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Experiences of 'sophisticated' Marxist who adapted to horrific world of Indian jails

By Harsh Thakor*

Kobad Ghandy’s book ‘Fractured Freedom' has imbibed important lessons about the weaknesses inherent in the Communist movement. The book is also illustrative of the intensity and ascendancy of proto-fascism, particularly on minorities. It deals with repression on Kashmiri and Muslim activists as well as the barbaric treatment meted out to political prisoners. It carries memoirs of his friendship with Afzal Guru, who introduced him to the Rumi and Islamic philosophy.
The first section encompasses the evolution of an upper-class, Parsi youth, educated in Doon School and in England, to a committed activist, dedicated to social and political revolution. Ghandy was shaped by the radical currents of his time. He vividly conveys the heady optimism of the late 1960s and early 1970s -- China’s Cultural Revolution and the Naxalbari uprising in India -- when everything seemed possible.
The second section is the classic prison memoir, recounting the experiences of a sophisticated Marxist intellectual, as he tries to adapt to the horrific or traumatising world of Indian jails. It taps on issue of the individual subconscious and the spiritual essence of a revolutionary. He imbibes Freudian ideas to study of human behaviour, and considers these as integral part of Marxism.
According to Ghandy, a Leninist party is cannot be the be all of revolutionary democracy to reach the pinnacle. He points to how socialist societies and armed movements neglected the spiritual aspect. Kobad re-enforces the view that a Communist party cannot save a socialist state or convert it into a Communistic one. He makes one question the Leninist and Maoist proletarian dictatorship concept, stating, it has inherent shortcomings, pointing out, it has to be developed further to create greater democracy.
In many ways Kobad reminds one of late Punjabi revolutionary writer Satnam and the post-Maoist philosopher Joshua Moufawad Paul. His reflections suggest why Maoist cadres do not have sufficient political education. He found this out during his first-hand encounter with them in in jails.
Ghandy emphasises why the the caste question should be treated it as an integral part of the Communist movement. In a subtle manner he touches upon the strongly neglected factor of caste within the Communist movement.
Ghandy narrates the psychology of individualism of workers who find escapist routes and bear the same culture or orientation of the oppressor classes. He reminds us why so many industrial workers do not join the ranks of an organised movement, pointing out, permanent workers don’t even side with contract workers.
Ghandy does not berate the Maoist movement, but points to its glaring weaknesses. He is critical of the Jharkhand movement but still shows great admiration for work in the Dandakaranya region. He narrates how mass movements faced the wrath of state repression which led to their collapse, with the revolutionaries getting cut off from the masses, either becoming victims of state repression or roving rebels.
Ghandy refuses to defend the polemics of Marx, Lenin, Mao and Stalin. While referring to the failure of Communism, he praises China under Mao and achievements of the Cultural Revolution in China, yet fails to appreciate the achievements of Socialist Russia till 1956 or China till 1976.
While undermining the concept of democratic centralism, Ghandy gives no space to flaws in the practice of military line and lack of building democratic mass organisations, which had its origin in the practice of CPI (ML) founder Charu Mazumdar. At the same time, he seeks to patronise the New Left and the Post-Modernist writers like Louis Althusser, Zizek and Alan Badiou.
Ghandy feels that capitalism has developed, but fails to grasp how semi-feudalism is still rampant in India. He does not throw light on the historical changes of globalisation that tried to bury Marxism. He appears to run down Marxism and the organised movement. He claims that the youth in Andhra or Telengana are politically apathetic.
In many ways Ghandy’s eclectic thinking is a product of the loopholes prevailing within the Communist movement. He is the by-product of the liberal influence on Maoism.
---
*Freelance journalist based in Mumbai

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