There used to be a time when being labelled as a Marxist was the death knell. Many of us have lived through McCarthy’s America and not many of us liked it, primarily because the assumptions and inferences drawn from the accusations were preposterous and unsubstantiated. But what if the accusations and implications were true? How would we have looked upon the McCarthy era then? Well, it will be difficult to find out now in America, but transpose the situation to India, and in the typical fashion of the subcontinent, complicate things a bit. Imagine a situation in which Marxists were indeed the fifth column, weakening law and order and the state at every turn. In other words, think of the very situation Senator Joseph McCarthy was (ostensibly) worried about or trying to pre-empt.
The Communist movement in India is still quite strong. Despite the failure of the Soviet Union, Indian Communist leaders have started talking about an Indian strain of communism just as Mao had interpreted Marx to suit Chinese needs. Marxists also have a commanding presence in Indian academia and media – GS Gandhi, then a columnist for the Pioneer, described Mao Tse-tung as “a great revolutionary, an able strategist, a poet and a philosopher,” and called him “above all a soldier-saint who led his country to salvation.” Harkishen Singh Surjeet, General Secretary of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) until 2005, regularly posed with portraits of Lenin and Stalin much like one would expect of Fidel Castro. Marxist (or sympathetic to Marxist) presence exists in many of India’s leading newspapers and magazines. British journalist Premen Addy warned in the London Review of Books not to take certain journals such as the Economic and Political Weekly and Frontline as voices of genuine radical dissent after Frontline columnist and CPI-M leader EMS Namboodiripad described Mahatma Gandhi as a Hindu fundamentalist. Addy wrote, “should the country’s Communist Parties achieve exclusive power at the national level, neither journal is likely to promote the right of dissent it enjoys in India today.”
Marx thought none too highly of religion, and Hinduism was no different for him. Predictably, Marx thought that Hinduism was the ideology of an oppressive and outworn society, and he did not accept the notion that India was a country properly speaking, merely a stretch of land with a meek conglomerate of people passively waiting for the next conqueror. Marx’s Indian sychophants have stayed true to this view – they reject the very concept of India as a national unit. In a 1993 interview with Le Monde, Romila Thapar cheerfully predicted that India would not be able to stay togehter for much longer. CPI-M leaders Jyothi Basu and Ashok Mitra had declared around the same time, in the aftermath of the Ayodhya controversy, that if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power at the centre, West Bengal would secede from the Union, and that India was never the solution anyway.
In every conflict, they have stood on the anti-Indian side – betraying the Quit India activists to the British, supporting the Pakistan scheme in 1945-47, supporting the separatist Razakar militia in Hyderabad State in 1948, and siding with China in 1961-62. In fact, just before war broke out in 1962, the Communists had declared that China’s Chairman was India’s Chairman. The CPI’s official stand was pro-China, and many of the leaders
( B. T. Ranadive, P. Sundarayya, P. C. Joshi, Basavapunnaiah, Jyoti Basu, and Harkishan Singh Surjeet) openly called the conflict as one between a socialist state and a capitalist state. The Naxalite problem in India was started by Maoist elements in the Indian Communist Party. In 1967 a peasant uprising broke out in Naxalbari, in northern West Bengal. The insurgency was led by hardline district-level CPI-M leaders Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal. The hardliners within CPI-M saw the Naxalbari uprising as the spark that would ignite the Indian revolution. The Communist Party of China hailed the Naxalbari movement, and more pro-naxal elements split from the CPI, particularly in Andhra Pradesh.
The uncompromising opposition by Marxists in India to Gandhi’s “cherished Hindu convictions” meant that communsits were cut off in a considerable measure from the mainstream of patriotic struggle. While in other Third World countriess, Marxists have supported cultural anti-colonialism and encouraged national pride, Indian Marxists are generally opposed to anti-colonial dvelopments in the cultural sphere. The knee-jerk anti-Western bias the CPI-M and its followers still exhibit has hampered the smooth running of the State machinery on many occasions, the most recent being refuelling rights for the United States Air Force on their way to the Persian Gulf, the friendly visit by an American warship to Madras, and the much talked about nuclear deal between India and the US.
Needless to say, every corner of the country they have touched has wilted away. Amulya Gandhi was forced to admit in 1998, “The Marxist rule of the last two decades has been an unmitigated disaster for West Bengal. Marxism has ensured that West Bengal will become an industrial desert. By blocking investment, both indigenous and foreign, the red trade unions have ensured that the number of unemployed remains high, providing endless supplies of revolutionary cadres from the ranks of the lumpen proletariat.” At the academic level, many Indian Marxists have managed to portray themselves to the international academic and journalism communities as privileged commentators on Hindu communalism. It is ironic and deeply disturbing, not to mention the questions it raises about Western academia, that a movement which still swears by Lenin and Stalin (the Maoists chose to abandon Parliamentary procedure and take to the jungles as Naxal rebels) is hailed in Western universities as a guardian of civil polity against the encroaching barbarism of Hindu revivalism. However, the unreserved admiration of Lenin, Stalin, and Mao is not noteworthy.
The postmodern form of Marxism, quite popular in academia, denies the very notion of objective knowledge. It assumes that knowledge is conditioned by one’s social belonging, insisting that all research in the social sciences has a political agenda. Implied is that once one has identified a scholar as a representative of the wrong interest group, his/her arguments are ipso facto wrong. This feeble pseudo-intellectual trick has worked with the Indian Right because, unfortunately, the idea of a Right-wing intellectual is a bit of a misnomer in India. Marxists have occupied and held the public sphere without challenge for at least the past 35 years and it is near impossible to assail them today. Marxist control of the English news media in India and key instituitons such as the Indian Council of Historical Research and the National Council of Educational Research Training have given them a disproprtionate voice and influence on Indian self-perception and image in the world. Interestingly, a standard Soviet work, A History of India, by K. Antonova, G. Bongard-Levin, G. Kotovsky (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1979) has been far more sympathetic to the Indian perspective than homegrown Marxists. In the words of a wise Roman,
“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, f
or he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague.”