Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Communist league of Britain

Remembering Comrade Joshi

First Published: Class Struggle, June 1983
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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This year is the 4th anniversary of the death of Comrade Jagmohan Joshi. Time has not diminished the relevance of Comrade Joshi’s contributions to communism, to the struggles of the Indian people and to the struggles of black people in Britain. In fact, as the communist movements in the imperialist countries are struggling to find the correct way forward, and black people are faced with increasing oppression, his contribution becomes even more relevant.

As General Secretary of the Indian Workers Association (GB), he led many struggles. There were many struggles in the Midlands foundries where Indian workers had to fight to get union representation, often in the face of opposition from racist trade unions and most of the white workers. There were many struggles in the community, including the rights of Sikhs to wear turbans, and against discrimination in public places, e. g. the refusa1 of many pubs to serve black people. The IWA has always supported and fought to maintain the culture of their own people. This is shown in such things as support for Punjabi schools and the promotion of cultural activities at all IWA events.

Joshi himself was a revolutionary poet, writing in Urdu under the pen-name of Asar Hoshiarpuri. His poetry, always carrying a strong political message, inspired many people. The following few words from one of his poems, sums up the spirit of the struggle:

We are fighting for the light, and if I am sacrificed, it doesn’t matter; for there will be others who win see the dawn.

The IWA has always supported the struggles of the Indian people against imperialism, and was instrumental in setting up the Alliance Against the Fascist Dictatorship in India, when Mrs Gandhi declared a State of Emergency. The IWA also supported struggles against imperialism all over the world, and consistently opposed Indian expansionism.

The struggle has not only been for Indian people – the IWA has always fought for all black people. Joshi was involved in the Co-ordinating Committee Against Racial Discrimination (CCARD). He always saw the need for black unity and black 1eadership, and was involved in the Black People’s Alliance in the late ’60s and was convenor of a committee of black organisations which called the demonstration against racism in 1976. His untimely death took place on a demonstration against racism.

Those of us who were in the Birmingham Communist Association (which merged with the RCLB in 1980), remember Joshi very well as a communist – as someone who inspired us. As the crisis of imperialism deepens, and we struggle to find a correct way forward in this decaying, parasitic, imperialist society, we find it even more imperative to keep alive the spirit of communism that Comrade Joshi epitomised.

Joshi’s communism was quite clearly not of the Eurocentric type that has typified the white 1eft for so many years. For some of us, he was instrumental in opening our eyes to the realities of oppression in the Third World and the significance of the national liberation struggles. He did not see racism as a diversion from the class struggle – as something that will simply be resolved with the socialist revolution, but stressed the importance of black struggles.

Joshi was a Marxist-Leninist, a fighter against revisionism who took a firm stand against the two super-powers. He saw the need to build the communist movement in this country, and supported and encouraged the formation of the Birmingham Communist Association (BCA). He clearly saw the importance of the struggle against racism, and recognised the effects of racism and imperialism on the working class in this country:

“Racia1ism in white workers is class collaboration and fatal for the working class struggle.” and “Loya1ty to the British nation is loyalty to the class that controls it i.e. monopoly capitalism. The white worker must reject such loyalty. Loyalty to Britain is loyalty to British imperialism. The white workers owe loyalty only to proletarian internationalism.”

He argued very strongly against the idea that “black workers must not expect white workers to support them in their fight against special oppression, but must themselves support the economic struggles of white workers under white leadership as the best means of indirectly achieving their economic and political emancipation.” He saw this as totally incorrect like that other argument ”that workers and peasants in colonial and semi-colonial territories should wait patiently for the workers in the metropolitan countries to overthrow the imperialist power.”

As the electioneering proceeds, and all the ’left’ and its dog lines up behind the Labour Party, Comrade Joshi’s views on social democracy come as a timely reminder:

Social democracy was never an attack on imperialism, but a demand for its most efficient administration abroad, and a more equal division of the imperialist cake in Britain, i.e. social imperialism. This laid the basis for a succession of Labour governments yielding nothing to the Tories in their defence of the British Empire, whether it has meant the attempt to smash the liberation movement in Malaya by the Attlee government or the present tacit support for the Smith government in Zimbabwe.