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Friday, 2 October 2015

प्रगतिवाद-pragativAda-Progressivism

In a broader sense, pragativAda is that distinct direction of literature, walking towards which, it contributes in the development of human culture and civilization; in a narrower sense, pragativAda is that direction of literature which has been decided on the basis of Marxist view of life.

Marxism views society and civilization as ever changing. According to it, the economic production is at the core of social structure. There are two classes within the economic system, which are constantly at struggle with each other; one class defeats the other and imposes its model on the other, and this way society progresses. The ultimate theatre of this class struggle is in the struggle of bourgeois and proletariat. Since the capitalist model stands on the foundation of exploitation and inequality, it weakens with every single passing day, its feet falter and slowly, the proletariat capture power from bourgeois, and establish their own rule. The shallowness of capitalism is also not hidden in the cultural realm, capitalism evaluates human relationship and values in terms of a few silver coins, this corrupts and corrodes the natural beauty of human life. Culture begins to reek with bondage, a sort of fixity, an arrest and stench. In this condition, literature is left with only one option; raise its voice against the capitalist establishment, support the baby steps of newly forming life, sing the songs of victory of proletariat class and help in bringing that future closer, whose master will be the proletariat class, which was chained till now in exploitation and deceit. In this war of proletarians, progressive literati should take to the battlefront of pen, and from the blood of their hearts, write paeans to those unknown martyrs, whose young blood is writing the history of a new life on coal tar roads, or at the floor of prisons.

Class struggle is the defining patten of economic model, it is the defining pattern of social structure, rule, culture and thus, it is also the defining pattern of literature. Every artist represents his class, at least that class, which he has sahAnubhUti with (The word sahAnubhUti has special value. It is possible that a writer is financially well off, but his saha+anubhUti is proletariat; or he maybe poor, but his sahAnubhUti is bourgeois). That is why, it is the kartavya of a Marxist writer to keep himself with the people; people's emotions, imagination, zeal and dreams should become the emotions, imagination, zeal and dreams of the artist. According to Marxism, only that art is great in which the rising revolutionary torso of the people is visible; in which, a new life is yawning out of slumber, which is under the shade of the dreams of a new humanity. An artist who separates himself from the people gets caught up in his own idiosyncrasies, and blinded by his own class interest, either creates decadent literature or reactionary and escapist one!

In this context, we must understand the meaning of the words pratikriyAvAdI/reactionary, palAyanavAdI/escapist and patanonmukhI/decadent. pratikriyAvAdI tendency is that one, in which the artist is particularly lured by old age and customs, and because of an unhealthy affection towards them, sees any new revolution or thought in the light of fear or doubt. Instead of accepting change and progress as a new step towards truth, he takes them as a sign of destruction and erosion; he wants to maintain status quo in the world and his Marxist description is that he neither wants to change the capitalist system, nor the ugly social structure based on the same. He remains dissatisfied with the society but in this way, he fights against the proletariat which wants to change the society, and strengthens the limbs of capitalism.

Escapist tendency is slightly different from this. Whereas reactionary tendency starts at the opposition to the new, palAyanavAdI tendency's starting point is opposing the present. It remains dissatisfied with the current social structure, but instead of accepting the solution of these human  problems in the upcoming proletariat revolution and the classless society to be established after that, he takes his imagination to an even more ancient age and locates the abode of his dreams there. In the beginning, his tone does have rebellion towards the current capitalistic system, but it ends in getting lost in the romantic dreams of a glorious ancient past!

Decadent tendency is distinct from both of the above. In decadent tendency too, the artist rebels against his present condition, but instead of accepting establishment of another truth in his art as a solution of these problems, he considers the vulgar display of suppressed tendencies, personal likes and dislikes, creation and destruction as the ultimate aim of art. He makes no attempt to find out a new, healthier and more beautiful solution of the great cultural crisis faced by mankind and art. Art completely ruptures social relationship, it limits itself in the artist--a pessimistic and suppressed artist with an unhealthy personality--and the artist makes it a means of mental satisfaction of his own vulgar and distorted proclivities. The sukha and satisfaction of decadent art is somewhat like the sukha and satisfaction of that person, who scratches his wound, so much so that it starts to bleed, and yet he can't stop scratching it. In any anti-progressive literature, these three tendencies are found in different proportions.

Exactly 101 years ago, when the great philosopher first published his "Communist Manifesto" in 1848, the Romantic literature of Europe had ended and just as the kavi-s of rItikAla had indulged in sufficient sensual excesses on the basis of pure symbolism of rAdhA and kR^iShNa of bhaktikAla, similarly on the basis of individual rebellion towards Romanticism reactionary, escapist and decadent literature were nourishing. The great Romantic tradition which started from Rousseau and ripened in Byron and Shelley, which taught rebellion in its era, which was the most revolutionary vision of its time, was slowly losing its melody, and corrupt tendencies were gradually entering into literature. Originally Romanticism, which strengthened the voice of individual freedom against mechanization, was a progressive and rebellious jIvana darshana. Gorky examining Romanticism wrote in one of his articles that "there are two forms of Romanticism--creative and escapist. Early, or creative Romanticism was a rebellion against the then capitalist mechanization, which enjoyed complete moral support of masses." But later on, the value of man was described in incredibly distorted manner, and the result was that the legacy of Romanticism was received by decadent literature, which snatched the entire larger canvas of art, and froze it in the form of crystallized sketches created by a perverted man.

The decadent tendencies had started raising their head in 1848 itself which culminated in  Verlaine's pessimism, and vulgar individualism of 'art for the sake of art' of Flaubert or Gautier. These patanonmukhI tendencies in literature were visible in that period itself. Théophile Gautier established the siddAnta of 'art for the sake of art' ("L'art pour l'art"), the first result of which was his novel 'Mademoiselle de Maupin' in which he had shown an unhealthy attraction towards unnatural sexual relations. But in the same period, there was a small group of Communist thinkers which was trying to analyze and find out the solution of this crisis which would imprison human culture in this way.  This group had Louis Blanc, Engels, Proudhon and Karl Marx!  There were small movements against capitalist system in the entire Western world. All these movements were due to middle class and establishing communism was the objective of all of them. But what will be that sAmyavAda and how will it be established, no one was clear on this. Proudhonn wrote, "Only one thing was clear to these Communists--social revolution. But they neither knew the science, nor the path to it!".

Communism was given a scientific form by Karl Marx! His vision was the vision of Prophets. He ruthlessly exposed the hollowness of capitalism, tore it to pieces and prompted the proletariat class to create a new world in his Communist Manifesto. His call had a strong message of a new life. Famous German poet Heine wrote--"Once again, the merciless wheel of revolution is spinning, the rebel this time is harder than all his predecessors. Wherever a new life is waking up from sleep, this new rebel has his residence."

All great artists welcomed Communism and the Marxist movement. They saw a hope of liberation. Art--trapped in the iron fist of capitalism--thought it would have freedom to spread its wings under Communism. Human spirit will be able to become more healthy under Communism. Especially in Russia, where a fine background for Marxism was created by the realism of Gogol, Tolstoy, Chekhov and Dostoevsky, Marxism was welcomed, and Gorky painted people's struggle, their ups and downs, and the ultimate truths of humanity in very touching Marxist language. 

But as bAbA tulasIdAsa said long ago--"राम ते अधिक राम कर दास!" (rAma's servant valued more than rAma himself!), followers of Marx ignored the larger aims of pragativAda and Marxism, and wanted to turn literature into a weapon of their party politics. Marx intended a rebellion towards capitalist perversions and creation of a healthy culture in its place, but his followers--hundred times more Marxist than Marx--didn't let progressivism become a wider life nurturing siddhAnta, and converted it into extreme fanaticism. 

Some political dictators said that literati should write for the people. Benefit of people is only in that nIti, which is decided by the party or dictator. Thus the artist should remain within the political discipline. 

When this bandhana of discipline came up, it was clear that the great artists, who consider closing their eyes and mortgaging the brain as their insult, eventually jettisoned themselves from progressivism. Romain Rolland in France and Gorky himself in Russia had to oppose this political dictatorship. 

But some mediocre and mentally enslaved artists, which craved for cheap publicity and neither had the self confidence to find their own path, nor the stoicism to earn the yasha of not selling their talent at the hands of politics, joined forces with this movement.

The result of this was that day by day Marxist (progressive) stream of literature increasingly accumulated narrowness, ekAngiktA, hollowness and perversion, and the result was that in the progressive movement, which once had Romain Rolland and Gorky in it, which was irrigated by the blood of Ernst Toller and Ralph Fox--forget about Stephen Spender and Auden--even extreme Communist such as Malraux was unable to keep himself balanced. 

The biggest reason for this is that the Marxist artists which call themselves progressive are themselves afraid and uncomfortable in accepting new realities. They consider their benefit in remaining glued to customs and values which are a hundred years old. They forgot that the artist has to fight every day every moment, against lies and ignorance, degeneration and andhakAra with the help of aggressive swarNAkshara-s. Using his talent, he describes, analyses his era and builds his future; his chintana is broader, moderate and more equanimous than any political dictatorship. In the battle of life, victorious is the one who wins every day; one who keeps beating the drum in the name of hundred year old achievements of his ancestors becomes bankrupt very soon.

It was a peculiar misfortune of India that pragativAda entered here at a time when it was already bankrupt abroad. We ran forward with great enthusiasm to wear these scraps from videsha-s, even when within our literature, there were developing tendencies hundred times more powerful than any progressivism. nirAlA and panta, prasAda and premachanda, ravIndra and gAndhI were far ahead of that decadent narrow pragativAda which was brought to India with such immense respect.

The bigggest joke was that initially pragativAda was properly understood neither by its supporters, nor by its critics. Supporters started accepting anyone who declared himself to be one as progressive--regardless of whether he wrote on sexual licentiousness or sentimental nationalism. Critics started calling whoever they wanted to make target of their anger as progressive. pragativAdi andolana started in hindI in a very farcical manner. After that, started the movement of trapping the writers. Some big fishes were trapped. Some opportunist, ultra bourgeois writers also added their voice to this great movement of the people. For some days the hullabaloo of, "परस्परम प्रशसन्ति अहोरुपमहो ध्वनिः!" lasted. But now some serious sAdhAka-s of literature became bored of it. After that pragativAda started its gymnastics. Sometimes adopted this tendency, sometimes boycotted that, sometimes highlighted this writer, other times joined forces to prove him escapist; such things went on for a while. pragativAdi-s themselves--apart from seething opportunistic criticism, groupism and swearing--had not shown moderation, wisdom, long term thinking, seriousness and composure in analyzing problems. Result was that they really proved incapable of adding a new link in the great literary tradition of hindI.

In this context, we see completely different things when it comes to Soviet writers. A number of literary tendencies developed there post-revolution; there were even attempts to strangle true literature in the name of Marxism. But they rose above all these conditions and are really developing a healthy national literature. Although the current Soviet literature is so not deep as Tolstoy or Dostoevsky or Gorky, but it is healthy. It has avoided lot of anti-social and dangerous tendencies. Though even now, there can be difference of opinion between us and them, but still what they've done has immense value.

-translated from 'pragativAda' (1949) by dharamvIra bhAratI

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