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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain


A Marxist view from India

Review by Robin McGregor

Revolutionary Democracy. Vol XXV(2), September 2020 and Vol XXVI(1), April 2021. £5.00 + £1.50p&p from NCP Lit: PO Box 73, London SW11 2PQ.

THE TWICE-YEARLY Indian Marxist-Leninist journal is making a recovery from a COVID‑19-induced interruption to publication. The last printed issue was Vol 25(1) for October 2019. Another Vol 25(2) for April 2020 was prepared for the press but remained unprinted, although its contents can be read on the Revolutionary Democracy website.

This issue is naturally dominated by the pandemic. Its normal mixture of articles on contemporary India, articles on international themes reflecting the views of parties belong to the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organisations (ICMLPO), rounded off by materials reprinted from the Soviet archives, is unchanged, however.

The impact of COVID‑19 on India made Boris Johnson and Donald Trump look like strategic geniuses. In India a hastily imposed lockdown caused a mass migration of suddenly unemployed migrant workers in the towns and cities (for whom there was no such thing as furlough) having to return (unassisted) to their native villages, which only made the spread of the disease worse. Additionally, the BJP Government took advantage of the pandemic to force through new labour laws that are, naturally, detrimental to the working classes.

Also relating to contemporary India are articles on the recent farmers’ protests against three agrarian laws speedily rushed through Parliament by the right-wing BJP government.

On a more optimistic note, there is an interesting piece briefly surveying the Soviet Union’s measures against epidemics that made a better job of things even in the midst of revolution.

crisis

The longest article is a serious study of the post-Soviet Russian economy tellingly entitled The Crisis of Neo-liberal Economics in Russia, which argues that “the revival of some of the Soviet symbolism are used by Putin opportunistically to conceal the true neo-liberal essence of his economic policies”. The recent elections suggest that this is wearing a bit thin.

The archival materials deal with two separate matters, firstly with the Comintern’s support for a separate Black Nation in the USA in the late 1920s and other matters relating to the CPUSA’s work amongst the African Americans.

This notion was based on the assumption that there was a peasant-based African-American nation in the Black Belt South. But the campaign for self-determination had little support amongst its intended beneficiaries, who were struggling for equality within the USA, and in any case it was made redundant by the Depression-era migration of farm workers into the northern cities.

The archival-based article reprints interesting notes of the February and March 1951 discussion between Stalin and representatives of Communist Party of India on the possibility of an armed rising in India. Some elements in the Indian party’s leadership favoured such an undertaking, seeking similar support from the Soviet Union as that given earlier to China. Stalin told them firmly that situation was rather different, however. He reminded them of the fact that the Himalayas stood in the way of supplying the necessary arms and in any case, there was no mass working class or peasant support for such adventurism at a time when the triumph of independence over British colonialism was still fresh.

Hoxha

The ICMLPO is strongly supportive of the political line of Enver Hoxha of Albania. This is most evident in a translation of parts of a brutal 2000 Serbian novel Goli by Miroslav Mika Ristić, which deals with “Goli Otik – sadistic prison for communists in revisionist-capitalist Yugoslavia”. This is introduced by Ristić’s grandson and is based on the prison on the barren island off the Croatian coast, which is now a bleak tourist attraction.

Partly due to Covid, this issue concludes with a number of obituaries including those of Nina Andreeva, the long-term General Secretary of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks, who first raised a Marxist-Leninist banner against Mikhail Gorbachev in 1988. Michael Lucas, the Canadian editor of Northstar Compass and long-standing Revolutionary Democracy contributor Naba Kumar Bhattacharya are also memorialised.

If one were to make a small criticism of the journal it would be to suggest that the editors ought to make a few concessions to readers beyond India. In the report on the Indian farm protests I came across my first ever reference to “Arthiyas”, which needed a consultation with the good Dr Google to establish that they are grain commission agents in the Punjab.