Earlier we had written about the freedom of speech debate as to which ideology i.e, Right wing or left wing is the real torch bearer of FoS and we concluded by saying that in India it’s the right wing which is actually practicing freedom of speech. Continuing from there, we try to look at Liberalism which, in India, is the ideology propagated by Left wing and try to decode if it really is Liberalism or something else in the garb of liberalism.
On face of it Liberalism may look a very simple concept for liberty and freedom of Expression, freedom of civil rights and so on. Though it looks like an ideal concept which should be followed by all to have a just society, the current form of liberalism isn’t what it was, when this ideology came into existence. We are attempting to answer the question here: What is Liberalism and where it originated from?
To answer that we need step back and dig little deep in the history.
Liberalism is a political philosophy that advocates the idea of Liberty and Equality. The basic principles are Freedom of Speech, Freedom of religion, press, civil rights, free market, secularism (not the Indian style of secularism which means minority appeasement), gender equality etc.
This ideology or philosophy has its origins in the freedom movement of USA back in late 1700 AD when USA got freedom and country was established on these principles. Few years later the French revolution happened and it added one more facet of “Fraternity” to the existing ones Liberty and Equality. This further got some more push in the UK when the aristocracy was opposed and a new dimension Individualism was added to Liberalism making it Classic Liberalism. This move further gained momentum in late 1700s in England when parliamentary and electoral reforms which advocated right through inheritance or natural rights.
Liberalism later died or became irrelevant and a new ideology took birth. It was Communism which Karl Marx introduced to the world. This started with Russian revolution in 1917. Sickle and Hammer started ruling Russia after the monarchy was dethroned and later China adopted this ideology and till date these 2 countries along with Cuba, North Korea and couple of others remain under communist rule.
With World War 2, communism took its roots in Eastern Europe and with division of Germany into East and West, East Germany along with Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia became major communist country also called as East Bloc. Although the communism had some presence in Central Europe and in the USA, but it largely remained as fringe element in all those countries.
Communism had its root in the concept of Socialism which means state works for the welfare of the people where everyone is treated equally others being secularism, freedom of speech and anti-capitalism which was also the basic principle of liberalism.
India became independent in 1947 and the political structure here was very nascent. Congress which initially was a Centrist party with many leaders having conservative leaning like Tilak and Rajaji came to power by default as being the only pan India political entity and gave some space to left parties like Forward Bloc. Gradually Congress moved to left of Center and started distorting the history of India with help of left leaning intellectuals.
This moving of congress from being center of right to left of center was initiated by the first Prime minister Nehru who became Congress president and later first PM due to nepotism and Gandhi favouring him. Nehru’s first move towards taking India from center of right or what would have been a liberal country to more communist & controlling country was his amendments in the constitution. As this series of tweets by Alok Bhatt shows.
Nehru- citing public order banned Organiser for publishing certain cartoons depicting horror of partition & wat followed later is remarkable
— Alok Bhatt (@alok_bhatt) November 5, 2015
Meanwhile in the US communism was banned and was not able to make any impact.
By late 1960s Communism started dominating the literary and education of India and all the history that was taught in schools and colleges was distorted to show contempt for Hindu culture and glorify Mughals and other muslim invaders which is still prevalent in school textbooks. So much so that in India the streets and cities were named after these invaders, which one will never find in any other part of the world which would be equivalent to people of Europe naming streets after Adolf Hitler.
As the time passed, Communism failed in the Eastern Bloc with disintegration of Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, USSR and in some countries like Vietnam, Romania.
The main reason for failure of communism was that it gave little or no space to democracy and advocated anarchism, which lead to one party rule and concentrated power in the hand of select few. This can be evident by seeing the example of Russia, China, North Korea and Cuba where there was one party rule and the regimes so far has been the most of corrupt in the history of the world.
Over all,communism has almost vanished from electoral politics where people have voted for communist regimes on their own apart from few states in India namely; West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura.
Liberalism changed the way it started and we will see how it took the current shape in Part 2.