India and China: Neighbours, Strangers, edited by Ira Pande (HarperCollins), 2010.
by Dilip Simeon
Many years ago, when some of us argued about the ills of the present and, more to the point, the ills of contemporary India, we would be asked by our elders where such ideals had ever been implemented. ’In China!’ we’d reply without hesitation’ Peoples’ China was our El Dorado, the land of promise. Under the leadership of the Great Helmsman, Chairman Mao, the Chinese Communist Party was looking after the true interests of Chinese peasants and workers, and marching towards the socialist future. Nay, as we were communists and hence internationalists, the Great, Glorious and Correct Chinese Communist Party - GGC-CCP for short - represented the oppressed people of the entire world! China was the future transported into the present. Our elders and betters would point out the totalitarian nature of the regime, the total lack of freedom of speech and political democracy. What freedom, we’d reply. Freedom for whom? India needed to be like China, and we were going to take it in that direction.
ln 1966, the Great Helmsman issued his famous call to Chinese students and youth:
Bombard the Headquarters, as he exhorted them to assist him in cleansing the party of bureaucratic and revisionist tendencies. The GPCR had a ripple effect felt far outside China, for it coincided with a global wave of anticapitalist and anti-imperialist movements, as well as unrest in the socialist camp. Let us not forget that 1968 witnessed the May uprising in France, and the Prague Spring followed by the Soviet invasion (more on this later); the bloody Mexico Olympics, and the Tet offensive by the National Liberation Front in Vietnam. All and these these events served to inspire a new generation of young people the world over, who were politicized via a critique of the dominant Russian-style communism.
See also: An Open Letter to the world on the Bangladesh crisis of 1971