[Kobad Ghandy, a member of the Politburo and Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), was captured by Indian Intelligence Bureau on September 17, 2009. Initially kept in illegal detention and tortured, he remains a political prisoner in Tihar Jail, where he continues his revolutionary studies and writings, organizes Maoist classes, and joins the struggles of other prisoners against the draconian conditions they face. The following is the third part of a 5 or 6 part series on freedom–its promise and the problems in its pathway. The first article (covering Part I – The Context) and the second one (covering Part II – Search for Freedom through History) can be seen at https://revolutionaryfrontlines.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/questions-of-freedom-and-peoples-emancipation-by-kobad-ghandy/— Frontlines ed.]
Mainstream, VOL L No 42, October 6, 2012
PART III—Socialism and Existentialism
The 19th and 20th centuries witnessed two major schools of thought—socialism and existentialism. The former reflected the agony of the vast impoverished masses, the latter mirrored the acute alienation within society, strongly reflected in the middle classes. While socialism focused on the society, the existentialists concerned themselves more with the individual. Both these philosophical trends had a powerful impact till the 1980s.
I shall first briefly look at these two trends and then come to the present, post-1980s situation.
The agony of the impoverished people was beautifully portrayed in a large number of classics in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There was Engels’ Condition of the Working Class in Britain, a large number of novels by authors like Emile Zola, classics like the book Grapes of Wrath etc. which depicted how cruel capitalism was.
In the post-war period there were a number of African and Latin American writings which pictured the agony of colonial conquest like the book Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galaeno. Continue reading