On Political Relevance of Bhagat Singh

-Rajesh Tyagi; 20 March 2009

We have time and again heard that the capitalist ruling classes and their regimes in India, have deliberately suppressed the revolutionary essence of ideas of Bhagat Singh. This is undoubtedly true. But this is only half truth. The whole truth is that the parties of Stalinist Comintern and the elements related to them, have equally contributed to this suppression. In both cases, the suppression is premeditated and goes to the benefit of both of them. While the capitalists project Bhagat Singh and his ideas in the grey shades of nationalist patriotism, the Stalinist leadership platters him 'simply' as a revolutionary sympathetic to socialism, revolution, Soviet Union or Lenin. Both Stalinists and their more recent adherents- the Maoists, attempt but in vain to assimilate and identify the ideas of Bhagat Singh, with their own.

Did Bhagat Singh belong to the official Socialism of his times, which flowed out of the fountainhead of Stalinist Comintern? Then what was the need for him to remain outside the main current of socialism, which embodied itself in the organisation of Communist Party of India (CPI)? Why this Party of Stalinist Comintern, failed to impress the most ardent revolutionaries of its time like Bhagat Singh and could not take them under its folds? Why the vibrant generation of youth, treading the suicidal path of terrorism and futile political idealism, rejected its appeal? These questions, comprise the core of political differences, which really existed between revolutionary Marxism on the one side and its Stalinist caricature-the reincarnation of Menshevism, on the other.

The thoughts and writings of Bhagat Singh, throw sufficient light on the cause of failure of contemporary communists to influence more young generations of their times. Acting themselves under the pernicious influence of Comintern, the CPI leadership utterly failed to take to a consistent revolutionary policy. Under direct commands of Stalinists since the mid of second decade of 20th century, its leadership convinced itself more and more that the liberation struggle was being fought as part of the bourgeois democratic stage of revolution, of which liberal bourgeois under the leadership of Gandhi, was the natural leader in their view, and working class was to 'follow and push' that leadership. The whole focus, falling in line with the policy of Comintern, thus remained upon impressing the national bourgeois, more and more to the left, instead of contending against it for capture of power. National bourgeois in their view, as taught by the then Comintern, was the natural ally and leader of the revolution and Indian National Congress for them was the real edifice of the unity of political purpose between Marxists and National Capitalists.

Bhagat Singh was stubbornly opposed to this bogus theory propounded by the Stalinist Comintern. He did not have any illusions, unlike Stalinists, on the role of National Capitalists. Bhagat Singh clearly stated that there was no difference between the rule by local or foreign capitalists. For him the rule of capitalists, whether local or foreign, is one and the same thing. Colonialism and Imperialism, for Bhagat Singh are not merely the rule of foreign capitalists, to which all social classes of the subjugated nation are equally hostile, as was preached by Stalinists, but it was the direct rule of world capitalists as a whole upon the working masses of all nations. Bhagat Singh was thus clear in his perception that no real revolution could be brought by substituting the rule of local capitalists for that of the foreign capitalists. He wrote in ‘Outlines of a Revolutionary Programme: A Letter to Young Political Activists’ : “If you are planning to approach the workers and peasants for active participation, then I would like to tell you that they cannot be fooled through some sort of sentimental rhetoric. They will clearly ask you as to what your revolution would give them, for which you are demanding sacrifice from them. If, in place of Lord Reeding, Sir Purushottam Dass Thakur becomes the representative of the Government, how people would be affected by this? How a peasant would be affected by the fact if Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru comes in place of Lord Irwin? The appeal to nationalist sentiments is a farce. You cannot use them for your work.”

When Stalin was propelling his followers in India to associate themselves with Gandhi and Congress, Bhagat Singh was exposing the false preaching of Gandhi, through his writings in newspapers and leaflets. Bhagat Singh wrote “He (Gandhi) knew from the very beginning that his movement would end into some sort of compromise. We hate this lack of commitment....”. He further wrote about Congress “What is the motive of Congress? I said that the present movement will end into some sort of compromise or total failure. I have said so because in my opinion, the real revolutionary forces have not been invited to join the movement. This movement is being conducted only on the basis of few middle class shopkeepers and few capitalists. Both of these classes, specifically the capitalists cannot venture to endanger their property. The real armies of the revolution are in villages and factories, the peasants and workers. But our bourgeois leaders neither did dare to take them alongwith, nor can they do so. These sleeping tigers, once wake up from their slumber, are not going to stop even after the accomplishment of the mission of our leaders.” These words of Bhagat Singh found their endorsement when after the Bombay action of weavers, the leader of the national bourgeois, Gandhi, expressed the fear of its class, saying that “.... use of proletariat for political purpose is extremely dangerous”.

Amazingly when the great leader of International Communist Movement, Leon Trotsky, was making severe criticism of Stalinist policy in India, making scathing attack upon Gandhi and Congress, around the same time Bhagat Singh was also making the political critique of this false leadership, on the same lines. It is not without reason that Bhagat Singh, unaware by then of the thoughts of Trotsky, was himself thinking on the same lines. He refused to collaborate with the Menshevik program of conciliation with national capitalists and till the end of his life remained consistent on this political position. Rather, he drew his source of inspiration from the action and program of Gadar party, instead of that of the CPI.

As Bhagat Singh was thoroughly convinced of totally reactionary character of national capitalists, he did not subscribe to the views of the then Stalinist leadership of the CPI, of two stage theory of revolution- i.e. in first stage ‘alongside the capitalists’ and in second stage ‘against the capitalists’. Bhagat Singh did not believe in this farcical ‘two stage theory’ of revolution. For Bhagat Singh, the revolution was one stage episode- the socialist revolution, in which the power must fall essentially to the hands of working classes, with peasantry as its ally, of which the democratic tasks constituted a part. Bhagat Singh, unlike the Stalinists, never dreamt of a bourgeois republic, and never allowed the possibility of sharing the power between the workers-peasants on one side and capitalists on the other. For Bhagat Singh, neither the whole nor the part of the capitalists, was progressive or revolutionary. This flew in the face of the then political line of Comintern, which preached that in backward and colonial countries like India, national capitalists were ally of revolution and genuine fighters against the Imperialism. We all know how this conciliatory policy destroyed the proletarian revolution in China and how it prevented a proletarian upsurge in India.

Bhagat Singh was staunch opponent to the doctrines of ‘non-violence’, preached by Gandhi, which was nothing but a trap to hold back the workers and peasants from taking offensive against the property and the rule of capitalists. Bhagat Singh wrote about the preaching of Gandhi “...It were the principles of non-violence and compromising policy of Gandhi, which created a breach in the united waves that arose at the time of National Movement.” He brought forward vivid explanations enriching the revolutionary theory and experience of his time, in support and justification for the use of revolutionary violence by the new classes against the old ones in history. His writings were befitting reply to the docile, timid and virtually servile positions of Gandhi and his followers inside the Congress.

No doubt, the perspective of Bhagat Singh, was limited by various factors including his very early age, extremely short life span, politically undeveloped environment, unfortunate slipping of the leadership of Soviet Union and Comintern to the hands of Stalinist bureaucracy which abandoned the perspective of world revolution in no time, etc. etc. Though, Stalinism stood as a wall between the waves of Great October Revolution and the revolutionary movement in the East, including India, even then, the waves of October Revolution, exerted immense influence upon young Bhagat Singh. While in Jail, at the fag end of his life, Bhagat Singh was going through the works of Lenin and Trotsky.

Bhagat Singh was influenced by the sacrifice of Kartar Singh Sarabha, the organiser of Gadar Party in US, who planned a revolt in armed forces through penetration and political propaganda, in order to uproot the colonial regime, but was caught and hanged at the age of 19 years on the charges of sedition and waging war against the Empire. At the age of 23½ years, Bhagat Singh himself was hanged by Colonialists, with tacit understanding with bourgeois leadership in Congress, Gandhi at their head. This collusion between colonialists and Congress leadership is evident not only by the mysterious silence of these leaders on the issue, but also that Gandhi had categorically refused to make the sentence of Bhagat Singh, an issue at the round table conference.

Even at the threshold of his death, Bhagat Singh made yet another one of the greatest contribution to the revolutionary political consciousness of his times. He smuggled out of his cell in the prison, a programme for revolution in India. In this programme, he consciously rejected the path of individual terrorism, and vowed for organisation of mass uprising of workers and toilers against Imperialism. While allowing armed struggle, as a valid, legitimate and near most probable possibility in the revolutionary struggle, Bhagat Singh rejected terrorist methods of struggle, not only as futile but harmful too.

Though, Bhagat Singh was not aware of the political disputes that had already come up in the Communist International in his times, and the fight that Trotsky put up against the conservative tendencies of Stalinist Bureaucracy, yet on his own and while sittings hundreds of miles away, Bhagat Singh deduced the same political conclusions, which Trotsky had arrived at and for which he put up the fight for re-orientation of the world communist movement. Bhagat Singh did not live up to the time to see the total betrayal of the revolutionary struggle at the hands of Stalinists, when they took sides with British Colonialists, and abandoned the revolutionary struggle, completely.

Capitalists and Stalinists both in their own way contribute in obliterating the revolutionary ideas of Bhagat Singh, which of course he acquired at later stage of his short life, through their intermingling with his early thoughts, where radical reflections stand mixed with nationalist prejudices and idealist beliefs, prevalent in his times. The duty of revolutionaries is to segregate the politically mature Bhagat Singh and to put his works and thoughts in context, to educate and attract the young generations of working class towards a true revolutionary programme of the revolution.

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