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THE IDEAL OF FREEDOM AND EQUALITY
Synopsis About this title Neil Davidson explores classic themes of nation, state, and revolution in this collection of essays. Buy New Learn more about this copy. Customers who bought this item also bought.
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The language of civil liberties, democratic rights, nationhood and national self-determination — and in some cases the vocabulary of anti-imperialism and socialism — entered into the conceptualizations and rhetoric of Indian freedom fighters.
They looked to English liberalism and institutions for inspiration. Missing from Congress, at this point, were the masses of the Indian people.
Nehru conveys mixed impressions of early twentieth-century peasants. I remember also going down a coal mine of Jharia and seeing the conditions in which our womenfolk worked there. I can never forget that picture or the shock that came to me that human beings should labor thus. He believed that mass consciousness linked to personal consciousness and mass mobilizations linked to personal action would be keys to liberation.
He did not descend from the top; he seemed to emerge from the millions of India, speaking their language and incessantly drawing attention to them and their appalling condition. Get off the backs of these peasants and workers, he told us, all you who live by their exploitation; get rid of the system that produces this poverty and misery.
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Political freedom took new shape then and acquired a new content. Much that he said we only partially accepted or sometimes did not accept at all. But that was secondary. The essence of his teaching was fearlessness and truth, and action allied to these, always keeping the welfare of the masses in view. Gandhi was an odd kind of pacifist, for he was an activist full of dynamic energy. There was no submission in him to fate or anything he considered evil; he was full of resistance, though this was peaceful and courteous.
He had greater clarity than most about the centrality of mass action, and he demonstrated the ability to carry out mobilizations in , , and each more massive than the last. There were others in the independence movement who were further to the left than Gandhi, and not inclined to accept his doctrine of non-violence. One was the early Communist M. But our methods differ, our languages differ.
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Far more popular than Roy, and for a time rivaling even Gandhi, was the youthful revolutionary romantic Bhaghat Singh — a brilliant intellectual and writer, blending a heady mix of Marxist, anarchist, and other radical influences — who sought to forge links between the national struggle and the class struggle.
He was involved in an assassination of a British official to avenge the killing by British authorities, during a nonviolent protest, of the elderly and highly esteemed Lala Rajpat Rai. For this Singh himself became a martyr at the age of 23 in Gandhi himself. But Gandhi had more staying power. Strategy for Independence. That would have proved incapable of freeing India from colonial oppression.
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Chandra stresses that the specific Gandhian-nationalist strategy might not have been effective in different contexts, such as those in which authoritarian violence was not limited by any legal or other constraints. Another element in the strategic perspective involved an understanding of the different components that are essential elements of any revolutionary movement.
Although he withdrew from the formal leadership of Congress in , Gandhi had helped set the stage for its becoming a powerful electoral force when the Government of India Act offered limited self-rule, for India, while keeping it within the Empire. Nehru and his party took advantage of the new opportunity. The membership of Congress soared from , in to 4. This gave immense authority to the independence struggle. Almost five million people starved to death, with many millions more crippled by malnutrition.
Some Indians were rallying to an anti-colonialist Indian National Army in Japanese-occupied Burma, viewed as heroes by many in their homeland.
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The conclusion of World War II saw an upsurge in which radical nationalists, Socialists, Communists, and Trotskyists played vital roles in struggles of youth, workers, peasants, and even some military forces. Giving way to Congress appeared to be the best option to increasing numbers of British policy-makers. Two years after the conclusion of the Second World War, independence was finally grasped.
And yet there were contradictory qualities afflicting Gandhi and Congress — one having to do with religion, the other with economics.
Together they undermined much of the promise of the triumphant revolution. In many ways open, inclusive, and tolerant, it was also marked by certain rigidities and a cultural narrowness. This contributed to a terrible catastrophe. The sizeable Muslim remnant inside India has, to a large extent, endured in second-class citizenship.
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And then there was the question of socialism. It is the system that is wrong, the system that is based on the exploitation of the few and the prostitution of labor. It will not profit you much if there is a change in your masters and your miseries continue. You will not rejoice if a handful of Indians become high officers of the State or draw bigger dividends, and your miserable conditions remain. You want a living wage and not a dying wage.
That involves vast and revolutionary changes in our political and social structure, the ending of vested interests in land and industry, as well as the feudal and autocratic Indian states system.