Gave a new direction to revolutionary movement in India, formed ‘Naujavan Bharat Sabha’ to spread the message of revolution in Punjab, formed ‘Hindustan Samajvadi Prajatantra Sangha’ along with Chandrasekhar Azad to establish a republic in India, assassinated police official Saunders to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai, dropped bomb in Central Legislative Assembly along with Batukeshwar Dutt.Bhagat Singh was one of the most prominent faces of Indian freedom struggle. He was a revolutionary ahead of his times. By Revolution he meant that the present order of things, which is based on manifest injustice must change. Bhagat Singh studied the European revolutionary movement and was greatly attracted towards socialism. He realised that the overthrow of British rule should be accompanied by the socialist reconstruction of Indian society and for this political power must be seized by the workers.Though portrayed as a terrorist by the British, Sardar Bhagat Singh was critical of the individual terrorism which was prevalent among the revolutionary youth of his time and called for mass mobilization. Bhagat Singh gave a new direction to the revolutionary movement in India. He differed from his predecessors on two counts. Firstly, he accepted the logic of atheism and publicly proclaimed it. Secondly, until then revolutionaries had no conception of post-independence society. Their immediate goal was destruction of the British Empire and they had no inclination to work out a political alternative. Bhagat Singh, because of his interest in studying and his keen sense of history gave revolutionary movement a goal beyond the elimination of the British. A clarity of vision and determination of purpose distinguished Bhagat Singh from other leaders of the National Movement. He emerged as the only alternative to Gandhi and the Indian National Congress, especially for the youth.Bhagat Singh was born in a Sikh family in village Banga in Layalpur district of Punjab (now in Pakistan). He was the third son of Sardar Kishan Singh and Vidyavati. Bhagat Singh’s family was actively involved in freedom struggle. His father Kishan Singh and uncle Ajit Singh were members of Ghadr Party founded in the U.S to oust British rule from India. Family atmosphere had a great effect on the mind of young Bhagat Singh and patriotism flowed in his veins from childhood.While studying at the local D.A.V. School in Lahore, in 1916, young Bhagat Singh came into contact with some well-known political leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai and Ras Bihari Bose. Punjab was politically very charged in those days. In 1919, when Jalianwala Bagh massacre took place, Bhagat Singh was only 12 years old. The massacre deeply disturbed him. On the next day of massacre Bhagat Singh went to Jalianwala Bagh and collected soil from the spot and kept it as a memento for the rest of his life. The massacre strengthened his resolve to drive British out from India.In response to Mahatma Gandhi’s call for non-cooperation against British rule in 1921, Bhagat Singh left his school and actively participated in the movement. In 1922, when Mahatma Gandhi suspended Non-cooperation movement against violence at Chauri-chaura in Gorakhpur, Bhagat was greatly disappointed. His faith in non violence weakened and he came to the conclusion that armed revolution was the only practical way of winning freedom. To continue his studies, Bhagat Singh joined the National College in Lahore, founded by Lala Lajpat Rai. At this college, which was a centre of revolutionary activities, he came into contact with revolutionaries such as Bhagwati Charan, Sukhdev and others.To avoid early marriage, Bhagat Singh ran away from home and went to Kanpur. Here, he came into contact with a revolutionary named Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, and learnt his first lessons as revolutionary. On hearing that his grandmother was ill, Bhagat Singh returned home. He continued his revolutionary activities from his village. He went to Lahore and formed a union of revolutionaries by name ‘Naujavan Bharat Sabha’. He started spreading the message of revolution in Punjab. In 1928 he attended a meeting of revolutionaries in Delhi and came into contact with Chandrasekhar Azad. The two formed ‘Hindustan Samajvadi Prajatantra Sangha’. Its aim was to establish a republic in India by means of an armed revolution.In February 1928, a committee from England, called Simon Commission visited India. The purpose of its visit was to decide how much freedom and responsibility could be given to the people of India. But there was no Indian on the committee. This angered Indians and they decided to boycott Simon Commission. While protesting against Simon Commission in Lahore, Lala Lajpat Rai was brutally Lathicharged and later on succumbed to injuries. Bhagat Singh was determined to avenge Lajpat Rai’s death by shooting the British official responsible for the killing, Deputy Inspector General Scott. He shot down Assistant Superintendent Saunders instead, mistaking him for Scott. Bhagat Singh had to flee from Lahore to escape death punishment.Instead of finding the root cause of discontent of Indians, the British government took to more repressive measures. Under the Defense of India Act, it gave more power to the police to arrest persons to stop processions with suspicious movements and actions. The Act brought in the Central Legislative Assembly was defeated by one vote. Even then it was to be passed in the form of an ordinance in the “interest of the public.” Bhagat Singh who was in hiding all this while, volunteered to throw a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly where the meeting to pass the ordinance was being held. It was a carefully laid out plot, not to cause death or injury but to draw the attention of the government, that the modes of its suppression could no more be tolerated. It was decided that Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt would court arrest after throwing the bomb.On April 8, 1929 Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt threw bombs in the Central Assembly Hall while the Assembly was in session. The bombs did not hurt anyone. After throwing the bombs, Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt, deliberately courted arrest by refusing to run away from the scene. During his trial, Bhagat Singh refused to employ any defence counsel. In jail, he went on hunger strike to protest the inhuman treatment of fellow-political prisoners by jail authorities. On October 7, 1930 Bhagat Singh, Sukh Dev and Raj Guru were awarded death sentence by a special tribunal. Despite great popular pressure and numerous appeals by political leaders of India, Bhagat Singh and his associates were hanged in the early hours of March 23, 1931.——————————
By Ernesto Che Guevara.
From the Militant, Vol. t0, no. 3, 22 January, 1996 The following are three articles by Ernesto Che Guevara, one of the central leaders of the Cuban revolution. They were published in El Cubano Libre (Free Cuban), the newspaper of the Rebel Army in Cuba, which led the revolutionary war to overthrow the U.S.-backed tyranny of Fulgencio Batista. El Cubano Libre – also the name of a paper published by Cuban patriots during the independence wars against Spanish colonialism in the 19th century – was established by Guevara in November 1957 in the Sierra Maestra. “As for the dissemination of our ideas, first we started a small newspaper, El Cubano Libre, in memory of those heroes of the jungle,” says Guevara in the chapter “One year of armed struggle” of his book Episodes of the Cuban Revolutionary War – 1956-58. “Three or four issues came out under my directorship; it was later edited by Luis Orlando Rodri’guez, and subsequently by Carlos Franqui, who gave it new impetus. We had a mimeograph machine brought up to us from the cities, on which the paper was printed.” In February 1996 Pathfinder Press will release a new edition of the Episodes. The English-language translation of the articles below, which are not included in the Episodes, is copyright Pathfinder Press. They are reprinted by permission. Footnotes are by the Militant.
One year of combat:-
El Cubano Libre, no. 3, January 1958 The first year of our struggle in the Sierra Maestra has now been completed. The road has been long and difficult. On the third day after our landing in Cuba on December 2, 1956, our troop of 82 expeditionaries was taken by surprise, dispersed, and almost annihilated at a place known as “Alegri’a” [joy].(1) Bitter days of dispersal followed. The defeated rebels – hungry, thirsty, discouraged, in small groups – roamed the woods aimlessly. Some lost faith and turned in their weapons. Then came death at the hands of military killers, as Laurent and other jackals gorged their lust for blood, and great comrades fell victim. Antonio Lo’pez, Juan Manuel Ma’rquez, Jose’ Smith, and Ca’ndido Gonza’lez were among the murdered. Days passed and finally the dispersed fighters were reunited: fifteen poorly armed men with even less ammunition. What sustained them was a common ideal: Cuba. And they were driven by a faith that could move mountains: that of Fidel. Few times can it be said so truthfully that one man was the creator of a revolution. Marti'(2) proclaimed that those who march at the head have the obligation of seeing farther. Fidel marched at the head of a tiny guerrilla unit, and saw what no one dared to see; during those days of defeat he saw victory, and his wonderful faith in the power of the people sustained and inspired everyone. Later came the victories at La Plata and Palma Mocha. Subsequently a traitor whom Casillas introduced in our midst had us in the jaws of the jackal on three occasions; the worst period eventually passed, and we eliminated the internal enemy. Later, when the world had given us up for dead, the interview with Matthews put the lie to our disappearance.(3) Thus we can say that the timid stage of the revolution was brought to an end. Up until then we saw in each peasant a potential informer; we saw in each peasant hut a threat to our security. We ate boiled malanga or yucca, often without salt or lard. We had still not understood the enormous capacity of struggle of the Cuban peasant. In response to the threats, the mistreatment, the burning of homes, and murder, they responded by supporting us with greater enthusiasm, giving us their children as combatants and guides, and letting us use their houses, all as a contribution to the cause. Afterward came the battle of Uvero, where we achieved a great though painful triumph, costing us the lives of seven of our comrades. The subsequent forced evacuation of peasants by the government was the pretext for a thousand crimes, robberies, and abuses against them. Again the peasants responded with renewed support to the cause of the July 26 Movement. Our fair treatment toward the peasantry – respecting their property, paying for what we consumed, tending their sick, helping those most in need – was the total opposite of the government’s bestial policy. At that point the relationship of forces in the Sierra Maestra began to shift greatly. Four well-armed columns were formed, Estrada Palma and Bueycito were attacked, the enemy was compelled to maintain a defensive posture, and their columns were decimated when they tried to ascend the mountains. Now the Movement has proposed to obstruct the sugar harvest as long as Batista is in power. We intend to overthrow him: through economic pressure caused by the loss of the sugar harvest, his principal source of income; through the revolutionary general strike, which will be called at the appropriate moment; and through the pressure of our columns, which will repulse every attempt by the enemy to enter the mountains, while preparing to take the struggle down onto the plains once and for all. Now that our triumph is clearly in sight, when a Fidel Castro is not needed to see its approach, the politicians of old, living comfortably in exile, tried to make a pact in which our name was invoked.(4) Not only did they not consult us, but they boycotted us in a clear attempt to return to the swamp that existed prior to March 1952. But the blood of the people has not been shed in vain. Each and every one of our dead over these five years of dictatorship constitutes a solemn pledge to carry our revolution forward, far beyond the simple ouster of Batista – as far as necessary to ensure there will be no going back to the status quo of old. That is why we fight. And neither the latest crimes that drag the army down to the lowest rung of barbarism, nor the betrayal of the pseudo-oppositionist and electoralist groups, will make us change our stance. ——————————
No Bullet in the Chamber:-
By “Sharp-shooter” Che Guevara, in El Cubano Libre no. 3, January 1958 Here in the mountaintops of our Sierra, the voice of a distant world reaches us via the radio and newspapers. The media are more explicit in describing events abroad, because they are unable to mention the crimes committed here on a daily basis. Thus we learn of the disturbances and deaths in Cyprus, Algeria, Ifni, or Malaya, all of which have common characteristics: a) The government authorities “have inflicted heavy losses on the rebels.” b) There are no prisoners. c) “All goes normally” for the government. d) All the revolutionaries, no matter which country or region they are in, are receiving “secret aid from communists.” How much the world resembles Cuba! It is the same everywhere. A group of patriots is murdered, with or without arms, whether or not they are rebels. After a “ferocious struggle,” they fall under the guns of the oppressors. No prisoners are taken because all witnesses are killed. The government never suffers any casualties, which is sometimes true – since murdering defenseless individuals is not particularly dangerous. But sometimes it is also pure lying; the Sierra Maestra gives irrefutable proof of this. And finally, there is the handy accusation, as always, of “communists.” Those who are fed up with so much poverty and pick up a gun, wherever it may be, are “communists.” Those who murder the indignant people: men, women, or children, are “democrats.” How much the world resembles Cuba! But everywhere, as in Cuba, the people are standing up to brutal force and injustice. And it is they who will have the last word: that of victory. ————————-
By Che Guevara, El Cubano Libre, No. 4, February 1958 There is a notable difference between that tattered and filthy “army” of twelve men (please don’t count them) who roamed as isolated inhabitants of the highest peaks of the Sierra Maestra, and our new army of twelve columns and great offensive might. The difference is not only military, although perhaps the military aspect provides the basis; today it is also political. There is a world of difference between the pictures of bearded guerrilla fighters that used to appear on the amusement pages, taken from Life and Coronet magazines, and the serious declaration by the State Department denying Fidel Castro’s comments to Homer Biggart denouncing the pact between that department and Batista. The July 26 Movement is no longer a bizarre spectacle for the entertainment pages; it has now become an international political factor. But there is a question on the minds of the Cuban people: Does the pact exist? And if so, what is the United States trying to achieve? Yes, the pact exists, and the revolutionary general staff knew that Batista would lift the censorship and Pri’o would be arrested the day before these things occurred. What we cannot answer is what goals are being pursued by the United States of North America, the Great Power defending democracy and the free world, backing a semidefeated dictatorship against the clear will of the people. It would seem ridiculous for our small forces to attempt to threaten the giant. Threaten them? No, never. We are simply reminding them. Reminding the United States of North America that behind the July 26 Movement’s army there is a people in struggle, there is a unanimous civic will. To put them on notice, simply put, that the July 26 Movement is advancing toward its goal, fulfilling the will of the masses. And to put them on notice that our conduct is guided by the battle cry that serves as this publication’s motto:
Freedom or death!