Vivekananda and Communist propaganda

Visions of a Hindu India
Author: Dina Nath Mishra; Publication: Sunday
Date: May 2-8, 1993

Shocked by the events in Ayodhya on 6 December last year and the subsequent political developments, both the communist parties demonstratingly came out lecturing the Sangh Parivar about the real Hinduism through booklets, one by Sitaram Yechury, the CPI(M) Politburo
member, and another by the CPI secretary, A. B. Bardhan.

It is a case of traditional Hindu-haters turning to be real Hindus and pushing Hindus to the category of pseudo-Hindus. Two booklets provided the basis to the left media brigade to shout the same propaganda all over India through print and other media again and again. The whole
edifice of propaganda was demolished by two well- researched articles by Arun Shourie in SUNDAY (Myths about the Swami, 31 January – 6 February, 1993 and Quotable quotes, 7 – 13 February, 1993). The burden of Shourie’s pieces were, as put by Shourie himself in conclusion:
“…lessons upon lessons for friends who suddenly find Swami Vivekanand so quotable. Stray quotations cannot be set up to counter the entire life and work of such a man; as that life and work is the exact opposite of what you have been propagating, the more you lean on Vivekananda, the more he will recoil on you; never forget what you have been saying about a man when you suddenly find him handy, other are not likely to have forgotten; and finally, never proclaim your intention to quote a man before you have read him.”

Shourie’s pieces were too powerful and aggressive to be ignored by the communist parties and hence a laboured rebuttal in SUNDAY (Of Shourie and Vivekananda, 28 March – 3 April 1993) by A. B. Bardhan, who has made the following points:

That they have not jumped suddenly but their approach to Swami’s role and world view are very much positive. In his effort to prove that the communists have not suddenly jumped to quote Vivekananda, but have been doing so for long, Bardhan quotes from a book published by the CPI
titled. Socio-political views of Vivekananda by Benoy Roy in 1970. BenoyRoy was profusely quoted to clarify the party’s assessment of Vivekananda.

* That as Marxists we hail his revolutionary and humanist teachings as inspiring message to the people of India and the world.

* That communists are not alienated and keep themselves aloof from our culture. To substantiate this, Mr Bardhan has marshalled names of communist and other writers including Rahul Sanskrityayan, S.A. Dange, Ram Bilas Sharma and has reminded us of their contributions.

* That Vivekananda was a revolutionary, a socialist and a secular person.

* That Arun Shourie has made a Muslim crusader out of Vivekananda and Shourie’s and she Sangh Parivar’s views are just opposite to that of Vivekananda.

* That there is enough food and ammunition in Vivekananda’s works to last all who are searching for India’s social, cultural and spiritual development. Let no one try to appropriate him for oneself.” Vivekananda is not the monopoly of the Sangh Parivar and Arun Shourie.

* That the communist approach to Vivekananda underlines the enlightenment of the downtrodden, dumb millions, his revolutionary approach to the problem of liquidating the privileges of the propertied classes and giving the toilers their due share in the national wealth,
his preachings against untouchability. and. above all, his teachings purification of the soul – they were all later adopted by different political and social organisations of this country, including the Indian National Congress led by M.K. Gandhi.

Now let us face the facts. On pages 391-392 of the Documents of history of the CPI published in 1971, there is an assessment of Vivekananda by the party. “Although its political philosopher and leader were found subsequently in the persons of Aurobindo Ghose and Bipin Chandra Pal
respectively, its fundamental ideology was conceived by a young intellectual of petit-bourgeoisie origin. He was Narendra Nath Dutt, subsequently, known by the religious nomenclature of Swami Vivekananda. Like Tilak, Dutt was also a prophet of Hindu nationalism. He was also a believer in the cultural superiority of the Indian people, and held that on this cultural basis should be built the future Indian nation’ He preached that Hinduism, not Indian nationalism, should be
aggressive. His nationalism was spiritual imperialism.”

Now Mr Bardhan, please tell me: Was Vivekananda a believer of Hindu nationalism or was he a secular person of your variety? Were you right then or now? Was he an intellectual of petit bourgeoisie origin, or were his ideas food and ammunition for various developments of the nation as claimed by Benoy Roy and which was quoted in your rebuttal? Was Shourie not right in accusing you and your colleagues for suddenly alighting upon Swami Vivekananda?

I will give you yet another instance. Please turn to page 393 of the party document, where the following appears. “Thus an intelligently rebellious element which otherwise would have been the vanguard of the exploited class in a social struggle had to give in to national preoccupations and contribute itself to a movement for the immediate overthrow of foreign rule, not for progress forward, but in order to go back to an imaginary golden age the fountain-head of India’s spiritual
heritage … In their religiousness and wild spiritual’ imperialism they embodied the reactionary social forces.”

Mr Bardhan. my simple question is: Was Vivekananda a revolutionary or a reactionary as your party document says? Do you stand by your party document or a single comrade’s view expressed in Socio-political views of Vivekananda:” …his revolutionary approach to the problem of liquidating the privileges of the propertied classes and giving the toilers their due share in the national wealth… ” Where do you stand? Did he overlook the immediate overthrow of foreign rule or has he a very special position in inspiring the freedom fighters of the Freedom Movement as mentioned in your rebuttal?

You quoted Mahatma Gandhi in defence of your new-found love for Vivekananda. I am quoting your party document: “The extremists, now called non-cooperators. have had better success than moderates in drawing the masses under the influence of nationalism … But they could not develop the potentiality of the mass movement by leading it in accordance with its economic urges and social tendencies. Their tactics was to strengthen the nationalist movement by the questionable method of exploiting the ignorance of the masses. And the best way of exploiting
tire ignorance of the masses was to make a religion of nationalism. This tactics led to the appearance of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on the political horizon, and the eclipse of all other politico- social tendencies in the shade of Gandhism.”

So, is it not the same as the charge you are levelling: that Shourie and the Sangh Parivar are making a religion of nationalism? And mixing religion with politics, the “crime” which Mahatma Gandhi also committed?

Veteran communist leader R. Palme Dutt wrote in 1931 that “to all that is young and generous in India the name of Gandhi is an object of cursing and contempt, the name of Judas”. This must be strongly combatted by the communists.

No, Mr Bardhan. the Sangh Parivar and Arun Shourie did not and do not monopolise Vivekananda. While you threw Vivekananda in the dust bin like a rotten egg, calling him a “wild spiritualist”, the Sangh Parivar found in him the biggest asset in the exercise of nation-building. The relationship of Vivekananda with the Sangh movement is very much like a mother-son relationship. Dr Hedgewar, the RSS founder, was a Tilakite.
The second Saranghchalak, Sri Guruji, was in Ram Krishna Mission for two or three years around 1935. One of the most revered central leaders of the RSS, Baba Saheb Apte’s life-long pet sentence was: “Vivekananda is like Gita for the RSS.”

Vivekananda’s literature has always been staple intellectual diet for swayamsewavaks since the early 40s. When the centenary year of Vivekananda was approaching, the RSS entrusted to Eknath Ranade the job of compiling Vivekananda’s thoughts into a handy volume. Ranade adopted it as a one-dimensional mission and brought out the vision of Vivekananda in a book titled, “Rousing call to Hindu nation”, first published in 1963. The 168-page book costs Rs 2. Since then, it has been translated into all Indian languages and underwent numerous reprints.
Over a million copies have been sold so far among the RSS people. Add to that booklets brought out by various publications. “Rousing call to Hindu nation” has been like a textbook and motivating vision for all swayamsevaks. Mr Bardhan, you have flaunted a quotation of lower caste
exploitation and taunted if Shouries and the Sangh Parivar agree to it. Let me add here that the textbook I just spoke about contains admonitions of the upper classes of India. There are numerous quotations like that you have quoted and is not tactical.

The study of Vivekananda convinced Eknath Ranade to build the Vivekananda Rock Memorial temple at Kanya Kumari – the rock where the Swami had meditated in 1893 before going to Chicago. This grand memorial came up only after crossing hundreds of hurdles set up by almost all political parties and many groups. Literally, crores of people contributed to the dream of the rock memorial. Should I remind you, Mr. Bardhan, that all the state government had contributed to that end, barring the one you had in Kerala led by E.M.S. Namboodiripad, despite the best efforts of Eknathji. Let me remind you that when Ranade approached Jyoti Basu for help, the latter questioned. “How dare you come to me for Vivekananda, I am a communist”. But finding Eknathji persuasive, Jyoti Basu told him, “Meet my wife, she had gone to Kanya Kumari when I went to the Ernakulam convention.” Comrade Kalyana Sundaram of Tamil Nadu greeted Eknathji thus: “You have defeated me by coming to me because I was telling my friends that you will not come to me as you know I am a communist. You know I am very much inspired by Vivekananda”. Eknathji had collected signatures of more than 50 per cent MPs to remove the hurdles in the construction work. In the process. The only enthusiastic support that came from “your camp”, was that of comrade Renu Chakravorty, MP, who got a few signatures of other communist MPs, too.

There is no need of reminding you from how many textbooks you removed Vivekananda in West Bengal when you came to power in that state. No, Mr.Bardhan, there is no intention of monopolising Vivekananda. He was not an RSS member. He was the finest Hindu model produced at the end of last century after waves and waves of Hindu awakening from Bhakti Movement to 19th Century renaissance in Bengal and other places. His vision was basically Hindu and was meant for the whole of humanity. You can very well quote Vivekananda provided you apologise for calling him names. Till then, you are just ineligible to quote him.

As to your challenge that Arun Shourie’s and the Sangh Parivar’s vision of Vivekananda is that of a crusader against Islam, etc. I can only say that you believe your own propaganda that the party’s reflexes do not work and are generally delayed by at least 50 yews. Did you concede your
mistake of 1942 before 1970? You were confused about Vivekananda as late as 1990. You started rethinking about him in the late Sixties In a half-hearted manner. It was under your pressure that many references of the word ‘Hindu’ were removed from the latest edition of the eight volumes on Vivekananda, though they existed in earlier editions. Let me remind you that the son of Bipin Chandra Pal substituted the word. “Hindu” with “Indian” in the works of his father. Even today, your acceptance of Vivekananda is not general in nature but partial and that is why you say: “We have never pretended to be Vedantists, and have remained Marxists … as Marxists….we hail his teachings (and) …..inspiring message….” There is a definite anti-Hindu trait in saying. “We are not Vedantists” and yet you quote Swami Vivekananda’s Chicago speech in
full, which is nothing but uniquely Vedantic. And that is Arun Shourie says: “Stray quotations cannot be set up to counter the entire life and work of such man.”

2 thoughts on “Vivekananda and Communist propaganda

  1. sukanta dasgupta

    it was my interest that- is Vivekananda a communist or not???
    why communists do not believe Vivekananda.?
    is there any existence of communal ism without Vivekananda?
    and i believe that without religion a nation can’t be developed as religion is for gentle man.


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