1998 was a year of great losses for the CPI(ML). In the beginning of that year we lost Comrade Anil Barua, secretary of Assam State Committee when he was assassinated by a group of Assamese nationalist militants on 11 February while addressing an election meeting in Dibrugarh. Comrade Anil Barua was the CPI(ML) candidate for the Dibrugarh Lok Sabha constituency in the 1998 midterm Lok Sabha poll. On October 9 we lost Comrade Nagbhushan Patnaik in the course of treatment in a Chennai hospital. And just two months later, on December 18, 1998, Comrade Vinod Mishra breathed his last following a massive heart attack on the concluding day of a meeting of the party central committee in Lucknow.
As a mark of our tribute to these great leaders on their twenty-fifth death anniversaries we reproduce a few write-ups from our archives. There are three poems by Comrade Anil Barua (translated from Assamese into English by Dr. Madan Sarma of Tezpur University and published in the February 2006 issue of Liberation), an appeal for unity of communist revolutionaries by Comrade Nagbhushan Patnaik that had first appeared in the 18 October, 1980 issue of the Kolkata-based progressive weekly Frontier and a prompt response to that appeal by Comrade Vinod Mishra published in the 15 November, 1980, issue of the same weekly. Comrade Nagbhushan’s appeal was published with the caption “A Few Questions” and Comrade VM’s response was titled “Unite We Shall” (reproduced here with slight abridgement).
Comrade Nagbhushan’s appeal and Comrade VM’s reply in Frontier had marked the beginning of a historic comradeship and collaboration between the two leaders that played a central role in the revival and expansion of the CPI(ML) in the 1980s and 1990s. Comrade Nagbhushan had high regard for the revolutionary peasant movement on the plains of Bihar, and soon after his release on parole after nearly a decade’s incarceration he met Comrade VM and there began a close exchange of ideas. By 1984 Comrade Nagbhushan agreed to take the responsibility of chairing the Indian People’s Front and became the moving spirit of the rise of a fighting democratic platform on an all-India plane.
After the coming overground of the CPI(ML) in December 1992 and subsequent dissolution of the Indian People’s Front in early 1994, Comrade Nagbhushan continued to play a prominent role as a member of the Polit Bureau of the CPI(ML). As a young member of the Central Committee of the CPI(ML) elected by the First Congress held in May 1970, Comrade Nagbhushan remained a bridge between the undivided CPI(ML) led by Comrade Charu Mazumdar and the revival and reorganisation of the party in the subsequent decades. After the death of Comrade Nagbhushan, Comrade VM led the funeral cavalcade from Chennai to Bhubaneshwar via Andhra Pradesh, addressing assemblies of comrades at several points along the route and delivering a rousing speech before the cremation in Bhubaneshwar. In the short period that Comrade VM remained alive after Comrade Nagbhushan’s death, he encouraged comrades to design a 1999 calendar dedicated to Comrade Nagbhushan and launch a fund collection campaign for the construction of Nagbhushan Bhawan in Bhubaneshwar.
On their twenty-fifth death anniversary, Liberation pays respectful homage to these cherished leaders and celebrates their inspiring communist legacy.
[To the rape-victim Jonmoni (the little moon) of Bharalua]
Dark spots on the Moon
Blots, or Embellishments?
Is that the Moon
Or, Sukanta’s ‘half-burnt roti’
Or, my rebel sister,
A witness to state-repression?
What’s the value of ritual purification, O Priest?
The price of ritual purification
Cannot subdue our Moon
Cool, intense heat on the Moon’s body
The swallowing Rahu cannot hide
The Moon’s bright face
Sun-bathed She’ll Shine Again.
The bugle sounds,
Striking a note
Who pours venoms of lead
Into the perfume?
Plucking the pomegranate’s red blossoms
Play the hurling game.
Whose flag flies
Over the graveyard of humanity?
The people have identified them
Have seen through the game
Of the worms of darkness.
Yet long is the night’s journey
It’ll be a while
Before the morning light
Brightens everything up
But the long night’s journey
Will end all right.
You are a peasant
I am a worker
Two brothers, poverty stricken
Both have the same mother.
You turn this land green
With your toil
You offer golden harvest
To the whole society
Do you get enough
To fill your stomach?
I struggle with machines
Breaking my back
For the comfort of the rich
Creating something new every day.
I lift the iron ore
That came from the womb of the earth
Softening, melting, moulding
I made steel tough.
Buildings, electricity, cement, concrete
All of these I made myself
Shelling my labour
Wasting my life day after day
I’ve become a proletariat.
The money-lender deprived you of everything
The landlord sucked your blood
How long will you go on tolerating?
Come, let’s fight together
When united even the weakest can win.
Let’s get united
Making weapons of the plough-shares
Ensuring social justice
Let’s wrest our due.
(FRONTIER, October 18, 1980)
Where are we today, the CPI(M-L) the party – the groups or the individuals?... Is not the Indian Revolution being delayed by the nefarious groupings, splittism, personality clashes, we-are-all-knowing or we-are-all-correct arrogance/ or this-or-that-group-is-the-all-correct / party and the-rest-is-all-wrong and such self-conceit?
Are the differences between the CPI(M-L) groups basically ideological, programmatically irreconcilable, tactically planets apart in the pure party sense? Why do not unity efforts take off, and if ever they do, are soon grounded and dishevelled?...
Cannot revolutionary tolerance be put in command and comrades in the field – all or as many as possible while keeping doors open for the like-minded – meet, exchange experiences and begin with joint field work on agreed issues? Much talk about joint work evaporates when it comes to real doing, and the rub appears in the name of basic ideology.
Does all this sound idealistic? Pardon me if it so appears. My heart aches from inside the prison and on my sick bed. I know how some people entertain strange ideas about ideology, programme, tactics even in day-to-day jail life, and how they conduct themselves sans reason, sense, responsibility, and concern for history. I am afraid the, more than objectivity, it is the personal equations and personality conflicts that is the villain of the piece, by and large, and these prevent unity. I appeal to all to bury the personal and personality elements and begin, in earnest, parleys in the true Marxist-Leninist ways.
Are the questions involved – of any serious ideological proportions? Yes, and no. Yes, when the China question is brought in. No, because irrespective of the question of China today, our revolution is based on people’s war (protracted), as proven by Marxism-Leninism and Mao-Tsetung thought – our basic ideology. It is to be applied to the concrete conditions of our country. We have our own exclusive cultural ethos, geopolitical identity, socio-political institutions, caste system, panchayats, bourgeois parliamentary democracy (though sham, lock stock and barrel), and so on and so forth.
There should be a genuine feeling by all groups that each has, at one point or other, misconstrued tactical questions- such as – ‘boycott of election’, ‘line of class enemy annihilation’, ‘only underground organisation’ and ‘no legal or semi-legal activity’, ‘no front organisations’, ‘no political classes’ etc, - as strategic questions of basic ideology. It is time they corrected their stands, if they are still persisting in any of these.
Priceless blood has been shed. People have great love for those who sacrifice. But sacrifice alone and, at that, unnecessary sacrifice would only drain off precious blood, but not take us much farther as we stand today in a state of setback.
There is, I am proud to say, no dearth of comrades to plunge into the revolution raging in the countryside. But we must carry conviction with the masses, as without masses we are a spineless bundle of flesh.
Comrades, I am appealing to all your revolutionary fervour, from my sick-bed, to work for revolutionary unity, and match the subjective factors with the objective solutions....
Lastly, as to myself, a word. My life is dedicated to the cause of the country, nation and people. No matter whether I am inside or outside jail, I will rather end than succumb, break or bend. But I am an individual. Mao Tsetung thought has taught us: It is people and people alone who are the motive force in the making of world history, not individuals.
(FRONTIER, November 15, 1980)
In ‘A Few Questions’, Comrade Nagabhusan Patnaik has made a very strong appeal for the unity of the communist revolutionaries of India and has outlined a broad framework within which they can take the first steps towards that end.
Nagabhusan Patnaik is the name of an Iron Man, of a brave proletarian fighter and a worthy Party leader. He is perhaps the last living link in person between the united CPI(M-L) of the past and the divided CPI(M-L) of the present, because of the immense respect he enjoys in all the factions of the party. And, therefore, in spite of his serious sickness which has brought him close to death, he remains a constant source of fear to the enemy. In his appeal, he has echoed the present objective need and also the aspirations and desires of the revolutionary ranks and masses, and the time has come for us to pay the matter serious and urgent attention.
There is no denying the fact that the unity of the communist revolutionaries is a very complex question. Though basic formulations of the party programme remain valid to this day, much water has flown down the Ganga and the Godavari, demanding a freshly-drawn party programme. This has invariably given a new dimension to the old problem of unity. Also, any general call for unity cannot lose sight of the fact that, over the years, tendencies in one form or the other amounting to liquidation of the revolution and revolutionary struggles have become consolidated among certain segments of the revolutionary forces. In a multi-national country like India with an uneven economic and political development, there remain all the chances of regional and other such contradictions infiltrating any all-India party of the proletariat. Moreover, as different party factions have been working in isolation from one another for a long time, many factors have multiplied to develop group mentalities to a considerable extent among them. In the groups outside the CPI(M-L), such tendencies have firmly entrenched themselves in the party during the last twelve years or so. In the absence of a united team of influential and capable leaders, personal equations and personality conflicts have contributed a lot in retarding the process of unity. Therefore, the question of unity in a single party is difficult, very difficult indeed.
However, there is the encouraging side of the picture too. In the on-going debate between different party factions and groups, many fundamental questions related to the strategy and tactics of the Indian revolution are being discussed and rediscussed. Though painful, a process of ideological preparation of the impending Indian revolution is thus on. In spite of ‘nefarious groupings’, the movement is gradually reviving on an all-India scale as the summation of separate efforts of various party factions, groups and individuals. The overwhelming majority of the revolutionary forces have realized the importance of serious mass-work and only a small minority indulges in senseless actions basing on the frustration resulting from the grave economic crisis in certain sections of the masses. By all accounts, this phenomenon is only the last phase of that minority’s lengthy political training. The course of political events particularly Indira Gandhi’s coming back to power and Russian military advance close to our border – are preparing the common ground and developing the urge for the various party factions and groups to get closer. In the rank and file, the desire for unity is on the increase and it is only a matter of time for this desire to get translated into the force which will overcome the ego of the leaders and bring them together in a single party.
The recent experience of the disintegration of unity which a few party factions had achieved provides important clues to decide our next steps. It is not sufficient to unite simply on the basis of a similar approach to the evaluation of the past. Rather, developing a new political basis of unity of the assessment of the present is all the more important – and to an extent sufficient. Certain differences on the evaluation of the past – which it is otherwise necessary to solve – can even be left aside for the time being. The organisational form of unity should essentially be based on the principles of democratic centralism and debates on important issues should be conducted as a process of discussion and not of outright condemnation, in order to maintain the dignity of the Marxist-Leninist movement, to preserve its unity and to develop the correct line.
“Things begin to change into their opposite when they reach the extremes”, Already many of the party factions and groups have come closer. They are holding regular discussions, exchanging opinions and increasingly coordinating their activities in various mass struggles. Development of this coordination in the not-too-distant future will eventually provide the necessary breakthrough in determining the political and organisational basis of unity in a single Party....
And our unity with the massive intermediate forces developing all over the country and skilful utilisation of the contradictions in the enemy camp can give birth to a powerful united front as a new type of “national alternative” against the ruling autocratic clique. The present situation provides us ample opportunity to take initiative in this direction.
And in this context, Comrade Nagabhusan’s call assumes paramount importance. We earnestly hope that all Marxist-Leninist forces will respond to this call both in work and spirit. Finally, we take this opportunity to appeal to all revolutionary comrades to mobilise strong public opinion throughout the country to pressurize the Government for the release of Comrade Nagabhusan Patnaik.
Our Red Salute to you, Comrade Nagabhusan. You can rest assured Unite We Shall!
[The above has been issued on behalf of the Central Committee, CPI(M-L)]