Salute: 'Salt of the Movement'
R Arun Kumar
“...We Communists are people of a special mould. We are made of a special stuff. We are those who form the army of the great proletarian strategist, the army of Comrade Lenin. There is nothing higher than the honour of belonging to this army. There is nothing higher than the title of member of the Party whose founder and leader was Comrade Lenin. It is not given to everyone to be a member of such a Party. It is not given to everyone to withstand the stresses and storms that accompany membership in such a Party. It is the sons of the working class, the sons of want and struggle, the sons of incredible privation and heroic effort who before all should be members of such a Party. That is why the Party of the Leninists, the Party of the Communists, is also called the Party of the working class”. “Departing from us, Comrade Lenin enjoined us to hold high and guard the purity of the great title of member of the Party. We vow to you, Comrade Lenin, that we shall fulfill your behest with honour”! These words of pledge may have been taken by Stalin on behalf of the members of the CPSU in the immediate aftermath of the death of Lenin, but without any hesitation, we can also say that many of our comrades in West Bengal too take the same pledge upon the Red Flag – the Party of Lenin, the CPI(M). Fifty years back, on April 14, 1964, 32 National Council members who walked out of the then united Communist Party issued an appeal to all Party Members. In that appeal, they urged all the members to “contribute to the emergence of a still stronger Communist Party of India, which has been built up by great sacrifices of innumerable martyrs and glorious struggles of our people and uphold the banner of Marxism-Leninism”. Fifty years hence, many of the members and sympathizers of the CPI(M) are living true to this appeal. The legacy of the martyrs, their indomitable spirit, still flows in the veins of these humane beings, who continue to proudly hold the Red Flag high, braving severe repressions and attacks. For them, all these struggles are a part of their lives, as, life itself is a struggle. Fifty years ago, on July 7, 1964, hoisting the Communist Party flag signaling the inauguration of the Tenali Convention, Comrade Muzaffar Ahmad, called on: “Let us pledge to build a real Communist Party”. Fifty years since, hundreds of Party members are facing up to immense sacrifices to live true to this pledge. Many are losing their livelihood, are forced to stay away from their near and dear ones, are physically assaulted, raped, maimed and even killed. But undithered and repelling the countless blows of enemies, they are firmly committed to the pledge of building a 'real Communist Party'. Since one hundred and fifty years – the formation of the First International – all these years, which saw the birth of Communist Parties across the world, right from the day one of their formation, the ruling classes have pronounced the death of these parties and their ideology. They had used all the means at their service to ensure that the nascent Communist Parties are nipped in the bud. Marxism-Leninism as an ideology is maligned; the leaders of these parties are castigated in order to wean away the innumerable members of these parties and their sympathizers. One hundred and fifty years since, Communist parties still continue to remain a force to reckon with all over the world. In our country, the apologists of the ruling classes have got the epithet of the Communist movement written long back. Their eagerness forced them to read it aloud, even before their dreams are realised. From the Meerut Conspiracy case, they read it at every possible opportunity. Their cacophony grew louder after the defeat of the Communist Party in Andhra in 1955 elections, after the split in 1964, 1967 and further shriller after the setback to socialism in the Soviet Union and other East European countries. Contrary to their expectations, with every wave of attack, the Party emerged stronger. The Party stood firm as a rock, repelling the countless blows of its enemies and leading the working class. “Wave after wave dashes against it, threatening to submerge it and wash it away. But the rock stands unshakable. Wherein lies its strength”? Like cunning jackals, the ruling classes waylaid to pounce upon every opportunity and finish off the CPI(M). Every mistake was magnified and every electoral defeat was professed as the end of the Party. The defeats in West Bengal, the strongest citadel of the communist movement in the country, was showcased as the imminent doom of the Party and the ideology. In their zeal, they remained blind to the facts and refused to see the sprouts around them. Their blindness to facts and partisanship did not allow them to notice the strength of the Party. The strength of the Party lies in “the profound sympathy and unfailing support it finds in the hearts of the workers and peasants”. In Defence of Red Flag, a small, but a very valuable booklet about the Stories from West Bengal, is all about showcasing the strength of our Party. It brings forth the lives of ordinary 'workers and peasants' and opens their hearts before us. Any discerning person, open to reason and with an eye for facts can immediately recognise that herein lies the 'strength of the Party'. As the author categorically states at the very beginning, this small booklet is not an attempt to analyse the political developments or political factors that are responsible for the present situation in West Bengal. It is about what really is happening in West Bengal and how vicious are the attacks carried on the activists of the CPI(M). It is about how bravely are the people standing up to these attacks, trying to safeguard their achievements and build upon their strength to regain what they had lost. It is a collection of stories (rather, lives), of comrades from ten districts of the state, who are in the thick of resistance. It is precisely for this reason that this booklet deserves attention and needs to be read. None of the protagonists in this booklet is a 'great leader' or 'a known face' as the mainstream media wants it now-a-days. But nonetheless, none of their sacrifices or bravery is in anyway inferior to the 'legends' that we read in our courses on freedom struggle – not just of our country, but of any country across the world. Among them you find a 'Mother', 'La Passonara', a Nguyen Van Troung and so forth. But, why should they be someone else, when they themselves are heroes par excellence? So, they are Deepali Giri, Salkhu Soren, Sudipto Gupta and many others – all heroes on their own right. A very brief overview of each district, the land relations and the economic conditions in those regions provides us with a perspective to understand the present attacks and locate them in their proper context. The changes that were ushered in by the Left Front government in West Bengal and how they had benefited the poor and marginalised sections in the society, the resentment among the ruling classes to these changes are the real reasons for the attacks in West Bengal. So naturally, the struggle being waged by the comrades is one form of the class struggle. Many of the people interviewed in the book are young, women and come from the most backward sections in the society. This in itself strongly refutes the allegations of all those ruling class pen-pushers, who state that the CPI(M) is no Party of the young. Many of them are not so 'intellectually trained' in defence of the Party or its ideology. But these are the people tempered in the thick of struggles – battle hardened – constituting the bedrock of the Party. As some of them state, even though some leaders, however small their number might be, left the Party in these testing times, they remained not only staunchly committed to the Party, but also remained in their villages to lead the resistance. If somebody did not understand how the people withstood repression and stood by the Party during the famous Telangana, Tebhaga, Puppara-Vayalar, Worli, Surma valley and other struggles, the lives narrated in this booklet are a living testimony. This booklet is all about the lives of ordinary people, just like you and me. They are – communists – of special mould. For all of us concerned about West Bengal, Subhadra Layek reminds us: “We, the poor, are the salt of the red flag movement. If the salt is remembered, everything will become alright”. Words of wisdom indeed! From a battle hardened 'veteran of struggles', pointing the way forward for us, in the entire country. PS: Jyoti Basu's welcome address to the Seventh Congress of Communist Party of India, the formation Congress of the CPI(M): “as worthy leaders and organisers of the Communist Party, the highest organisation of the working class and the fighting people, you have remained undeterred by all the slanders, conspiracies and attacks of imperialism, native reactionary forces and the ruling clique. In quite a difficult and intriguing situation you have held high the world-conquering banner of Marxism-Leninism and have untiringly organised the people and their struggles...Today, after a firebath, the Party is indeed reborn...We too, have made mistakes; we too have been under the influence of revisionism. But the militant tradition of the working class and people here has saved the Party from falling into the grip of the revisionist clique. That is why, the attack of the ruling class and the revisionist clique against us was very fierce...”