By Harsh Thakor
Without doubt Comrade Kobad Ghandy in book ‘Fractured Freedom” has imbibed important lessons about the weaknesses inherent in the Communist Movement. It is a must read for those wishing to understand India.
The book is most illustrative of the intensity and ascendancy of proto-fascism, particularly on the minorities. Most comprehensively it deals with the fascist repression on Kashmiri and Muslim activists as well as the barbaric treatment of political prisoners. The memoirs of his friendship with Afzal Guru, who introduced him to Rumi and Islamic philosophy, perhaps form the most heart touching passages of the book, delivering great respect religion of Islam. It gives a reader an insight into how morally India does not function as a genuine democracy.
The first section encompasses the evolution of an upper-class, Parsi youth, educated in Doon School and in England, to a committed activist dedicated to social and political revolution. Ghandy was shaped by the radical currents of his time. He vividly conveys the heady optimism of the late 1960s and early 1970s — China’s Cultural Revolution and the Naxalbari uprising in India — when everything seemed possible. The second section is the classic prison memoir, recounting the experiences of the sophisticated Marxist intellectual as he tries to adapt to the horrific or traumatising world of Indian jails.
He also recounts the experience of working with the Progressive Youth Movement, which was linked to the Naxalite trend of Chandra Pula Reddy. It was during this period that he met Anuradha, then a student leader at Elphinstone College in Mumbai, a breeding ground of radical thoughts in the early 1970s. The book covers the sway of the Dalit Panthers movement in Bombay and Ghandy’s own work in Mayanagar among the Dalit community as well as activities related to students, theatre and workers. He also dwells on his days during Emergency, his marriage and then the decision in 1982 to shift to Nagpur where he felt workers and Dalits faced the wrath of the mining mafia and corporates.
The book probes into the psychological aspects of a Marxist revolutionary. Most pertinently it taps on issue of the individual subconscious and the spiritual essence of a revolutionary,resurrecting Che Guevera.;Personally I respect Kobad for imbibing Freudian ideas as study of human behaviour is an integral part of Marxism. He teaches us that even the Leninist party is not the be it all for revolutionary democracy to reach a pinnacle and how Socialist societies and armed movements neglected the spiritual aspect. Kobad re-enforces my view that mere 2 line struggle within a Communist party like that in the Cultural Revolution cannot save a socialist state or convert it into a Communistic one. He makes us question whether Leninist or Maoist proletarian dictatorship concept too had inherent shortcomings which have to be rectified to promote scope for greater dissent or debate.
“The very concept of dialectics encompasses democracy and without it there can be no development and growth of ideas. Discussion of conflicting views is the basis of creation of new thoughts, essential for creative growth. After all, we do know that it is the ‘unity and struggle of opposites’ that results in development. In the realm of organization this would entail: starting with a level of unity, then a struggle between conflicting views, finally arriving a higher level of unity. In the realm of thought it would need an atmosphere of allowing conflicting views to clash and thereby arriving at a higher level of knowledge. Today much of the ossification in parties and organizations is probably due to the lack of such a process in the development of new ideas. In fact, new ideas in Marxist circles are often seen as dangerous, and the person is labelled, targeted or isolated.”
“Quoting Saumyarit Chowdhary “Kobad emphasizes on the transformation of the person in his thoughts. He felt that the necessary programs for the transformation of society and system, which were already on the list of communists, should be accompanied by the project of building people with new values for the new society. He felt that the struggle to acquire the qualities that a revolutionary worker should possess as a communist revolutionary must begin at the same time as changing the outside world, and that is the view he expressed.”
His reflections are pertinent in how even Maoist cadre do not have sufficient political education who he encountered first hand in jails.
I admire Kobad for giving such tacit support to the Caste question, treating it as an integral part of the Communist Revolutionary Movement. In a subtle manner he touches upon the strongly neglected factor of caste within the Indian Communist movement which is positive.
Ghandy is relevant when he narrates the psychology of individualism of workers who find escapist routes and bear the same culture or orientation of the oppressor classes. In day to day life I can recount thousands of time when I could witness ho psychology is influenced by the culture of individualism .At the airport I remember trolley retriever cueing for tips and involved in smuggling. In transport industry rickshaw drivers more than often over charge customers. He reminds us why so many industrial workers do not join the ranks of the organised movement and how even oppressed masses are swayed by Communal politics. Permanent workers don’t even side with contract workers.
The social media has completely entrapped the minds of youth today worth imperialist culture. His points make me probe into why so many cadres are lost to revolutionary organisations or the movement and the current that is obstructing any new roses to bloom.
Ghandy does nor berate the Maoist movement on a whole but just points out it’s glaring weaknesses. Lack of education of cadre is an important aspect .He is critical of Jharkhand movement but still shows great admiration for work in Dandakaranya region. In his book he narrates how mass movements faced the wrath of state repression which led to collapse of the mass movements, with the revolutionaries getting cut off from the masses and either becoming victims of state repression or roving rebels. It exposes the weakness of mass line or Bolshevik practice of the C.P.I. (Maoist)
Most unfair criticism have been levelled on Ghandy by KN.Ramchandran ,secretary of C.P.I.(M.L.) Red Star on, who used his book to brand the C.P.I.(Maoist) as terrorist. I recommend an essay by Saumyarit Chowgdary in Diligent ,reflecting significance of the book.
Flaws of ‘Fractured Freedom.’
Where Kobad is eclectic in book ‘Fractured Freedom’ is when he brings everything back to the individual as the centre. He reflects a liberal approach.
To me he does not adequately defend the polemics of Marx, Lenin or Mao or importance of contribution of Stalin. .Ghandy undermines the Leninist concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the collective aspect of Marxism-Leninism. On failure of Communism he praises China under Mao and achievements of the Cultural Revolution in China but shows scant respect for the concept of the Leninist party. Instead of defending the achievements of Socialist Russia till 1956 and China till 1976 Kobad instills sheer pessimism into a Communist cadre. I wish he spoke about Grover Furr’s revelations of Russia under Stalin, whatever the gross errors of Stalin, referred to the work of intellectuals in recent times in defending the Cultural Revolution, as well as touched upon the peoples wars waged in Peru,Philipines and Turkey.
Ghandy undermines concept of democratic centralism. He does not delve into the aspect of massline in respect to assessing the Maoist party or all the all-round weakness of the lack of a re-organised Communist party. There is no space given to flaws in practice of military line and lack of building democratic mass organisations by the Maoist movement , which had it’s origin in practice of C.P.I.(M.L) founder Charu Mazumdar himself. The topic of applicability of protracted people’s war is not given coverage.
He fails to foresee that the Cultural Revolution was the first attempt f its kind to combat revisionism within a Socialist Society and refer to why mistakes in massline and rightist trends within the Peoples Liberation army were the main reasons. True there were excesses like the red guard depredations or attacks on intellectuals and artists in a most sectarian manner but the Western media completely stripped any credit to the achievements .He fails into delving into the root of the setback which laid in mistakes in implementing Leninism.
“Just having acquired the basic necessities of life together with education for the first time in generations and having so evolved their senses and desires the natural trend was for greater and greater enjoyment of the newly acquired pleasures, not the rigid sense of duty that the communist party sought to imposed. So, seeking to forcibly imposed selfless values during the Cultural Revolution through the impetuous Red Guards, the cult of Mao, and labour camps (May 7th schools) only created an appearance of conforming to dictates, not real change within the bulk of the people. “
“It is now obvious (in hindsight), that during the Cultural Revolution in China the bulk of the people merely suppressed their desires and wants in order to conform to the hysteria whipped up. And, once the opportunity arose, with Deng’s get-rich theory, the people’s suppressed desires/urges found a release in the form of acceptance. So there was little resistance to the new policies introduced by Deng. Not even the examples of Tachai and Taching (commune models in agricultures and industry), nor the limited resistance in Shanghai could stem the surge of support to Deng’s reversals.. “
“Man cannot change his subconscious/conscious mind through imposition and force. It is only possible through a sense of awareness voluntarily acquired through a deep understanding that positive values alone can take us on the path to genuine happiness, not the instant pleasures of the day acquired through the new-found wealth of the populace over a generation of socialist construction. “
To me the above statements denigrate the practice of China under Mao and ideology of Marx, Lenin and Mao. They stifle collective spirit of Marxism-Leninism.
Kobad patronises the New left or Post Modernist ideology which has to be refuted tooth and nail to defend the kernel of Leninism.
Ghandy did not highlight the Demonstration sin Russia still glorifying leaders like Lenin and Stalin ,particularly on 150th birthday of Lenin and 75th anniversary of Victory in World war 2,nor the demonstration sin Chin today upholding the goals of the Cultural Revolution.
I would the other way and blame failure or setback in the Communist Movement in not properly grasping the teachings of Marx, Lenin or Mao, going to the extent of treating Maoism as a separate entity.
Ghandy erroneously feels that capitalism has developed failing to grasp how semi-feudalism is still rampant in India.
Erroneously he praises the progress of Modern China which is pursuing a capitalist path and upholds Cuba as a Socialist country.
Ghandy in my view should have thrown light on the historical changes of globalisation that tried to bury Marxism and not found fault with the ideology of Communism itself. It is in absolute contrast to late Sushil Roy who felt Bolshevisation of the party was very weak and thus looseness was created. Ghandy to me runs down Marxism and the organised movement by claiming youth in Andhra or Telengana are politically apathetic. He is critical of dogma but is very general and hardly touches on aspects of mass line or introspects into fundamental aspects of Marxism- Leninism. To me his criticism of lack of proletariat is immature if you analyse the destructiveness of globalisation.
Quoting Comrade Anirudh Rajan on my critique “Nowhere in KG’s interviews, when speaking about values or happiness, does he indicate integrating deeper with the masses or learning from them. By happiness and values I suppose he means happiness as determined by the masses and proletarian values and if so, where is the masses’ role in defining those.”
Quoting comrade Bhaskar Vishwanathan Muthu “Kobad’s view suffers from Post-Modernism. A Marxist can’t go beyond a certain limit to give importance to Psychology. Otherwise What is the meaning of ‘Being determines the consciousness’? Of course, a section of the oppressed class behaves conversely. Since ‘the ideas of the ruling society are ideas of the ruling classes’ naturally the ruled ones suffer from false consciousness. Yes. A section from the oppressed classes become either Police or Military personnel to oppress their own brethren. It has been there since the emergence of classes. Only in course of time, these personnel would start to revolt against the entire state machinery including Police/Military personnel. “
“Also, because of non-unionisation of entire workers permanent/regular workers are against the former due to economism and primarily of revisionism. Ghandy does not apply Historical Materialism for the cultural questions as well as the values he raised. For which Mao launched ‘Rectification Campaigns’ for six years during the 40s along with the successful struggle against the invasion of Japanese Imperialism. which enabled the successful revolution in 1949. For the same reason and on the same basis, GPCR has been launched to retain the socialist society and the establishment of ‘New Man’. “
“Also, Mao acknowledged the need to launch thousand GPCRs to stop the reversal of Socialist society. Similarly, he always too prepared to organise revolution for any no. of times repeatedly as well as GPCR. Because, culturally, People have been moulded to have alien class trends since the emergence of the classes. Kobad Ghandy is not prepared to recognise this due to his narrow empiricism. “
In many ways Ghandy’s eclectic thinking today is a product of the loopholes prevailing within the Communist Movement Kobad is the by –product of the liberal influence within Maoism and the weakness in genuine massline practice within in the Maoist movement itself, historically.
Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.