Charu Majumdar and beyond – Sabyasachi Goswami

Long, long ago, A great teacher of the Communist movement told us story of the ‘old fool’.

It also inspired an ‘old fool’ in our country to embark on the task of moving the mountain. Angels responded to his call for joining hands, thousands and thousands of them. They sacrificed lives: some attained martyrdom by the bullets of the police, some were beaten to death by the goons of the rulers, and some others breathed their last in the dark solitary prison-cells. Many of them spent the best part of their lives behind the bars. Even today, some of them retain the great dream of moving the mountain in their hearts. They still thrive to break rock-solid obstacles with the hammer and shovel of their determination and courage, singing aloud, summoning others to join. The Communist movement of India is nearly a century old by now. The struggle of Naxalbari which took place exactly fifty years ago created an unprecedented wave of upheaval among the students and youths across the country. It was really one of the greatest chapters in our history written in the luminous letters of sacrifice. Our`old fool’ was the heart and soul of this movement. What was so appealing in his call which attracted so many thousands of young minds who did not think twice before leaping into the blazing crater of the revolution, forsaking bright, alluring careers, wealth and comfort of home, family and friends?

“One who cannot dream and cannot let others dream can never be a true revolutionary”…
Barring a few self-conceited intellectual highbrows, everyone will probably admit that it was this man who laid the theoretical foundation of the great struggle of Naxalbari. In his historic `eight documents’, he threw lights on all the important aspects including the class character
of the Indian state, determination of the stage and formulation of the political and military principles of the Indian revolution identifying friends and foes, chalking out a line of action against revisionism, dissociation of mass-organizations and mass-movements from the illusion of economism etc. Besides, he strongly supported the right to self determination of oppressed nationality and their struggle for achieving this goal, even including the demand for a right to sesession. In brief, he was the pioneer in depicting a holistic picture and a concrete road map of revolution. In fact, he brought these issues to the forefront before the uprising at Naxalbari, in his `eight documents’ published between 28 January 1965 and April 1967. Basically, it was his analysis of the-then socio-political reality which triggered the Naxalbari movement. He continued to write after that. There has been considerable amount of research on the theoretical aspects of those writings. It is going on even today. My article is not aimed at a discussion on any of these aspects. As a student and apprentice of literature of the next generation, I am trying to understand the literary values of his writings, to search for the key to the magical attraction of his writings which appealed to so many people, especially the youth. At the very outset, it should be made clear that I am not going to enter into an `academic’ analysis. I do
not have any knowledge or expertise to do that either. All I can say are a few notable characteristics of his writing which I have observed.
It is politics which was by far the most important aspect or theme of all his writings. I have no doubt about that. However, I am not discussing it here. I have noticed certain remarkable literary features of his style, which deserve serious attention and analysis. If we ignore them, we will really miss an important aspect of his contribution. The most prominent feature of his writings was his unique ability to be brief and to-the point. He could convey the essence of the topic in a beautiful and lucid style without using a single word or sentence that was not necessary. It is quite common to think of a hundred-page, fat political document. However, he summed up his historic eight documents in just 20 pages! Most of them were rather short, none longer than 4 pages. Neverthess, in such a small canvas he could vividly sketch an objective picture of the world politics on the one hand and set the direction of the revolution on the other. He also gave a bunch of important working principles related to mass movements. He boldly and unambiguously proclaimed the correct ideological stand, combining sharp and pointed political arguments with emotional appeal. Indeed, such an effective blend of logic and emotion was the second important aspect of his style of writing. For example, let us quote an excerpt from his `second document’ where he was trying to give a brief account of the most significant peasant struggles of the past:“ I have seen how a missive written on a small piece of paper drew people from miles away like a magnet…on the other hand; I had to helplessly witness barbaric torture on a newly-wed young Muslim woman by the ruthless class-enemies in front of her husband. I could remember the desperate appeal of her un-armed husband, “Comrade, can’t you take revenge?” I did see
the glaring expression of class-hatred of the oppressed who could break the scapula of the oppressor without blinking an eye. Comrades, such horrifying incidents call for critical analysis. Firstly, what was the historic cause behind such a massive uprising and such an intensity of classhatred? Secondly, what were the causes behind the failure of this struggle?” After saying this, he went on to explain that it was
the dialectical relationship or inner contradiction between the desire of the peasant for political power and the failure of the revolutionary leadership to understand the -politics of area wise seizure of power. The third notable feature of his writings was a bold, undeterred optimism. This was combined with his fourth characteristics, namely his ideological inspiration. We can notice the reflection of optimism in each and every sentence of his writing. Back in 1967, he wrote,“Don’t let the darkness frighten you, don’t let your isolation intimidate you.
Lend your ears to the voice of the great leader of the great Cultural Revolution. Keep in mind the assuring message from the Chairman, “Often it is only a few who understand the truth”. Try to understand the valuable realization of the Chairman that the people do want revolution. Remember, none of your efforts will be wasteful. If you want to remove a big chunk of ice from your path on the mountain, you must strike it many times without immediate success before you can give it the final blow to break into pieces. No target is ever achieved without hard work and painstaking efforts.” [Complete works of Charu Majumdar (Bengali), Istehar Prakashani]. In another place he wrote, “Sometimes we may feel that we are isolated, people are not paying heed to what we preach. However, it will be a mistake to lose courage and optimism in such critical junctures. It is only a natural phase of setback in the growth of the revolutionary forces. One who guides others in the dark night with his or her luminous leadership is a true revolutionary; and this is precisely where the party must play a conscious role.” (Ibid). In the essay `Is SriKakulam going to be Yenan of India?’ he recalled “Suddenly, I felt sad. Who knows if I can see these comrades again in my life? They have taken the oath of martyrdom, setting out for the battlefield from where many of them will not return. But one thing I know for sure: my country will never forget their names. All of a sudden, the dark shadow looming large over India seemed to be washed away by bright sunlight. I could see the luminous face of my motherland, a people’s democratic republic of India, a socialist India. Srikakulam was fighting and I knew for sure that tomorrow the whole of Andhra would join the struggle…there was news in the local newspaper on that day which reassured my belief: a class-enemy was killed by the peasant guerillas. The invincible, indomitable spirit of Srikakulam was moving ahead rapidly. Optimism is indeed one of the most important factors for motivating one for struggle. But it is not the only one. What is equally important is an ideological inspiration. Perhaps, he was the pioneer among the communist revolutionaries in India who theoretically empashaized the need of self-sacrifice and renunciation of anything personal. In fact, he was inspired by slogan of the great proletarian Cultural Revolution: `fight against self’. This is clear from the comments he made in a short article written on March 12, 1969, entitled `What is the significance of being a true communist?’: “ To become a true communist, it is not just enough to fight against the oppressor. Then, who is a true communist? A true communist is one who can sacrifice for the people, unconditionally and without any expectation or personal ambition. One must choose from the two extreme alternatives: either self-sacrifice or a selfish, self-centered life. Nothing in between”… “One must be able to sacrifice in order to become a true communist…” “Thus, revolution does not mean only material improvement but what is really means is this transformation of our mind, of our thoughts and ideas. A holistic transformation of our consciousness is afoot. What is the nature of the transformed consciousness? It is the consciousness for serving the people, inspiration for self-sacrifice, and love for the people. Revolution means nothing but this transformation of the society and people. ‘’ On March 13, 1969, he wrote the following in a letter: “Revolution demands self-sacrifice of the revolutionaries, sacrifice of their property and material comfort, complete renunciation of old habits, ambition for personal glory, fear of death. They must not think of choosing an easier path. Only then they can prepare themselves for the assiduous path of struggle, can inspire the people to sacrifice for a noble cause, which will deliver a fatal blow to the imperialist, revisionist and reactionary forces in India, paving the way for a successful revolution.” In the essay “Against the revisionist attack on the party line”,he made it clearer in the context of explaining the differences between the submissive revisionist line
and the true revolutionary line: “Revisionists need the guarantee for success as a pre-condition for struggle, while the valiant true revolutionaries jump into the struggle for a better world and achieve victory for the oppressed. This is what really distinguishes them from
the revisionist cowards. A true revolutionary is never intimidated by the specter of a possible set-back or defeat. The chairman has taught us, “Fight, fight, fight again if you lose a battle, fight until you finally win.’’…This is another important Marxist tennet.’’ Three communist revolutionaries, Gurudas, Sudeb and Sashi, attained martyrdom on their way back after the assassination of a landlord (Jotdar) in Keshpur.
Comrade Asim Chatterjee (Party name Khokon), who was the in-charge of the zonal committee for the border areas of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, expressed his repentance for this loss. In reply to Chatterjee’s letter, he advised him to break free from this vacillation which is typical of a middle-class mentality. The issue of sacrifice was emphasized and glorified here too. It was a unique and beautiful blend of emotional depth and revolutionary ideology.He wrote, “Comrade, there is only one path of revolution, the one which is bathed in blood. We must pay for the salvation of the oppressed. Each and every blow on us is painful, agonizing, but it will give us determination for the noblest sacrifice and the most intense abhorrence against the enemy— only when we can connect these emotions with the thoughts of the Chairman, a new humanity is born, who will become the Messiah of the oppressed, downtrodden men and women of our country, crores of poor, landless peasants. When they will usher this new life among them, the people of India will wipe off tear of sorrow and misery from their eyes and smile. What a magnificent river of life will overflow this land…India will glow brighter than a million stars, illuminating the whole world. It is the India we dream of, which will come to reality only through the path of sacrifice of innumerable comrades. Each of their lives is as
heavy as a mountain, because they grow into towering figures, much taller than the average men and women we see around us. Their death gives birth to millions of new lives. This is why the path of revolution must be soaked with tear, must be graveled with blood. ‘’ [July 6, 1970]. Another aspect of his writing was his conscious and consistent effort to follow the guiding principles of dialectical materialism. This is why he never forgot to caution us against the anarchist or adventurist tendencies while continuing the ideological battle against various forms of right-wing politics. His writings did have significant emotional appeal but it did not overflow reason; indeed, he would not allow rationality or logic to lose their commanding position. In an essay titled `On struggle-critique-transformation’, he was quite right in saying the following: “every human being has two aspect: one positive and the other negative. One who has a more prominent positivity should be called a positive person; the one with an overwhelming proportion of negativity should be called a negative person. We must compare the two opposite aspects before deciding about someone. This is a dialectical principle….For a 60%-40% case, we should go for 60%. We should
take individual care to develop positive aspect in each and every one. This is why we advise you to recruit party members through personal contact. …Struggle-critique- transformation. While we must carry on our struggle, we must not forget to self-criticize as well as transform. Indeed, this transformation is achievable. ‘’ To summarize, his signature style was a very precise and vivid language without jugglery of jargons or lengthy, convoluted sentences. His writings were marked by solid logical arguments coupled with deep, glowing emotion, a determined and unambiguous political viewpoint, ideological inspiration, vivacity, objectivity and adherence to the principles of dialectical materialism. And of course, not a single word that was unnecessary. So many leaders and political thinkers in India wrote volumes of theoretical articles and books but I doubt if anyone could write as inspiring and illuminating pieces as he did. Indeed, this is why his writings had such great impact on the proletariat, youth and students. This inspiration continues to flow in the hearts if the toiling masses of our country even today. As I am writing this, a bony face pops up in my mind. Ever smiling! With two very bright, glowing eyes. They belonged to the man for whom one can come out of home, leaving behind family, friends and personal comfort, sweep off old traditions and habits, even sacrifice own life for the greater interest of the people. It was the man whom you can love, criticize. On whom you can vent out your anger. In a feat of escapism, you can even put the onus on him and run away. The man still smiles on. Never loses his temper. At the same time, he does not deviate from his path of determination. At most, he can laugh at the escapist tendencies and say, ‘’It is the problem of the cadres
coming from a middle class background. Very soon, the national-international perspective fades away from their sight….Sacrifice is not a special thing. It is an integral part of how we face the problems of our day-to-day life. ‘’ But the smile never leaves his face. A dreamy trance
lingers in his bright eyes. The man, who is ever awake like a light-house of hope, in our dream, in our struggle for moving the mountains, at the gallows, during the miserable days in the prison-cells…at every moment that we live. He is our beloved leader Charu Majumdar. Our `Old Fool’.

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