Tag Archives: Lenin

The Many Debts We Owe to Lenin

‘The workers’ and peasants’ government… calls upon all the belligerent peoples and their government to start immediate negotiations for a just, democratic peace.

By a just or democratic peace, for which the overwhelming majority of the working class and other working people of all the belligerent countries, exhausted, tormented and racked by the war are craving [we mean] an immediate peace without annexations – that is, without the seizure of foreign lands, without the forcible incorporation of foreign nations and without indemnities.’

The ‘just and democratic peace’ sought by the workers and peasants government never arrived.

It was on 26 th October 1917 when Lenin, the 47 year old leader of this nascent Government, read out the Bolshevik Decree on Peace. This appeal fell on deaf ears.

The many players and participants in the first World War,  the imperial powers fighting for a re-division of the world, which had already claimed millions of lives, refused to put a halt to their killing machines and the war continued for more than a year, adding menacing figures to the tally of the dead as well as the wounded. Students of history tell us that this ‘War to End Wars’ as it was termed then culminated in the deaths of more than nine million combatants and seven million civilians as a direct result of the War and the resulting genocides and related 1918 influenza pandemic causing another 20-50 million deaths worldwide.

Otis Historical Archives, modified, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Emergency_hospital_during_Influenza_epidemic,_Camp_Funston,_Kansas_-_NCP_1603.jpg, CC 2.0, modified

Looking back one knows that if this decree on peace had been positively responded, few more million deaths in the ongoing war could have been avoided and deaths due to the pandemic of Spanish Flu ( 1918) could have been contained more effectively. Experts can tell you how the trenches of the western front proved ideal for spread of the virus as “[t]renches were flooded much of the time. Blood and bodily remains from people and animals that had been blown to pieces, along with faeces and rotting food, formed the pathways and shelters for troops going to and returning from, the front.”

The World War I which eclipsed all previous wars by its scale of destruction finally came to an end in 1918. Continue reading The Many Debts We Owe to Lenin

Imagining an Antifascist Coalition Today


The debate on the meaning of AAP’s victory in Delhi and the Hindu idiom that its spokespersons have adopted continues as indeed on the implications of its refusal to play the electoral game in the way the BJP was intent on setting it up. But to keep our perspective right, we need to remember that this was just one stop on the long and arduous journey that still lies ahead. We also need to remember that AAP is only one of the forces and Delhi only one of the theatres of the anti-fascist struggle.

The lessons of the antifascist struggles in Germany or in Europe at large clearly are of no use in our battles here. At one level, we are all destined to repeat the grievous mistakes of the German communists (and the Comintern) for concentrating their main blow at the Social-Democrats, pronouncing them ‘social-fascists’ – till it was pretty late in the day and Nazism was already on the way to consolidating its power. In states other than Delhi, there are instances where this mindset can be seen to be in full operation. In Delhi, thankfully, this is not the scenario and most non-BJP political parties assess the situation differently, though an entirely negative stance towards AAP’s victory can be seen among many people. However, I do not intend to engage them in a debate in this post, having already stated my position on AAP’s victory quite categorically. Continue reading Imagining an Antifascist Coalition Today

‘Revolution against Das Kapital’ and the ‘Lonely Hour of the Economy’

This is a modified version of the article that was published earlier in The Wire

(T)he economic dialectic is never active in the pure state; in History, these instances, the superstructures etc – are never seen to step respectfully aside when their work is done or, when the Time comes, as his pure phenomena, to scatter before His Majesty the Economy as he strides along the royal road of the Dialectic. From the first moment to the last, the lonely hour of the ‘last instance’ never comes. – Louis Althusser, For Marx, London: Verso 1979, p. 113

The event known to the world as the ‘October’ revolution in Russia – or simply as the ‘Russian revolution’ – took place on 7-8 November, a hundred years ago. But then why call it the October revolution? Thereby hangs a tale – the tale of modernity, myth-making and of a new imagination of Time.

The moment of revolution, image courtesy libcom.org
The moment of revolution, image courtesy libcom.org

As a matter of fact, the Revolution occurred on 25-26 October, according to the Julian calendar (so called because it had been promulgated by Julius Caesar), which Russia, along with a large part of the Western world, followed at that time. It was only in January 1918 that the Soviet government decreed the shift to the Gregorian calendar. The reason was that Russia should join ‘all cultured nations in counting time’, as a decree cited by historian Mark Steinberg put it. Accordingly, the first anniversary of the revolution was celebrated on 7 November 1918 throughout the Soviet Union.

What is interesting here is not so much the shift but the reason assigned for it – joining other ‘cultured nations’ of the world, which in the language of the early twentieth century meant only one thing – the modern West, which had long been setting the norm for everything desirable. Ways of ‘counting time’ too had to be aligned with Europe, lest one be considered insufficiently modern. Spatially, the Czarist Russian empire straddled both Europe and Asia, which had already, in the new reckoning of Time, been cast as ‘advanced’ and ‘backward’ respectively. The desire to become modern and join the ‘cultured nations’ was to run through the history of the revolution and its consolidation into the new Stalinist state. This desire was to be manifested in its deep distrust of the peasantry and rural life on the one hand, and in the frenetic drive to ‘catch up’ with Western Europe. As Stalin would say, he wanted to accomplish in a couple of decades what Europe had in a few centuries, compressing time, as it were, into one dizzying experience for entire society. The continuing ‘past’ had to be annihilated.

Continue reading ‘Revolution against Das Kapital’ and the ‘Lonely Hour of the Economy’

Beyond the Elections – Need for a Vibrant and Credible Left

The Peaceful Counter-revolution

It may not be an exaggeration to say that what has just transpired is nothing short of a peaceful counter-revolution. Counter-revolution, not because there was an imminent threat of revolution that has been put down, but because the big bourgeoisie has finally put an end to the challenge from mass struggles that corporate interests had been facing. Struggles around land acquisition, the pressures for environmental clearance that held-up corporate projects, social welfare programmes that came in the way of the most unbridled pursuit of profit, and subsidies that supposedly introduced market distortions – all these had been greatly troubling the corporate sector and their ideologues. A campaign was built up, gradually over the past few years, to install a strong leader with a solid majority, who would give the bourgeoisie a free hand. And it must be admitted today that most of us failed to see where and how that threat was building up. We failed to see that for at least three, perhaps four years, the idea of the ‘Gujarat model’ was being put in place as a shorthand for an unrestrained play to private big capital.

Even when we realized that Modi was being pushed seriously, our eyes were still fixed on the older question of Modi’s culpability or otherwise in the 2002 carnage in Gujarat. The dream of the Gujarat model was sold over the years in many different ways, among precisely those sections whose support the Left (in its broadest sense) would have liked to enlist. The UPA government, of course, left no stone unturned in alienating itself from its popular support. Thus while important social welfare programmes, formulated under pressure from popular and social movements lagged behind in implementation, the neoliberal axis of Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram and Montek Singh Ahluwalia pushed relentlessly on matters like abolishing subsidy on cooking gas and direct cash transfers. The UPA government’s experience, in fact, showed that you cannot be all things to all people; that the interests of the big bourgeoisie and those of common people stand in irreconcilable contradiction. The balancing act cannot really go on for very long. Continue reading Beyond the Elections – Need for a Vibrant and Credible Left

सतत क्रान्ति की पैरोडी

पिछले कुछ समय से नागार्जुन और हरिशंकर परसाई की याद बेइंतहा सता रही है: भारतीय राजनीति के इस दौर का वर्णन करने के लिए हमें उनकी कलम की ज़रूरत थी !

क्रान्ति सतत चलने वाली प्रक्रिया है और असली विद्रोही वह है जो छह महीने बाद अपनी कुर्सी खुद उलट दे. आम आदमी पार्टी और दिल्ली सरकार के मुखिया ने केंद्र सरकार के खिलाफ़ बगावत की शुरुआत की,तो ऐसा ही लगा. दिल्ली के केंद्र में रेल भवन के पास दिल्ली की पूरी सरकार  अपने समर्थकों के साथ दस दिनों के धरने पर बैठ गए. उन्होंने धमकी दी कि वे राजपथ को लाखों लोगों से पाट देंगे और केंद्र सरकार की नींद हराम कर देंगे.किसान और सैनिक जब मिल जाएं तो क्रांति शुरू हो जाती है. इसकी पैरोडी करते हुए अरविंद ने दिल्ली के पुलिसवालों को वर्दी उतार कर धरने पर शामिल होने का आह्वान किया. कुछ लोगों को जयप्रकाश नारायण की याद आ गई. एक साथ लेनिन, लोहिया,क्रोपाटकिन और जयप्रकाश का तेज अरविंद केजरीवाल के रूप में पुंजीभूत हुआ. गांधी का आभा वलय अन्ना हजारे से हट कर अरविंद के माथे के पीछे पीछे तो तब ही लग गया था जब उनका भरपूर इस्तेमाल कर ठिकाने लगा दिया गया. क्या यह 2014 का भारतीय तहरीर चौक होने जा रहा है?

दिल्ली के मुख्य मंत्री ने एक बार फिर  आज़ादी की  नई लड़ाई की घोषणा की.यह दृश्य क्रांतिकारियों,समाजवादियों,अराजकतावादियों, सबके के लिए एक पुराने सपने के  पूरा होने जैसा ही था. एक पुरानी, दबी हुई इच्छा के पूरा होने का क्षण!यह आज़ादी झूठी है वाले नारे , वंदे मातरम और भारत माता का जयकार से रोमांचित होने का सुख!! Continue reading सतत क्रान्ति की पैरोडी

The BJP’s very own Stalin

Yashwant  Sinha is a worried man these days. He is apprehensive of his leader Narendra Modi being taken for a ride by the Congress party. He says that the Congress party is laying a trap for him, a trap of the binary of Communalism and Secularism and  fears that his upward looking Narendra Modi might fall in it. So, well  wisher that he is of Narendra Bhai, he wants to alert him: do not get  entangled in the conspiracy of the wily Congress. He appeals to Narendra Modi to stick to people’s issues and not let the political discourse  shift to the terrain of the Secularism  versus Communalism debate. Continue reading The BJP’s very own Stalin