[WSMDiscuss] Imagining India for Contemporary Politics: What Should the Left Do?• Ravi Sinha

Subhash Gatade subhash.gatade at gmail.com
Fri Jul 17 00:11:48 CEST 2020

*Invite for a Webinar - Sunday, 19 th July, 5 pm - New Socialist
Initiative     *

*Imagining India for Contemporary Politics: What Should the Left Do?*

*• Ravi Sinha*

Shakespeare said, what is past is prologue. A simple-minded rationalist may
be contented to assume that past is fixed as it has already gone into the
making of the present. Nothing can be done to change it. The truth however
is that past is being ‘remade’ every day. Imaginations of ancient glories
or of humiliating defeats in the distant past are being deployed in
contemporary politics all across the world. This phenomenon has been a key
element behind the resurgence of rightwing in many countries. Contemporary
India is a calamitous example where a perverse variant of mass-democratic
politics has been fashioned through the political ideology of *Hindutva*
resulting in serious damage to democracy and to people’s welfare.

Contemporary politics is driven more pressingly to such ideological
re-imaginings in the conditions of vigorously competitive electoral
democracies. The phenomenon is far more pronounced in countries with a
significant minority (religious, racial, linguistic-cultural etc.) that can
be portrayed as a historical villain. The majority can, then, be mobilized
through the political process of polarisation in which some
historical-civilizational-social tectonic plate is deployed in the service
of electoral-political objectives. India is a pre-eminent example of this
tragic phenomenon.

Invariably, left and progressive forces find themselves handicapped in
these circumstances. Attempts to prove that such polarising strategies
based on re-imagining the past are malignant turn out to be politically
ineffective. A typical response from such forces has been to counter the
*emotive* with the *economic* and to challenge *cultural nationalism*
with *anti-colonial,
anti-imperialist* nationalism. These strategies have failed miserably.
Other social and resistance movements too have attempted partial
re-imagining of India’s past from the standpoint of traditionally oppressed
communities (Dalit, feminist, native-ist, etc.). While offering some
resources to the respective movements, these efforts have failed equally
miserably in challenging the *Hindutva’s cultural nationalism*. The efforts
of some of the liberal bourgeois forces, on the other hand, to gain ground
by partly imitating the *Hindutva* forces (variants of *soft hindutva*)
have been no more than a laughing stock.

In this presentation and conversation we will try to grapple with this
challenge from the standpoint of left and progressive forces. Do we refrain
from dragging the past into contemporary politics? Or do we lay claim to an
alternative re-imagining of India which would be acceptable to and in the
interest of all modernist-egalitarian forces including all traditionally
oppressed communities? In addition to the political strategies based on
class, equality, rights and justice, what other cultural-civilizational
strategies can be fashioned that can defeat *Hindutva* and other
religion-based fascistic ideologies? What will be the place of such
relatively immediate strategies in the long-term and more fundamental
struggle against capitalism and in the epochal project of building a
successful model of future socialism?

We hope to initiate a fruitful discussion on this challenge and on such

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