Skip to main content

Acharya Narendra Deva who opposed ethics-neutral Bolshevik tendency of Marxism

By Prem Singh*

Acharya Narendra Deva, known as the patriarch of Indian socialism, was born on October 31, 1889 in Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh. He did his higher education in Allahabad and Banaras. He obtained his law degree from Allahabad University and practiced law for some time. But his philosophical mind did not find satisfaction and he became a history teacher at Kashi Vidyapeeth in 1921 and then vice chancellor of Lucknow University and Banaras Hindu University (BHU).
Having a good knowledge of Hindi, Sanskrit, Prakrit, Pali, German, French and English languages, Acharya made a serious study of history, archeology, religion, philosophy and culture. Acharya was basically a teacher. A politician's ambition and strategic skills were not an integral part of his personality. But his concerns for India’s freedom and an egalitarian democratic society kept him in midst of politics.
Acharya was politically active in Congress, Congress Socialist Party (CSP) during the freedom struggle and Socialist Party and Praja Socialist Party (PSP) after the independence. He presided over the formation conference of the CSP held in Patna on 17 May 1934 and was also elected its first president. 
Apart from his active role in freedom/socialist movement, Acharya propounded doctrine of socialism. Lohia's 'Pachmarhi Thesis' is well known in the socialist movement of India. In the same manner Acharya's 'Gaya Thesis' is considered to be a masterpiece.
Acharya was inclined to follow Marxism as a contemplative line of thought and method. On one occasion he said that he can leave the party but not Marxism. But he was not a stereotypical or orthodox communist. 
This is to say that in the name of the proletariat, a dictatorial attitude of a person or a group within the communist party was unacceptable to his democratic mind. Acharya was a critic of the undemocratic character of the regime of Soviet Russia. 
But he was not a supporter of pro-American capitalist imperialism in any way. He did not see any contradiction between Marxism and National Independence Movement of India and the rest of the world under the yoke of colonial rule. 
In the same way, he saw mutual supplementation between the farmers and workers' revolutionary power. He favoured the connection between the agricultural revolution and the socialist revolution. That is why he gave more time to farmers’ politics. However, he used to understand the dangers of organizing farmers on the basis of caste and religion.
Acharya considered much that was of value in the ancient culture of India. He made a serious study of Buddhism and its philosophy. He composed the Sahitya Akademi award-winning book 'Bauddh Dharma-Darshan' in Hindi. He said in 1936:
"Our work is not only to end the exploitation by the imperialism but to end the exploitation by all those classes of the society which are exploiting the people today. We want to create a new civilization which will be rooted in ancient civilization, which will have the colors of the country, which will keep the excellent elements of the ancient civilization safe, and, simultaneously, new progressive elements of the contemporary world will also be included, and, thus would like to present a new ideal before the world."
Like all the important leaders of freedom movement, Acharya was sentenced to jail often. On one hand, prison greatly damaged his health due to his asthmatic condition, but on the other it gave him much time for reading and writing. 
For instance, he started translation of Vashubandhu's 'Abhi-Dhamm Kosh' from French to Hindi in Banaras jail in 1932 and completed it in Ahmed Nagar jail in 1945 where he was held captive with many leaders, including Jawaharlal Nehru. In the preface of his book 'Discovery of India', Nehru has expressed his debt to his colleagues including Acharya for their scholarly inputs.
Acharya, like Gandhi, considered ethics as the criterion for both life and politics. The greatest significance of Acharya's thoughts is to enhance the moral values ​​of a person with the revolutionary process of social change. 
In the preface to 'Discovery of India', Nehru has expressed his debt to his colleagues, including Acharya, for their scholarly inputs
His emphasis on the ethical side of social change is related to Indian view, whereas the scientific analysis of the social forces is related to the Marxist view. He was naturally opposed to the ethics-neutral tendency developed in the Bolshevik stream of Marxism.
Acharya died in Madras on February 19, 1956 at the age of 67 years. He has made an outstanding contribution to the independence struggle and later to nation-building as a teacher, thinker and socialist leader. Nehru in his obituary in Parliament said:
"The death of Acharya Narendra Deva means something much bigger for many of us and, I think, for the country than just the passing away of an important person. He was a man of rare distinction - distinction in many fields -- rare in spirit, rare in mind and intellect, rare in integrity of mind and otherwise too. Only his body failed him. I do not know if there is any person present here in this House who was associated with him for a longer period than I was. 
"Over 40 years ago we came together and we shared innumerable experiences together in the dust and heat of the struggle for independence and in the long silence of prison life where we spent -- I forget now -- four or five years together at various places, and inevitably got to know each other intimately; and so, for many of us, it is a grievous loss and a grievous blow, even as it is a grievous loss for our country. There is the public sense of loss and there is the private sense of loss and a feeling that somebody of rare distinction has gone and it will be very difficult to find his like again."
Remembering Acharya on his birth anniversary, one regrets the state of political-intellectual scenario of today's India. Our leaders, who were engaged in the freedom struggle were incomparably inspirational, and so insightful.
---
*Taught Hindi at Delhi University

Comments

TRENDING

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Critics of your government should not be in jail: PUCL shoots open letter to Modi

Counterview Desk In an open letter, Ravikiran Jain, national president, and Dr V Suresh, general secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) have taken strong exception to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s view that raising human rights issues can ‘tarnish’ the country’s reputation, stating, those who raise human rights concerns do it “through established United Nations mechanisms such as the UN Human Rights Council, the Office of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights.”

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

When judges behave more like priests, delivering sermons from high podium...

By Ajit Singh*  The theory of separation of power found its origins in ancient Greece but with the passage of time it became widespread in other parts of Europe. Early proponent of the theory Greek philosopher Aristotle in “Politics” argued that implementation of constitution in letter and spirit can only be possible if the three elements among whom the power has been distributed are well arranged.

Covid appropriate behaviour? Why masks can't be suitable in hot, humid climate

By Dr Amitav Banerjee* Appearances can be deceptive. So can be Covid Appropriate Behaviour (CAB). An anecdote illustrates this well known cliché. A man who is very particular about hygiene decides to eat out. After a rather long search, he spots a restaurant which has a spotlessly clean exterior and he walks in.

Muck being thrown in Uttarakhand rivers: Villagers face 'existential' crisis

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  The Uttarakhand government must act fast to clear the path of Dhauli Ganga river about two kilometres ahead of village Neeti and about one kilometre from Ghamsali village, which is about 90 kilometer from Joshi Math town in district Chamoli. The creation of an artificial lake due to throwing of muck and mud can create a catastrophic situation like what happened on February 7, 2021-- the Rishi Ganga-Dhauli Ganga tragedy at Tapovan and Raini village in which over 200 people lost their life.

How Indore turned into water minus city after authorities 'managed' Water Plus title

Water harvester cleaning up hyacinth from an Indore river By Rahul Banerjee*  Recently, the city of Indore was declared the first Water Plus city in India under the Swachh Sarvekshan programme of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development for its ostensibly exemplary waste water management. However, the reality is quite different as a detailed study of the prevailing wastewater management situation in the city shows.

UP govt 'ignoring' demand to fill up teachers' posts despite unemployment: Rights groups

Sandeep Pandey with Shikha Pal Counterview Desk  Commenting on the unique protest undertaken by Shikha Pal atop an overhead water tank for nearly four months, the Socialist Party (India), in association with several civil rights group, Yuva Shakti Sangathan, Socialist Yuvjan Sabha and Rihai Manch, have wondered why has the Yogi Adityanath government is so “insensitive” towards her demands and is looking the “other way.”

Restricting use of public places for religious purpose: Will Gehlot govt respect HC order?

By Kavita Srivastava*  The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Rajasthan, has welcomed the judgment of the Rajasthan High Court dismissing the petition by Pooja Gurnani which challenged a circular of the Rajasthan government which restrained the construction of a ‘Pooja Sthal’ in the premises of a police station.

Rehabilitation site 'offered' to 6000 displaced Khori villagers not livable: Team Saathi

By Our Representative  Second round of the Chitthi Andolan (letter movement) of the Khori village residents, whose more than 6,000 houses were demolished as they were allegedly built on forest land, has begun, with hundreds of them telling the authorities of the Municipal Corporation, Faridabad, that no one has received the promised financial assistance of meagre Rs 2,000.