libertarian socialist theory
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Communalism usually refers to a system that integrates communal ownership and federations of highly localized independent communities. A prominent libertarian socialist, Murray Bookchin, defines the Communalism political philosophy that he developed as "a theory of government or a system of government in which independent communes participate in a federation", as well as "the principles and practice of communal ownership". The term 'government' in this case does not imply an acceptance of a State or top-down hierarchy.


  • Even a superficial observer cannot fail to notice that a spirit of aggression underlies the Hindu attitude towards the Muslim and the Muslim attitude towards the Hindu. The Hindu's spirit of aggression is a new phase which he has just begun to cultivate. The Muslim's spirit of aggression is his native endowment, and is ancient as compared with that of the Hindu. It is not that the Hindu, if given time, will not pick up and overtake the Muslim. But as matters stand to-day, the Muslim in this exhibition of the spirit of aggression leaves the Hindu far behind.
    • B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or The Partition of India (1946)
  • The 'progressive' people in this country show a remarkable eagerness to see communalism even in the most harmless observations of [Hindu] religious leaders, while overlooking such outrageously communal and provocative statements as the one made by the former government official Syed Shahabuddin, that contact with the Hindus debased the Muslim, or the one by Syed Abdullah Bukhari, the Imam of the Jama Masjid in Delhi, that the Muslims would resort to a civil war.
    • Subhash Chandra Sarkar, The Independent, 7/11/1990. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (1991). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society.
  • Its roots [of the term 'communalism'] lie in the British colonial policy of taking “communities” as the relevant units in recruitment or in the allotment of seats in representative assemblies. Originally, the term had no pejorative connotation, but Indian nationalists in the freedom movement objected to these “communal” policies which allegedly aimed at keeping the Indian population divided. Indeed, the biggest worry of the freedom movement was the “communalist” collaboration of the Muslim League with the colonial administration: in exchange for “communal” electorates and recruitment quota, the party claiming to represent the Indian Muslims agreed to stay aloof from the anti-British agitation. Today, “communalism” is one of those labels allotted exclusively to people who reject it; it is a term of abuse. Even people who advocate communal recruitment quota (a demand recently revived by an array of Muslim organizations) are now self-described “secularists” and signatories to every new “National Manifesto [...] Against Communalism.... Jamaat-i-Islami (whose Pakistani wing has campaigned for decades, and with success, for the desecularization of the state) attacks “communalism” in the name of “secularism”. I cannot recall a single issue of the Islamist papers Radiance and Muslim India which failed to brandish “secularism” and denounce “communalism”. ... Imposition of an exonym, especially a pejorative one like "coummunalist", must be considered a statement of involvement in an anti-Hindu-revivalist or so-called "anti-communal" crusade...
    • Elst Koenraad, Decolonizing the Hindu Mind (2001),p.15-18
  • The main opposition to the unapologetic communalism of the British and the Muslim League came not from Congress (except initially), but from the Hindu Mahasabha. The Hindutva movement was born in the struggle against communalism; that struggle was its very raison d'être. The HMS's stated programme was to abolish communalism and make India an unalloyed democracy without separate electorates... Very quickly, accurate usage of the term 'communal' was eclipsed by muddled usage.... Today... politicians and journalists and scholars systematically and exclusively apply the term to a movement ... which has always opposed those very policies which were described by their own proponents as 'communal'. And where the term does apply, as in the co-existence of separate religion-based Personal Law systems..., it is studiously avoided.
    • Elst, Koenraad (2014). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p.242-3
  • An active communalism not only postulates that people who share a religion, have common secular interests ; it also grants them (or withholds from them) secular rights on the basis of their belonging to a given religion. Therefore, it is certainly a case of active communalism when we find the secular Constitution of India (which limits its own authority to secular matters), in its Article 30, guaranteeing the secular right to set up educational institutions of their choice exclusively to minorities, including religious minorities. This case of discrimination against the majority community is outright communalism. Yet, no secularist raises his voice against it. On the contrary, when pressed for an opinion, they support it. .... There is absolutely no questioning of the religious rights of the minorities in India, so if Mr. Akbar raises issues involving the minorities, it must be non-religious issues, in which the category of religious community (minority) does not properly apply. From the moment the religious rights of the minorities are guaranteed, any other talk of minorities is fundamentally communalist. Every single article of law not dealing with the exercise of religious community as a legally relevant unit of organization, is an element of communalism in the legal framework of the state, and should be repudiated in a truly secular-set-up. ... Islam is communal through and through, preaching a total abyss between its own community members and the rest of humanity. So, very generally, the cause of communal riots is Islam. The cure is Sanatana Dharma. It teaches that everything is generated by thought. While seemingly a difficult notion, in this context it is very easy to understand : the physical problem of communal riots is but the materialization of communal thinking. This communal thinking should be identified : its most potent and consistent form is the Islamic doctrine of the struggle between Momin and Kafir....
    • Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (1991). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society.
  • This sophisticated verbiage cannot conceal that the book's approach is merely the standard secularist version propagated by Indian establishment historians since decades. There is nothing new and provocative about a book that claims to explain communalism without touching on its single most important determinant, viz. the doctrine laid down in Islamic scripture, and that blurs the clear-cut process of India's communalization by Islam with the help of scapegoats like colonialism.
    • Elst K. Negationism in India, (1992)
  • It is an old dictators' trick to associate criticism with crime and disorder, and too often we have seen secularists reduced to this sleight-of-hand of identifying rational criticism of Christianity and Islam with communal riots.
    • K. Elst, Ayodhya: The Case Against the Temple (2002)
  • My implicit faith in nonviolence does mean yielding to minorities when they are really weak. The best way to weaken communalists is to yield to them. Resistance will only rouse their suspicion and strengthen their opposition.
  • If every time there is an inter-communal conflict, the majority is blamed regardless of the merits of the question... the springs of traditional tolerance will dry up.
    • Kanhaiya Lal Munshi in a letter to Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru, quoted from Kishwar, Madhu (2014). Modi, Muslims and media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat. p.210, with quote from K.M. Munshi, Indian Constitutional Documents: Pilgrimage to Freedom, 1902-1950
  • These our well-meaning but unthinking friends take their dreams for realities. That is why they are impatient of communal tangles and attribute them to communal organizations. But the solid fact is that the so-called communal questions are but a legacy handed down to us by centuries of a cultural, religious and national antagonism between the Hindus and the Moslems. When time is ripe you can solve them; but you cannot suppress them by merely refusing recognition of them. It is safer to diagnose and treat deep-seated disease than to ignore it. Let us bravely face unpleasant facts as they are. India cannot be assumed today to be a unitarian and homogeneous nation, but on the contrary there are two nations in the main; the Hindus and the Moslems, in India. And as it has happened in many countries under similar situation in the world the utmost that we can do under the circumstances is to form an Indian State in which none is allowed any special weightage of representation and none is paid an extra-price to buy his loyalty to the State. Mercenaries are paid and bought off, not sons of the Motherland to fight in her defence.
    • V.D. Savarkar: Hindu Rashtra Darshan, quoted in part in Elst, Koenraad (2001). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p.332
  • Having proved its value, the politics of taunts and accusations continues unabated. Those who benefit by it have merely to hurl the epithet ‘communal’, and there is a panic all around and the accused try to establish their secular credentials by the only way they know - by denouncing Hinduism. All this has led to competitive minorityism, selective communalism, the politics of out-musliming the Muslims and Hindu-bashing. But this politics is already getting discredited and yielding opposite results. It is awakening the Hindus and it is making them realize that the whole lot is rotten and that they should now take things in their own hands.
    • Ram Swarup. Quoted from the preface by Ram Swarup in Gurbachan, S. T. S., & Swarup, R. (1991). Muslim League attack on Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab 1947.
  • Decades ago, a prominent Congress leader, Kanhaiya Lal Munshi (1887-1971) had warned his party colleague, and the then Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru (1889-1964) in a letter stating, “If every time there is an inter-communal conflict, the majority is blamed regardless of the merits of the question... the springs of traditional tolerance will dry up.” Far from heeding this warning, under the guise of upholding secularism, the Congress Party has made demonisation of the majority its main political plank. This perversion is unthinkable in any other country of the world.
    • Kishwar, Madhu (2014). Modi, Muslims and media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat. p.210, with quote from K.M. Munshi, Indian Constitutional Documents: Pilgrimage to Freedom, 1902-1950,
  • "The BJP is not a communal party; it cannot be, for the simple reason that Hindus have never been, and are not, a community in the accepted sense of the term. They represent an ancient civilization not known either to draw a boundary between the faithful and the faithless, the blessed and the damned, or to engage in heresy hunting and its counterpart, persecution of other faiths. Hindus are, in western terms, pagans."
  • What do you mean by communal? If I speak against the terrorism, is it communal?
    • Narendra Modi Speech 14 January 2008 (on YouTube). Speech commemorating the 38th anniversary of Thuglak.
  • The unceremonious exit of Mr. M.C. Chagla from her Cabinet and the relaxation of the rule prohibiting polygamy among Muslim employees of the Central Government are but two examples of the concessions she [Indira Gandhi] is making to Muslim communalism.
    • Hamid Dalwai, Muslim Politics, quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2014). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p. 363
  • To say that the BJP is communal is absolutely absurd and without any basis.
    • M. C. Chagla. Speech at BJP Plenary Session, quoted also in L.K. Advani: Presidential Address, Plenary Session (1995), and quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2001). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p.554
  • I have documented elsewhere how Pandit Nehru hounded out or silenced everyone... whom he suspected of having some Hindu feeling or sympathy for some Hindu cause... and how he objected to every Hindu symbol in India's public life. The country had been partitioned by the remnants of Islamic imperialism. But he blamed it on "communalism", a word by which he always meant Hinduism.
    • S.R. Goel. Hindu and Hinduism, Manipulation of meanings, 1993.
  • Another side of the same strategy has been worked out to neutralise, paralyse and blacken or pamper different sections of Hindu society so that the road is cleared for the forward march of Islamism. Some salient features of this secondary strategy can be outlined as follows:... 2. The terms “communal” and “communalism” which have become terms of abuse in India’s political parlance, should be carefully cultivated and more and more mystified to malign all those organisations, institutions and parties which do not serve Islamism, directly and/or indirectly; (...)
    • Sita Ram Goel, Hindu Society under Siege (1992)
  • Originally (at least in Indian politics), "communal" was the term by which the British labelled political arrangements, such as separate electorates and quota-based recruitment, which took the religious community as the operative unit rather than the individual or the family or the region or the nation. The term was never hurled at people who rejected these arrangements, but was quite sincerely accepted by the people who proposed the "communalization" of the polity: the British and the Muslim League advocated it openly, the Congress started defending it after becoming a party to it through the Lucknow Pact (1916). When the British proposed the Communal Award, its beneficiaries never thought of treating "communal" as a dirty word and throwing it at the Communal Award's opponents. Today, by contrast, the mores of discourse have sunk to the level where politicians and journalists and scholars systematically apply the term to a movement which never used it as a description of its own positions. The main opposition to this unapologetic communalism came not from the Congress, but from the Hindu Mahasabha with, in its shadow, the fledgling Sangh. If you read speeches by HMS leaders in the 1930s and 40s, they turn out to be full of unselfconscious attacks on "communal" politics. The Hindutva movement was born in the struggle against communalism, that was its very raison d'être. The HMS's stated programme was to abolish communalism and make India a secular democracy without separate electorates and recruitment by communal quota. Congress, with its bad conscience about its complicity in the communalization of the polity, tried to cloud the debate by misapplying the term "communal" to the HMS on the analogy of the Muslim League. It falsely posited a symmetry between the Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha, smuggling out of the public's perception the antisymmetry between the League's adherence and the HMS's opposition to the communal principle. Very quickly, accurate usage was eclipsed by muddled usage. If the Nehruvians who installed and still support a separate Personal Law for Muslims, a "communal" arrangement par excellence, can get away with labelling their very opponents "communalists", we have to admit that they have proven themselves past masters in the war of the words... The Sangh... has never mustered the energy and the brain power ... to think up a way to turn the tables on the Nehruvian Newspeak brigade... The magic charm "communalism" which puts the whole Indian political scene in a mood of graveness and militancy, and which can paralyze all normal thought processes in BJP circles, is nothing but a provincial and distorted usage exclusive to India's English-speaking elite... They should restore to the word its true meaning and then allot it to those who are already stuck with it anyway -- themselves. The only way to stop being chased around with salvos of "communalists!" is to rename the BJP as Communalist Party. Every Hindu leader should make it a point to tell interviewers: "I am a Hindu communalist."
    • Elst, Koenraad. (1997) BJP vis-à-vis Hindu Resurgence
  • Historically, the characterization of the Hindutva forces as ‘communal’ is as absurd as calling the anti-Communists ‘Communists’, for ‘communalism’ is quite literally the enemy which the HMS was created to combat. The Hindutva spokesmen called their British and Muslim League enemies ‘communal’ and advocated unadulterated ‘non-communal’ democracy, while these enemies themselves called their own favoured policies ‘communal’: communal representation, communal weightage, Communal Award. Today, with shrill sloganeering pushing proper terminology out of common usage, the term ‘communal’ is inimically applied to people who never apply the term to themselves; but in those days, the HMS was entirely in agreement with its opponents’ self-perception when it called them ‘communal’. The division of the electorate and the distribution of jobs on a ‘communal’ basis were explicit demands of the Muslim League, were explicitly proposed and imposed by the British authorities, were explicitly accepted by the Indian National Congress, and were explicitly rejected by the HMS. From its foundation till at least 1947, the distinctive identity of the HMS in Indian politics consisted in its pro-democracy and anti-communal stand.
    • Elst, Koenraad (2018). Why I killed the Mahatma: Uncovering Godse's defence. New Delhi : Rupa, 2018.
  • Before independence, the situation was even worse, with separate electorates and highly disproportionate privileges conceded to Anglo-Indians and other Christians and to the Muslim community. It was perfectly legitimate for Golwalkar in 1938 to champion the cause of genuine secularism by denouncing the system of privileges on the basis of religion. Indeed, the remarkable phenomenon is not that Hindus stand up for legal equality and against the Muslim privileges, but that supposedly scholarly and objective India-watchers, almost to a man, decry equality before the law (esp. a Common Civil Code, that long-standing Hindu demand) as "communal" and support minority privileges on the basis of religion as "secular", in blatant disregard for the dictionary meaning of "secularism" and "communalism".
    • Elst, K. Was Guru Golwalkar a Nazi ?, 1999. [1]
  • Indian Muslims are taught “to vote communally, think communally, listen only to communal election speeches, judge the delegates their grievances communally.'
    • W.C. Smith, 'Modern Islam in India': quoted in Arun Shourie. “Falling Over Backwards.”

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