Crisis of Capitalism…

On August 15, 2002, the fifty-fifth anniversary of Indian independence, Prime Minister Vajpayee called on the people of India to defend the ‘secular foundations’ of the Indian State and practice ‘tolerance’ in spite of all ‘provocations’. In other words, the Prime Minister was insinuating that the victims of the communal massacre in Gujarat in February 2002 are themselves to blame for having allegedly organised provocations and for having been provoked. He was lauding the Indian State for practicing tolerance and defending genuine secularism.

On August 15, 2002, the fifty-fifth anniversary of Indian independence, Prime Minister Vajpayee called on the people of India to defend the ‘secular foundations’ of the Indian State and practice ‘tolerance’ in spite of all ‘provocations’. In other words, the Prime Minister was insinuating that the victims of the communal massacre in Gujarat in February 2002 are themselves to blame for having allegedly organised provocations and for having been provoked. He was lauding the Indian State for practicing tolerance and defending genuine secularism.

He was trying to turn the truth on its head. However, more recently, on October 25, Prime Minister Vajpayee declared that what happened in Gujarat shall not happen again, indirectly admitting that it is the ruling class, through its state, which is the organiser of the provocations and communal slaughter of innocent people in Gujarat.

Atal Behari Vajpayee is not the first Prime Minister to preach tolerance and harmony after the rulers have been exposed for their communal crimes. Nor is he the first to promise that ‘it shall not happen again’. Jawaharlal Nehru preached tolerance and harmony after the bloody partition was organised by the British colonialists and the ‘brown sahibs’ collaborated in that criminal act. Nehru also promised that it shall not happen again. Indira Gandhi added the word ‘secular’ in the preamble to the Indian Constitution after having declared a National Emergency and thrown all her main opponents into jail. Indira Gandhi’s regime launched its armed assault on the Golden Temple at Amritsar in the name of Operation Bluestar, as part of its communal persecution of Sikhs. Rajiv Gandhi amended the laws to require all political parties to pledge that they would defend the ‘secular foundations’ of the Indian State. He did this after he and his Congress Party had supervised the gruesome holocaust targeted at people of the Sikh faith in November 1984, and after they had swept the polls with the slogan ‘Hindu, Hindi, Hindustan!’ In December 1992, the Narasimha Rao government and the main opposition party, BJP, colluded in the demolition of the Babri masjid and organising large-scale communal massacres.

If the entire experience of the Indian working class and people over the past 55 years is examined truthfully, what is clear is that secularism and communalism are two faces of the strategy of ‘divide and rule’. It is also clear that the Congress Party and the BJP are the two arms of this strategy of the Indian bourgeoisie to divide and rule over the people.

The BJP criticises the Congress Party for ‘appeasing the minorities’ in the name of secularism. The Congress Party criticises the BJP for violating the principles of secularism and damaging the ‘secular foundations’ of the Indian State. When in power, both of them have engaged in communalising and criminalising the state apparatus, the police and paramilitary forces. They have commanded these forces to organise communal violence, as in November 1984, in December 1992–January 1993, in March 2002 and numerous other times. They have both preached ‘tolerance’ and ‘communal harmony’ after every episode of gruesome killings.

All the available facts show that communalism and communal violence are part and parcel of the anti-social offensive of the Indian bourgeoisie, and that the Indian State, its constitution, its political process of multi-party representative democracy, its bureaucracy, army and police are thoroughly communal. However, there is a major contingent in the Indian communist movement that is preventing the workers and peasants from drawing this conclusion.  After every incident of brutal slaughter of the people on a communal basis, there are some in the communist movement who preach that the problem lies only in this or that party but not in the Indian State.

The Indian working class is being prevented from emerging as an independent political force, by those in the communist movement who are advocating that ‘secularism versus communalism’ is the immediate struggle to be waged, and calling for the defence of the ‘secular foundations’ of the Indian State.

If the foundations of the Indian State are not communal, then why does communal violence take place again and again? It can only be because the people of India are communal and backward. Thus, the assertion that the Indian State is secular and anti-communal actually leads inevitably to the conclusion that the problem lies with the people being backward and divided on the basis of their religious faith. It follows then that it is up to the Indian State to maintain ‘peace’ and ‘communal harmony’. Thus, those in the communist movement who are calling for the defence of the secular foundations of the Indian State are repeating the lie that was promoted by the colonial enslavers of India and by the traitorous Indian bourgeoisie!

Secularisation refers to the progressive elimination of religious authority from social and political affairs. The struggle against religious authority, backward customs and the domination of the rigid Brahmanical caste system has a long history in Indian society, including the experience of the Bhakti and Sufi movements. Even though the ideas they propounded had a religious shell, the essence of such movements was the struggle for the affirmation of the individual’s right to conscience, independent of the authority of Brahmanism or Mullahism or any kind of religious orthodoxy.

The struggle for the secularisation of society in the 18th and early 19th century Europe was led by the bourgeoisie, which was a progressive class at that time, fighting against feudal absolutism and religious authority. The progressive forces of that time fought for the elimination of the authority and influence of religion and the Church from the affairs of State, demanding that reason and science be the basis for laying down the law in society. It was a reflection in the ideological sphere of the social revolution against feudal absolutism.

However, the bourgeoisie did not remain progressive for very long even in Europe, not to speak of the colonies. After the crises of overproduction that struck capitalism starting from 1825, the bourgeoisie transformed the progressive ideas that emerged from the secularisation movement into the philosophy of secularism. This philosophy of secularism went hand in hand with liberalism in politics and Protestantism in religion. With the development of capitalism to its highest stage of imperialism at the end of the 19th century, the bourgeoisie began to proclaim that religion was a state duty.

The British colonialists established their rule over India on the basis of snuffing out everything progressive and allying with the most backward forces in society, blocking the path to any enlightenment. The Gentoo Code institutionalised the hated caste order and the most backward customs against which the people had fought.
The First War of Indian Independence in 1857 brought forth the best traditions of the peoples of this subcontinent. People from all over India, from all religious backgrounds, joined hands and fought with one aim, to win complete freedom and independence from colonial rule. It was a mass revolt that shook the very foundations of British rule in India.

Following the suppression of the peoples’ revolt through brute force and superior military arsenal, the British colonial bourgeoisie went about systematically to institutionalise communal division and communal violence as the foundation for stabilising its rule over India. The colonial state provided protection and backing to communalists of different varieties, who spewed their venom and spread hatred against this or that religion. The police forces of the colonial state played a direct role in spreading rumours and organising communal violence. And at the same time, the impression was created that the colonial state is needed to maintain communal harmony and defend secularism in India. This was the multi-pronged method of the British colonialists to subjugate and enslave the peoples of India.

British colonialism concocted the view that there were no nations and nationalities in India, but only religious communities. The people of India were arbitrarily divided into a ‘Hindu majority’ and many religious minorities including Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and others. They were portrayed as backward people who were at each other’s throats. It was alleged that the only way the ‘natives’ could live in peace was if English educated liberal men rule over them, to maintain communal harmony and preach tolerance.

The colonialists laid the foundations of the Indian State, which foundations were kept intact by the Indian bourgeoisie when it came to power in 1947. These foundations are communal in nature, starting with the very definition of the Indian polity as being made up of majority and minority religious communities. The Constituent Assembly, which adopted the 1950 Constitution of the Indian Republic, was itself elected on the basis of communal constituencies, under British colonial supervision.

It is understandable that the BJP and the Congress Party are following in the footsteps of the British colonialists. It is understandable because the Indian bourgeoisie is a traitorous class, which grew up and came to power by collaborating with the colonisers, and has preserved and defended the colonial legacy since then. What is not understandable and not at all acceptable is that some who call themselves communists and Marxists, who wave the red flag and wear a hammer and sickle on their chests, should also be following the agenda set by the British colonial bourgeoisie!

Lenin emphasised that “…under no circumstances ought we to fall into the error of posing the religious question in an abstract, idealist fashion, as an ‘intellectual’ question unconnected with the class struggle. It would be stupid to think that, in a society based on the endless oppression of the working masses, religious prejudices could be dispelled by purely propaganda methods. It would be bourgeois narrow-mindedness to forget that the yoke of religion that weighs upon mankind is merely a product and reflection of the economic yoke within society. No number of pamphlets and no amount of preaching can enlighten the proletariat, if it is not enlightened by its own struggle against the dark forces of capitalism. Unity in this really revolutionary struggle of the oppressed class for the creation of a paradise on earth is more important to us than unity of proletarian opinion on paradise in heaven” (V.I. Lenin, ‘Socialism and Religion’, Works, Vol. 10, a Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1972, pp. 83-85).

Those who are presenting secularism versus communalism as the main and most immediate struggle for the workers and peasants of India are committing precisely this error, against which Comrade Lenin warned the communists. They are blocking the road to political unity of the working class by posing the religious question as an ‘intellectual’ question unconnected with the class struggle.

The struggle against communalism and communal violence in India today is an integral part of the struggle of the working class and toiling peasantry against capitalism and the bourgeoisie, for deep-going social transformation. The duty of communists is to make the working class and people conscious of this fact, including the fact that it is the ruling bourgeoisie that is using communalism and communal violence to divert and drown in blood the struggles of the working class and all the oppressed. Those who are calling on the workers and peasants to defend the secular foundations of the Indian State are acting in the opposite direction; that is, they are preventing the working class from identifying the real source of communalism and communal violence.

By waging the struggle against communalism as a separate struggle, unconnected with the struggle for liberation from exploitation and oppression, the advocates of a ‘secular front’ are acting as an impediment to the proletarian class struggle. They are serving the interests of the bourgeoisie, to subordinate the mass opposition to communalism and communal violence to the agenda of replacing the BJP by the Congress Party in power, so as to continue with the same system and program. They are serving the strategy of imperialism and the Indian bourgeoisie to divert the working class movement.


Comrade Lal Singh

[Excerpts from the Keynote Speech
delivered by the General
Secretary, Communist Ghadar Party of India at the Conference on ‘Indian State and
Revolution’, November 2002]


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