership of Bhagat Singh was turning away from and abjuring all early influences of bourgeois nationalism for proletarian internationalism, the CPI led by Stalinist leadership, was turning decisively more and more to nationalism, submitting slavishly to the national interests of Soviet bureaucracy. 

The two stage theory of revolution, that Stalinists had imported from Mensheviks, was driven and accentuated by these narrow national interests. 

The Stalinists, argued that as the liberation struggle in India was being fought as part of the bourgeois democratic stage of revolution, that they artificially separated from the socialist revolution, the liberal bourgeoisie under the leadership of Gandhi, was the natural leader of the struggle and the task of the working class consisted in following and pushing that leadership forward. The whole focus, falling in line with the policy of Comintern, thus remained upon impressing the leadership of national bourgeoisie, more and more to the left, instead of contending against it for capture of power. National bourgeoisie in their estimation, as preached by the then Comintern, was the natural ally and leader of the revolution. Its party, the Indian National Congress, thus, for them, was the real embodiment of the unity of political purpose, between workers and National Capitalists. 

Bhagat Singh was stubbornly opposed to this bogus Menshevik theory of two stage revolution, promoted by the Stalinist Comintern. Unlike Stalinists, Bhagat Singh did not entertain any illusions, in the role of National Capitalists. 

Bhagat Singh clearly stated that there was no difference between the rule by local or foreign capitalists. For him the rule of capitalists, whether local or foreign, is one and the same thing. 

Colonialism and Imperialism, for Bhagat Singh are not merely the rule of foreign capitalists, to which all social classes of the subjugated nation are equally hostile, as was being preached by Stalin, but it was the direct rule of world capitalists as a whole upon the workers and oppressed toilers in all countries. 

Bhagat Singh was thus clear in his perception that no real revolution could be brought by substituting the rule of local capitalists for that of the foreign capitalists. He wrote in ‘Outlines of a Revolutionary Programme: A Letter to Young Political Activists’: “If you are planning to approach the workers and peasants for active participation, then I would like to tell you that they cannot be fooled through some sort of sentimental rhetoric. They will clearly ask you as to what your revolution would give them, for which you are demanding sacrifice from them. If, in place of Lord Reeding, Sir Purushottam Dass Thakur becomes the representative of the Government, how people would be affected by this? How a peasant would be affected by the fact if Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru comes in place of Lord Irwin? The appeal to nationalist sentiments is a farce. You cannot use them for your work.”

Bhagat Singh's writings and ideas, outrightly reject the reactionary nationalist outlook alongside the equally bogus stagist theory of Menshevism, that formed the programmatic  basis of the then CPI and Comintern. He stood in opposition to the very idea of Stalinist CPI that subordinated the working class to the bourgeois leadership, on the false premise of 'democratic revolution' counterposing the same to a socialist one.

When Stalin was propelling his followers in India to associate themselves with Gandhi and Congress, Bhagat Singh was exposing the fallacy of the preachings of Gandhi, through his writings in newspapers and leaflets. Bhagat Singh wrote “He (Gandhi) knew from the very beginning that his movement would end into some sort of compromise. We hate this lack of commitment....”. He further wrote about Congress “What is the motive of Congress? I said that the present movement will end into some sort of compromise or total failure. I have said so because in my opinion, the real revolutionary forces have not been invited to join the movement. This movement is being conducted only on the basis of few middle class shopkeepers and few capitalists. Both of these classes, specifically the capitalists cannot venture to endanger their property. The real armies of the revolution are in villages and factories, the peasants and workers. But our bourgeois leaders neither did dare to take them alongwith, nor can they do so. These sleeping tigers, once wake up from their slumber, are not going to stop even after the accomplishment of the mission of our leaders.” 

These words of Bhagat Singh found their vindication after the Bombay action of weavers, when the leader of the national bourgeoisie, Gandhi, expressed the fear of its class, saying that, “.... use of proletariat for political purpose is extremely dangerous”.

Not amazingly, when the great leader of International Communist Movement, Leon Trotsky, was making severe criticism of servile and complacent Stalinist policy in China and India, alongside scathing attacks upon Gandhi and Congress under him, Bhagat Singh, around the same time, was also making political critique of this false leadership, on the same lines. It is not without reason that Bhagat Singh, aware by then of the thoughts of Trotsky, was himself thinking on the same lines. He refused to collaborate with the Menshevik program of conciliation with national capitalists and till the end of his life remained consistent on this political position. 

As Bhagat Singh was thoroughly convinced of totally reactionary character of national capitalists, he did not subscribe to the views of the then Stalinist leadership of the CPI, of two stage theory of revolution- democracy today, socialism tomorrow- i.e in first stage ‘alongside the capitalists’ and in second stage ‘against the capitalists’. Bhagat Singh did not believe in the farcical stagist theory of revolution that Stalin has borrowed from discredited Menshevism. For Bhagat Singh, the revolution was an uniterrupted course of history, to which democratic tasks constituted only a threshold, and in which the power must fall essentially to the hands of the working class supported by the oppressed masses. 

Unlike Stalinists, Bhagat Singh, never dreamed of a bourgeois republic, and never allowed the possibility of sharing the power between the workers and toilers on one side and capitalists on the other. For Bhagat Singh, neither the whole nor the part of the capitalists, was progressive or revolutionary. 

This flew in the face of the then political line of Comintern, which preached that in backward and colonial countries like India, national capitalists were ally of revolution and genuine fighters against the Imperialism. 

This conciliatory policy, not only destroyed the proletarian revolution of 1925-27 in China, but also prevented a proletarian upsurge in India.

Within a decade of Bhagat Singh's hanging, history exposed the fallacy of the bogus policies dictated by the Stalinist Comintern and obediently followed by the CPI. Stalin entered into war alliances with imperialist gangs- first with Hitler and then with Churchill. Following in the footsteps of the counterrevolutionary zig-zags of Stalin, the CPI openly betrayed the freedom struggle, associating itself with the British Imperialists who had recently hanged Bhagat Singh and his comrades, and became an active collaborator to the brutal suppression of the freedom movement at the hands of British colonialists.

Bhagat Singh was staunch opponent to the doctrines of ‘non-violence’, preached by Gandhi, that served as a trap to hold back the workers and peasants from taking to offensive against the property and the rule of capitalists. Bhagat Singh wrote about the preaching of Gandhi “...It were the principles of non-violence and compromising policy of Gandhi, which created a breach in the united waves that arose at the time of National Movement.” He brought forward vivid explanations enriching the revolutionary theory and experience of his time, in support and justification for the use of revolutionary violence by the new classes against the old ones in history. His writings were befitting reply to the docile, timid and virtually servile positions of Gandhi and his followers inside the Congress.

No doubt, the perspective of Bhagat Singh, was limited by various factors including his very early age, extremely short life span, politically undeveloped environment, unfortunate slipping of the leadership of Soviet Union and Comintern to the hands of Stalinist bureaucracy which abandoned the perspective of world revolution in no time, etc. etc. Though, Stalinism stood as a wall between the waves of Great October Revolution and the revolutionary movement in the East, including India, even then, the waves of October Revolution, exerted immense influence upon young Bhagat Singh. While in Jail, at the fag end of his life, Bhagat Singh was going through the works of Lenin and Trotsky.

Bhagat Singh was influenced by the sacrifice of Kartar Singh Sarabha, the organiser of Ghadar Party in US, who planned a revolt in armed forces through penetration and political propaganda, in order to uproot the colonial regime, but was caught and hanged at the age of 19 years on the charges of sedition and waging war against the Empire. 

Bhagat Singh, drew his source of inspiration from the action and program of Ghadar party, which was far closer to revolutionary marxism, instead from that of the bogus Menshevik program of the Stalinist CPI.

At the age of 23½ years, Bhagat Singh himself was hanged by Colonialists, with tacit understanding with bourgeois leadership in Congress, Gandhi at their head. This collusion between colonialists and Congress leadership is evident not only by the mysterious silence of these leaders on the issue, but also that Gandhi had categorically refused to make the sentence of Bhagat Singh, an issue at the round table conference and Gandhi-Irwin Pact of 1931.

Even at the threshold of his death, Bhagat Singh made yet another and one of the greatest contributions to the revolutionary political consciousness of his times. He smuggled out of his cell in the prison, a programme for revolution in India. In this programme, he consciously rejected the path of individual terrorism, and vowed to organisation of mass uprising of workers and toilers against Imperialism. While allowing armed struggle, as a valid, legitimate and near most probable possibility in the revolutionary struggle, Bhagat Singh rejected terrorist methods of struggle, not only as futile but harmful too.

Bhagat Singh belonged to the generation in transition, that was turning away from the second, terrorist, phase of Narodism in its decline, towards Marxism. This phase, had given most brilliant leaders, from Plekhanov and Axelrod to Lenin, to the revolution in Russia. In India too, lately, a whole generation of young revolutionaries was emerging to embrace Marxism, when unfortunately, the Comintern and Soviet Union in strangulation of Stalinist counter-revolution, were turning away from Marxism.

Though, Bhagat Singh was not aware of the political disputes that had already come up in the Communist International in his times, and the fight that Trotsky put up against the conservative tendencies of Stalinist Bureaucracy, yet on his own and while sitting hundreds of miles away, Bhagat Singh deduced the same political conclusions, which Trotsky had arrived at and for which he put up the fight for re-orientation of the world communist movement. Bhagat Singh did not live up to the time to see the total betrayal of the revolutionary struggle at the hands of Stalinists, when they took sides with British Colonialists, and abandoned the revolutionary struggle, completely.

Capitalists and Stalinists both in their own way contribute to obliterating the revolutionary ideas of Bhagat Singh, which of course he acquired at later stage of his short life, through their intermingling with his early thoughts, where radical reflections stand mixed with national prejudices and idealist beliefs, albeit only in passing, prevalent in his times. 

The task of marxist revolutionaries is to segregate the politically mature Bhagat Singh and to put his works and thoughts in context, to educate and attract the young generations of working class towards a true revolutionary programme. 

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