(The article was originally published in Indian Express on October 28, 2023 as a part of Dr Madhav’s column titled ‘Ram Rajya’. Views expressed are personal.)
RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat’s address at the annual Foundation Day function in Nagpur on Vijaya Dashami earlier this week provides significant insights into the organisation’s thinking about contemporary issues and challenges.
Bhagwat dwelt at length on core Sangh themes like “Swa” — national self-hood and national unity. Bharat-centricity — turning to our own wisdom and experience for shaping our national future — was the core message of his address. He rightly pointed out that this urge to return to our roots and preserve self-identity is being witnessed in many countries today.
Bhagwat delineated the contours of that self-identity as devotion to the motherland, pride in forefathers, and common culture. “These three elements make us stand out proudly as one nation by tying together all the diversities of language, region, sect, caste, sub-caste etc,” he averred.
Bhagwat acknowledged the fact that ours is a remarkably diverse society and insisted that there are good people in all religions — “Hindus, and also those who are called Muslims and Christians because of their way of worship” — who believe that “fitna, fasaad, and kitan” (discard, strife and violence) should be rejected and “sulah, salamati, and aman” (reconciliation, security and peace) should be pursued.
Bhagwat suggested that such discussions shouldn’t become transactional. As “the children of one motherland, and the inheritors of one culture,” we have to understand our inherent unity and “get connected again on that basis”.
Talking about the “destructive, all-devouring forces” out to destroy that unity, Bhagwat referred to “cultural Marxists or wokes”, blaming them for capturing institutions like media and academia and plunging education, culture, politics and social environment into chaos. He held them responsible for creating a “vicious cycle of fear, confusion and hatred”. He described their modus operandi as “mantra viplav”.
In his criticism of cultural Marxism and wokeism, Bhagwat will find many supporters in the West. Cultural Marxism can be traced to the Frankfurt School in Germany and scholars like Antonio Gramsci in Italy in the early 20th century. Cultural Marxists deviated from Karl Marx’s economy-centric theory of proletarian revolution and argued that the culture and traditions of a society are the real oppressors of mankind and hence they should be uprooted for the oppressed classes to get justice.
Gramsci argued that classical Marxist ideas like violent revolution should be abandoned, and the ideologues should instead infiltrate institutions to create a new cultural worldview. Fidel Castro of Cuba, the darling of the American New Left in the late 1950s and early 1960s, confessed that he had agreed to address Harvard students in 1959 only because “that is where you find the real ‘military spirit’: In students, not in the barracks.”
In the West, the cultural Marxists theorised that the entire Western civilisation, including its governments, rules, norms, behaviours, traditions and mores are all manifestations of “White Supremacy”. Family, nation, god, religion — all these are oppressive institutions according to them, and destroying these edifices was the only way to secure freedom for the “oppressed”. They invented the new classes of the “oppressed” based on race and gender.
In Bharat, the ideological fellow-travellers of the cultural Marxists have wreaked havoc by capturing premiere institutions and academic and intellectual spaces for decades after independence. Like their Western counterparts, the native cultural Marxists developed a narrative that projected Hinduism, caste and social institutions like the family as oppressive and exploitative. They challenged the national identity of Bharat and advocated for the dismemberment of the country, acquiring in the process, the sobriquet “tukde-tukde gang” too.
Western cultural Marxists developed Critical Race Theory (CRT) holding white people to be the fount of all oppression. Their Indian counterparts replaced race with caste and sought to equate Hinduism with upper-caste hegemony and oppression. Cultural Marxists are as much the enemies of the liberal order as they are of the conservatives. Sadly, not realising these pitfalls, some politicians in our country are trying to walk into that minefield in the name of caste census, etc.
Fortunately, in India, unlike in the US, these cultural Marxist campaigners encountered organised resistance from the nationalist forces led by organisations like the RSS. Still, their efforts to demonise Hinduism and equate caste with race to sow seeds of discord in society continue.
Bhagwat took up cudgels against them. But he also wished to caution activists against being trapped in the action-reaction syndrome. He invoked Babasaheb Ambedkar and the Constitution of India as the basis for achieving “emotional unity”.
“There exist bitter experiences, ranging from not being able to get a house in each other’s localities, to being treated with mutual contempt. Blame games ensue over incidents of violence, riots, harassment, etc. The misdeeds of an individual are extrapolated and portrayed as the misdeeds of an entire community, and then a war of words ensues, followed by provocative invocations and calls to action. Forces that want to break the country by making us quarrel also take full advantage of this situation,” he warned.
Bhagwat’s important message to all citizens was about building a climate of trust and harmony in the country. That is possible only by increasing “mutual dialogue and understanding with a calm and stable mind and evolving respect for each other’s beliefs,” he insisted.
The only response to the “mantra viplav” of the cultural Marxists should be “to follow law and order, and abide by the Constitution” — this is Bhagwat’s mantra for Bharat.