The relevance of the Russian Revolution of 1917 for India in 2017
One hundred years after the October revolution, will the young India dare to fight the rise of fascism
Certainly, it has not been one hundred years of solitude, though the luminescent magic realism of hope, as in Latin America, has often shifted its paradigm as much as its narrative into long spells of bestiality, brutishness and barbarism, echoing Walter Benjamin’s prophetic words that all history of human civilization is the history of barbarism. And, yet, one hundred years after the Great October Revolution in Soviet Russia, led by Vladimir Illyich Lenin, Leon Trostsky and Bolshevik-communists, among other revolutionaries, history keeps coming back in multiple spirals, like a rectangular dialectic with many thresholds, moving into a contrary montage of not only farce and nightmare, but also as bitter realism and dogged, stoic optimism. The dialectic, surely, has been turned upside down a million times to discover the ‘rational kernel’, as Karl Marx reinterpreted the speculative, metaphysical ‘quest’ of Hegel in the 1840s of Europe.
It’s just that the kernel seems to lose its rationality so often, that humanism, or communism itself, becomes a tragic and bloody victim at the stakes, as the world has witnessed under Adolf Hitler’s fascism, the concentration camps, gas chambers and the holocaust, or during Joseph Stalin’s war and victory against fascism, the conquest of Berlin and the suicide of Hitler as the Red Army defeated the Nazis, while millions of Russians sacrificed their bodies and souls defending the ‘motherland’ against Hitler’s army, amidst mass hunger, dying and death in a frozen and cruel landscape. This incredible reality, often camouflaged by the CIA’s well-oiled culture and political industry, and the western propaganda machine, however, cannot run away from the Gulags, the Siberian death and labour camps, the mass purging of party leaders, artists, writers, dissenters and Red Army commanders and the mass murders of innocents, including thousands of ethnic Soviet and Polish citizens, led by a psychopath called Stalin. Between the defeat of fascism and the purges, the vision of ‘Utopia’, trapped in the Cold War, became a Marxist-Leninist dream which is still struggling to survive and come to terms with its bitter past.
In the context of India, it was Lenin who advised MN Roy that there were no revolutionary conditions in the early 1920s, and made corrections in his own hand-writing on the resolution that the communists must enter the umbrella-like kaleidoscope of the ‘anti-colonial’ struggle against the British
The truth is that Karl Marx is and was the greatest political philosopher of radical transformation and humanism the world has ever seen – till this day. “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it," he wrote famously. He also wrote in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (EPM), that a man who cannot love, cannot create love, is an unobjective being, an impotent being. The truth is also the fact that he (like Lenin, later) expected a revolution in the heart of Europe, perhaps with its roots in Germany, and not in Tsarist Russia, with its opulent and obscene palaces, its vast poverty, its oppressed peasantry, and an incipient working class, so classically depicted in the classics of Fyodor Dostoevsky. Instead, with the Great Depression, and Germany’s humiliation post World-War 1, it was the rise of fascism which ravaged Europe.
That is, Lenin (like Mao, who led the Long March of impoverished peasants in a agricultural society, ravaged by warlords and dynasties) reinterpreted Marxism and ushered in a revolution in a non-industrial society which continued for years, and not only with the toppling of the Tsar. It is also a fact that he would have preferred, the ‘organiser’ Leon Trotsky, as his trusted successor, instead of Stalin; Trotsky being a non-dogmatic scholar, tactician and mobiliser par excellence. Lenin died too young and too early, and since then the history of Soviet Russia, surrounded by the ‘Iron Curtain’ and a scheming CIA etc, could never be the same, until its collapse post ‘Perestroika’ and ‘Glasnost’ initiated in a hurry with no theoretical or pragmatic preparation by Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s, much to the glee of the American and Western capitalist and military machine. Surely, both Perestroika and Glasnost marked a big learning landmark for the ‘evolutionary’ Chinese Communist Party (CPC), which, effectively, dumped Mao, adopted the ‘little bottles’ of Deng, and moved from one rigid totalitarian principle to another, becoming an advanced capitalist and military machine which has given American imperialism a run for its money. Xi Jinping’s ‘four comprehensives’ is the latest to celebrate yet another one-dimensional Chinese chapter of the ‘Great Leap Forward’ --- no questions asked.
The point is, are the catalytic forces of opposition, in the mythical ‘United Front against Fascism’, ready to introspect and willing to break the barricades on the ground?
In the context of India, it was Lenin who advised MN Roy that there were no revolutionary conditions in the early 1920s, and made corrections in his own hand-writing on the resolution that the communists must enter the umbrella-like kaleidoscope of the ‘anti-colonial’ struggle against the British, led by the Congress. And Lenin was proved correct. Since its birth in 1925 (like the CPC), it was the early 1930s which led to the unprecedented growth of the communists in India, even as the Bolshevik revolution, and, later, the ‘Red Star over China changed the political geography of the world.
The rise of fascism in India, therefore, marks a zone of possibilities, including a new discourse of the vitiated civil society, the militant and spontaneous students’ movements, the NotinMyName protests, the farmer and Dalit struggles all over the country. The luminescent and eclectic ‘uprising’ by women students of BHU, in the heart of Narendra Modi’s constituency, and the anger and outrage against the murder of Gauri Lankesh and mob-lynchers/cow vigilantes, has spread across the nook and corner of the country. It also marks a deadly cocktail between crony capitalism and hate politics, with the economy having totally tanked under Modi, mass unemployment and rural unrest stalking the young and the farmers, his event-management, fake ‘jumlas’ of start-up/stand-up India etc, turning ‘feku’ as a public spectacle, and communal polarization remaining the first and final trump card of the Hindutva forces.
The point is, are the catalytic forces of opposition, in the mythical ‘United Front against Fascism’, ready to introspect and willing to break the barricades on the ground? With the CPM yet again doing a UPA1, and the parliamentary opposition still unsure of its unity and vision, will a sinking Modi graph rise again?
One hundred years after the October revolution, and on the 50th anniversary of Che Guevara’s murder by the CIA in Bolivia, even while the brave and resilient young are showing the way, will India write another new resolution of a rainbow coalition, stopping at nothing but the defeat of fascism? Truly, that would be magic realism of the finest kind. Like Beethoven's Ode to Joy.