On Bhagat Singh’s day of martyrdom

[On this occassion we are publishing the text of the statement of Bhagat Singh before the Lahore High Court bench. Copyright: © Shahidbhagatsingh.org. Published originally on MIA with the permission of Shahidbhagatsingh.org and Shahid Bhagat Singh Research Committee.]

MY LORDS,

We are neither lawyers nor masters of English language, nor holders of degrees. Therefore, please do not expect any oratorial speech from us. We therefore pray that instead of going into the language mistakes of our statement Your Lordships will try to understand the real sense of it.

Leaving other points to our lawyers, I will confine myself to one point only. The point is very important in this case. The point is as to what were our intentions sand to what extent we are guilty. This is a very complicated question and no one will be able to express before you that height to mental elevation which inspired us to think and act in a particular manner. We want that this should be kept in mind while assessing our intentions our offence. According to the famous jurist Solomon, one should not be punished for his criminal offence if his aim is not against law.

We had submitted a written statement in the Sessions Court. That statement explains our aim and, as such, explains our intentions also. But the leaned judge dismissed it with one stroke of pen, saying that “generally the operation of law is not affected by how or why one committed the offence. In this country the aim of the offence is very rarely mentioned in legal commentaries.”

My Lords, our contention is that under the circumstances the learned judge ought to have judged us either by the result of our action or on the basis of the psychological part of our statement. But he did not take any of these factors into consideration.

The point to be considered is that the two bombs we threw in the Assembly did not harm anybody physically or economically. As such the punishment awarded to us is not only very harsh but revengeful also. Moreover, the motive knowing his psychology. And no one can do justice to anybody without taking his motive into consideration. If we ignore the motive, the biggest general of the words will appear like ordinary murderers; revenue officers will look like thieves and cheats. Even judges will be accused of murder. This way the entire social system and the civilization will be reduced to murders, thefts and cheating. If we ignore the motive, the government will have no right to expect sacrifice from its people and its officials. Ignore the motive and every religious preacher will be dubbed as a preacher of falsehoods, and every prophet will be charged of misguiding crores of simple and ignorant people.

If we set aside the motive, then Jessus Christ will appear to be a man responsible for creating disturbances, breaking peace and preaching revolt, and will be considered to be a “dangerous personality” in the language of the law. But we worship him. He commands great respect in our hearts and his image creates vibrations of spiritualism amongst us. Why? Because the inspiration behind his actions was that of a high ideal. The rulers of that age could not recognize that high idealism. They only saw his outward actions. Nineteen centuries have passed since then. Have we not progressed during this period? Shall we repeat that mistake again? It that be so, then we shall have to admit that all the sacrifices of the mankind and all the efforts of the great martyrs were useless and it would appear as if we are still at the same place where we stood twenty centuries back.

From the legal point of view also, the question of motive is of special importance. Take the example of General Dyer. He resorted to firing and killed hundreds of innocent and unarmed people. But the military court did not order him to be shot. It gave him lakhs of rupees as award. Take another example. Shri Kharag Bahadur Singh, a young Gurkha, Killed a Marwari in Calcutta. If the motive be set aside, then Kharag Bahadur Singh ought to have been hanged. But he was awarded a mild sentence of a few years only. He was even released much before the expiry of his sentence. Was there any loophole in the law that he escaped capital punishment? Or, was the charge of murder not proved against him? Like us, he also accepted the full responsibility of his action, but he escaped death. He is free today. I ask Your Lordship, why was he not awarded capital punishment? His action was well calculated and well planned. From the motive end, his action was more serious and fatal than ours. He was awarded a mild punishment because his intentions were good. He was awarded a mild punishment because his intention were good. He saved the society from a dirty leach who had sucked the life-blood of so many pretty young girls. Kharag Singh was given a mild punishment just to uphold the formalities of the law.

This principle (that the law does not take motive into consideration – ed.) is quite absurd. This is against the basic principles of the law which declares that “the law is for man and not man for the law”. As such, why the same norms are not being applied to us also? It is quite clear that while convicting Kharag Singh his motive was kept in mind, otherwise a murderer can never escape the hangman’s noose. Are we being deprived of the ordinary advantage of the law because our offence is against the government, or because our action has a political importance?

My Lords, under these circumstances, please permit us to assert that a government which seeks shelter behind such mean methods has no right to exist. If it is exists, it is for the time being only, and that too with the blood of thousands of people on its head. If the law does not see the motive there can be no justice, nor can there be stable peace.

Mixing of arsenic (poison) in the flour will not be considered to be a crime, provided its purpose is to kill rats. But if the purpose is to kill a man, it becomes a crime of murder. Therefore, such laws which do not stand the test of reason and which are against the principle of justice, should be abolished. Because of such unjust laws, many great intellectuals had to adopt the path of revolt.

The facts regarding our case are very simple. We threw two bombs in the legislative Assembly on April 8, 1929. As a result of the explosion, a few persons received minor scratches. There was pandemonium in the chamber, hundreds of visitors and members of the Assembly ran out. Only my friend B.K. Dutt and myself remained seated in the visitors gallery and offered ourselves for arrest. We were tried for attempt to murder, and convicted for life. As mentioned above, as a result of the bomb explosion, only four or five persons were slightly injured and one bench got damaged. We offered ourselves for arrest without any resistance. The Sessions Judge admitted that we could have very easily escaped, had we had any intention like that. We accepted our offence and gave a statement explaining our position. We are not afraid of punishment. But we do not want that we should be wrongly understood. The judge remover a few paragraphs from our statement. This we consider to be harmful for our real position.

A proper study of the full text of our statement will make it clear that, according to us, our country is passing through a delicate phase. We saw the coming catastrophe and thought it proper to give a timely warning with a loud voice, and we gave the warning in the manner we thought proper. We may be wrong. Our line of thinking and that of the learned judge may be different, but that does not bean that we be deprived of the permission to express our ideas, and wrong things be propagated in our name.

In our statement we explained in detail what we mean by “Long Live Revolution” and “Down With Imperialism”. That formed the crux of our ideas. That portion was removed from our statement. Generally a wrong meaning is attributed to the word revolution. That is not our understanding. Bombs and pistols do not make revolution. That is not our understanding. Bombs and pistols do not make revolution. The sword of revolution is sharpened on the whetting-stone of ideas. This is what we wanted to emphasize. By revolution we mean the end of the miseries of capitalist wars. It was not proper to pronounce judgment without understanding our aims and objects and the process of achieving them. To associate wrong ideas with our names is out and out injustice.

It was very necessary to give the timely warning that the unrest of the people is increasing and that the malady may take a serious turn, if not treated in time and properly. If our warning is not heeded, no human power will be able to stop it. We took this step to give proper direction to the storm. We are serious students of history. We believe that, had the ruling powers acted correctly at the proper time, there would have been no bloody revolutions in France and Russia. Several big power of the world tried to check the storm of ideas and were sunk in the atmosphere of bloodshed. The ruling people cannot change the flow of the current. We wanted to give the first warning. Had we aimed at killing some important personalities, we would have failed in the attainment of our aim.

My Lords, this was the aim and the spirit behind our action, and the result of the action corroborates our statement. There is one more point which needs elucidation, and that is regarding the strength of the bombs. Had we had no idea of the strength of the bombs, there would have been no question of our throwing them in the presence of our respected national leader like Pandit Motilal Nehru, Shri Kelkar, Shri Jayaker and Shri Jinnah. How could we have risked the lives of our leaders? After all we are not mad and, had we been so, we would have certainly been sent to the lunatic asylum, instead of being put in jail. We had full knowledge about the strength of the bombs and that is why we acted with so much confidence. It was very easy to have thrown the bombs on the occupied benches, but it was difficult to have thrown them on unoccupied seats. Had we not of saner mind or had we been mentally unbalanced, the bombs would have fallen on occupied benches and not in empty places. Therefore I would say that we should be rewarded for the courage we showed in carefully selecting the empty places. Under these conditions, My Lords, we think we have not been understood, My Lords, we think we have not been understood properly. We have not come before you to get our sentences reduced. We have come here to clarify our position. We want that we should not be given any unjust treatment, nor should any unjust opinion be pronounced about us. The question of punishment is of secondary importance before us.

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On the Scottish question

The following was a reply made by Comrade Choppa to a comrade from London, who was opposed in principle to Scottish independence. :

We need to ask one question right at the start. If Scotland is such a pile of useless crap as Westminster makes it out to be, why are they so determined to keep hold of it?
And why are they suddenly throwing concessions and money at it?

Asking that question and stepping away from the doomsday atmosphere created by the English media and politicians, we next need to lay out what the National Question actually is.

Why? Because no-one bloody knows. Just because it has been clarified well by Lenin and Trotsky in their work with the early 3rd International, and by Trotsky in relation to Spain, for instance (and Ukraine, for that matter), doesn’t mean it’s been resolved for ever or that the consciousness of the working masses has stayed at the level L and T were able to raise it to. T didn’t even succeed in raising the consciousness of the Catalonian revolutionaries above the nationalist level during the Civil War to any great extent. And if Trotsky couldn’t do it in such a situation, we have to be very clear to ourselves that we aren’t Trotsky, and the workers of Britain are nowhere near as politically conscious as the workers were in the Spanish state during the Civil War.

The National Question is a democratic issue, not a socialist one, and we need to spell out for our readers just exactly what this means. Explicitly, and not indirectly as we do if we point out that the present referendum is to a high degree an internal fight between different sectors of the capitalist class. In fact, there are still democratic issues that are unresolved in the most advanced imperialist states, and many of them are connected with the position of ethnic or language or cultural groups as disadvantaged and discriminated minority groups within the big state while occupying a majority identity and position locally or regionally.

And modern history shows us that democratic issues can’t be ignored by anyone – they are the most powerful social engines of change we have seen – the right to vote, gender rights, national (etc) rights. After world war 2 the imperialists (with the aid of world Stalinism) were able to curb the socialist mobilization of the working class in most of the world, and at least contain it within bureaucratic chains where the class succeeded in overthrowing capitalism. But they were completely helpless in the face of the masses rising against them in the anti-colonial revolution. They did of course succeed in diverting the revolutions into democratic nationalist channels, but only at great cost to themselves and their colonial empires and direct economic control.

India is the great example of this process, of course. with the African and Asian anti-colonial wars a close second.

But – and this is the most important thing for us – the democratic revolution grows over into the socialist revolution, the two are inseparable (except abstractly and statically). And given the way forces change their relationships over time – there are ebbs and flows – the process can proceed both forwards towards more socialism, and backwards towards less democracy – a rolling back of democratic gains.

But the social forces fuelling all this don’t roll back or ebb away… Their leaderships and mass consciousness does the ebbing and flowing, not the fundamental social foundations of life in human society. Which is to say that on the one hand the democratic revolution didn’t just end when nationalist forces gained independent power with a state of their own. And on the other, the fusion of democratic and socialist needs is growing all the time as all sections of the bourgeoisie turn away from democratic ideals to devote all their energy to salvaging what they can of the capitalist system, leaving (as we can see more and more plainly) only the working class and its most immediate social allies as champions of democratic progress.

The continuation of the democratic revolution is best seen in the eruption of North Africa and the Middle East over the past few years. And is very clear in the demands for greater rights and autonomy within the established imperialist states – Ireland, Catalonia, the Basque country, Quebec, the rights of aboriginal peoples worldwide, etc etc.

And none of these mobilizations are any respecters of established sovereign borders. The Voice article mentions the “disintegration of the old social structures) and this is seen very clearly in the disintegration of the old nation state boundaries and jurisdictions. Developing social forces (the unstoppable onward march of the productive forces) – the world market, the imperialist bourgeoisie and the international working class – are making old social containers (like nation states) as antiquated and obsolete as the feudal aristocracy and its privileges were in the 18th century.

But of course these containers don’t disappear of their own accord. Revolution – conscious human action on the level of each society and the whole world – is needed to dismantle or demolish them and replace them with new more adequate political and social structures.

Right – so where does that leave us in relation to Scotland and the referendum?

I think we need to dismiss the “either/or” approach to the referendum for a start. The Voice writes that “nothing is in the interests of the working class” and we have to start from this. It’s like the question of Free Trade versus Protectionism. Purely bourgeois concerns – okay, some of their effects impinge on us too, but the question of state and class power isn’t raised at all. It’s just a question of which capitalist faction gets most from the present capitalist society.

And we have to use Trotsky’s (the 4th International’s) Transitional method a lot more deliberately and consciously than we have before. We need to place demands before the class that are winnable, and raise its consciousness by perceptible steps during the struggle for these demands.

Which means the United Socialist States of Europe, while necessary, needs to be built up to as a power slogan. The suggestion of a federation of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland is a lot more manageable.

And we have to raise the question which none of the left does about where the current consciousness of the working class stands.

If the struggle for more autonomy or even independence for Scotland can be combined with a struggle against capitalism then we can move forward to a struggle for more explicitly socialist demands. Which means less reformism which is good.

This isn’t the same as the Socialist Party’s call for a critical yes vote, which is abstract phrase-mongering since it lacks any transitional awareness of where the class is now and where it might be led during the course of the struggle.

The thing is, that our tasks are monumental regardless of how the vote goes.

As Galileo said of the earth, “Eppur si muove”, “it moves, regardless (of what you inquisitorial bastards would like to think)”. And we have to pursue our transitional Bolshevik-Leninist policies regardless of the way different capitalist governments and regimes move the goalposts every now and then.

Marx in his early years (till the 1850s roughly) leant heavily towards supporting the bourgeoisie against any other competing social force (except of course for the revolutionary working class). The bourgeoisie was the highest expression of development of the forces and relations of production over against slave-owners, feudal despots or petty tribal societies. He later saw that this was abstract and against the nature of social change, and that the cause of socialist revolution might just as well be forwarded from within some seemingly archaic social structures from pre-capitalist ages, like the Russian communal village, the mir. Or that real social mobilization against the oppressive ruling class might well move things on, regardless of obscurantist and mistaken leadership. After some slight initial hesitation due to the anarchist and inadequate leadership of the Paris Commune he nonetheless gave it his wholehearted support despite the fact that it might easily have broken up the unity of France and with it the French working class.

I think we’re at risk of being a bit abstract and anti-change ourselves if we appear to be defending the real imperialist unity of the United Kingdom while waving a very abstract banner of a Workers’ Unity to justify this when there is no concrete unified socialist consciousness to give our banner any reality.

The truth is concrete, and our way of dealing with the fluidity of concrete class realities with their ebb and flow is the transitional method.

Our problems grasping the nettle of nationalist opinion and mobilization in Britain (Wales and Scotland really – Ireland is better catered for in this respect) are largely due to our losing focus on what really agitates people and gets them mobilized rather than what we think should agitate them and get them on their feet.

Comradely

Choppam

Our stand on the Telengana agitation

Our Stand on the Telengana agitation :

One of the most significant movements of recent times in the India has been the agitation for a separate state of Telengana. The movement that started out in the 1960s with a bloody uprising of students and peasants came to a conclusion some weeks ago with the cabinet decision passed for the separation of Telengana from Andhra Pradesh, forming two separate federal states. Unsurprisingly, this has led to vigorous agitation from those who want an undivided Andhra Pradesh including the districts of Telengana. But if we only analysed the parties and groups involved in this agitation we would be using a superficial and artificial perspective on the massive movements taking place among the people, and only blind ourselves to the real dynamics beneath the surface.

The entire history of the Telengana province and of the political struggles in Andhra Pradesh reveals a continuum of failures of bourgeois political solutions for the people of both Andhra and Telengana. The present situation in Andhra is no different and only reflects this failure more glaringly. All the major parties, from the ultra-right to the Stalinist (and even the Maoist) left, have only proposed one kind of pro-capitalist solution or another. None have proposed a socialist solution calling for a government of workers and poor peasants and tribals running the region themselves in their own best interests and for their own and incidentally everyone’s benefit.

The root cause of the struggle :

The 1930s and the 1940s saw a mass awakening in the Indian sub-continent. The working class emerged as a serious political force in the affairs of India. The peninsular South was not immune from this, and the emergent bourgeoisie around Seema Andhra was drawn into the national anti-colonial movement. The workers and peasants eventually entered the stage under the communist party and the movement grew to be irresistible.

The peasants overwhelmingly supported the bourgeoisie of Seema Andhra, but this was only because they welcomed and were ready to fight for the anti-colonial and anti-feudal agenda of the pro-independence bourgeoisie (at that time led by the Congress party). The roots of the agitation were deep in this anti-colonial and anti-feudal struggle, whose highest point was probably the Telengana rebellion of 1946. The peasant rebellion was in essence anti-feudal in nature and had an agrarian agenda. The core questions of land reform and rural welfare were topmost on the agenda upon the abolition of the feudal Hyderabad Nizamat. But the defeat of the Telengana uprising by the Indian army that forced Hyderabad into the Indian union under the Congress government, destroyed any hope of the people themselves being able to resolve these burning questions of the democratic revolution. The Stalinists gave up the revolutionary struggle the moment they shunned the armed uprising in favor of a parliamentary approach within the bourgeois Indian state. Ultimately the caricature of the democratic revolution that was bourgeois Independence was replayed with equal brutality and neglect of popular needs in the provinces of Telengana and Andhra.

The merger of Telengana and Andhra arose from the demand of a united province for Telegu speaking people in which the regions of Rayalseema and Telengana would be included, both of them vastly poorer than the Seema Andhra region. The natural reaction of the people of these provinces was fear and suspicion on the domination of the bourgeoisie, and subsequent experience did not improve relations between the people of any of the provinces concerned. The capitalist model of development not only preserved the inequalities between the two provinces but exacerbated it. A nouveau-riche bourgeoisie based in Telengana soon took advantage of these sentiments and channelized them into self-interested regionalism. The Stalinists had long since become irrelevant as a relevant political force in Telengana and Andhra having failed the agrarian revolution in 1946. The bourgeoisie led by the Congress was now indisputably the chief political force and devoted itself to exploiting, misdirecting and repressing the struggles of the peasants and youth who constitute the most potent social force behind the agitation.

There is no lack of revolutionary energy among the masses of unemployed and pauperized youth and peasantry, they are ready and willing to fight and sacrifice everything for their cause. But in the absence of revolutionary leadership, their entire potential has been drawn off into a narrow regionalist agenda that is permanently and completely detached from the real interests of the people.

The political forces and their role :

The main political force in Telengana is the bourgeoisie organized around the Congress party, and their role is truly national in scale. A perspective that views the Telengana movement from the perspective of Andhra and Telengana alone cannot understand the reality of the situation in the region. The Congress party became the undisputed leading political force after militarily crushing the Communist party and remains so till today.

The decisive victory of the bourgeoisie in crushing the first Telengana rebellion and its unbroken control over the united Andhra movement ensured lasting domination. Through this time, the bourgeoisie’s power rested on its ability to secure the support of the mass of peasants and petty-bourgeois forces around a regionalist agenda where an end to backwardness and regional development were popular catch calls. Students too formed an ideological as well as material backbone of the Telengana movement, providing a strong urban force. But none of the leading bourgeois parties had an agenda that would bring about the betterment of the people they led into battle. It was never long before the mobilizations degenerated into a political game of grabbing the best spoils.

With the fall from power of the Congress party at the central level in the 1990s, the party underwent a series of splits. Bengal and Maharashtra ended up with their own regional Congress parties. Andhra was not immune to this. The internal dissidence of the Congress party leaders over the backwardness of Telengana and the need to keep a united Andhra led to splits from the Congress to create specific regional parties. In this period the Telegu Desam Party emerged as a challenger to the Congress, with the facade of championing the interests of Telegu culture. More recently the Y.S.R Congress emerged from a split within the Congress party. Likewise, the Telengana Rashtra Samiti emerged from the support given by the Indian National Congress to counter the influence of the Telegu Desam Party adding to the chaos of squabbling bourgeois opportunists and fortune-hunters.

The Congress party is ruthlessly determined to rule over both Telengana and Andhra, and the cunning way it plays off various regional interests against each other shows very clearly how little it cares for any of them. Holding aloof and vacillating between keeping the peace between its dissidents and inciting a fight between them has been a cornerstone of Congress Party policy towards Telengana. If they support statehood for Telengana today, it is not with any concern for the people, but as a strategic gambit to grab more seats in the state legislature and the national parliament. The Maoists know only too well the cunning strategy behind the vacillations, a kind of maneouvre which the centrally established bourgeois democrats have perfected in India, as they’ve been severely damaged by it. The Telengana region was a core stronghold of the Naxalite movement in India till the Congress government retook power (with the tacit help of the Maoists, intent on committing political and too often literal suicide by refusing to organize and fight on a principled class-based revolutionary set of demands). Once it was back in power, the Congress unleashed the full force of paramilitaries upon them. Presently, the left is all but exterminated from the political landscape in Andhra and Telengana. Whatever lame-duck presence the Stalinists can muster is only a token blip. This is a lethal and permanent punishment for their betrayal of the Telengana movement and the foolishness of trying to make alliances with bourgeois factions.

The chaotic situation has only gotten worse with the recent emergence of reactionary and obscurantist communal forces offering their support to the Telengana separatist movement. The BJP under Modi seems to be in an unofficial competition with the Congress to support Telengana statehood. Needless to say, this provides yet another destabilizing dynamic to the barrel of nitroglycerine that is Telengana (especially considering the substantial and cruelly victimized Muslim population of Hyderabad) and will only add more blood and agony to the already horrific record of Indian capitalism in Telengana.

The first task of any revolutionary organization in such a situation is to dispel confusion and silence the braying of the bourgeois asses, and to speak clearly on what must be done and why. In supporting the Telengana agitation and backing the creation of a separate state, we do not for a second support any of the bourgeois factions trying to round up the support of the pauperized peasantry for their own selfish ends, but we advance our own programme of demands, based on the immediate material and social needs of the working class and the poor peasantry. We put forward a socialist alternative aimed at breaking the monopoly power of the bourgeoisie (in all its forms) over social production and development.

The proletarian alternative :

The policy of the Indian bourgeoisie over the Telengana issue follows the same pattern as everywhere. Hijacking powerful class-based movements, watering down or ignoring the class-based demands that drive the mobilizations, and using the social energy generated by the masses to secure their own selfish, limited interests, often diametrically opposed to those of the masses who bring them to power, and never of any benefit to them at the very least. To this effect, almost all bourgeois parties try their best to suppress the core questions of economic disparity and general impoverishment of the populace and replace them with some vaguely defined concept of ‘identity’. The identity itself is pure opportunism as far as the bourgeoisie is concerned. It can be religious, for communalist hooligans, nationalist, for Great India chauvinists, regional, for local discontents, ethnic, gender-based. It doesn’t matter. The aim is too obvious to ignore. In Telengana, they want to give the entire movement a direction which suits the interests of each regional bourgeois leaderships. Each wants to get or keep a position of power. The mass power of the people is either corralled to this end, or defused, or derailed. To this sorry state of chaos, revolutionary bolsheviks present their own alternative based on the core interests of the people.

1)The agrarian question :

The social rage generated by the Telengana question is rooted in a more general agrarian question. The question of the land has been central, from the anti-feudal rebellions in Telengana and Andhra to the present situation, where Naxalism had till recently strong and widespread support among the most pauperized sections of the peasantry. The Indian bourgeoisie has sought to resolve this burning democratic question of land reform in an absurdly inadequate fashion. In Piecemeal ! The bourgeoisie was never consistent in its fight against the kings and princes of old, and is even less interested in the general material, social and cultural prosperity of the rural populace. We have not the slightest reason to rely on their leadership. They have patently failed us for 60 years and are still blatantly failing us today !

The most immediate and important question is the question of Land. This is a reflection of the needs of the peasantry and the countryside nationwide. It is at the heart of any real solution to India’s problems of modernization and achieving a decent life for all who live and work in India. To resolve the waste and destruction of the countryside by capitalism, we present our agrarian programme which is founded on the Nationalization of Land ! Under this scheme, power would flow to the most basic unit of authority in the villages, the gram sabhas which would collectively and cooperatively take responsibility for the land and ensure the fair and equal distribution of land to all. This goes hand in hand with a programme for Abolition of rural debt. Indebtedness is the main driver of rural poverty in the region reflected by the endemic farmer suicides. This needs an urgent answer which only a revolutionary bolshevik force can provide.

Such a solution not only eliminates disparity in the countryside, but also eradicates indebtedness and low productivity, core causes of impoverishment of the peasantry in general. Equally importantly, it seeks to eliminate the power of the land owning bourgeoisie in the major cities, primarily in Hyderabad which has been fought over like a marrow bone in a dogfight between the bourgeoisies of Andhra and Telengana, much to the detriment of its citizens.

2) The question of uneven development :

While all leading political parties have made the question of the disparity between Telengana and Andhra the main focus of the struggle, none have any viable solution for this. Indeed, no bourgeois force can resolve such a question, where their interests are inextricably linked with the preservation of capitalism and furthering their interests on the backs of the workers and peasants. Only the people of both states can settle this question, in an atmosphere of equality and cooperation.

In 1972, the Congress played the lofty arbitrator and mediated an agreement between the leaderships of Telengana and Seema Andhra resulting in the Mulki rules, which gave preference in jobs to locals from the Telengana region. This shows the general ineptitude of the bourgeoisie in resolving any of the burning questions facing the people of the state, as such a solution can only be implemented on condition of permanent acceptance of unemployment, and deprivation. To such a crippled solution revolutionary bolsheviks counterpose a programme for full employment and equal opportunities ! Guaranteed, as such a programme must be, by a plan for nationalized corporations leading the effort at generating full employment and providing opportunities for all. Something which is impossible if the biggest corporations and enterprises remain in the hands of the greedy and parasitical capitalists or their henchmen, allowing them to exploit these assets for their own greedy ends.

But this solution won’t work if it simply targets Telengana and Andhra alone. It has to be part of a national program and we consequently need a total national solution to the regional nightmares bedevilling the whole of India.

Within the regional context, we propose a programme worked out by the people in committees at all levels of the community in full democratic consultation, settled and ratified by public plebiscite to ensure the fair management of water of rivers flowing from Telengana to Andhra as well as the democratic management of electricity supply and needs of Telengana with direct people’s participation. What we propose is not a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ which would have no value (we have seen how little such things mean to the bourgeoisie when it smells profits), or any kind of  skewed laws like the Mulki rules which only end up compounding the problems they seek to solve, but a concrete solution which seeks to eradicate once and for all the problems facing the people of Telengana and Seema Andhra and set them on the road to making a dignified and prosperous life for themselves.

This however, requires clarity on the overarching immediate demand of the people of Telengana as well as the interests of the oppressed classes in Seema Andhra and Rayalaseema. The merger of Andhra and Telengana in 1956 was not founded upon a popular mandate in Telengana, and was bound to result in gross inequalities between the two states. This could only result in the continuing domination of more enriched Seema Andhra based bourgeoisie. If the same be allowed to continue, the seething discontent *( which has already resulted in 300 self-immolations of youth activists and countless revolts by the people of Telengana, each met with police brutality ending in much bloodshed) would go on without any solution in sight. Not one bourgeois leader in Telengana nor Andhra has any concrete solution to offer beyond vague assurances and promises all in the nature of ‘gentleman’s agreements’ .

For a revolutionary party, the choice is stark and must be made without hesitation. The interests of the people of both Telengana and Andhra are inextricably bound with the question of statehood for Telengana and we are duty bound to give it our support. But in doing so, we do not ignore our task of providing a concrete socialist solution to the core needs of the people. The nature of the Telengana movement, is fundamentally one which aims at self-determination. Any support to a movement of self-determination can only be given on the logic of bridging the divided between the oppressed classes of the dominating and dominated states. For this it is necessary to both support the immediate demand of statehood as well as present our own independent programme against both the ambitious wannabe bourgeoisie of Telengana as well as the greedy dominating bourgeoisie of Seema Andhra. To the chaos these bourgeoisies have to offer, we provide our own programme for the betterment of the workers, peasants and youth. The programme of Permanent revolution!

ABOLISH ALL RURAL DEBT !

NATIONALIZE THE LAND ! LAND FOR THE PEOPLE !

FULL EMPLOYMENT AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES !

Understanding 1947 (part 1)

The formation of India and Pakistan in 1947 is a crucial question for the Indian left. Few historical questions are as pertinent, and at the same time few are as divisive. The formation of the Indian republic raises a number of questions which concern the very foundations of capitalism in India and in that context turn a searchlight on the true historical character of the transfer of power which took place on the 15th of August 1947.

Some questions central to our understanding of the events preceding and taking place at the point of the transfer of power on 15th of August 1947 are :

a) Was India’s independence in 1947 a revolutionary event?
b) Were the events of 1947 and the year immediately preceding it ‘peaceful’? And was the independence struggle as a whole ‘peaceful’?
c) How did the transfer of power affect the development of capitalism in India and Pakistan? Did they both subsequently fall to foreign imperialism? If so why so? If not why not?

I will tackle these questions in sequence.

a) Was India’s independence in 1947 a revolutionary event?

Let us first understand what we mean by ‘revolution’. Real socio-economic revolutions that change the face of history only take place when an old worldwide mode of production has outlived itself. That is to say a mode of production affecting human society as a whole – like slavery, feudalism, and capitalism. When the foundations of such a system become wholly rotten, and when the precursors of a new mode of production are emerging ever stronger, revolutions break out that sweep away the ruins of the old system and usher in new societies based on the new forces of production and new relations between the people working with them.

Revolutions are an outburst of social energy channelling the creative forces of the new system to break the chains of the old mode of production, like slavery or serfdom. They are opposed in a life-and-death struggle by the decaying, destructive forces of the old system which seek to prolong its life. In short, a true social-historical revolution can only be an epoch-making change in economy and society bringing with it the change of one mode of production into another. A deep historical revolution of this kind is not simply a regime change from one kind of government to another be it democratic or dictatorial. Even the bloodiest rebellions or coups d’état fall short of this historical significance if they produce no change in the underlying mode of production. Fascist regimes still operate on a bourgeois capitalist economic basis, so Nazi Germany was no revolutionary creation. A true revolution is a process which overthrows the economic and political dominance of the old ruling class and replaces it with the rule of the formerly oppressed class – as happened when the slave-owning rulers of the ancient Roman Empire were ousted during the rise of feudal Europe, and the feudal rulers of old Europe were thrown aside in bourgeois revolutions such as those in England in 1649 and France in 1789.

For instance, in bourgeois revolutions, the ruling class of feudal lords were overthrown by the political mobilization of the oppressed proto-bourgeois serfs and traders. In their place the bourgeois class seized power and wielded it through its political representatives, be it the New Model Army in England or the Jacobins in France. These revolutions were the midwives of history and opened the way for the capitalist transformation of European society. Frequently however, the aftershocks of these world-shaking revolutionary events only involved the transfer of power from one group of special interests to another in the new ruling class. This is most certainly evident if we compare the so-called Glorious Revolution of England in 1688 to Cromwell’s revolution some decades earlier. The Stuart monarchy restored by parliament in 1660 was turfed out unceremoniously for wanting its pre-Cromwellian power back, and was replaced by a new, tame bourgeois monarchy imported from Holland.

As the revolutionary Soviet economist Eugene Preobrazhensky wrote in The New Economics in 1926, the bourgeoisie did not come to be the ruling class without first creating the economic pre-conditions for its power. For centuries, the bourgeoisie were city traders and bankers subordinate to the feudal elite, but over time they grew stronger and began to undermine the economic independence of the aristocrats, who were ultimately unable to prevent the bourgeoisie from directly claiming power. Parliament was its preferred mechanism for rule in place of aristocratic or absolute despotism. This gradual piecemeal trajectory of the bourgeoisie’s rise to power influenced the character of its revolutions, which were essentially national and became more and more cowardly with time – looking over their shoulders in fear at their ostensible allies in the working class and poor peasantry. There were clear limits to the Liberty, Equality and Fraternity they were prepared to introduce, and compromise with the defeated aristocracy to hold down the workers and poor people of town and country became the norm. Thus we see even today that the UK which was the first country to undergo a bourgeois revolution continues to harbour a monarchy which is a relic of its pre-capitalist past and constantly reminds us of the limits of capitalism’s ability to effect profound social transformations.

The socialist revolution presents a striking contrast to the bourgeois revolutions of old. Where the bourgeois revolutions open the way for the transformation of society along capitalist lines, the socialist revolution opens the way for the transformation of society towards the communist mode of production, in which those who work and produce the wealth also own the means of producing it, and associate freely and equally to plan and distribute this production. The two kinds of revolution are similar in that a socialist revolution the current ruling class i.e the bourgeoisie in capitalist society, is overthrown by the oppressed class in capitalist society, i.e the proletariat.

The economic basis for the existence and organization of the proletariat is not created by the proletariat but by its class enemy, the bourgeoisie. Large scale mass production and monopoly capital lays the foundation for the unification and political organization of the proletariat on a national and international scale, as well as for a future socialist economy. What the proletariat does create of its own, is its own independent political organs and the organs of power with which to overthrow the bourgeois in power. Imperialism is clinging on to outworn and unmanageable social relations in an age of transition to socialism, making the imperialist epoch a period of crisis, war and revolution. The global contradiction of the instruments of socialism existing, yet not being in the hands of working people in power, gives the socialist revolution an unprecedented social explosivity and the economic stakes involved are unparalleled, and makes the political tasks of the proletariat that much more complex. All this gives our revolution a much clearer political and social character than the bourgeois revolutions preceding it. There can be no compromise between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie like there was a compromise between the monarchy and the republican bourgeoisie in England.

In the 20th century however, we have witnessed a peculiar development brought about by the historic twist of a bourgeoisie incapable of consummating the bourgeois-democratic transformation of society. In Russia these contradictions were resolved by the socialist revolution which carried out the bourgeois-democratic transformation of Russian society in its march to complete the socialist transformation. While we insist that this is the case, we must be very clear that much of the bourgeois-democratic transformation involved in this process was stopped or reversed by the Stalinist counter-revolution in the Soviet Union after the death of Lenin and the Stalinist bureaucracy’s takeover of the state.

Since the emergence of imperialism in the late 1800s, however, we have witnessed a twist in this historical development of the forces of social production. Conditions in the world economy have contrasted so starkly with conditions in individual countries that bourgeoisies in backward countries have not been able to bring about a bourgeois-democratic transformation of their society at the national level. In Russia these contradictions were resolved by the socialist revolution which implemented historically necessary bourgeois-democratic reforms in Russian society as an integral part of its drive to carry out the socialist transformation. The extremely contradictory character of this process means that although this conclusion is inescapable if we are to understand the phenomenon of the Soviet Union, it is far from self-evident, and we must be very clear that much of the progressive bourgeois-democratic content of the transformation of society was stopped or reversed by the Stalinist counter-revolution in the Soviet Union after the death of Lenin and the Stalinist bureaucracy’s takeover of the state.

The problem of understanding the challenges posed to the working class and its peasant allies by the incapacity of the bourgeoisie to bring about necessary democratic change was resolved by Leon Trotsky when he formulated the theory of Permanent Revolution in 1936. The theory makes it clear that the economic and political domination of the world by imperialism means that the bourgeoisie has lost its revolutionary potential and will never again be capable of leading let alone consummating a bourgeois-democratic revolution.

The implications of this conclusion are huge. It means that fundamental political, economic and social change will never ever be achieved by any political force under the leadership of a bourgeois political formation. Any working class party claiming otherwise is deceiving the class and leading it to inevitable failure, as did Stalinist Communist parties backing the leadership of bourgeois forces in Popular Fronts. This was demonstrated to catastrophic effect in China in the 1920s, where the Chinese CP supported the leadership of the Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-Shek, and by the similarly suicidal policies of the Communist party in Indonesia in the mid-1960s.

Since the second world war there has been almost universal left-wing backing for bourgeois or petty-bourgeois nationalist leaderships in anti-colonial and anti-imperialist liberation struggles, and in complete accordance with the theory of Permanent Revolution the vast majority of these movements have led to little more than career opportunities for these leaderships coupled with continued poverty and oppression for the working class and peasant masses. The degeneration of these non-proletarian leaderships and their opportunist and superficial socialist masks has been sometimes slow and gradual, but always complete and counter-revolutionary. Two powerful examples of disastrous betrayals lauded as successes by left-wing forces refusing to accept the perspective of the Permanent Revolution are Nicaragua and most particularly South Africa. Just how criminally betrayed the working masses in South Africa have been by the bourgeois leadership of the ANC, including the fake saint Nelson Mandela, was illustrated just last month on 16 August 2012 by the Marikana massacre. Over 34 demonstrating miners were shot dead in cold blood, most of them in the back. This slaughter continues the tradition of bloody class repression in South Africa, and is the black bourgeoisie’s own Sharpeville massacre.

In the light of these developments, the historical tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution clearly fall upon the working class and its peasant allies, who are compelled to embrace the bourgeois revolution as part of the socialist revolution. The two historical transformations thus move together in sync rather than as two distinct processes. At the same time, however, the specific tasks of the combined revolution in each country vary widely since the social and economic preconditions are different from context to context.

In the context of pre-independent India i.e the time of the Empire of India, the over arching
objective of the Indian struggle was to achieve independence from British rule. Along with this, the prime social objective would have to be the abolition of monarchism in the princely states and a radical redistribution of land under the slogan of land to the tiller. Furthermore, a bourgeois-democratic revolution would aim to abolish all social impediments to capitalist accumulation and development, such as caste divisions and landlordism. So the question of whether 1947 constituted a revolutionary transformation of Indian society basically boils down to the question of whether these necessary aims of the bourgeois revolution were achieved.

The transfer of power from the British Monarchy to the Indian parliament began on 15 August when the rule of the monarch ended and India came under the leadership of the governor general. This was accompanied by the partition of the Indian sub-continent between the Indian republic and the republic of Pakistan. Alongside these two large divisions there existed a series of princely states with six of the largest states asserting their independence from both Pakistan and India. These six states were Balochistan, Kashmir, Tripura, Junagadh, Travancore and Hyderabad. Four of these six states were annexed to India, while Balochistan was annexed to Pakistan and Kashmir is still being contested.

Abolition of Monarchy and self-rule

The transfer of power mandated that the princely states had the choice of either acceding to India or Pakistan — asserting their independence was not an alternative. The formal completion of the transfer of power occurred on 26 January 1950 with the abolition of the post of governor general and with it the complete withdrawal of the rule of the British Monarchy. In parallel with this development was the absorption of approximately 500 princely states into the Indian republic along with the abolition of their respective monarchies. In compensation for abdicating their powers to India however, they were granted privy purses. The princely states which sought to make a stand against either India or Pakistan were crushed, and Hyderabad, Kashmir and Balochistan were made an example of what would happen to monarchs trying to stake their independence. The privy purse concessions were eventually abolished by Indira Gandhi in the 70s.

Abolition of landlordism and land reform

The social changes effected after 1947 included the complete abolition of absentee landlordism and of zamindari in India, along with a distorted and incoherent effort at land reform. Although they were incoherent and distorted, however, the land reforms did pave the way for the penetration of bourgeois land laws into the countryside and the large-scale destruction of petty production there. In this way they initiated the present proletarianization-led development of Indian capitalism, in which tens of millions of small independent farmers are driven into debt and destitution, lose their property (i.e. become proletarianized, owning nothing but their power of labour), and are forced to migrate into the slums of the bloated cities and join the reserve army of the unemployed. This process is universally but falsely referred to as ‘urbanization’, a term that completely conceals the historical class dynamics of what is taking place.

Economic independence

Later on, the nationalization of leading banks under the pretext of ‘social control’ and the ‘Indianization’ of foreign owned companies ensured the security of nascent Indian capital against the forces of foreign capital and gave local capital a dominant role within the territories of the Indian republic. All of these changes took place in the first 3 decades after 1947 and under the political leadership of the Congress party which was the preferred political choice for the Indian bourgeoisie.

Given these changes, it seems that the Indian bourgeoisie through its foremost political representative the Indian Congress party was able to achieve most of its natural bourgeois goals. But such a view only scratches the surface of things without regard to the forces working under the surface.

Beneath the surface

Apologists of the Indian bourgeoisie argue for the ‘strength’ and ‘civility’ of these ‘gradual and peaceful’ changes, and put India on a pedestal as an inspiring example for other countries. Equally superficial apologists on the left try to use India’s historical successes, such as the successful eviction of the British and the social and political transformations that secured some basic bourgeois-democratic needs, to debunk the theory of Permanent Revolution. These views are not only unhistorical, but are outright reactionary and a million miles from the struggles of the oppressed masses, the working class and the poor peasantry against capitalism and imperialism.

All the progressive social transformations which have taken place in India from 1900 to the present have been achieved by the force of class struggle both within India and outside it. The Congress party for its part, was not formed with the aim of liberating India from colonial bondage but simply to act as a steam valve and mediator between the struggling Indian masses and the British imperialists. Up to the first world war their methods never moved beyond prayer and petition against the British. Only later do we see an economically burgeoning Indian bourgeoisie becoming bold enough to demand Tanganyika in East Africa as an exclusive colony under its administration. Along with this, we see the emergence of an organized proletariat in India along with large scale mass production, and the social impact of the Russian revolution which brought about profound changes in land relations and provided the inspiration for democratic struggles world wide.

The rising tide of class struggle forced the Indian Congress party to take a much more radical stance against the British, kicked forward by the actions of revolutionary communists like Bhagat Singh. The radicalization of peasant struggles and the emergence of a strong working class movement saw the growth of the Indian Communist party (CPI) and later on the emergence of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India (BLPI) which peaked in 1946. All of this compelled the British safety valve which was the Congress party to orient itself much more towards the masses so that the Indian bourgeoisie and its British patrons would not be harmed in their propertied interests. Simultaneously however, the strengthening Indian bourgeoisie also demanded their pound of flesh from the British. The British were willing to grant any concession to the Indian bourgeoisie and its political representative the Congress party because of its formidable ability to pacify the Indian working class and peasantry. For its own part the Congress party, which cared chiefly for landed interests in India, didn’t hesitate to hijack the power of the peasant and proletarian struggles emerging in India to pressurize the British. The unsurpassed pacifier Gandhi was the supreme manifestation of this parasitical politics (as the other saintly Congress hero, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, has been in our own period).

Despite their best efforts the Congress party could not hold back the rising tide of class struggle which at its core demanded the immediate and realization of the overarching objectives of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, namely:

1)national liberation from colonial rule,
2)comprehensive land reform,
3)the eradication of landlordism, and
4)the abolition of the princely states and their monarchies.

Three major upsurges helped pave the way for the accomplishment of these goals between 1940 and 1947. The first of these was the Quit India movement which mobilized the peasantry and petty bourgeoisie primarily in Northern and Eastern India, in which large tracts of land were forcibly appropriated by the landless and poor farmers from the clutches of the rural elite. Following this was the formation of the Indian National Army by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and the student led mobilizations in Bengal, which attacked the militarist foundations of the British empire. Finally, the peak of class struggle saw the naval uprising in 1946 in all major ports of the Indian empire, with a mass mobilization of workers, students and peasants across the sub-continent.

By this time, the British had lost the loyalty of the Congress party and the Indian bourgeoisie it represented, which had grown bold enough to go on its own. The Congress party for its part was on the verge of losing the support it among the peasants and students that Gandhi and his protege Nehru had so painstakingly built up. Although practically all bourgeois political formations in India sided with the British against the mutiny, it was only the Congress party actively colluded with the British in crushing the uprising in Bombay. Of course this ‘service’ would not come free.

The Congress however, were more afraid of a prospect which worried the British imperialists as much as it did them. What if the Indian masses were to rise up and expropriate the capitalist system itself? What if a socialist revolution accompanied the inevitable democratic revolution? The entire Asian continent would become non-capitalist if expropriations in China were followed by the once-Imperial Indian subcontinent.

The theory of Permanent Revolution has been confirmed time and again when bourgeois democratic revolutions have gone hand in hand with the socialist revolution in the absence of a revolutionary bourgeoisie. However, in the post world war period we have witnessed the peculiar development of deformed and deflected revolutions. This in itself is not beyond the understanding of revolutionary Marxism. Lenin in Two tactics of Social Democracy had foreseen the possibility of such a deformed revolution occurring in Russia, should the forces of the revolutionary working class and peasantry be inadequate to secure a complete victory over capitalism. In context of the permanent revolution this would imply that a Socialist revolution though initiated in the mould of a bourgeois-democratic revolution, would be halted midway by a compromise with reactionary elements in society preventing its further transition from the democratic to the Socialist level. Either that or, a healthy socialist revolution would be deformed by absence of worker’s democracy and the whole revolutionary process would become subjected to the rigid control of a counter-revolutionary bureaucratic clique ruling from the top.

Thus, depending on the objective situation a Socialist revolution may take place and yet be deformed. The result of such a deformed revolution would be a compromise with reactionary elements which would leave important democratic needs of the bourgeois revolution unsatisfied. However, even a deformed revolution would achieve some progressive goals and blunt the edge of the socialist revolution. A similar kind of situation holds in China, where a successful yet deformed socialist revolution leaves many of the fundamental needs of the socialist revolution unsatisfied, but still presents a formidable obstacle to the full counter-revolutionary world programme of imperialism.

In India’s case, the indigenous bourgeoisie was faced with a working class on the cusp of a revolutionary mobilization and its erstwhile British Imperialist protectors in retreat, and had to compromise with reaction to both stifle the revolution and ensure the very survival of India as a capitalist state. Likewise, the forces of British imperialism felt directly threatened by the rising tide of revolution across Asia and were ready to defend the social system of capitalism in the world’s largest continent at any price. Having lost their political hold over India, the British were forced to salvage whatever they could to preserve the remnants of an imperialist economic presence in the continent. So the two leading forces of reaction, the British and the Congress, schemed with minor bourgeois leaders like Jinnah of the Muslim League to bring about a partition of the sub-continent. This would constituted a deep enough compromise with the objective of complete anti-colonial emancipation to destroy the revolutionary process unfolding in the sub-continent and in Asia and to preserve their respective positions. This despicably divisive compromise created the republic of India and the republic of Pakistan at an untold cost in human suffering and backwardness for more than half a century to come. And into the bargain they blessed 500 or so princely states and their rotten monarchies, like so many pieces of dung scattered over the marble floor of a shopping mall.

The Indian bourgeoisie was more adept at securing its interests than its less capable counterparts in the chopped up political botchery of Pakistan. Following the withdrawal of British rule, most of the princely states were absorbed into the Indian republic and their monarchies abolished. This was because the Indian bourgeoisie was feeling the strength of the masses and felt compelled to make a series of concessions to the working class and peasantry in the form of industrial welfare, the nationalization of core industries, and the abolition of landlordism and of the monarchies in the princely states.

However, the core demands of a democratic revolution either remained untouched or were implemented in a deformed manner. Thus, land reforms were implemented but in a zigzag and piecemeal way leaving most of the peasant population destitute and pauperized while encouraging the fragmentation of land holding, a development which created one of the principal sources of primitive capitalist accumulation in the Indian republic. At the same time, independent India gave rise to a new land-owning bourgeoisie who made the most of the penetration of capitalist land laws into the countryside to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor peasantry. For the same reason, caste divisions were allowed to persist, notwithstanding their formal abolition in the Constitution. Thus, the Indian bourgeoisie left pre-capitalist fetters in place where they served its political goal of keeping power, while it removed them where it felt they hobbled its own freedom of movement. As was the case with the annexation of Goa.

To sum up, we must emphasize very strongly once more that the social and political strength which enabled the Indian bourgeoisie to complete certain elementary tasks of the bourgeois revolution was not its own. The strength surging through modern India does not belong to the bourgeoisie, which falsely lays claim to it, but to the bourgeoisie’s bitterest enemy the working class and its ally the poor peasantry.

In Pakistan, deliberately truncated at birth, some partial concessions were made to the peasantry in East Bengal (renamed East Pakistan after 1947) in the form of the abolition of Zamindari. Bourgeois-democratic reform stopped here, however. A powerful and influential semi-feudal elite was alarmed at the rapid progress India made in abolishing feudal relics, and huddled around the military institution in that country. The anachronistic and medieval leadership of the country found shelter under the auspices of a rising US imperialism, just like Saudi Arabia, and joined CENTCOM after the Kashmir war. This empowered the pre-capitalist elite and stunted the development of the capitalists of Pakistan as they took over less capital from the British than their Indian counterparts, and were correspondingly less powerful. After partition most of the industrialized and resource-rich provinces lay in India as did most of Britain’s military industries and Imperial infrastructure. India inherited naval power, which Pakistan did not have. All of these factors worked to cripple Pakistan, whose semi-feudal elite were horrified by the class struggle taking place worldwide and did whatever they could get away with to remain in power. The Pakistani bourgeoisie tagged along as willing running dogs to this militarist class of rulers, while acting as a safety valve to vent out peasant and petty bourgeois frustration from time to time. India simply exacerbated Pakistan’s hopeless situation and sped its absorption into British and American imperialism. This is still the case today. The mechanism of Partition continues to operate, with all its devastating consequences for the working people of the subcontinent.

It is now clear what the dynamics of 1947 truly were. The revolutionary process in India was born and grew not because of the bourgeoisie but in spite of it. The bourgeoisie was forced to take up a radical position and come closer to the line of revolution simply to save its own skin. This was an act of betrayal in which they had the fullest connivance of British imperialism acting behind the scenes to destroy the Indian revolution, and in a larger context to stop the Asian revolution from reaching India. The Indian bourgeoisie usurped power from the poor peasants and workers it pretended to represent, and has since then been wielding power with their manufactured consent. But to manufacture and keep this consent they had to make concessions. These led to some of the major changes demanded by the bourgeois revolution, but also prevented a complete combined revolution. At the same time a huge portion of the Indian subcontinent in Pakistan was thrown open to foreign imperialism and left perennially hostage to semi-feudal relics from the past. In other words, Indian independence in 1947 appears in many ways to be a deformed Socialist revolution, stunted at the democratic level. It has allowed the Indian bourgeoisie to become obscenely rich, and to bask in wealth and power nationally and internationally, while the masses of South Asia who create all its wealth languish in desperate poverty and crushing backwardness.

Contradictions of the Libyan revolution and parallels with Bangladesh 1971


Introduction:

The events in Libya today have posed to the Bolshevik Leninist Left have posed a most complex set of questions. The uprising inLibya, coupled with its unique position in the African continent and the Arab world, and the fact of a civil war breaking out only exacerbate the intensity of the situation. One of the defining features of any sound Bolshevik Leninist analysis is that it bases itself on the very fundamentals of Marxism never deviating from the principled positions which it enshrines. Part of this is harboring a historical perspective of struggle based on an analysis of class conflict. Understanding the class forces inLibyaand viewing the present civil war and the imperialist intervention from this viewpoint would be indispensable. So far the left has been conspicuous by the absence of these perspectives in understanding the situation inLibya. One of the angles hitherto explored has been to seek out comparable historical parallels. Whilst still missing from an analysis focusing on the national contradictions of Libya itself, this may still serve to sharpen a class understanding from an international and historic perspective.

Historicalparallels: –

Before continuing with which historic parallels are being compared to the Libyan situation let’s briefly describe the situation inLibyaas it stands. The uprising inLibyabegan in the early part of the year along with the protests and uprisings inEgypt,Tunisia,SyriaandAlgeria. It was part of a pan Arabic movement spanning two continents with its aftershocks being felt in the Balkans right at the heart of Europe (there were widespread protests in Albania shortly after the Tunisian uprising).Egypt and Tunisia saw the fall of the autocracies in power and opened up a new phase of the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. The Libyan regime was by far the most difficult to overcome and remains so till date. The Libyan struggle began with urban uprisings concentrated mostly in the Eastern part of the country which challenged the rule of the Gaddafi regime. The Arab revolution was accelerated with the events in Egypt which reached a climax with the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. Libya was not going to be alienated from these and consequently the struggle in Libya intensified, with the intensification of the “peaceful” protests in the western urban centers culminating in the present civil war situation after Gaddafi’s crackdown. Throughout the period of struggle till date what was most evident was the absence of revolutionary leadership which could develop a strong anti-imperialist perspective and consistently struggle for a revolutionaryLibya. Not only that but there was hardly the presence of any non-revolutionary progressive forces either which was present in Egypt and is now emerging as the decisive leading force in the revolution in Egypt today.  These adverse factors coupled with the fact of a civil war situation and a region wide revolutionary wave, meant that the deficit in leadership would only be exacerbated. These adverse factors have resulted in the mantle of leadership being donned by defecting sectors of Gaddafi’s regime. These are sections of the Libyan bourgeois who have quite obviously fallen out of  favor with Gaddafi and are overtly keen on developing closer relationship with world imperialism. It should be noted that amongst the leaders of the TNC (the Transitional National Council set up as a parallel rebel held government inLibya) is Gaddafi’s eldest sons who was the pioneer ofLibya’s pro-imperialist reforms. Thus, what began as a popular revolt against the regime became hijacked by the reactionary forces of a section of the Libyan bourgeoisie organized in the TNC and actively backed by imperialism from Europe and theUSA. Whilst the participation of the imperialists at the initial stages were peripheral strictly speaking, it soon changed to direct and active intervention beginning with the entry of British special forces on Libyan soil with the objective of “aiding” the rebels. Events soon spilled over to what became an inter-imperialist competition over Libya with China, India, Russia and Brazil voting against the UN resolution on the no-fly zone and the NATO ‘humanitarian’ intervention. Within Libya the leadership of the TNC only kept on showing its reactionary character which by now was openly welcoming the imperialist intervention. This was done in stark contradiction to the wishes of the people ofLibyathemselves who were very clear on maintaining their independence from imperialism. (This was evident from banners being raised inTripoliand other liberated cities). Events thereafter have only seen the intensification of the imperialist backed offensive on Libya and progressively greater participation of the NATO forces as well as that of theUSA. As of now it seems from reports that the ‘rebels’ backed now by the NATO are winning the civil war against Gaddafi with cities after cities falling to rebel forces. In addition to that an interesting pattern is emerging with the imperial forces wanting greater control over the cities which fall to rebel hands. The actions of the NATO in Misrata point to this direction. Thus, we see a progressive change in the situation in Libya beginning from the months of urban uprisings, its subsequent crackdown by the regime forces, the recourse of the rebellion to arms, the subsequent constrictions faced by the rebel forces leading to capitulation by their bourgeois leadership, the eventual entry of western imperialist forces (complemented by the near simultaneous exit of sub-imperial powers from the scene), and ending in the present malaise where decisive power is under threat of falling completely into imperialist hands.

In short the course of the Libyan revolution hitherto is summarized by the chain of events aforementioned. Let’s now, compare it with the parallels that being dealt with as of now. Most of us in the Bolshevik Leninist left would immediately liken the task of constructing a defeatist position in re imperialism as well as Gaddafi going by Lenin’s tactics in relation to Kerensky. Indeed this was the first parallel that has been weighed in against the realities ofLibya. But how far is this applicable? Let’s consider the following:

a) The defense of the Kerensky regime by the Bolsheviks in Russia was done considering the fact of a successful democratic revolution overturning the Czarist regime. Should Kornilov have been allowed to win against the government; the gains of the democratic revolution would have been undone, thereby destroying the possibility of a further advance towards a socialist revolution. To use this parallel to defend Gaddafi against the imperialist attack I feel is preposterous. Firstly, unlike Russia in February, the Libyan proletariat has yet to see the success of a revolution to even that of Egyptian levels. Secondly, the prime forces of reaction inLibya’s case are those of NATO and the EU imperialists which are external and not internal as was the case with Kornilov in Russia which represented a national threat emerging from within Russia.

b) The defense of Kerensky was objectively speaking a military defense of the democratic bourgeois regime which was formed from the February revolution. It was never an unconditional defense of the regime per se . In Libyawe see a nation threatened by imperialist invasion and imperialist occupation which demands revolutionaries to unconditionally defend the independent non-imperialist regime. Unconditional defense but never should it be uncritical. On the contrary we are duty bound to be critical in our defense of national struggles especially in situations like Libyawhere we are faced with a counter revolutionary force in the leadership of the defense of the nation-state, in Libyanamely that of Gaddafi and his forces. There are going to be obvious differences between the military defense of Kerensky and the much wider anti-imperialist defencism applying to a semi colonial nation resisting imperialism. Here a more fitting parallel that can be drawn is with that of Trotsky’s defense of Haille Selassie against that of Italian Imperialism (Not Fascism. The distinction has value here but that maybe highlighted in a different context).

As discussed, the parallel between the Libyan situation and that of Ethiopiain the 1930s still has some relevance. It holds relevance to the extent that Ethiopiawas a country in the periphery of capitalism resisting an imperialist invasion. Haille Selassie was the king of Ethiopiaruling by ‘divine sanction’. In every manner of speaking the rule was reactionary in nature. Despite that Trotsky upheld the commitment towards the defense of oppressed nations in the face of an imperialist threat which is characteristic of Bolshevik political praxis. Most in defense of Gaddafi in Libyatoday in the Bolshevik Leninist left would swear by this example, defending the national sovereignty of semi colonial nations against an imperialist offensive. However, there are many hidden dangers of taking up this precedent without scrutiny of the objective realities facing us in any particular situation. In Libya’s case the first question arises in the comparison with Haille Selassie. To what extent can we consider Gaddafi, the harbinger of “Islamic socialism” and the Libya’s 2nd anti-imperialist revolution (against the proxy monarchy of 1961) comparable to Haille Selassie, the theocratic ruler ofEthiopia? Both led the struggle to resist imperialist aggression, but that is where the similarities end. The second and more pressing question which arises here centers on the fact that the imperialists inLibya aren’t in the actual process of occupation ofLibya unlike what the Italians were engaged with inEthiopia in 1935. When there is indeed no actual occupation of Libyan land, no direct threat from the imperialists themselves, where we indeed see the imperialists functioning as an ancillary to the much more immediately visible force of the rebel trans national council, how can we draw the same tactics of defencism which apply to the situation of direct imperialist aggression (Ethiopia) to that of indirect imperialist intervention (Libya)? What is important for us to consider in both cases, is how the masses in both situations would relate to the respective situations. We can’t put the same set of demands and transitional slogans in both cases. Even more complex is the fact of the nature of the regime of Gaddafi inLibya which must be taken into consideration. When considering all these factors it becomes quite clearly evident that comparisons withEthiopia and defending Haille Selassie become impressionistic at best and treacherously misleading at worst. On this point we may move to right off a comparison between Libya and China on similar grounds, since yet again we are dealing with regimes which are of a different nature and a situation with several fundamentally different dynamics, not to mention the active presence of Stalinism as a political force with mass support. No such force exists inLibya today in the same degree of power. There is however, a lot of international support for Gaddafi from the Castroist camp and the subjective element of Chinese Stalinism/Maoism might as well be tacitly present from China’s end, but notwithstanding this the active role of Stalinism in determining the course of Libyan events presently is marginal to say the least.

Another comparison which was both historically and geographically closer to that ofLibyawas put forward in the example ofIran. However, there are hardly any immediately noticeable comparisons one can draw from that apart from hypothetical situations which involve a similar imperialist intervention in Iran. But in the absence of such a situation actually happening or have happened it is indeed difficult to draw a proper comparison. Nevertheless the general viewpoint of defencism applying to a nation in the periphery of Capitalism like Iran in the face of an imperialist intervention would still hold.

The Bangladesh parallel: –

One of the least explored parallels in the ongoing discussions onLibyais that of the Bangladesh Liberation war of 1971, this despite the striking similarity of events in the two. In view of how little is known about this formative event in the national and political history of billion-strong working class, peasantry and rural poor of South Asia, it’s worth examining in some detail.

The Bangladesh Liberation war was the bloodiest and most deep-reaching chapter in the post-independence history of the Indian sub-continent, and by far the largest war ever fought in the 20th century inIndia. Simultaneously, it was a tragic betrayal of the hopes and aspirations of the masses of Bengal. A betrayal and defeat imposed upon a magnificent victory. The events preceding the war itself were no less dramatic.

The present nation-state of Bangladesh was preceded by the province of East Pakistanwhich was the province of East Bengal since the first partition of Bengal in 1905. Abloody war of independence began in 1971 which led to the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan.  However, the events of 1971 in East Bengalshould more correctly be viewed as a culmination of the democratic struggles which preceded it in the decades of the 50s and 60s. The first big mass mobilizations occurred in 1954 around the compulsory introduction of Urdu as the state language in Pakistan, both in its eastern and western wing. The Bengali masses, who were the majority of what was called East Pakistan took to this move by the Pakistani state bitterly, primarily because the language of the majority of the people in the province was Bengali and few knew or understood Urdu which is primarily spoken in Punjab and other western provinces of Pakistan. It must be noted that the same period saw the emergence of the first military dictatorship in Pakistan in 1958, partly as a reaction to the defeats incurred by the Pakistan army in its war with India over Kashmir. The bourgeoisie of Pakistan felt threatened by a decidedly superior military to its east, and quite naturally took to the support and shelter of the US and UK as a counter to India. At the same time the threat of the working class and peasantry began to emerge from the struggle going on in the East. The forces of Western imperialism supported the regime and its clampdown on the democratic struggles. The launching of the language movement in East Pakistan became the forerunner to the later democratic struggles which would arise inPakistanconcluding in the massive struggles in the late 60s. This struggle succeeded and opened up a whole new chapter of class struggle in Bengal and the sub-continent.

At the same time that East Bengal arose in revolt against the Pakistani state, the peasantry inWest Bengal arose in struggle demanding land reforms. Both struggles were brutally crushed down by the state machinery in both countries. In the coming decades the political interactions between the avante garde radicalized petty bourgeois of West Bengal in Calcutta would come more and more in contact with a new generation of revolutionists in East Pakistan based from Dhaka. The Naxalite movement which began with the Naxalbari insurrection in1964 inWest Bengal gave a new impetus to peasant struggles all over the sub-continent and inspired similar insurrectionary movements in East Bengal. By this time the whole of the sub-continent was undergoing a wave of class struggles and in particular heightened militancy from the working class. The stunning victories of the anti-US Tet Offensive in Vietnam in 1968 started another wave of class struggles world over, a wave which reached the borders of the sub-continent and in particular Pakistan. By this time the relation between the eastern and western provinces of Pakistan had soured beyond repair. The calamity caused by the Bhola Cyclone of 1969 and the apathetic reaction of the Pakistani state to the sufferings of the masses there was the last straw. In addition to this an emergent Communist movement was seen throughout Pakistan and the sub-continent which posed a dire threat to the bourgeoisie of India and Pakistan.

The two most popular parties in East Pakistan were the Communist Party led by Moni Singh and the National Awami Party led by the left wing populist leader Maulana Bhasani. At the time of the national elections inPakistanthe majority of the population and the largest component of the parliament was the province of East Pakistan. Notwithstanding this, the Pakistani state decided to deliberately crush the aspirations of the masses of the province and continue to disenfranchise them. The conflict between the representatives of East andWest Pakistanbecame evident in western leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s opposition to the candidature of Sheik Mujibur Rahman in the east. For the bourgeoisie in Pakistan, the province of East Pakistanwas nothing more than an exploitable reserve for raw material. One of the chief money-spinners to emerge in Pakistan was the textile and jute industry which was based on the resources available in East Pakistan. The factories however were located mostly inWest Pakistan. The experiences of the democratic struggles of the past in addition to the economic realities of East Pakistanwould culminate in 1971 leading to its independence.

The national elections ofPakistantook place in 1969 and the two most popular parties i.e. the Communist party and the NAP of Bhasani decided to boycott polls. This opened the way for the Awami League party of Mujibur Rahman. Once the counting began, it became evident that the Awami League would win the majority of seats in the assembly. Using the usual undemocratic method of a bourgeois democracy in crisis, the Pakistani establishment reacted to this electoral victory by declaring a state of emergency and making way for a military dictatorship under General Yahya Khan. In addition the defeats thePakistanarmy suffered at the hands of the Indian army and mounting military expenditures pushedPakistanto the brink of a socio-economic crisis. Almost immediately after the military coup, the state made a bloody retaliatory clampdown on the people of East Pakistan. Operation Searchlight was carried out to ‘restore order’ by attacking the ‘anti-national forces’ operating out of Dhaka, the most important city in East Pakistan. It is estimated that 5,000-35,000 people either died or disappeared during the course of the operation, which was specifically targeted the most advanced elements of East Pakistani society. The mass persecution of rebellious forces in East Pakistan spread into the countryside. This instigated an armed revolt from the masses.

The first forces to respond were the Maoist rebels in the countryside.  Siraj Shikder was the Maoist leader inEast Pakistan. The course of the national liberation struggle simultaneously saw a split in the Maoist movement in the sub-continent as the People’s Republic of China sided with the Pakistani state as part of their strategy to containIndia. Nevertheless, the Maoist forces in East Pakistan remained focused on the goal of national liberation of Bangladesh, and continued to resist the assault of the Pakistani army inEast Pakistan. By the middle of 1971 the rebel army had made it almost impossible for the Pakistani establishment to continue any semblance of authority. The leadership of the Awami League fled into India and set up a parallel government with the active backing of the Indian state. The Communist Party of India gave support to the rebels in East Pakistan as well as aid in handling the massive flow of war refugees who were fleeing into the Indian state ofWest Bengal. Whilst India was initially reluctant to intervene directly in the war, the continuous flow of refugees burdened the state ofWest Bengal. This situation in juxtaposition to the ever-growing instability in eastern India influenced the subsequent decision of the Indian state to intervene militarily in the conflict in East Pakistan. By the middle of 1971 Indiawas actively aiding and fuelling the rebellion inEast Pakistan, and helped in the creation of the Mukti Bahini which became the main military machinery of the rebels.

The military intervention of Indiain the conflict was a logical culmination of events. This was an early instance of the modern pretext of “humanitarian intervention” to cover aggressive expansionism. All-out military intervention took place only at the fag end of the war in December 3rd 1971. This was a final blow to the teetering Pakistani army and led to the surrender of 91,000 Pakistani soldiers, which was the largest surrender of any force since the 2nd world war. Dhaka was placed under the command of the Indian military for a time and the nascent armed forces ofBangladesh became an arm of the Indian state. Whilst the losses to the Indian armed forces were light compared to the Pakistani side and the Bengali militia army, the Pakistani crackdown had resulted in the deaths of up to 3 million Bengali civilians. The military intervention ofIndia achieved several goals at one strike. On the one hand, it was a massive display of Indian military power on a regional level – “shock and awe” – whilst on the other;  it created a proxy regime of the Indian state on its eastern frontier. The victory of the rebels over Pakistan and the independence of Bangladesh opened a vital corridor for India to penetrate into South East Asia, and consolidate its hold over north easternIndia. It enhanced India’s prestige on an international level and concretized the emerging alliance with the Soviet Union. For the people of Bangladesh, it meant the super-imposition of the Indian bourgeoisie’s own puppet government in complete conflict with the socialistic aspirations of the people ofBangladesh. The victory of liberation soon turned sour as the new government headed by Mujib turned into a one party state giving the Awami League an authoritarian control of the country.

It was however deemed a National government and was joined by the Communist Party and the National Awami Party. The Communist party’s cadre was continually persecuted by the new regime which also unleashed a wave of repression against leftist forces inBangladesh. The highlight of this dark period was the killing of 4 activists who supportedVietnamin police fire and the killing of the Maoist leader Siraj Shikder. To add to the woes of the nascent government, a crippling famine took place inBangladeshwhich led to a million deaths. The famine was the last straw and led to the collapse of the Mujib government and subsequently to his assassination by a section of the Bangladesh Army. A military coup led by general Zia ul Haq followed a failed attempt by the left wing military leader lieutenant Abu Taher and his party the Jatiya Samajtantrik Party to capture power. The events following 1971 sealed the fate of the country and destroyed the socialist struggle which was emerging from the democratic struggles there. Tendencies towards a socialist revolution had already begun to show during the course of events in the run up to all-out war in 1971 with organs of dual power emerging in East Pakistan and Karachi in 1969. After the famine of 1974 another wave of mass upheavals rocked Bangladesh culminating in a general strike in 1975 thanks in good part to the activities of Siraj Shikder in the countryside. He was assassinated soon after the failed uprising of 1975. The dictatorship of General Zia Ul Haq followed this, and thereafter another military dictatorship by General Ershad.

Some conclusions:

From the above overview of the events of the Bangladesh liberation struggle we may draw some conclusions regarding the present struggle in Libya.

1) The national liberation of Bangladesh began as a just democratic struggle which tended towards a socialist revolution. Following the foreign intervention (byIndia) a comprador bourgeoisie was allowed to hijack the entire process and ultimately undermine and destroy the struggle for a revolutionaryBangladesh. In Libya at present, such a process of imperialist sponsored hijacking is underway which threatens to derail the revolutions not only inLibyaitself but in North Africa andWest Asia.

2)  The Bangladesh liberation war saw a wide split in the left globally along the lines drawn between Maoism and Soviet-based Stalinism. But with this question was clubbed the question of defencism and defeat. Though the aspects of defeatism and defencism were more peripheral in relation to the question of national liberation, it is most definitely emerging as a central question in case of the present Libyan struggle. Libya like Pakistanis a highly stratified society composed of various tribal factions with dramatically varying degrees of loyalty to the Gaddafi regime. While the geographic difficulties aren’t as overarching for Libya as they were for Pakistan(whose eastern and western provinces were separated by over2000 milesofIndian Territory), the stratification of Libyan society would necessarily prove problematic. As of now the most problematic question before the left is in relation to calling for the defense or the defeat of Gaddafi. To be fair, Gaddafi and the old Libyan state cannot be compared to that of Pakistan. Among other things, the Libyan state in its present form emerged from struggles against imperialist oppression, whilst Pakistan itself was a product of imperialism and for much of its life has been a carrier of imperialism regionally and beyond. Deciding whether to call for the defeat of Pakistan in its war against the justified national liberation struggle of the Bengali people would not have been a very difficult question in that context, notwithstanding the direct intervention of India. However, when it comes to the defense of Libya against imperialist attacks by the EU and NATO, a whole historical question is brought to the fore which of necessity must include the past struggles of Libya against imperialism in which Gaddafi played a role of critical importance. From this would emerge a fairer more balanced characterization of the present struggle. The defense of the independent state of Libya against the forces of imperialism as such cannot, in my opinion be extended to the defense of the regime headed by Colonel Gaddafi. If that were so, why not defend Pakistan to the point of opposing the national liberation of Bangladesh?

3) It is a fact that during the 1971 war India also used military force against the western wing of Pakistan. Recently exposed documents reveal that Indira Gandhi had detailed plans for the complete annexation of Pakistan and held back only after the warnings of the Soviet premier who was under pressure from US president Nixon! To draw a parallel between this situation and that of Libya, we would stand opposed to the Indian aggression againstPakistanin the west which was directed towards securing Indian ambitions of imperialism. We would also stand against the Indian intervention in the eastern flank of Pakistan and oppose the treaties between India and the new regime inBangladeshwhich sought to subjectBangladeshto Indian interests. Similarly, in Libya we stand against the imperialist intervention of the EU and NATO. We are steadfastly opposed to this attempt to hijack and derail the struggles of the Arab peoples. But that should not stop us from identifying these struggles from a historical point of view as a democratic struggle against Gaddafi’s authoritarian regime. The regime has by now clearly lost all its progressive features. The struggle as it stands in Libya is inextricably linked with the processes which emerged inEgyptmonths earlier which tend towards a socialist revolution. To deny the validity of the present democratic struggle in Libya is to deny its potential evolution into a socialist struggle. As of now the two greatest enemies of the revolution inLibyaare the imperialist camp and its proxy Trans National Council. But this does not change the chief content of the struggle against the Gaddafi regime. Just as the chief content of the struggle in East Pakistan was for the liberation of Bangladesh.

Should we revolutionaries dissociate ourselves from the fundamental content of a struggle our chances of securing the leadership of the masses would be zilch! The course of the struggle of the Libyan masses determines our position in the revolutionary struggle, which is nothing less than a struggle with the forces of the compradors of the TNC and the petty bourgeois leadership of Gaddafi for the leadership of the Libyan masses. Our struggle inLibyalike everywhere else is the struggle for revolutionary leadership. And by virtue of historic necessity, it forces us to align ourselves with the struggle to overthrow the Gaddafi regime which has been and remains the overarching goal of the ongoing Libyan revolution. In Bangladesh the struggle for liberation was achieved in success despite the fact of the Indian intervention, and despite the fact of the subservience of the bourgeois forces toIndia. The realization of an independent Bengali nation overthrowing the oppression of the Pakistani state was great progressive achievement of the people which would have naturally transcended further, but was held back. The same forces which led the liberation struggle ultimately ended up betraying it. The same would be expected from the forces which now lead the TNC  in Libya and would behave no differently. The Libyan masses however, are not so easy to tame, more so owing to the fragmented nature of Libyan society and inter-tribal rivalries. The Libyan masses must brace themselves now for a new round of struggles once; Gaddafi is defeated, to the new imperialist proxies which lead the Trans National Council.

Statement on the Kashmir struggle

Statement on the Kashmir struggle:

Recent development in Kashmir, particularly in the past 4-5 years have brought back the Kashmir question to the fore and posed it sharper than ever. Beginning with the protests surrounding the Shopian Double Murder case and the landmark State Transport Corporations Strikes which garnered the support of hundreds of thousands of workers, we are witnessing a heightened tension in the valley as the masses advance further and further towards self determination. Counter posed to this advance is the increased suppression of dissent at the hands of the Indian state. The past 6 months have seen over a hundred Kashmiri youth falling victim to indiscriminate firing by the security forces stationed in the valley. These acts were committed with the intent of curbing peaceful protests in the valley against Indian occupation. In the light of these events we express unconditional support to the Kashmiri people in their struggle for self determination.

For the self determination of Kashmir! :

The occupation of Kashmir has been brutal, treacherous and unjust. The democratic aspirations of the people of Kashmir have been continuously denied by the Indian ruling class time and again. The democratic aspirations of the Kashmiri people which began in the form of pro democracy movements pitted against the repressive and reactionary monarchy in Kashmir has today resurfaced against an equally oppressive rule at the hands of India. In 1948 in the aftermath of the first Indo-Pak war, it was agreed by UN mandate that Kashmiris would be allowed a plebiscite to decide accession to either India or Pakistan in a democratic manner. Notwithstanding repeated false promises from Nehru to hold such a plebiscite, the accession of Kashmir into India at the hands of the Maharaja was accepted as the valid instrument of accession without regard to the aspirations of the Kashmiri people themselves. Farce elections were made the norm in Kashmir in which the central government would conduct “tailor made” rigged elections to keep their prized proxy the National Conference in power in the state and through them exercise its own influence. Repeatedly, the NC proved itself to be an instrument of the Indian ruling classes serving the needs of occupation of the Kashmir. The question of a plebiscite still hangs on in the air retaining its validity as Kashmir’s self determination stands unresolved. However, over time the original demand for plebiscite has lots some of its relevance owing to changes both nationally and internationally. For the fulfillment of the aspirations of the Kashmiri people towards self determination it is imperative a plebiscite be held to decide whether the Kashmiri people want secession or not. However, for this a new instrument of plebiscite must be charted out taking into consideration the renewed aspirations of the Kashmiri people which aims beyond accession to either India or Pakistan.

Out with the troops! :

The presence of the occupational troops in Kashmir is the main foundation upon which the Indian state establishes its control over Kashmir. The fallout of the continued occupation is felt by the Kashmiri people on a daily basis who are subjected to repeated harassment and abuse at the hands of the Indian occupational force. Terror, murder and torture have become routine affairs for the Kashmiri people. The death toll of the occupation has already reached around 100000 in the last 20 years with thousands more if the years preceding the insurgency be considered. Forced disappearances, rape, torture are some of the many methods used by the security forces in the region to maintain its hold in Kashmir. In the light of the above it is imperative that there be a total troop withdrawal from Kashmir as well as an abolition of the authoritarian laws like AFSPA which shield the troops from any legal action after human rights abuses. Additionally we demand that the strategically vital affair of defense and security be left to the prerogative of the Kashmiri people themselves and not to the hands of the Indian state to decide for them. Additionally we demand that all those who have fallen victims to the excesses of security forces, be compensated adequately and a trial be held for those responsible for perpetrating such crimes against humanity.

Down with the Indian proxy! :

Since the start of the occupation of Kashmir, the Kashmiri bourgeois and their chief Political formation the National Conference have played the most treacherous role in the region paving the way for continued Indian occupation of Kashmir and courting silence at the indiscriminate human rights violations being perpetrated by the security forces stationed there. The National Conference exists in Kashmir solely under warrant from its supreme leaders stationed in Delhi under the Indian national Congress and its Bonapartist leadership. Its primary function is not towards the masses of peasants, workers and petty bourgeois of Kashmir but towards the interests of the Indian bourgeoisie dictating its policies via its main political instrument the Congress and legislative power based in Delhi. The National Conference is in essence the main enemy of the Kashmiri people within Kashmir.

Abolish the Indus Water Treaty! For a New Water Sharing agreement!

During the Great Game between Russia and England for control over Asia a series of unequal treaties were meted out with China which gave effective control of huge regions of China to either Russian or British hands. The Indus water Treaty is like these unequal treaties in history giving the Indian bourgeois effective control over waters flowing into the Punjab river basin and effective control over Kashmiri waters thereby affecting Kashmir and Pakistan. The net effect of the treaty is drainage of wealth from Kashmir to India and a deliberate constriction of Kashmir’s potential for infrastructural development.

We demand that negotiations be started with the Indian state to abolish this unequal treaty and a new treaty be drafted of water sharing taking into consideration the needs of the Kashmiri people and by extension fulfilling the needs of all the people of the Punjab basin! The independence of Kashmir would open up a whole new avenue for the formation of a just water sharing treaty which would cater to the needs of both the Kashmiri people as well as the Pakistani people thereby nullifying the negative effects of the treaty and making it easier to irrigate the whole basin, control the occurrence of floods and make good any damage they cause.

For an independent Constituent Assembly! :

The demand for a Constituent assembly is a basic demand for any oppressed nation struggling for independence. In the present legal set up the Kashmiri national assembly has an existence which is essentially constricted by myriad legal obligations imposed by the Indian state. Add to this legal complexity, the political stranglehold held by the Congress in Kashmir working through its allies, the National Conference, the independence of the legislative body gets reduced to a mere farce. This cannot possibly be a valid realization of the democratic aspirations of the Kashmiri people and it is imperative that the Constituent assembly be freed of its constraints to legislate in all matters relating to Kashmir. The present Legislative Assembly created by the consent of the Indian ruling class would never act in the interests of the Kashmiri people and as it is would continue to remain under constraints imposed by the mother body in India. We therefore, demand the formation of a new Constituent Assembly formed by the peasants and workers of Kashmir which would work first and foremost towards securing the self determination of the Kashmiri people and independence from India Thereafter, moving towards the full expropriation of all large landed estates and estates of the big Kashmiri bourgeois families and large Indian owned estates without Compensation and nationalization of resources. Whilst, the constituent assembly may be an instrument to attain independence, to ensure freedom it is imperative that the Kashmiri people have control over the life blood of Kashmir, its resources!

For a United Kashmir!

The creation of an independent united Kashmiri republic would then be free to decide its relations with nations bordering it as it deems fit. The slogan of Azaadi must therefore, stand for independence from India as well as Pakistan and China! Simultaneously, we appeal to the Kashmiri people not to have any false illusions on the vague promises of western imperialism. Any promise of support by western powers is necessarily contradictory and hypocritical and must be treated with suspicion. The fact that Obama appealed to India to “resolve” the Kashmir issue was enough to show that they are interested only in maintaining the status quo of occupation. The Indian state would be more than happy to effect such a communal division as it weakens and isolates the Kashmir struggle belittling it to the communal forte of a section of Kashmiri society against another. For the struggle for self determination to succeed it is imperative that it be carried out as a united struggle embracing each and every section of Kashmiri society and overcome communal divisions imposed by the occupation. Whilst, the most important immediate demand for the Kashmiri people is independence from Indian occupation, such freedom would be only half won without freedom from Capitalism as a whole. The Kashmiri struggle therefore needs to progress uninterruptedly from a democratic one to a socialist one. Aiming as its ultimate goal a Socialist Kashmir!United we stand and divided we fall. This is the principle for any successful movement and for any nation to be successful. The question of self determination of Kashmir isn’t the exclusive resolve of the people of Southern Kashmir under Indian occupation but of the whole of Kashmir and all Kashmiri people including those in Northern Kashmir ( under Pakistani occupation ) as well as Ladakh ( under joint occupation of China and India ) . For The new Kashmir which would emerge from the freedom movement, division among communal lines would mean death and re occupation. Indeed should the new Kashmir be divided communally between Hindu (South), Muslim (North and Central) and Buddhist (East) it will open up the possibility of a re occupation of Kashmir by India, Pakistan and China. The sacrifices of the Kashmiri people would have gone to waste replacing one oppressor with another. Furthermore, fuelling communal hatred in the hearts and minds of the Kashmiri people only adds to the division of an already divided society.

Lenin on the national question

As a continuation of our series of documents on the question of national self determination we are publishing Three significant writings of Lenin on the national question.

The Seventh (April) All-Russia Conference of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.) APRIL 24–29, 1917

Resolution on the National Question

The policy of national oppression, inherited from the autocracy and monarchy; is maintained by the landowners, capitalists, and petty bourgeoisie in order to protect their class privileges and to cause disunity among the workers of the various nationalities. Modern imperialism, which increases the tendency to subjugate weaker nations, is a new factor intensifying national oppression.

The elimination of national oppression, if at all achievable in capitalist society, is possible only under a consistently democratic republican system and state administration that guarantee complete equality for all nations and languages.

The right of all the nations forming part of Russia freely to secede and form independent states must be recognised. To deny them this right, or to fail to take measures guaranteeing its practical realisation, is equivalent to supporting a policy of seizure or annexation. Only the recognition by the proletariat of the right of nations to secede can ensure complete solidarity among the workers of the various nations and help to bring the nations closer together on truly democratic lines.

The conflict which has arisen at the present time between Finland and the Russian Provisional Government strikingly demonstrates that denial of the right to free secession leads to a direct continuation of the policy of tsarism.

The right of nations freely to secede must not be confused with the advisability of secession by a given nation at a given moment. The party of the proletariat must decide the latter question quite independently in each particular case, having regard to the interests of social development as a whole and the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat for socialism.

The Party demands broad regional autonomy, the abolition of supervision from above, the abolition of a compulsory official language, and the fixing of the boundaries of the self-governing and autonomous regions in accordance with the economic and social conditions, the national composition of the population, and so forth, as assessed by the local population itself.

The party of the proletariat emphatically rejects what is known as “national cultural autonomy”, under which education, etc., is removed from the control of the state and put in the control of some kind of national diets. National cultural autonomy artificially divides the workers living in one locality, and even working in the same industrial enterprise, according to their various “national cultures”; in other words, it strengthens the ties between the workers and the bourgeois culture of their nations, whereas the aim of the Social-Democrats is to develop the international culture of the world proletariat.

The party demands that a fundamental law be embodied in the constitution annulling all privileges enjoyed by any one nation and all infringements of the rights of national minorities.

The interests of the working class demand that the workers of all nationalities in Russia should have common proletarian organisations: political, trade union, co-operative educational institutions, and so forth. Only the merging of the workers of the various nationalities into such common organisations will make it possible for the proletariat to wage a successful struggle against international Capital and bourgeois nationalism.

The Seventh (April) All-Russia Conference of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.)

APRIL 24–29, 1917

Speech on the National Question April 29 (May 12)

Beginning from 1903, when our Party adopted its programme, we have been encountering violent opposition on the part of the Polish comrades. If you study the Minutes of the Second Congress you will see that they were using the same arguments then that they are using now, and that the Polish Social-Democrats walked out from that Congress because they held that recognition of the right of nations to self-determination was unacceptable to them. Ever since then we have been coming up against the same question. Though imperialism already existed in 1903, the Polish Social-Democrats made no mention of it in their arguments. They are making the same strange and monstrous error now as they were then. These people want to put our Party’s stand on a par with that of the chauvinists.

Owing to long oppression by Russia, Poland’s policy is a wholly nationalist one, and the whole Polish nation is obsessed with one idea—revenge on the Muscovites. No one has oppressed the Poles more than the Russian people, who served in the hands of the tsars as the executioner of Polish freedom. In no nation does hatred of Russia sit so deep as with the Poles; no nation dislikes Russia so intensely as the Poles. As a result we have a strange thing. Because of the Polish bourgeoisie, Poland has become an obstacle to the socialist movement. The whole world could go to the devil so long as Poland was free. Of course, this way of putting the question is a mockery of internationalism. Of course, Poland is now a victim of violence, but for the Polish nationalists to count on Russia liberating Poland—that would be treason to the International. The Polish nationalists have  so imbued the Polish people with their views that this is how the situation is regarded in Poland.

The Polish Social-Democratic comrades have rendered a great historic service by advancing the slogan of internationalism and declaring that the fraternal union of the proletariat of all countries is of supreme importance to them and that they will never go to war for the liberation of Poland. This is to their credit, and this is why we have always regarded only these Polish Social-Democrats as socialists. The others are patriots, Polish Plekhanovs. But this peculiar position, when, in order to safeguard socialism, people were forced to struggle against a rabid and morbid nationalism, has produced a strange state of affairs: comrades come to us saying that we must give up the idea of Poland’s freedom, her right to secession.

Why should we Great Russians, who have been oppressing more nations than any other people, deny the right to secession for Poland, Ukraine, or Finland? We are asked to become chauvinists, because by doing so we would make the position of Social-Democrats in Poland less difficult. We do not pretend to seek to liberate Poland, because the Polish people live between two states that are capable of fighting. Instead of telling the Polish workers that only those Social-Democrats are real democrats who maintain that the Polish people ought to be free, since there is no place for chauvinists in a socialist party, the Polish Social-Democrats argue that, just because they find the union with Russian workers advantageous, they are opposed to Poland’s secession. They have a perfect right to do so. But people don’t want to understand that to strengthen internationalism you do not have to repeat the same words. What you have to do is to stress, in Russia, the freedom of secession for oppressed nations and, in Poland, their freedom to unite. Freedom to unite implies freedom to secede. We Russians must emphasise freedom to secede, while the Poles must emphasise freedom to unite.

We notice here a number of sophisms involving a complete renunciation of Marxism. Comrade Pyatakov’s stand repeats that of Rosa Luxemburg….[1] (Holland is an example.)  This is how Comrade Pyatakov reasons, and this is how he refutes himself, for in theory he denies freedom of secession, but to the people he says that anyone opposingfreedom of secession is not a socialist. Comrade Pyatakov has been saying things here that are hopelessly muddled.In Western Europe most countries settled their national questions long ago. It is Western Europe that isreferred when it is said that the national question has been settled. Comrade Pyatakov, however, puts this where itdoes notbelong—to Eastern Europe, and we find ourselves in a ridiculous position.

Just think of the dreadful mess that results! Finland is right next door to us. Comrade Pyatakov has no definite answer for Finland and gets all mixed up. In yesterday’sRabochaya Gazeta you read that the movement for separation is growing in Finland. Finns arriving here tell us that separatism is growing there because the Cadets refuse to grant the country complete autonomy. A crisis is approaching there, dissatisfaction with Governor-General Rodichev is rife, but Rabochaya Gazeta writes that the Finns should wait for the Constituent Assembly, because an agreement will there be reached between Finland and Russia. What do they mean by agreement? The Finns must declare that they are entitled to decide their destiny in their own way, and any Great Russian who denies this right is a chauvinist. It would be another thing if we said to the Finnish worker: Decide what is best for yourself….

Comrade Pyatakov simply rejects our slogan, saying that it means giving no slogan for the socialist revolution, but he himself gives no appropriate slogan. The method of socialist revolution under the slogan “Down with frontiers” is all muddled up. We have not succeeded in publishing the article in which I called this view “Imperialist Economism”.[3] What does the “method” of socialist revolution under the slogan “Down with frontiers” mean? We maintain that the state is necessary, and a state presupposes frontiers. The state, of course, may hold a bourgeois government, but we need the Soviets. But even Soviets are confronted with the question of frontiers. What does “Down with frontiers”  mean? It is the beginning of anarchy….The “method” of socialist revolution under the slogan “Down with frontiers” is simply a mess. When the time is ripe for socialist revolution, when it finally occurs, it will spread to other countries. We shall help it along, but in what manner, we do not know. “The method of socialist revolution” is just a meaningless phrase. We stand for the settlement of problems which the bourgeois revolution has left unsolved. Our attitude to the separatist movement is indifferent, neutral. If Finland, Poland or Ukraine secede from Russia, there is nothing bad in that. What is wrong with it? Anyone who says that is a chauvinist. One must be mad to continue Tsar Nicholas’s policy. Didn’t Norway secede from Sweden? Alexander I and Napoleon once bartered nations, the tsars once traded Poland. Are we to continue this policy of the tsars? This is repudiation of the tactics of internationalism, this is chauvinism at its worst. What is wrong with Finland seceding? After the secession of Norway from Sweden mutual trust increased between the two peoples, between the proletariat of these countries. The Swedish landowners wanted to start a war, but the Swedish workers refused to be drawn into such a war.

All the Finns want now is autonomy. We are for Finland receiving complete freedom, because then there will be greater trust in Russian democracy and the Finns will not separate. While Mr. Rodichev goes to Finland to haggle over autonomy, our Finnish comrades come here and say, “We want autonomy.” But what they get is a broadside, and the answer: “Wait for the Constituent Assembly.” But we say: “Any Russian socialist who denies Finland freedom is a chauvinist.”

We say that frontiers are determined by the will of the [local] population. Russia, don’t you dare fight over Kurland! Germany, get your armies out of Kurland! That is how we solve the secession problem. The proletariat cannot use force, because it must not prevent the peoples from obtaining their freedom. Only when the socialist revolution has become a reality, and not a method, will the slogan “Down with frontiers” be a correct slogan. Then we shall say: Comrades, come to us….

War is a different matter entirely. If need be, we shall not draw the line at a revolutionary war. We are not pacifists….  When we have Milyukov sitting here and sending Rodichev to Finland to shamefully haggle with the Finnish people,we say to the Russian people: Don’t you dare coerce Finland; no nation can be free that oppresses other nations. In the resolution concerning Borgbjerg we say: Withdraw your troops and let the nation settle the question itself. But, if the Soviet takes over power tomorrow, that will not be a “method of socialist revolution”, and we shall then say: Germany, get your troops out of Poland, and Russia, get your troops out of Armenia. If we did otherwise we should be deceiving people.

Comrade Dzerzhinsky tells us that in his oppressed Poland everybody is a chauvinist. But not a single Pole has said a word about Finland or Ukraine. We have been arguing over this so much since 1903 that it is becoming difficult to talk about it. Do as you please….Anyone who does not accept this point of view is an annexationist and a chauvinist. We are for a fraternal union of all nations. If there is a Ukrainian republic and a Russian republic, there will be closer contact and greater trust between the two. If the Ukrainians see that we have a Soviet republic, they will not secede, but if we have a Milyukov republic, they will. When Comrade Pyatakov said in self-contradiction that he is against the forcible retention of nations within the frontiers, he actually recognised the right of nations to self-determination. We certainly do not want the peasant in Khiva to live under the Khan of Khiva. By developing our revolution we shall influence the oppressed people. Propaganda among the oppressed mass must follow only this line.

Any Russian socialist who does not recognise Finland’s and Ukraine’s right to freedom will degenerate into a chauvinist. And no sophisms or references to his “method” will ever help him to justify himself.

Critical Remarks on the National Question

 


 

5. THE EQUALITY OF NATIONS AND THE RIGHTS OF NATIONAL MINORITIES

When they discuss the national question, opportunists in Russia are given to citing the example of Austria. In my article in Severnaya Pravda which the opportunists have attacked (Mr. Semkovsky in Novaya Rabochaya Gazeta and Mr. Liebman in Zeit), I asserted that, insofar as that is at all possible under capitalism, there was only one solution of the national question, viz., through consistent democracy. In proof of this, I referred, among other things, to Switzerland.

This has not been to the liking of the two opportunists mentioned above, who are trying to refute it or belittle its significance. Kautsky, we are told, said that Switzerland is an exception; Switzerland, if you please, has a special kind of decentralisation, a special history, special geographical conditions, unique distribution of a population that speak different languages, etc., etc.

All these are nothing more than attempts to evade the issue. To be sure, Switzerland is an exception in that she is not a single-nation state. But Austria and Russia are also exceptions (or are backward, as Kautsky adds). To be sure, it was only her special, unique historical and social conditions that ensured Switzerland greater democracy than most of her European neighbours.

But where does all this come in, if we are speaking of the model to be adopted? In the whole world, under present-day conditions, countries in which any particular institution has been founded on consistent democratic principles are the exception. Does this prevent us, in our programme, from upholding consistent democracy in all institutions?

Switzerland’s special features lie in her history, her geographical and other conditions. Russia’s special features lie in the strength of her proletariat, which has no precedent in the epoch of bourgeois revolutions, and in her shocking general backwardness, which objectively necessitates an exceptionally rapid and resolute advance, under the threat of all sorts of drawbacks and reverses.

We are evolving a national programme from the proletarian standpoint; since when has it been recommended that the worst examples, rather than the best, be taken as a model?

At all events, does it not remain an indisputable and undisputed fact that national peace under capitalism has been achieved (insofar as it is achievable) exclusively in countries where consistent democracy prevails?

Since this is indisputable, the opportunists’ persistent references to Austria instead of Switzerland are nothing but a typical Cadet device, for the Cadets always copy the worst European constitutions rather than the best.

In Switzerland there are three official languages, but bills submitted to a referendum are printed in five languages, that is to say, in two Romansh dialects, in addition to the three official languages. According to the 1900 census, these two dialects are spoken by 38,651 out of the 3,315,443 inhabitants of Switzerland, i.e., by a little over one per cent. In the army, commissioned and non-commissioned officers “are given the fullest freedom to speak to the men in their native language”. In the cantons of Graub\”unden and Wallis (each with a population of a little over a hundred thousand) both dialects enjoy complete equality.

The question is: should we advocate and support this, the living experience of an advanced country, or borrow from the Austrians inventions like “extra-territorial autonomy”, which have not yet been tried out anywhere in the world (and not yet been adopted by the Austrians themselves)?

To advocate this invention is to advocate the division of school education according to nationality, and that is a downright harmful idea. The experience of Switzerland  proves, however, that the greatest (relative) degree of national peace can be, and has been, ensured in practice where you have, a consistent (again relative) democracy throughout the state.

In Switzerland,” say people who have studied this question, “there is no national question in the East-European sense of the term. The very phrase (national, question) is unknown there….” “Switzerland left the struggle between nationalities a long way behind, in 1797–1803.”[3]

This means that the epoch of the great French Revolution, which provided the most democratic solution of the current problems of the transition from feudalism to capitalism,succeeded incidentally, en passant, in “solving” the national question.

Let the Semkovskys, Liebmans, and other opportunists now fry to assert that this “exclusively Swiss” solution is inapplicable to any uyezd or even part of an uyezd in Russia, where out of a population of only 200,000 forty thousand speak two dialects and want to have complete equality of language in their area!

Advocacy of complete equality of nations and languages distinguishes only the consistently democratic elements in each nation (i. e., only the proletarians), and unites them, not according to nationality, but in a profound and earnest desire to improve the entire system of state. On the contrary, advocacy of “cultural-national autonomy”, despite the pious wishes of individuals and groups, divides the nations and in fact draws the workers and the bourgeoisie of any one nation closer together (the adoption of this “cultural-national autonomy” by all the Jewish bourgeois parties).

Guaranteeing the rights of a national minority is inseparably linked up with the principle of complete equality. In my article in Severnaya Pravda this principle was ex pressed in almost the same terms as in the later, official and more accurate decision of the conference of Marxists. That decision demands “the incorporation in the constitution of a fundamental law which shall declare null and void all privileges enjoyed by any one nation and all infringements of the rights of a national minority”.

Mr. Liebman tries to ridicule this formula and asks: “Who knows what the rights of a national minority are?” Do these rights, he wants to know, include the right of the minority to have “its own programme” for the national schools? How large must the national minority be to have the right to have its own judges, officials, and schools with instruction in its own language? Mr. Liebman wants it to be inferred from these questions that a “positive” national programme is essential.

Actually, these questions clearly show what reactionary ideas our Bundist tries to smuggle through under cover of a dispute on supposedly minor details and particulars.

Its own programme” in its national schools!… Marxists, my dear nationalist-socialist, have a general school programme which demands, for example, an absolutely secular school. As far as Marxists are concerned, no departure from this general programme is anywhere or at any time permissible in a democratic state (the question of introducing any “local” subjects, languages, and so forth into it being decided by the local inhabitants). However, from the principle of “taking educational affairs out of the hands of the state” and placing them under the control of the nations, it ensues that we, the workers, must allow the “nations” in our democratic state to spend the people’s money on clerical schools! Without being aware of the fact, Mr. Liebman has clearly demonstrated the reactionary nature of “cultural-national autonomy”!

How large must a national minority be?” This is not defined even in the Austrian programme, of which the Bundists are enamoured. It says (more briefly and less clearly than our programme does): “The rights of the national minorities are protected by a special law to he passed by the Imperial Parliament” (§4 of the Br\”unn programme).

Why has nobody asked the Austrian Social-Democrats the question: what exactly is that law, and exactly which rights and of which minority is it to protect?

That is because all sensible people understand that it is inappropriate and impossible to define particulars in a programme. A programme lays down only fundamental principles. In this case the fundamental principle is implied with the Austrians, and directly expressed in the decision of the  latest conference of Russian Marxists. That principle is: no national privileges and no national inequality.

Let us take a concrete example to make the point clear to the Bundist. According to the school census of January 18, 1911, St. Petersburg elementary schools under the Ministry of Public “Education” were attended by 48,076 pupils. Of these, 396, i. e., less than one per cent, were Jews. The other figures are: Rumanian pupils—2, Georgians—1, Armenians—3, etc.[6] Is it possible to draw up a “positive” national programme that will cover this diversity of relationships and conditions? (And St. Petersburg is, of course, far from being the city with the most mixed population in Russia.) Even such specialists in national “subtleties” as the Bundists would hardly be able to draw up such a programme.

And yet, if the constitution of the country contained a fundamental law rendering null and void every measure that infringed the rights of a minority, any citizen would be able to demand the rescinding of orders prohibiting, for example, the hiring, at state expense, of special teachers of Hebrew, Jewish history, and the like, or the provision of state-owned premises for lectures for Jewish, Armenian, or Rumanian children, or even for the one Georgian child. At all events, it is by no means impossible to meet, on the basis of equality, all the reasonable and just wishes of the national minorities, and nobody will say that advocacy of equality is harmful. On the other hand, it would certainly be harmful to advocate division of schools according to nationality, to advocate, for example, special schools for Jewish children in St. Petersburg, and it would be utterly impossible to set up national schools for every national minority, for one, two or three children.

Furthermore, it is impossible, in any country-wide law, to define how large a national minority must be to be entitled to special schools, or to special teachers for supplementary subjects, etc.

On the other hand, a country-wide law establishing equality can be worked out in detail and developed through special regulations and the decisions of regional Diets, and town, Zemstvo, village commune and other authorities.