Marxism, nationalism and martyrdom…

In a modern sense, Nationalists and Communists are soul enemies. The last time a party combined the two and came to power, World War II happened and millions of people were killed. Interestingly, both the nationalists and the communists of India consider Shaheed Bhagat Singh as their hero. And why not? Bhagat Singh was among the few people, who had taken the best of the two ideologies.

There is no doubt that Bhagat Singh was profoundly influenced by Marxism. He unambiguously stated in his last testament that the ideal for him and his comrades was “the social reconstruction on Marxist basis”. From 1926 onwards, he studied the history of the revolutionary movements in India and abroad. In his prison notebooks, he quoted Lenin in reference to imperialism and capitalism and also the revolutionary thoughts of Trotsky. When asked what his last wish was, he replied that he was studying the life of Lenin and he wanted to finish it before his death. Such was his love for the ideology.

Bhagat Singh never joined the Communist Party of India. He and his ilk were not acknowledged as Communists, by Stalin, Trotsky and the well-known Indian communists of his time. In a beautifully written testament of Bhagat Singh’s accounts, the famous communist leader Ajoy Ghosh claims- ‘It would be an exaggeration to say that he became a Marxist’.

In fact, the Communist Party of India was originally made up of some very serious leaders. For them, the Congress was a bourgeois party, and was ineligible to win a liberation war against British imperialism. It, therefore, called India’s Independence a farce and observed August 15 as black day. This eventually led to an internal rift within the party. The party under the leadership of B.T. Ranadive, also started a violent movement in Telangana. This led to further instability within the party. In 1948, there was an abrupt drop in the number of party cadre- from 90,000 to 9,000. Communism was on the verge of loosing its ground in India.

To get rid of these problems, several communist leaders, on the advise of Stalin, celebrated India’s Independence on August 15 in 1951, abjured the Telangana armed struggle in October 1951, celebrated Gandhi’s birth anniversary that year and decided to participate in electoral politics. They also realized that the CPI needed a credible face to save itself from extinction in the long run. It was G.M. Telang, who then wrote the book, Bhagat Singh: The Man and His Ideas, under the pseudonym Gopal Thakur, and showed the Marxist side of the great martyr.

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