In 1908 the great Indian nationalist Bal Gangadhar Tilak was arrested for his demand for immediate self rule. He was sentenced to six years in a Burma jail by a British kangaroo court. Days after Tilak’s trial, Russian leader Vladimir Lenin published an article titled ‘Inflammable Material in World Politics’. (1) He wrote that the British, angered by the mounting revolutionary struggle in India, are “demonstrating what brutes” the European politician can turn into when the masses rise against the colonial system.
At a time when Mohandas Gandhi was trying to ingratiate himself to the British by penning such lines as “It is not…desirable that British rule in India should disappear”; “We have no quarrel with British rule”; and “I consider myself a lover of the British Empire…”; (2) Lenin had sized up their character and motives incisively.
“There is no end to the acts of violence and plunder which goes under the name of the British system of government in India,” Lenin pointed out. “Nowhere in the world – with the exception, of course of Russia – will you find such abject mass poverty, such chronic starvation among the people. The most liberal and radical personalities of free Britain…become regular Genghis Khans when appointed to govern India, and are capable of sanctioning every means of “pacifying” the population in their charge, even to the extent of flogging political protestors!”
Blasting the “infamous sentence pronounced by the British jackals on the Indian democrat Tilak”, the Russian leader predicted that with the Indians having got a taste of political mass struggle, the “British regime in India is doomed”.
“By their colonial plunder of Asian countries, the Europeans have succeeded in so steeling one of them, Japan, that she has gained great military victories, which have ensured her independent national development. There can be no doubt that the age-old plunder of India by the British, and the contemporary struggle of all these ‘advanced’ Europeans against Persian and Indian democracy, will steel millions, tens of millions of proletarians in Asia to wage…a struggle against their oppressors which will be just as victorious as that of the Japanese.”
In ‘India and the Soviet Union, 1917 to 1947’, Nirula Singh writes that Lenin took notice of even the smallest acts of popular resistance in India or China against imperialist bullying, blackmail or domination. “Lenin had been a keen student of the writings of the leaders of the freedom struggle in India and was very well aware of the social, economic and political developments in India. He used to read all the reports pertaining to the issue. He was acquainted with the writings of Lala Lajpat Rai (who was murdered by the British) too.”
Impact of the Russia Revolution
To be sure, Lenin viewed British rule through red tinted lenses. Although all classes of British society gave the thumbs up to the brutal colonial exploitation of India and also backed the mass murder of Indian civilians, Lenin pinned the blame only on the British capitalist class. Partly because of his selective approach to colonialism, and partly because Indians were not enthused by the alien philosophy of communism, Lenin never became a popular figure in India.
However, the Russian Revolution of 1917 generally excited the Indian educated class and revolutionaries as it showed them a way to overthrow a brutal regime. From the outside, there was a lot to like about the Soviet Union. It had captured the world’s imagination when as early as the fourth day after the revolution, the Soviet Union introduced the eight-hour working day which is now the standard in all developed countries. (3) Before the revolution, in the West workers usually worked 12-15 hours daily, breaking only for a 15 minute lunch. The five-day work week and equal rights for women were also Soviet contributions.
Indian leaders like Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were greatly enthused by the arrival of the world’s first people’s government. Nehru wrote: “Almost at the same time as the October Revolution led by the great Lenin, we in India began a new phase in our struggle for freedom. Our people for many years were engaged in this struggle with courage and patience. And although under the leadership of Gandhi we followed another path, we were influenced by the example of Lenin.” (4)
Nehru, who attended the tenth anniversary celebrations of the Russian Revolution with his father and wife, was greatly impressed by the Potemkin Villages erected for foreign guests at Lenin’s orders. The apparent success of the Soviet system so strongly impressed Nehru that on returning home, he began to popularise socialist ideas. “He was firmly convinced that the only solution to the multi-dimensional social and economic problems of India lay along the socialist path. And when he became the Prime Minister of free India, his first step was to lay the foundation of future India on a socialist basis,” writes Leonid Moronov in Mainstream magazine. (5)
The Soviets manipulated Nehru with their carefully conducted guided tours that showed their massive factories, income parity between managers and workers, 100 per cent employment and happy, flag-waving devyushkas. What they didn’t show him were the chronic shortages of almost everything, the forced collectivisation of farms that was creating famines, or the notoriously inefficient command economy.
Nehru wrote: “Russia thus interests us because it may help us to find some solution for the great problems which face the world today. It interests us specially because conditions there have not been, and are not even now, very dissimilar to conditions in India. Both are vast agricultural countries with only the beginning of industrialisation, and both have to face poverty and illiteracy. If Russia finds a satisfactory solution for these, our work in India is made easier.”
As a belief system, communism was misanthropic because it adopted the political violence that is endemic to its two Abrahamic cousins, Islam and Christianity. The concept of annihilation of the “class enemy” was central to the success of communism just as Islam and Christianity both try to convert non-conformers first by peaceful preaching, then trickery or deceit and if these two approaches don’t work, by offering them conversion or death.
The Red Terror started as a result of an attempt to kill Lenin in August 1918. While recovering from the attack in his hospital bed, Lenin launched the Red Terror, which was aimed at eradicating “enemies of the revolution”. These included capitalists, land owners and anyone who was rich. Someone’s occupation or the size or value of their house could be enough to seal their fate.
Martin Latsis, chief of the Cheka (secret service) in Ukraine, established the bizarre principle that sentences were to be determined not by guilt or innocence but by social class. He stated: “Do not look in the file of incriminating evidence to see whether or not the accused rose up against the Soviets with arms or words. Ask him instead to which class he belongs, what is his background, his education, his profession. These are the questions that will determine the fate of the accused. That is the meaning and essence of the Red Terror.”
Grigory Zinoviev, one of the founding members of the first Soviet politburo, declared: “To overcome our enemies we must have our own socialist militarism. We must carry along with us 90 million out of the 100 million of Soviet Russia’s population. As for the rest, we have nothing to say to them. They must be annihilated.”
According to figured released by the communist government, up to 15,000 people were summarily executed by the Cheka in the very first month. However, the figure may easily have been 10 times greater. Lenin himself gave the order for the execution of 50,000 in the Crimea alone. (6)
Aside from summary execution, Lenin’s secret service also relished in torture and rape. An article from the period says: “The victim is laid upon his back on the floor of his dungeon, whilst two burly Cheka employees tug at his head, and two others at his shoulders, until the muscles of his neck are absolutely stretched and taut. Then a fifth man falls to beating the victim’s neck with a blunt instrument—usually the butt-end of a revolver—until, the neck swelling, blood gushes from the mouth and nostrils, and frightful agony is suffered.” (7)
Women prisoners who caught the fancy of the secret policemen were raped before being killed, and condemned men were ransomed in exchange for sexual servitude from their female relatives. Typically the prisoners were killed anyway.
The method of suppressing the political opposition by “mass terror,” introduced by Lenin in 1918, became a standard system of the Soviet government and subsequently was widely used by the Georgia-born dictator Joseph Stalin. The execution of thousands of avowedly innocent persons without trial was “to teach a lesson” and stop the anti-Bolsheviks from committing terroristic acts.
S.P. Melgunov’s chilling book ‘Red Terror in Russia’ has detailed evidence of Lenin’s senseless violence. (8) For instance, a Cheka order of September 1, 1920 reads: “To carry out ruthless red terror towards the rebel families… arrest everyone above 18 among those families, without regard to gender, and as long as the riots continue, execute them. Impose extreme taxes on the villages, confiscate all land and property for a failure to pay.”
Children were executed before the parents’ eyes, and the parents before the children’s eyes. Corpses of peasant hostages were found with the faces mutilated by slashing. Their genitals were mutilated too. The doctors who conducted the post mortems suggested that kind of mutilation must have inflicted the maximum possible pain, writes the Russian author.
Worse, during the Red Terror, thousands were executed for petty crimes such as “abuses of power”, “speculation” and “criminal acts”. This indicates, says Melgunov, the communists introduced capital punishment not only as a means of struggle with their class enemies, but as a generic punishment, that has not been used for that purpose in any civilised country.
Due to the sheer number of people they killed and societies and countries they destroyed, the communists make the Nazis look like boy scouts in comparison. Their crimes are matched or exceeded only by two nations – the British, who annihilated North America’s native population (at least 90 million) plus murdered 55-60 million Indians; and the Spanish who may have murdered 100 million original inhabitants of South America, Central America and the Caribbean. (The murders by Islam and Christianity are not separately listed here because of overlap.)
According to Stephane Courtois’ The Black Book of Communism, communism is responsible for 100 million deaths, a number total that far exceeds Nazism, which left 16 million dead — and it eclipses the 20th century death tolls of lung cancer, diabetes and homicides. (9)
Of all the communist regimes that grabbed power around the world, the Chinese Communist Party is unmatched in its genocide. Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward was pitched as a way to modernise China’s economy. It took communities of labourers from the farms and forced them to smelt metals such as iron and steel in backyard furnaces. This removal of labour from food production eventually resulted in China’s great famine, which experts estimate took up to 60 million lives. Despite – or perhaps because of – their epic scale of violence, the Chinese communists and in particular Mao are much admired heroes of India’s feckless communist parties.
Lenin and Marx: Not really pioneers
The fact is, communists cannot claim to have founded the world’s first society based on equality. The world’s first modern socialist state rose from the dying ambers of the Spanish Empire. In 1811 when Paraguay declared its independence from Spain, the country was steered in the direction of socialism by their new leader Jose Francia. During his nearly 30 year rule, Francia introduced a number of public benefits, including free education, free medical care, low taxes and social food banks. The result was the creation of a strong state industry sector. Poverty was eliminated, and quite a large number of wealthy people were integrated into this new society without conflict.
However, the egalitarian experiment came to an end when Paraguay was attacked by its envious neighbours. Brazil and Argentina, with the blessings of the Catholic Church, attacked and destroyed the fledgling socialist state, killing 90 per cent of Paraguay’s male population. By 1871 Paraguayan socialism was history.
Because it is a deeply religious country, India should ideally be a swamp where the godless cult of communism cannot grow. And yet like a persistent weed, communism remained rooted in Kerala, Bengal and Tripura. The upshot – all three states are industrial wastelands.
Communism has almost completely destroyed the economic backbone of Bengal, which was the third most industrialised state at Independence. Militant trade unionism not only drove industry out but also introduced deep lassitude among Bengalis. After the communists came to power in the mid 1970s, Bengal went through 30 years of industrial cleansing.
No manager or business owner was safe in this Proletariat Paradise; supervisors who tried to discipline workers were locked up, beaten and often lynched on the shop floor. Macabre tales of managers being thrown into vats of acid were reported in the media as late as the early 2000s. The killers usually walked free because the CPIM controlled the police and judiciary.
The legacy of labour violence continues in Mamata Banerjee’s non-communist government. On June 15, 2014, the mill management of Northbrook Jute Company in Bhadreshwar, Hooghly, had summoned workers to a meeting. No jobs were to be cut – the meeting was called purely to discuss a restructured work schedule that involved curtailing work hours. A heated exchange followed and CEO H.K. Maheshwari was beaten to death by agitated workers. The weapons used included concrete slabs, bricks and iron rods. (10)
Not content with destroying industry and unleashing terror in the rural areas to make the poor vote for the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPIM), the Left began to change the state’s demography by inviting Bangladeshi Muslims to settle in the border districts as well as cities like Kolkata. Since Bengal was partitioned on religious lines on the demand of Muslims, ideally there should not be a single Muslim on the Indian side of Bengal. But in a dystopian state of affairs, today over 27 per cent of Bengal’s population is Muslim, making it one of the most violence prone states in India. This is another enduring contribution of the Bengal communists.
In Kerala too the communists drove out all trace of whatever little industry was there. The only reason the state enjoys prosperity is because of its proximity to the Gulf countries, where millions of Keralites slog and send home tens of billions of dollars in remittances annually. Kerala is thus a money order economy and has prospered despite the communists – not because of them.
Another gift of the communists is the district of Malappuram, which was carved out of the Hindu majority Kozhikode district at the request of the district’s Muslim minority. Today Malappuram is a mini-Pakistan with Muslim youth there making a beeline for Syria and other terrorist hotspots. From smuggling, drugs, weapons running and being one of the major destinations of fake Indian currency from Pakistan, to providing safe haven for Islamic terrorists, this Islamic enclave in Kerala does it all. However, instead of curbing such anti-national activities, the communists are attacking Hindus. The Kannur Model of targeted killing of mainly RSS workers (as well as workers belonging to the Congress and other political parties) is copybook Red Terror.
In this backdrop, it is the collective anger of Tripura people against the excesses of the communists that has found expression in the demolition of Lenin’s statue in Tripura’s Belonia district. Had Indians been more politically aware and had they a better sense of history, they would have joined Russians and other East Europeans in bringing down statues of communist leaders in 1991. However, it’s better late than never. Lenin has no place in India and more of his statues – wherever they stand – should be pulled down. Monuments should not be erected to honour mass murderers.
We want zombies
Like Muslims and Christians, the communists too want total control of the masses. If Islam orders total obedience to the diktats of Mohammad and Christianity wants you to surrender your rationality at the altar of Jesus, communism wants the same level of mind control. This desire to have complete zombies is best illustrated by the following anecdote from Melgunov’s book.
In 1919, Lenin reportedly paid a secret visit to Ivan Pavlov, the psychologist famous for his experiments on training conditioned stimuli in dogs. (7) According to British historian Orlando Figes, the Soviet leader said: “I want the masses of Russia to follow a Communistic pattern of thinking and reacting.”
“Do you mean that you would like to standardise the population of Russia? Make them all behave in the same way?” a surprised Pavlov replied.
“Exactly,” Lenin said. “Man can be corrected. Man can be made what we want him to be.”
Reference and Notes
- Proletary, No. 33, July 23, 1908
- Dipak Basu, Victoria Miroshnik, ‘India as an Organization: Vol I’, page 76
- Russia Beyond The Headlines, https://www.rbth.com/articles/2010/11/25/russia_to_return_to_the_12_hour_workday05144.html
- Irving Horowitz, ‘The Idea of War and Peace: The Experience of Western Civilization’
- Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 47, https://www.mainstreamweekly.net/article1022.html
- History Learning Site, https://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/modern-world-history-1918-to-1980/russia-1900-to-1939/the-red-terror/
- Epoch Times, Taiwan, https://www.theepochtimes.com/retracing-the-red-terror-in-soviet-russia_2252590.html
- S.P. Melgunov, Red Terror in Russia, page 31, https://archive.org/details/RedTerrorInRussia1918-1923
- Epoch Times, Taiwan, https://www.theepochtimes.com/communism-the-leading-ideological-cause-of-death-in-the-20th-century_2212529.html
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Rakesh is a globally cited defence analyst. His work has been published by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi; Russia Beyond, Moscow; Hindustan Times, New Delhi; Business Today, New Delhi; Financial Express, New Delhi; BusinessWorld Magazine, New Delhi; Swarajya Magazine, Bangalore; Foundation Institute for Eastern Studies, Warsaw; Research Institute for European and American Studies, Greece, among others.
As well as having contributed for a research paper for the US Air Force, he has been cited by leading organisations, including the US Army War College, Pennsylvania; US Naval PG School, California; Johns Hopkins SAIS, Washington DC; Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC; Rutgers University, New Jersey; Institute of International and Strategic Relations, Paris; Institute for Strategic, Political, Security and Economic Consultancy, Berlin; Siberian Federal University, Krasnoyarsk; Institute for Defense Analyses, Virginia; International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Washington DC; Stimson Centre, Washington DC; Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphia; Center for Strategic & International Studies, Washington DC; and BBC.
His articles have been quoted extensively by national and international defence journals and in books on diplomacy, counter terrorism, warfare, and development of the global south.