(The article has been written with that part of India in mind where communists could never make it to power.)
I have grown up in a Soviet-styled town where almost everyone works for the government-owned Bhilai Steel Plant (which was itself established with the help of the USSR) – and thus, the majority of the population of the town comprises of workers. Since childhood, I have seen my father, his friends and all other men in my family, take up the red flag whenever there are certain demands which the administration is not meeting, or if there’s any strife against the plant’s administration. Those men would never vote for the same flag though, even in the municipal elections.
Currently, we have seen thousands of farmers march into a city which is the political capital of the state of Maharashtra, and the economic capital of the Union of India. All done under the banner of the hammer and sickle. Yet, can any rational person who knows India say that those farmers are followers of Marx/Lenin? Even after 100% of their demands are met successfully, under the leadership of the communists, would they ever vote for a communist candidate in the local or national elections? The answer cannot be positive and certain.
The Communist Party of India, along with all its splinter groups, has always been seen standing beside the Proletarians (“Sarvahara” in Hindi). But it fails to win their loyalty for the elections. People are not able to relate to the communist ideology, and there has to be a reason for it.
Lenin had said that the Tsar would have been defeated earlier, if not for his friend, European capitalism. The international Marxists have always seen capitalism as their arch-enemy, and the Indian communists seem to have adopted a more or less identical idea. In the western countries, capitalism and monarchy are what created and preserved the hierarchy (and thus. the superiority) of the few over the majority, making both of them the primary enemies of the Bolsheviks in Russia.
In India, even during the absence of capitalism, society had always had a hierarchy, and it exists in the present too, when monarchy is absent. The caste system, filling in the missing spot, is the enemy which they failed to recognise for a long time, which explains the reason for their electoral failure. Thus, it was monarchy plus the caste system (Brahmanism) earlier, and now it is capitalism plus the caste system.
In India, even the poorest of the poor may have something to lose – and that is their sense of superiority of their caste over another. Only those who have nothing to lose start a revolution, they say. In my opinion, that is exactly why no revolution has ever taken place in the subcontinent.
The fact remains that Indians have sanctified the doctrine of non-violence in their psyche, which came from the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, while the ‘revolutions’ that happened in Russia or China or Cuba were essentially violent. How could the Marxist idea of revolution then be acceptable, here in India?
The theory of revolution through the ballot seems to have the objective of only entertaining the opportunist. When looked at with practicality, there is no way the communist can contest and win against the ‘money power’ of the BJP or the Congress or any other liberal party. The voters in India have proved that all they need is a beautifully-packaged media campaign to woo them, while the only thing that communists have to offer is their valiant support at the grassroots level in all of the struggles of the people. What can be more pitiful than the image of comrade Bhagat Singh being deployed by the fascist forces? This shows the power of capitalism to manipulate facts, which seems to have unarmed the communist morally, in the eyes of the general public.
There is a need for a solid synthesis between the ideas of caste struggle and class struggle. The caste system and the people defending it need to be seen as enemies equal to neoliberalism (the policies which support absolute privatisation of the public resources). As has been observed from current events, like the Bhima Koregaon incident and the death of Rohit Vemula, some Marxists have extended support towards the Ambedkarites and their caste struggle – although as a group, they fail to acknowledge the class struggle of Marxism. Alliances take great energy and compromises to maintain. On the other hand, such energy could rather be utilised to build the grounds for an actual revolution. Rather than acting as an ally to the caste struggle, the communists should rise as its champions, while treating the caste system as an arch-nemesis and caste annihilation as the central goal. Caste unity should be a prerequisite for this attack and all indicators of caste should be condemned.
The vision of revolution needs to be redefined in the context of India, where it has to be non-violent and within the limits of the current Constitution. Thus, the goal is not to establish a communist government with no tolerance for dissent, but a government of the people, working for the people and their freedom and equality.
India is known for absorbing foreign ideas and forming a synthesis which works best for itself. Communist ideology in its literal interpretation will thus not be accepted in India. The next hero of communism shall be the person who can successfully interpret Marxism in the Indian context, in the language of flexibility and accommodation. That would be a great favour to international communism as well, as the ideas need to keep changing and evolving.
A recent post by a famous Marxist Facebook page, just after the Tripura electoral defeat, lamented that the student leaders from the Jawaharlal National University were not working with the grassroot workers, while the truth remains that they actually need not do so. Karl Marx did not start a revolution standing on a street. In their endeavour to learn the caste struggle and in order to incorporate them into the communist doctrines, the above-mentioned student leaders are not walking on a wrong path. Contrary to what the Facebook post said, those students may as well become the vanguard one day, when they might be able to pen down the correct interpretation of Marxism in the Indian context.
Such a synthesis should not only be inclusive of the feminist movement, the queer movement, and the tribal struggle, incorporate the constitutional values like secularism over its traditional atheism and anti religion-ism, but should also be able to provide a vision which is specific to India primarily, along with its global significance, to which all the oppressed people could relate to. In the process, it can willingly assume the responsibility to realise that vision and take it forward.
Revolution shall surely happen. Long live the Revolution! Inqilab Zindabad!