ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Reimagining ‘New Democracy,’ Rethinking Radical Politics

Capitalism, especially Indian capitalism with its monstrous inequalities, has proved to be totally incompatible with democracy when the latter is understood in terms of its basic principles and aspirations—liberty, equality, and comradeship (fraternity is not the appropriate word now). But in transforming Indian society to ensure a better future for the Indian people, radical politics must preserve the kernel of the liberal–political tradition in the process of transcending that heritage. While keeping in place its historic legacy, “New Democracy” needs to be reimagined as part of a longer, truly democratic, human needs-based “political transition period” on the road to socialism.

This is a revised full-text of the First Randhir Singh Memorial Lecture the author delivered in New Delhi on 31 January 2017. He is grateful to Priyaleen Singh, Navsharan Singh and Atul Sood for their suggestions, which helped in formulating the topic of the lecture. He benefited from the discussion that followed the delivery of the lecture and has improved the text in that light. He however assumes full responsibility for the content of the lecture. He draws from the last chapter of his forthcoming book India after Naxalbari that is being published by Monthly Review Press internationally and Aakar Books in India.

With a young generation of activists getting on to the political stage, if Randhir Singh were alive and well today, doubtless he would have been there for them. Surely among us here today there are many who must be really missing him, an intellectual who spoke and wrote clearly and honestly about what he stood for. An icon of India’s intellectual radical-left, Randhir Singh believed in the possibility of a better future for humanity and was sure that it could not be achieved under capitalism, and so he committed his life to the revival and renewal of the historic legacy of the struggle for a genuine socialism that would bring it about. If he were around he would surely have reminded me to reflect an “optimism of a sterner sort. Direct your attention ‘violently towards the present as it is,’ if you wish to ‘transform it,’” he would have advised, prompting us to think like Gramsci, “sick and slowly dying in Mussolini’s prison.” So, like Randhir Singh, let us embark on a “‘journey of hope,’ a ‘shared search’ for human emancipation.”1

The Liberal in the Radical

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Updated On : 16th Mar, 2017
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