Unlike what the Left would have you believe, the sources of its language were not from the time when India was fighting for freedom against British imperialism.
Leftist professors and publicists claim that their language got formulated in the course of India’s fight for freedom from British rule. They also claim that this language was used in the field at various stages of the struggle for freedom. This is a plain and a big lie. The annals of that freedom struggle provide no evidence that this language was used in India’s politics till the late thirties of the 20th-century. Some prominent words of this language were totally absent from India’s political parlance prior to that time. Some other words which we do find in that parlance were used to convey meanings that were entirely different from the meanings they acquired at a later stage. And even when these words became current in their present-day sense their consumption was confined to a small Leftist coterie inside and outside the freedom movement. It was only after the attainment of independence that this parlance spread like a plague, particularly during the period when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru dominated the Indian political scene.
The record has, therefore, to be put straight. We have to go back to the actual political parlance which obtained in this country at different stages of the struggle for freedom. In the process, we shall discover not only the stage at which Leftist language was interpolated into India’s parlance but also the source from which this language was smuggled.
First Phase of a Leftist Language
India’s fight for freedom started several decades before the Indian National Congress was founded in 1885. It assumed the form of a large-scale rebellion in North India in 1857. The rebellion failed and the repression that followed was brutal as well as widespread. But what is pertinent for our purposes at present is that throughout this period the British were talking about the white man’s burden in the midst of a “primitive society.”
For almost two decades after 1857, national effort had perforce to be confined to religious revival, social reform and cultural renaissance. The Indian National Congress, although founded by an Englishman, became a part of this broad national effort. The religious, social and cultural movements were more powerful and pervasive. In fact, it were these non-political movements which shaped the political attitudes of different people who participated in Congress activities stages of the freedom movement.
The political parlance at this first stage consisted almost entirely of such phrases as were current in 19th-century British liberalism. A majority of Englishmen and their press in this country did not look kindly at what they regarded as “the pretensions of natives and niggers”. They started dubbing the Congress as a “Hindu organisation dominated by Bengali Babus”. Some Muslim politicians, who fancied themselves as successors of erstwhile ruling race, picked up these jibes. Their leader, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, did some sabre-rattling on behalf of his community. The Congressmen on their part tried to prove that the Congress was not a Hindu but a National organisation. The invited some prominent and willing Muslim gentlemen to preside over some annual sessions of the Congress, and paid the railway fare and other expenses of some Muslim delegates.
The only significant development at this stage was the juxtaposition of the word “Hindu” against the word “National”. So far, the two words had meant one and the same thing. This was the commencement of that political parlance which in, due course, reduced the national society to a mere “majority community” as against the “Muslim minority”. Both Hindu and Muslim politicians were participating in this parlance. But the word communal had not yet become an abusive political label. This word was used in its normal and neutral sense and that, too, when someone referred to the communal question for settling which some constitutional devices had to be sought for and found.
Second Stage of National Self-Assertion
The next stage was reached after the Partition of Bengal in 1905. The radical nationalist forces which had been maturing in the meanwhile leaped to be forefront. The old guard of the Congress felt the ground slipping from under its feet. It swam with the current to a certain distance. But basically, it was not happy with this new turn of events. The showdown came at Surat in 1907. The old guard was able to save the situation for itself. However, the victory it won proved temporary as was to be seen very soon.
Some new words now appeared in the political parlance of India. The old guard started describing itself as Moderates while it denounced the other side as Extremists. But the label which the new entrants used for themselves was Nationalists. This description included the revolutionaries with whom the Nationalists had close links and whom the old guard as well as the British rulers dreaded as Terrorists.
The Nationalists had to pass through the fire of British repression. But they survived the storm to capture the Congress after a few years. The Moderates had to withdraw from the national organisation to form their Liberal Federation. Meanwhile, the Nationalists had greatly impressed a new generation of Muslim politicians by the methods they used and the power they exercised over the mass mind. The Muslim politicians now started thinking loudly of joining hands with the Nationalists in order to settle their own parochial and pan-Islamic scores with the British.
It is a different story that the Nationalists led by Lokamanya Tilak failed to diagnose the motivations of Muslim politicians, and made several big concessions on issues of crucial importance when they signed the Congress-League Pact at Lucknow in 1916. So far as the political parlance of this period is concerned, the Nationalists were still known as Nationalists. Their opponents of earlier years, the Moderates, had sucked into oblivion, particularly after the advent of Mahatma Gandhi on the national political scene. Nobody had yet thought of calling the Nationalists by any other name. No word of the present-day political parlance had yet gained acceptance in the relevant writings and speeches of this period.
Third Stage of Soviet Subversion
The language of nationalism, which had triumphed after a long struggle, was soon to be subverted by an alien and anti-national language. This new language had been coined by Lenin. It started stealing into India in the wake of the Bolshevik coup d’etat in Russia in November, 1917. In subsequent years, the flow of finance from the Soviet Union became progressively more plentiful for the promotion of this language in India.
A Communist Party of India – A Section of the Communist International had been floated in far-off Tashkent in October, 1920. The national movement would not have noticed the party for quite some time but for several conspiracy cases which the British government of India launched against the Party with great fanfare between 1924 and 1929. The language in which the comrades spoke in the courts attracted the attention of old-time revolutionaries. Most of them were men of action rather men of thought. Their battle-cry so far had been Bande Mataram. Now they took to shouting Inquilab Zindabad also.
Later on, the British government made another major contribution to the spread of Leftist language. It imposed a ban on the Communist party and proscribed the circulation of Communist literature thus bestowing an aura of martyrdom and mystery on both. On the other hand, it made the same Communist literature easily available to revolutionaries rotting in its jails in order to wean them away from the path of what it described as terrorism. Many of these sterling patriots became convinced Communists while they were still in prison. When they came out, they swelled the ranks of the Communist Party and started serving the interests of Communist imperialism. But in the eyes of the public at large, they still retained the stature which they had earned in the service of the motherland.
Conveyor Belts of Communist Language
But, in spite of all these favourable factors, Communist language would have remained confined to party cadres had it not been espoused and popularised by an important leader inside the national movement. That was Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru who had presided over a momentous session of the Indian National Congress in 1929. Because of his westernised upbringing and education, he had always felt ill-at-ease with the language of nationalism which had its sources in India’s own history and cultural heritage. He was also dissatisfied with the language of 19th-century Western liberalism which he had so far shared with the British. The Communist language, therefore, came to him as a great relief. He lapped it up immediately and digested it in large doses.
Pandit Nehru also would have ploughed a lonely furrow in the national movement if Communist thought and language had not in the meanwhile spread to all prestigious seats of learning in the West. We shall not go into the reason of this spread-out. Suffice it to say that, in many respects, communism was only a continuation of Capitalist thought-processes with which the West had been familiar for a long time. What is relevant for our purpose at present is that many Indians who went to Western universities in the late twenties and early thirties imbibed Communist thought and came back talking Communist language. Some of them became professors in Indian universities and passed on the lore to their students. Some others became journalists and political workers who processed Indian politics in terms of Communist categories and made Communist language popular among an increasing number of politically conscious people. All this had a multiplier effect. And by the middle of the thirties, Pandit Nehru had a solid bastion of support inside as well outside the national movement, particularly among the English-educated intelligentsia.
Thus by the time Pandit Nehru became Congress president for the second time in 1936, the whole political atmosphere had became chock-full of Communist catchphrases — bourgeois and proletarian, class struggle and class collaboration, revolution and counter-revolution, bourgeois nationalism and proletarian internationalism, bourgeois democracy and proletarian dictatorship, progressive role and reactionary resistance, fascist forces and the democratic front, etc. Many a periodical and pamphlet published in English and other Indian languages was spreading the Communist jargon with an accelerated speed.
This was a highly technical, almost an esoteric language. Lenin had used common parlance words to convey his own Communist meanings and messages. No one who was not conversant with the Leninist lore could decipher this language with the help of a dictionary. It was small wonder, therefore, that the Nationalists led by Mahatma Gandhi failed to understand the nature, purpose and role of this language, though they suspected it as something insidious. Some Nationalists picked up parts of this language in order to sound in tune with the times. Some others were thrown on the defensive when they were lambasted by this language.
Communists Identified: But not Communist Language
Several political parties have been formed by factions which have walked out of the Congress. But these splits have taken place solely on the basis of personalities and seldom on the basis of ideology. The new parties have severed their links with the Congress organisation but not with is known as `Congress culture.’ And this culture consists almost entirely of the same catch-phrases which were once popularised by Pandit Nehru.
There has been only one political party which has grown outside the Congress and which started with an ideology and language of its own. But over the years, this party also has tended to shed its ideological identity. It has picked up progressively India’s prevailing political parlance. This parlance is supposed to be the only gateway to popular vote and political power which, we are told privately, will be used for nationalist purposes. The road to hell is often paved with good intentions.
Leftist Language: A Language of Imperialism
There is no truth whatsoever in the Leftist claim that India’s prevailing political parlance took shape in the course of India’s fight for freedom against British imperialism. On the contrary, this parlance was imported from the Soviet Union by a Soviet fifth-column and with the help of Soviet finances. And it became predominant only towards the fag end of the freedom struggle. A close scrutiny of the Leftist language shows that it has an affinity with the languages used earlier by Islamic, Christian and British imperialism. That should surprise no one. The language of imperialism is the same in all ages and everywhere. India has been able to save herself from total subversion so far only because the spirit of nationalism has surfaced again and again. But that spirit cannot serve for long unless it evolves and speaks in its own language.