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Socialism in India has a long tradition, emerging from the struggle against imperialism and represents a significant part of the country's historical political heritage.

Contents

History

The socialist movement began to develop in India with the Russian Revolution. However, in 1871 a group in Calcutta had contacted Karl Marx with the purpose of organizing an Indian section of the First International. It didn't materialize.[1] The first article in an Indian publication (in English) that mentions the names of Marx & Engels printed in the Modern Review in March 1912. The short biographical article titled Karl Marx – a modern Rishi was written by the Germany-based Indian revolutionary Lala Har Dayal.[2] The first biography on Karl Marx, in an Indian language was written by R. Rama Krishna Pillai in 1914.[3]

Marxism made a major impact in India media at the time of the Russian Revolution. Of particular interest to many Indian papers and magazines was the Bolshevik policy of right to self-determination of all nations. Bipin Chandra Pal and Bal Gangadhar Tilak were amongst the prominent Indians who expressed their admiration of Lenin and the new rulers in Russia. Abdul Sattar Khairi and Abdul Zabbar Khairi went to Moscow, immediately on hearing about the revolution. In Moscow, they met Lenin and conveyed their greetings to him. The Russian Revolution also had an impact of émigré Indian revolutionaries, such as the Ghadar Party in North America.[2]

The Khilafat movement contributed on the emergence of early Indian communism. Many Indian Muslims left India to join the defense of the Caliphate. Several of them became communists whilst visiting Soviet territory. Even some Hindus joined the Muslim muhajirs in the travels to the Soviet areas.[4]

The colonial authorities were clearly disturbed by the growing influence of Bolshevik sympathies in India. A first counter-move was the issuing of a fatwa, urging Muslims to reject communism. The Home Department established a special branch to monitor the communist influence. Customs were ordered to check the imports of Marxist literature to India. A sizeable amount of anti-communist propaganda publications were published.[5]

The First World War was accompanied with a rapid increase of industries in India, resulting in a growth of an industrial proletariat. At the same time prices of essential commodities increased. These were factors that contributed to the build up of the Indian trade union movement. Unions were formed in the urban centres across India, and strikes were organized. In 1920, the All India Trade Union Congress was founded.[6]

One one Indians impressed with developments in Russia was S. A. Dange in Bombay. In 1921, he published a pamphlet titled Gandhi Vs. Lenin, a comparative study of the approaches of both the leaders; but, Lenin coming out as better of the two. Together with Ranchoddas Bhavan Lotvala, a local mill-owner, a library of Marxist Literature was set up and publishing of translations of Marxist classics began.[7] In 1922, with Lotvala's help, Dange launched the English weekly, Socialist, the first Indian Marxist journal.[8]

Regarding the political situation in the colonised world, the 1920 second congress of the Communist International stipulated at a united front should be formed between the proletariat, peasantry and national bourgeosie in the colonial countries. Amongst the twenty-one conditions drafted by Lenin ahead of the congress was the 11th thesis which stipulated that all communist parties must support the bourgeois-democratic liberation movements in the colonies. Notably some of the delegates opposed the idea of alliance with the bourgeoisie, and preferred support to communist movements of these countries instead. Their criticism was shared by the Indian revolutionary M.N. Roy, who attended as a delegate of the Communist Party of Mexico. The congress removed the term 'bourgeois-democratic' in what became the 8th condition.[9]

The Communist Party of India was founded in Tashkent on October 17, 1920, soon after the Second Congress of the Communist International. The founding members of the party were M.N. Roy, Evelina Trench Roy (Roy’s wife), Abani Mukherji, Rosa Fitingof (Abani’s wife), Mohammad Ali (Ahmed Hasan), Mohammad Shafiq Siddiqui and M.P.B.T. Acharya.[10][11]

The CPI began efforts to build a party organisation inside India. Roy made contacts with Anushilan and Jugantar groups in Bengal. Small communist groups were formed in Bengal (led by Muzaffar Ahmed), Bombay (led by S.A. Dange), Madras (led by Singaravelu Chettiar), United Provinces (led by Shaukat Usmani) and Punjab (led by Ghulam Hussain). However, only Usmani became a CPI party member.[12]

On May 1, 1923 the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan was founded in Madras, by Singaravelu Chettiar. The LKPH organized the first May Day celebration in India, and this was also the first time the red flag was used in India.[13][14][15]

On December 25, 1925 a communist conference was organized in Kanpur. Colonial authorities estimated that 500 persons took part in the conference. The conference was convened by a man called Satyabhakta, of whom little is known. Satyabhakta is said to have argued for a ‘national communism’ and against subordination under Comintern. Being outvoted by the other delegates, Satyabhakta left both the conference venue in protest.[16] The conference adopted the name ‘Communist Party of India’. Groups such as LKPH dissolved into the unified CPI.[17] The émigré CPI, which probably had little organic character anyway, was effectively substituted by the organization now operating inside India.

Communist electoral mural in Jadavpur

Today, Marxism is prevalent especially in Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura.There has been greatest leaders like E.M.S. Namboodiripad, A.K. Gopalan, Sundarayya, Nripan Chakraborthy, B.T. Ranadive, Harkishan Singh Surjeet, Jyoti Basu and many others who preserved and efficiently spread marxism into the Indian people. Through their simple living, they distinguished from the other Indian politicians. Today basically two Communist parties make their mark in Indian politics. They are the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India. The RSP and Forward Block support them in some states. These 4 parties constitute the Left Democratic Front.

There are a large number of Marxist parties such as Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), Marxist Communist Party of India, Marxist Coordination Committee in Jharkhand, Janathipathiya Samrakshana Samithy, Communist Marxist Party and BTR-EMS-AKG Janakeeya Vedi in Kerala, Mazdoor Mukti (Workers' Emancipation) and Party of Democratic Socialism in West Bengal, Janganotantrik Morcha in Tripura, the Ram Pasla group in Punjab, Orissa Communist Party in Orissa, etc.

Political parties

At the 1931 Karachi session of the Indian National Congress, socialist pattern of development was set as the goal for India. Through the 1955 Avadi Resolution of the Indian National Congress, a socialistic pattern of development was presented as the goal of the party. A year later, the Indian parliament adopted 'socialistic pattern of development' as official policy, a policy that came to include land reforms and regulations of industries.[18] The word socialist was added to the Preamble of the Indian Constitution by the 42nd amendment act of 1976, during the Emergency. It implies social and economic equality. Social equality in this context means the absence of discrimination on the grounds only of caste, colour, creed, sex, religion, or language. Under social equality, everyone has equal status and opportunities. Economic equality in this context means that the government will endeavor to make the distribution of wealth more equal and provide a decent standard of living for all.

Following independence, the Indian government officially adopted a policy of non-alignment, although it had an affinity with the USSR. The party's commitment to socialism has waned in recent years, particularly following the assassination of Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi. Elected in 1991, the government of Narasimha Rao introduced economic liberalisation with the support of finance minister Manmohan Singh, the current prime minister of India.

Communists were also active in the Indian independence movement and have played a significant role in India's political life, although they are fragmented into a multitude of different parties. Communist parties represented in parliament are: Communist Party of India (Marxist) (43 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament), the Communist Party of India (10 seats), the Revolutionary Socialist Party (three seats) and the All India Forward Bloc (three seats). The current speaker of the Lok Sabha, Somnath Chatterjee, is a member of the CPI(M). Left Front parties have pledged to support the current Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, but have refused to join the coalition.

Aside from the Congress and the Left Front, there are other socialist parties active in India, notably the Samajwadi Party, which emerged from the Janata Dal and is led by Mulayam Singh Yadav, the former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. It has 36 seats in the Lok Sabha. It provides outside support to the UPA government.

Noted Indian socialists include the founding leader of the All India Forward Bloc and the Indian National Army Subhas Chandra Bose and the country's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

References

  1. ^ M.V.S. Koteswara Rao. Communist Parties and United Front - Experience in Kerala and West Bengal. Hyderabad: Prajasakti Book House, 2003. p. 103
  2. ^ a b M.V.S. Koteswara Rao. Communist Parties and United Front - Experience in Kerala and West Bengal. Hyderabad: Prajasakti Book House, 2003. p. 82, 103
  3. ^ M.V.S. Koteswara Rao. Communist Parties and United Front - Experience in Kerala and West Bengal. Hyderabad: Prajasakti Book House, 2003. p. 82
  4. ^ M.V.S. Koteswara Rao. Communist Parties and United Front - Experience in Kerala and West Bengal. Hyderabad: Prajasakti Book House, 2003. p. 83
  5. ^ M.V.S. Koteswara Rao. Communist Parties and United Front - Experience in Kerala and West Bengal. Hyderabad: Prajasakti Book House, 2003. p. 82-83
  6. ^ M.V.S. Koteswara Rao. Communist Parties and United Front - Experience in Kerala and West Bengal. Hyderabad: Prajasakti Book House, 2003. p. 83-84
  7. ^ Riepe, Dale. Marxism in India in Parsons, Howard Lee and Sommerville, John (ed.) Marxism, Revolution and Peace. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1977. p. 41.
  8. ^ Sen, Mohit. The Dange Centenary in Banerjee, Gopal (ed.) S.A. Dange - A Fruitful Life. Kolkata: Progressive Publishers, 2002. p. 43.
  9. ^ M.V.S. Koteswara Rao. Communist Parties and United Front - Experience in Kerala and West Bengal. Hyderabad: Prajasakti Book House, 2003. p. 48, 84-85
  10. ^ M.V.S. Koteswara Rao. Communist Parties and United Front - Experience in Kerala and West Bengal. Hyderabad: Prajasakti Book House, 2003. p. 88-89
  11. ^ Ganguly, Basudev. S.A. Dange - A Living Presence at the Centenary Year in Banerjee, Gopal (ed.) S.A. Dange - A Fruitful Life. Kolkata: Progressive Publishers, 2002. p. 63.
  12. ^ M.V.S. Koteswara Rao. Communist Parties and United Front - Experience in Kerala and West Bengal. Hyderabad: Prajasakti Book House, 2003. p. 89
  13. ^ :: Singaravelar - Achievements ::
  14. ^ M.V.S. Koteswara Rao. Communist Parties and United Front - Experience in Kerala and West Bengal. Hyderabad: Prajasakti Book House, 2003. p. 110
  15. ^ Report of May Day Celebrations 1923, and Formation of a New Party (The Hindu quoted in Murugesan, K., Subramanyam, C. S. Singaravelu, First Communist in South India. New Delhi: People's Publishing House, 1975. p.169
  16. ^ Satyabhakta then formed a party called National Communist Party, which lasted until 1927.
  17. ^ M.V.S. Koteswara Rao. Communist Parties and United Front - Experience in Kerala and West Bengal. Hyderabad: Prajasakti Book House, 2003. p. 92-93
  18. ^ 662.PDF

See also

External links

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