Tuesday, Nov 29, 2022

A society and state in denial

In his justly famous memoir, Encounters with Lenin, (Oxford University press, 1968) Nikolay Vladislavovich Volsky, who wrote under the pen-n...

In his justly famous memoir, Encounters with Lenin, (Oxford University press, 1968) Nikolay Vladislavovich Volsky, who wrote under the pen-name Valentinov, narrates what is for Communists the hadis in such matters. He recounts what Lenin said to him: ‘‘Marxism is a monolith conception of the world, it does not toler ate dilution and vulgarisation by means of various insertions and additions. Plekhanov once said to me about a critic of Marxism (I’ve forgotten his name) ‘First let’s stick the convict’s badge on him, and then after that we’ll examine this case.’ And I think we must stick the convict’s badge, on anyone and everyone who tries to undermine Marxism, even if we don’t go on to examine his case. That’s how every sound revolutionary should react.’’

As that is the operating procedure for the much lesser offence — that of mere ‘‘dilution’’ of the doctrine — you can imagine how much greater must be the zeal with which the ‘‘convict’s badge’’ is stuck on one guilty of the much greater crime — the crime of revealing the truth about them.

In a word, we should see that the put-on derision with which Communists and the Congress spokesmen have been trying to bury Mitrokhin’s records is just standard procedure, and not let it deflect us from the revelations. For there can be no doubt at all that, as far as India is concerned — our governance, our national security — Mitrokhin’s records point to the gravest danger. Remember that the two brief chapters in this volume are but the distillation of trunk-loads of scrupulous notes taken down over twelve years. Even this briefest of brief accounts speaks of penetration by foreign agencies of departments of our Government, including intelligence agencies; of Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s coterie; it speaks of the foreign agency’s intervention in what we regard as our hallmark, our ‘‘free and fair’’ elections; it speaks of the confidence with which the agency maneuvered to build up preferred successors to Prime Ministers; it speaks of funding of Left parties, of trade unions, of the Congress itself; it speaks of how one of the prides of that period — Indo-Soviet trade — became such a handy channel for secret funds; it speaks of infiltration of our other hallmark, our ‘‘free and fair’’ media — it recounts the ease with which the KGB and the CIA were able to plant stories; it speaks of the ease with which, and the paltry sums for which the KGB was able to organize ‘‘spontaneous demonstrations’’ by Muslims….

Consider just a single paragraph from the chapter: ‘‘Oleg Kalugin, who became head of FCD Directorate K (Counterintelligence) in 1973, remembers India as ’a model of KGB infiltration of a Third World Government’: We had scores of sources throughout the Indian Government — in intelligence, counterintelligence, the Defence and Foreign Ministries, and the police.’ In 1978, Directorate K, whose responsibilities included the penetration of foreign intelligence and security agencies, was running, through Line KR in the Indian residencies, over thirty agents — ten of whom were Indian intelligence officers. Kalugin recalls one occasion on which Andropov personally turned down an offer from an Indian minister to provide information in return for $ 50,000 on the grounds that the KGB was already well supplied with material from the Indian Foreign and Defence Ministries: ‘It seemed like the entire country was for sale; the KGB — and the CIA — had deeply penetrated the Indian Government. After a while neither side entrusted sensitive information to the Indians, realising that their enemy would know all about it the next day.’’

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Even if we have become so immune to shame by now that we are not led to hang our heads on reading a passage such as this, at least we should consider what that kind of information implies for our national security. Moreover, as the KGB had such ingress into our governmental structures, agencies of other countries too would have had no greater difficulty in suborning persons and influencing policies and decisions. And can that surprise us? When every corporate house is able to plant stories, what difficulty would a foreign government face? And remember, that passage is about the state of affairs thirty years ago. Since then, there has been a precipitate deterioration in both the quality and integrity of persons in public life as well as in the civil service.

For none of the things that Mitrokhin records is the KGB is to blame. That agency was just doing its job for its country. The question is, what were we doing for our country? The question is, what are we to now do to protect our interest? Recall what the British Parliamentary Committee reported about the worth of Mitrokhin’s disclosures, and how invaluable these had been to agencies of other countries to neutralise dangers those countries faced — ‘‘Western intelligence communities are extremely grateful for Mr. Mitrokhin’s material…,’’ ‘‘a case of exceptional counter-intelligence significance, not only illuminating past KGB activity against Western countries but also promising to nullify many of Russia’s current assets’’…. ‘‘the most detailed and extensive pool of CI (counter-intelligence) ever received by the FBI’’…. ‘‘the biggest CI bonanza of the postwar period’’ — contrast these acknowledgments, contrast the way agencies of other countries put the material to work, contrast all that with the resolute shutting of eyes in India.

Several lessons leap out from this episode. Notice first what the Communists, their megaphones and their current dependents would have been blaring had even one-thousandth of such disclosures come out about some organization or individual affiliated to the RSS. Two points arise from that contrast. First, is such penetration a threat to our national security if it relates to the RSS and not a threat when it relates to the Communists or the Congress? Second, where do the disclosures leave the high moral ground that the Left appropriates?


It is entirely true that just because someone is named by a foreign intelligence agency or agent, that does not establish him to have been a spy. But surely the right response would be to inquire, at least to find out whether British agencies had offered the information to us and we had failed to follow it up. Nor is this a one-off. Professor Patrick Moynihan was one of the most respected of American academics. He was appointed Ambassador to India during Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s time. As Mrs. Gandhi’s speeches about the ‘‘foreign hand’’ — that always meant the CIA — became incessant, Moynihan commenced an inquiry into what Americans had been doing. In his memoir of the period he wrote that he came across two occasions on which the CIA had provided funds to counter Communist candidates. He wrote, ‘‘Both times the money was given to the Congress Party which had asked for it. Once it was given to Mrs. Gandhi herself, who was then a party official.’’ His book was published in the US as well as in India. If what he had said was untrue, what could be a clearer occasion for a defamation case? But absolutely nothing of the kind was done. Just the standard operating procedure: denounce, smear, bury. When the Government so resolutely refuses to make any inquiries, whether the account is of Moynihan or Mitrokhin, what should one conclude?

In the case of the Communists, disclosures about their having received money are the least of the matter — and it does seem to me that the Mitrokhin figures are gross understatements, as if some few zeros have got left out. The figures of Indo-Soviet trade, the quantum of Indian purchases of Soviet arms, and what was said in those days of the sudden wealth of the private parties through whom the Soviets insisted these transactions be made, would suggest transfers of much, much larger amounts. But in their case, money is the least of the matter. Their entire outlook, their ‘‘line’’ has been foreign, it has been derived from, to use Mao’s phrase, ‘‘the dung-heap of textbooks written abroad.’’ And, as has been documented time and again, from instructions received from abroad.

As a result, working for the interest of heir ‘‘international movement’’, specifically for the ‘‘fortresses’’ of that ‘‘movement’’ — the USSR, China — is in their very genes. They traduced Gandhiji and the freedom movement from 1939 for not taking advantage of Britain’s difficulties — the war in Europe is just an ‘‘Imperialist war’’, they shouted; Gandhi is guilty of collaborating with the Imperialists by not launching a movement to liberate India when Britain was caught defending itself against Hitler. Hitler was, of course, on the side of history then as he had signed a non-aggression pact with Stalin.


Then they switched suddenly — the ‘‘Imperialist war’’ became ‘‘People’s war’’, not because India’s interests had changed but because Hitler had attacked the Soviet Union. They now denounced Gandhi for launching the Quit India Movement! And there was no doubt about the reason: the Soviet Union is ‘‘The Only Fatherland’’ for us, they proudly announced in their resolutions, and, in accordance with this new ‘‘assessment’’, they entered into a secret understanding with the British Government in India to sabotage the Quit India Movement. In 1947, apart from the Muslim League, they were the only party that advocated the vivisection of India. When India became independent, they declared that India was in fact still under the tutelage of capitalist, Imperial powers, and so its Government must be overthrown.

In 1962, their thesis was that India is the aggressor, not China — which, by definition, could never launch aggression as it was a ‘‘workers’ State’’. In 1975, they — they, we now see, at the goading of their KGB minders – were all for the Emergency. When China exploded its atomic bomb, they proclaimed it to be a great triumph — a fitting answer to the Imperialists, a decisive step that breaks the monopoly of Imperialist powers. When India went in for atomic weapons, they denounced it — a blow at world peace!

The Mitrokhin disclosures are particularly disturbing for them as they remind us once more, among other ‘‘well known’’ facts, of how they and their fellow-travelers, unable to work their Revolution, worked at securing the same goal by infiltration — of the Congress; a sort of ‘‘Revolution-by-stealth’’. This was the famous ‘‘Kumarmangalam thesis’’ that, as Mitrokhin reports, got such enthusiastic assistance from the KGB. But surely that is not just a reminder of what is past. The Communists have never been closer to attaining that goal as they are today — what with a supine Congress so completely at their mercy.

Nor is it just that the Congress is so completely at their mercy. As Swapan Dasgupta pointed out the other day, the danger is twice compounded — the Congress is completely dependent on the Communists, and the Communists are completely compromised. The Communists have been busy denouncing Mitrokhin’s revelations. But as Dasgupta points out, there are several other caches that are coming to light. He draws attention to the fact that the private diaries of a former Soviet Ambassador to India, I. A. Benediktov can now be accessed on the Internet — at the website of the Cold War International History Project of the Woodrow Wilson Centre, Washington, DC ( In these diaries, Benediktov records plaintive pleas of Bhupesh Gupta, Secretary, National Council of CPI, for funds. He records Gupta’s plea that, with Ajoy Ghosh through whom the monies used to be received and disbursed, gone, Namboodripad should be allowed to be brought in to handle funds from the Soviets.

A little later, during China’s invasion of India in 1962, Benediktov records Namboodripad’s fevered appeals to the Soviets that they abandon their support for India, and the sycophantic gratitude Namboodripad expresses for an editorial that Pravda has carried that suggests a shift away from India. Namboodripad asks Benediktov to inform the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union ‘‘that the publication of this article and the advice of the CPSU contained in this letter of the CC CPSU, truly will help our party get out of the extremely difficult position it is now in. Before this, there were moments when we felt ourselves to be simply helpless, but now the party will be able to help this situation. We are grateful to the CC CPSU for this help. You can transmit this personally from me and from Comrade B Gupta.’’ In a word, the Congress is completely in the hands of the Communists, and the Communists can be ‘‘motivated’’ by so many — those who gave them assistance and guidance, as well as those who may reveal what they got, and with how much gratitude they received it.


So, first of all we must see through their invective. As the Government is in their grip; as, given what Mitrokhin records about infiltration into Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s circle, of its own accord the Government itself will not want to pursue the matter, inside Parliament and outside, citizens must put pressure on the Government to institute a full and public inquiry. It must be made to request the British Government for access to Mitrokhin’s records, and it must be made to make public what those records reveal about India. But we do not have to go on waiting for the Government to do something in the matter. Papers of several senior Soviet officials are now in various archives. We should form teams of scholars on our own and scrutinize that heap of material for entries that pertain to India.

These are important steps, and they must be taken. But even they are but tiny ancillaries to the main debility we must overcome. The reaction in India, that is the non-reaction to The Mitrokhin Archive is but a symptom — of a state and society in denial. On every matter — what Pakistan was doing in Punjab; what it has been doing in Kashmir as well as its current stratagem to acquire it ‘‘peacefully’’; infiltration from Bangladesh; jihadi curricula; the threat Naxalites pose and their links in Bihar, in Andhra; the threat ULFA poses and its links in Assam; the militarization of Tibet, the modernization of Chinese defence forces and their deadly implications for India; the opportunity that the breakdown of governance in vast tracts like Bihar spells for the country’s enemies — on each and every matter, our society and state just do not want to face the facts.


The media must see how it assists in this shutting of eyes. By the current ‘‘your reaction journalism’’ for one. Mitrokhin’s volume is published. It goes to someone from the BJP, ‘‘Sir, this new book by this Russian alleges…, what is your reaction? In brief.’’ And then to a Communist, ‘‘Sir, this new book by this Russian alleges…, what is your reaction?’’ Both sides covered. Balanced story on air. End of matter. This is the condition that we have to reverse, and disclosures of the Mitrokhin kind are yet another occasion when we can commence to do so. On each of these questions, at each of these turns, induce readers, compel governments to face the facts, and thereby take steps that would save the country.



First published on: 18-10-2005 at 12:00:00 am
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