Demanding more sexual freedom, students staged the ‘Movement of March 22’ in France in 1968. Basically, the male students of the Paris-Sorbonne University wanted to get free access to the girls’ dormitory. This apparently bizarre demand had encouraged the working class people to stage anti-government protests in different parts of the European country. Finally, the students-workers movement forced the then French President Charles de Gaulle to step down.
The mass protest in France aids in learning a lesson that the society is not a laboratory, where a reaction takes place due to a specific mixture of chemical substances. A mass movement cannot be triggered by any stereotype, pre-formulated theory. Instead, clashes between different opinions are capable of giving birth to movements and efficient leadership (not necessarily by a political party) helps the movement attain its goal.
It is to be noted that the May 1968 students’ movement in France, inspired by the Marxist and anarchist ideologies, maintained a critical position towards contemporary popular Leftist trends, such as Soviet model of Stalin, Khrushchev model, Mao’s political thought and movements inspired by Trotsky. The French students tried hard to present an alternative Leftist model of revolution that was different from the Bolshevik model. Their main aim was to reach Socialism through spontaneous self-motivated initiatives.
Stalin, Lenin & Trotsky
The French Leftists gave importance to the theory of Alexandra Mikhailovna Kollontai and the ‘Doctrine of Workers’ Opposition’ (which surfaced during the 10th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in 1920). Interestingly, Lenin and Trotsky had strongly criticised Kollontai and her followers (both theoretically and organisationally). Later, the French students revealed the real character of Trotsky, who wanted workers to follow the command (like the Army) of the Bolshevik party in the erstwhile Soviet Union. Trotsky and his comrades had no intension to establish a ‘democratic’ system.
Marxist student leaders at the University of Nanterre Daniel Marc Cohn-Bendit and his brother Gabriel Cohn-Bendit – popularly known as Bendit brothers – strongly criticised the Bolsheviks for their activities during the October Revolution. In ‘Strategy and Nature of Bolsheviks‘, they clearly stated that the Bolsheviks had tried to divert the people’s revolution to a wrong direction in February-October (1917) and later, they turned the revolution into a bureaucratic counter-revolution. The Bendit brothers used to believe that the Bolshevik party’s style, structure and ideology were responsible for it. (Obsolete Communism; the Left-Wing alternative, Gabriel and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, 1968)
Daniel Marc Cohn-Bendit
According to Bendit brothers, the Bolshevik party had no ‘democratic’ character and Lenin forced the working class to accept the party’s leadership. The Bendit brothers also said that Socialism could be established, if workers were able to shape their own destiny. The political maturity could be achieved only through revolutionary struggle and direct attacks. In their ‘alternative’ Leftist doctrine, there is no place for ‘determinist‘ politics.
And, what about India? Why the Leftists in India did not fully lead a movement against the status-quo? Had they ‘understood and utilised’ the mass movements properly, the structure of the Indian state could have changed. The Communist Party of India – the pioneer of the Left movements in the country – failed to realise that it had made a blunder by adhering to the ‘politics of loyalty’ (for the last 75 years).
In 1942, the Soviet Communist party adopted the line of ‘People’s War‘. The ‘main duty’ of the party was to fight against Fascism. For the Soviet, the greatest enemy was not the British imperialism, but the Japanese fascists near its border. This ‘politics’ (or policy) virtually turned the Communist party into a ‘partner’ of British imperialism. The Soviet Communist party also maintained a safe distance from the Communist Party of India, which launched agitations against the British imperialism across the South Asian nation. The Soviet further described the Indian freedom fighters as ‘agents of the Fifth force’.
Even after the defeat of Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo, the Communist Party of India reportedly continued to co-operate with the British imperialist rulers, wishing that Mahatma Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah work ‘together’. However, the Indian farmers and workers opposed this ‘line’ and staged mass protests in different parts of the country.
The Royal Indian Navy mutiny (or the Bombay mutiny) shook the nation in 1946. History suggests that the Indian sailors onboard ships and shore establishments at Bombay (now Mumbai) harbour revolted against the British rulers on February 18 and the revolt rapidly spread and found support throughout British India – from Karachi to Calcutta – from the initial flashpoint in Bombay and ultimately went on to involve more than 20,000 sailors in 78 ships and shore establishments. The Indian sailors requested the Communist party to lead the revolution, but the party reportedly suggested that they go to Gandhi or Jinnah. At the second Party Congress in 1948, the Communist Party declared ‘Yeh Azadi Jhuta Hai’ or ‘This Freedom Is Fake’. However, the Indians rejected the ‘claim’.
In 1952, the Communist party decided to concentrate mainly on peace movements. As a result, the party lost its ‘class character’ and forgot to oppose the ‘all powerful’ state. In fact, the prominent leaders of the party became ‘Communists’ while pursuing a PhD or a Degree in Law in England in the 1940s. Many of them used to consider Britain as their ‘motherland’ and Soviet Union as ‘fatherland’. The Communist Party of India always needed a ‘foreign guardian’.
Noted historian Ramchandra Guha once wrote that one of his ‘Bengali communist’ friends used to visit the party headquarters regularly in 1953 ahead of Stalin’s death. The friend told the historian that he felt lonely and helpless after the death of the Soviet leader. He didn’t feel so lonely even after the demise of his own father. It is to be noted that the Indian communists had taken part in a rally in Kolkata after the death of Stalin.
“In the past, Indian Marxists have been chastised for their dependence on foreigners. The party congresses of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) feature portraits of four men – Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin; that is to say, two 19th-century German intellectuals and two 20th-century Russian autocrats. No women, nor, more crucially, any Indians. In the 1960s, the Naxalites insisted that ‘China’s Chairman is our Chairman’. Their descendants, who now control a large swath of hill and forest in central India, still call themselves the Communist Party of India (Maoist),” stressed Guha. (After The Fall, The Caravan, November 2011)
The Stalinist communist parties are largely loyalists throughout the world. Poor policies, wrong strategies, over dependence on Moscow or Beijing and loyalty to foreign leaders isolated the Leftists in India (and many other countries) from the masses.
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