The Role of Leftist Language
CHAPTER 6 - The Role of Leftist Language
The language of Communist imperialism continued to lambast the Congress leadership, particularly Mahatma Gandhi for the latter’s “failure to mobilize the toiling masses towards an immediate overthrow of the British rule in India.” But when the Congress launched a mass movement in March, 1930, the spokesmen of this language kept strictly aloof from it. Instead they published a Draft Plam of Action in December, 1930 characterising the Congress as a “class organisation of the capitalists working against the fundamental interests of the toiling masses.” And they tried to sabotage the freedom struggle by splitting the trade union movement over which they had acquired some hold with the help of finances flowing from the Soviet Union.
The song changed suddenly in 1935. The Soviet Union was feeling threatened by the rapid militarisation and rising anti-Bolshevik tone of Nazi Germany. She was now serioulsy in search of mutual security pacts with Britain and France. But the governments in London and Paris had failed to respond to Soviet diplomatic feelers. The Communist International (Comintern), therefore, sent out a call of the Communist Parties of Britain and France to strive for a “broad national front of all anti-fascist forces.” The purpose was to build pressures for such Popular Front governments in London and Paris as would be amenable to Soviet approaches.
The Communist Party of France was strong. It had an ally also in a strong socialist Party at home. So it succeeded on its own in securing a Popular Front government in Paris. But the Communist Party of Great Britain was too weak to exert any pressure on a strong conservative government in London. That task was, therefore, assigned to the Communist Party of India. This party was instructed to join the Indian National Congress via the newly formed Congress Socialist Party and to push the national organisation towards another mass movement.
That is how the Congress Socialists ceased to be “petit-bourgeois Left-reformists” and became “the revolutionary Left-wing of the Indian National Congress.” The Congress itself ceased to be a “class organisation of capitalists” and became a “broad national front of all patriotic people.” The language of Communist imperialism was employing no end of casuistry to prove that a “Popular Front government in London was the best guarantee for a early dawn of freedom and democracy in India.” The Congress Socialists themselves were worshippers of the Soviet Union as a proletarian paradise. They swallowed this language, hook, line and sinker. The language of Communist imperialism was fast getting transformed into the language of Leftism.
Split in the National Movement
The Congress leadership had, in the meanwhile, moved in an opposite direction. It was toying with idea of trying the experiment in provincial self-government envisaged in the Government of India Act 1935. The language of Leftism immediately launched a campaign against the “Rightist leadership” which was “trying to compromose with British imperialism in the interests of feudal and capitalist elements and against the interests of the toiling masses.” Simultaneously, it claimed that the “Left wing of the Congress was working for a democratisation of the national organisation by bringing into its fold the peasantry and the working class so that this organisation could play a revolutionary role at home and an anti-fascist role in international affairs.”
The chief patron of this Leftist language inside the Congress leadership was Pandit Nehru. Formally, he kept aloof from the communist-Socialist combine. But he used it surreptitiously to hurl all sorts of insinuations, innuendos and invectives on Sardar Patel whom he considered to be his main contempt for the Leftist language. But he was a man of few words and deemed it below his dignity to descend to the level of Leftism. The Leftist campaign, therefore, succeeded to large extent in pillorying the Sardar as an “arch reactionary in alliance with the Birlas,” and as a “fascist out to suppress all democratic, progressive, revolutionary and socialist elements in the Congress.” Quite a few other members of the High Command who were supporters of the Sardar got tarred with the same brush.
The Congress had thrown up several contending schools of thought in the course of its development and it was not unoften thet issues had been debated on its platform with considerable heat. But it was now for the first time that the Congress stood split by slogans imported from abroad and in the interests of a foreign power which had its own scores to settle in the power politics of Europe. The issues on which the Leftists were generating so much heat had little relevance to the Indian situation.
Finally the Leftists egged on Subhash Chandra Bose to challenge the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, only to leave him in the lurch at the last moment when wires were pulled from Moscow. A section of sterling patriots had to leave the Congress to form the Forward Bloc. In due course, the Leftist pressure inside the Congress became ministries, soon after the Second World War broke out. The field was thus left clear for the Muslim League to spread its tantacles and mount its campaign for Pakistan.
Standards of Public Life Lowered
The so-called Congress Right had many people in its ranks who had renouced inherited wealth or self-earned fortunes of lucrative professions and who had chosen to lead a life of poverty in the service of the motherland. But these people bacame branded as reactionaries and fascists simply because they refused to serve as Soviet Union. On the other hand the so-called Congress Left had quite a few people who were living in luxury on incomes derived from landed estates or from shares held in capitalist companies. But they were now strutting around as democrat,s progressives, revolutionaries and socialists merely by mouthing certain slogans and without the least change in their life style. Most of them used the opportunity to make the best of both the worlds.
This diparagement of personal character was a significant contribution made to India’s politics and public life by the language of Leftism. It opened the floodgates for all sorts of questionable characters to come forward and occupy the front seats on the public stage. The full harvest of these seeds sown in the years before independence was reaped in the post-independence period when politics and public life became progressively a safe haven for all sorts of scoundrels masquerading as servants of the people.
And it was not only the dichotomy in personal and public life which got deepended. The rational in man suffered a still more serious blow. Differences of opinion could no more be settled by reference to recorded facts or to logic or to the universe of discourse. People could no more agree to differ. All this was dismissed as mere feudal fuss about keeping forms or as bourgeois hypocrisy for hiding vested interests. One who differed with a Leftist was either a fool who did not know his class interest or a knave trying to curry favour with this or that feudal lord or capitalist paymaster. Everyone except the Leftists had to be somebody else’s agent.
The swearology that followed this renunciation of reason was simply staggering and few people could manage the manners to match it. There was no limit any more to the filthy language which Leftism could marshal at a moment’s notice. This language felt fulfilled only after it had assassinated the entire character of an opponent and made him or her look like the lowest specimen of the human race.
Nationalism Named as Hindu Communalism
The language of Islamic imperialism as also that of British imperialism had been saying for a long time that Congress nationalism was nothing but Hindu communalism. The Congress had tried its best to disprove the ccusation by making more and more concessions to the Muslimks. Its participation in the Khilafat agitation was a generous gesture to move Muslim hearts. But all had gone in vain. Muslims had not only remained unreconciled but had become increasingly prone to frequent violence and vile vituperations. Fanaticism inherent in Islam had turned them into a frenzied mob.
There were many freedom fighters inside as well as outside the Congress fold, who were not happy with the pro-Muslim politics of the Congress. They held the very correct view that Hindu society constituted the nation in the ancient Hindu homeland. That is why Hindus alone had manned the fight for freedom and had made all the sacrifices for the motherland. Muslims, on the other hand, had either played the British game or stood aloof or come forward only to share the concessions which Hindu freedom fighters had wrested from the British from time to time. And this state of things was likely to last till Muslims could cure themselves of the illusion that they were a race of conquerors and that they could get almost anything by committing violence.
The language of Leftism launched a blistering attack on these nationalists. They were branded as “Hindu communalsits who were bent upon breaking the broad national front against British imperialism by bringing in religious obscurantism and cultural chauvinism borrowed from the primitive Hindu past.” The “Hindu communalists” were not only “provoking Muslim communalism” but also “serving feudalism, capitalism and imperialism by raising narrow and sectarian issues which had no relevance to the burning national problems and which sabotaged the struggle of the toiling masses for a bit of bread and a piece of cloth.” The nationalists were thus made suspect in the eyes of the Congress which could never get over its supine stance vis-a-vis Islam and the Muslims. The suspicion has deepened in subsequent years, so much so that all nationalists have been ostracised from the Congress fold.
In the second round, the language of Leftism accused the Congress itself of using far too many Hindu symbols and songs and ceremonies to give comfort to the “Muslim minority which was becoming increasingly conscious of its own religious and cultural identity.” Bande Mataram, the national song which had been the soul of the freedom movement for several decades, was subjected to special criticism as an “anti-Muslim crusade.” And an apologetic Congress was sent on a wild-goose chase after “a non-communal mode of functioning such as could satisfy the Muslim masses.” The search has not yet ended.
Muslims Marched Towards Nationhood
The language of Communist imperialism had addressed itself to the communal problem quite early in its career in India. As early as 1922, M.N. Roy had appraised the Lucknow Pact of 1916 as a “coming together of the Hindu and the Muslim bourgeoisie in a common compact with British imperialism against the toiling masses.” Later on, this language had characterised the Muslim League as a “close preserve of feudal interests in confronation with the capitalist Congress.” Still later, the communal problem had been explained away as a “competition for jobs between the Hindu and the Muslim petit-bourgeoisie.”
But all this looked like groping in the dark when the full light dawned some time later. The language of Leftism started presenting the Muslims as “poor peasantry and proletariat exploited and oppressed by Hindu landlords, moneylenders and capitalists.” It was now proclaimed that the confrontation had an economic character. It was a class conflict.
The consequences were far reaching. Henceforward, Hindus were expected to hang their heads in shame. Quite a few of them did start showing a guilt-complex and indulging in breast-beating. On the other hand, Muslims became armed with an unprecendented degree of self-righteousness. In the new climate, it was a privlege to be known as peasantry and proletariat. The vocal section of Muslims, particularly their press, started becoming more and more aggressive. Their cause, they said was eminently just and it was upto Hindus to show some fair-play.
Meanwhile Aligarh professors and Muslim comrades in the Communist Party had come out with a new thesis about the progressive role of Islam in Indian history. Islam, in their opinion, had brought with it a message of equality and human brotherhood. The “caste-ridden and hierachical Hindu society” could not absorb that message and thus free itself from a moribund social system mainly because “the Brahmins saw in Islam a threat to their privileges and profits.” M.N.Roy endorsed this thesis in 1939. The book was pure trash. But the message was loud and clear. Islam, said Roy, had tried to complete the social revolution started centuries earlier by Buddhism. But, like Buddhism Islam was also defeated by Brahminical reaction. He did not reveal the reasons for these repeated defeats of progressive forces by a reactionary relic. Nor did anyone enquire for those reasons. The main purpose of the language of Leftism had been served by making a whipping-boy out of Brahminism.
The stage had thus been fully prepared for the climax which came in 1942-43. The Communist Party of India started quoting chapter and verse from the masters, Lenin and Stalin, on order to prove that India, like pre-revolutionary Russia, was seething with a number of submerged nationalities – Andhras, Assamese, Bengalis, Gujratis, Kashmiris, Malayalis, Marathas, Oriyas, Pathans, Punjabis, Sindhis and Tamils. Each of these had a right of its secede from the Indian federation and set up a sovereign state of its own. And as the people in Assam and Bengal in the east and Punjab, Sindh and North-West Frontier Province in the west were predominantly Muslim, they could set up a separate federation of their own and call it Pakistan. The Hindus and Sikhs in these provinces had to learn to love the Muslims with whom they shared a common culture.
This is not the place to discuss why the communists adopted this party line and how they collaborated actively with the British by sabotaging the Quit India struggle, Suffice it to say that a number of Communist Scholars equipped the Muslim League with a lot of statistics and endless casuistry. So far the League had been strong in bluster but weak in self-confidence while pleading its case for hurling at the Hindu communalists. The language of Leftism had worked a miracle. The Congress Socialists, Forward Blocists and some other Leftist groups and factions parted company with the Communists over the Quit India movement and the question of Pakistan. But they continued to share with the Communists the language of Leftism so far as Islam and Indian nationalism were concerned. The spectre of Hindu communalism has never ceased to haunt them. Nor has their love for Islam and Muslims suffered any loss even efter all Hindu Leftists have been bounded out of the Islamic state of Pakistan. The love for Islam and Muslims has been labelled as secularism in the post-independence period.