Socialism in India

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Socialism in India is a political movement founded early in the 20th century, as a part of the broader Indian independence movement against the colonial British Raj. The movement grew quickly in popularity as it espoused the causes of India's farmers and labourers against the zamindars , princely class and landed gentry. Socialism shaped the principal economic and social policies of the Indian government after independence until the early 1990s, when India moved towards a more market-based economy. However, it remains a potent influence on Indian politics, with a large number of national and regional political parties espousing democratic socialism.

Indian independence movement Indian struggle for freedom from British

The Indian Independence movement was a series of activities which ultimate aim was to end The British Raj. It encompassed activities and ideas aiming to end the East India Company rule (1757–1857) and the British Raj (1857–1947) in the Indian subcontinent. The movement spanned a total of 90 years (1857–1947) considering movement against the British East India Company and the British Indian Empire. The Indian Independence movement includes both protest and militant (violent) mechanisms to root out British Administration from India.

British Raj British rule on the Indian subcontinent, 1858–1947

The British Raj was the rule by the British Crown on the Indian subcontinent from 1858 to 1947. The rule is also called Crown rule in India, or direct rule in India. The region under British control was commonly called India in contemporaneous usage, and included areas directly administered by the United Kingdom, which were collectively called British India, and those ruled by indigenous rulers, but under British tutelage or paramountcy, and called the princely states. The whole was also more formally called the Indian Empire. As India, it was a founding member of the League of Nations, a participating nation in the Summer Olympics in 1900, 1920, 1928, 1932, and 1936, and a founding member of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945.

A market economy is an economic system in which the decisions regarding investment, production and distribution are guided by the price signals created by the forces of supply and demand. The major characteristic of a market economy is the existence of factor markets that play a dominant role in the allocation of capital and the factors of production.

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Small socialist revolutionary groups arose in India in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. The Communist Party of India was established in 1921, but socialism as an ideology gained a nationwide appeal after it was endorsed by nationalist leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose. Radical socialists were amongst the first to call for outright Indian independence from Britain. Under Nehru, the Indian National Congress, India's largest political party, adopted socialism as an ideology for socio-economic policies in 1936. Radical socialists and communists also engineered the Tebhaga movement of farmers in Bengal against the landed gentry. However, mainstream Indian socialism connected itself with Gandhism and adopted peaceful struggle instead of class warfare.

Russian Revolution 20th-century revolution leading to the downfall of the Russian monarchy

The Russian Revolution was a pair of revolutions in Russia in 1917 which dismantled the Tsarist autocracy and led to the rise of the Soviet Union. The Russian Empire collapsed with the abdication of Emperor Nicholas II and the old regime was replaced by a provisional government during the first revolution of February 1917. Alongside it arose grassroots community assemblies which contended for authority. In the second revolution that October, the Provisional Government was toppled and all power was given to the Soviets.

Communist Party of India Indian political party, established 1925

The Communist Party of India (CPI) is the oldest communist party in India. It is one of the eight national parties of India. There are different views on exactly when it was founded. The date maintained as the foundation day by the CPI is 26 December 1925. The Communist Party of India (Marxist), also a national party, separated from the CPI in 1964 following an ideological rift between China and the Soviet Union, continues to claim having been founded in 1925.

Jawaharlal Nehru First Prime Minister of India

Jawaharlal Nehru was an Indian independence activist, and subsequently, the first Prime Minister of India and a central figure in Indian politics before and after independence. He emerged as an eminent leader of the Indian independence movement under the tutelage of Mahatma Gandhi and served India as Prime Minister from its establishment as an independent nation in 1947 until his death in 1964. He has been described by the Amar Chitra Katha as the architect of India. He was also known as Pandit Nehru due to his roots with the Kashmiri Pandit community while Indian children knew him as Chacha Nehru.

After India's independence in 1947, the Indian government under prime ministers Nehru and Indira Gandhi oversaw land reform and the nationalisation of major industries and the banking sector. Independently, activists Vinoba Bhave and Jayaprakash Narayan worked for peaceful land redistribution under the Sarvodaya movement, where landlords granted land to farm workers out of their own free will. In the 1960s, the Communist Party of India formed India's first democratically elected communist government when it won elections in the states of Kerala and later West Bengal. However, when a global recession began in the late 1970s, economic stagnation, chronic shortages and state inefficiency left many disillusioned with state socialism. In the late 1980s and 1990s, India's government began to systematically liberalise the Indian economy by pursuing privatisation, aiming to attract foreign investment. Nevertheless, the Congress party continues to espouse some socialist causes, and other major parties such as the Communists, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and several others openly espouse socialism.

Indira Gandhi Third Prime Minister of India

Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi was an Indian politician, stateswoman and a central figure of the Indian National Congress. She was the first and, to date, the only female Prime Minister of India. Indira Gandhi was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India. She served as Prime Minister from January 1966 to March 1977 and again from January 1980 until her assassination in October 1984, making her the second longest-serving Indian Prime Minister, after her father.

Vinoba Bhave Indian advocate of nonviolence and human rights

Vinayak Narahari "Vinoba" Bhave was an Indian advocate of nonviolence and human rights. Often called Acharya, he is best known for the Bhoodan Movement. He is considered as a National Teacher of India and the spiritual successor of Mohandas Gandhi. The Gita has also been translated into Marathi language by him with the name as Geetai means mother Geeta.

Jayaprakash Narayan Indian independence activist and political leader

Jayaprakash Narayan, popularly referred to as JP or Lok Nayak, was an Indian independence activist, theorist, socialist and political leader. He is also known as the "Hero of Quit India Movement" and he is remembered especially for leading the mid-1970s opposition against Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, for whose overthrow he called a "total revolution". His biography, Jayaprakash, was written by his nationalist friend and an eminent writer of Hindi literature, Rambriksh Benipuri. In 1999, he was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, in recognition of his social work. Other awards include the Magsaysay award for Public Service in 1965.

History

The socialist movement began to develop in India with the Russian Revolution. However, in 1871 a group in Calcutta had contacted Karl Marx with the purpose of organizing an Indian section of the First International. [1] The first article in an Indian publication (in English) that mentions the names of Marx & Engels printed in the Modern Review in March 1912. The short biographical article titled Karl Marx – a modern Rishi was written by the German-based Indian revolutionary Lala Har Dayal. [2] The first biography of Karl Marx in an Indian language was written by R. Rama Krishna Pillai in 1914. [3]

Karl Marx Revolutionary socialist

Karl Marx was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary.

<i>Modern Review</i> (Calcutta)

Modern Review was the name of a monthly magazine published in Calcutta since 1907.

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

Bipin Chandra Pal Indian academic and politician

Bipin Chandra Pal was an Indian nationalist, writer, orator, social reformer and Indian independence movement activist. He was one third of the Lal Bal Pal triumvirate. Pal was one of the main architects of the Swadeshi movement. He stood against the partition of Bengal by the colonial British government.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak Indian independence activist

Bal Gangadhar Tilak, born as Keshav Gangadhar Tilak, was an Indian nationalist, teacher, and an independence activist. He was one third of the Lal Bal Pal triumvirate. Tilak was the first leader of the Indian Independence Movement. The British colonial authorities called him "The father of the Indian unrest." He was also conferred with the title of "Lokmanya", which means "accepted by the people ".

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Communist electoral mural in Jadavpur Indian Marxist graffiti 2004.jpg
Communist electoral mural in Jadavpur

Currently, Marxism is especially prevalent in Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura. The two largest Communist parties in Indian politics are the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India. The RSP and Forward Block support them in some states. These four parties constitute the Left Democratic Front.

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

Political parties

At the 1931 Karachi session of the Indian National Congress, socialist pattern of development was set as the goal for India. Through the 1955 Avadi Resolution of the Indian National Congress, a socialistic pattern of development was presented as the goal of the party. A year later, the Indian parliament adopted 'socialistic pattern of development' as official policy, a policy that came to include land reforms and regulations of industries. [18] The word socialist was added to the Preamble of the Indian Constitution by the 42nd amendment act of 1976, during the Emergency. It implies social and economic equality. Social equality in this context means the absence of discrimination on the grounds only of caste, colour, creed, sex, religion, or language. Under social equality, everyone has equal status and opportunities. Economic equality in this context means that the government will endeavour to make the distribution of wealth more equal and provide a decent standard of living for all. [19]

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

Communists were also active in the Indian independence movement and have played a significant role in India's political life, although they are fragmented into a multitude of different parties. Communist parties represented in parliament are: (statistics from 2004 General Elections) Communist Party of India (Marxist) (43 seats in the Lok Sabha), the Communist Party of India (10 seats), the Revolutionary Socialist Party (three seats) and the All India Forward Bloc (three seats). The former speaker of the Lok Sabha, Somnath Chatterjee, is a member of the CPI(M). Left Front parties remain an independent faction in the parliament critical of the policies of both the government and that of the mainstream opposition parties.

Aside from the Congress and the Left Front, there are other socialist parties active in India, notably the Samajwadi Party, which emerged from the Janata Dal and is led by Mulayam Singh Yadav, the former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. It has 5 seats in the 16th Lok Sabha. [20]

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

See also

Further reading

Communism in India

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References

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