50 Years of formation of VIRASAM

Harsh Thakor

This year on July 4th the Virasam or Revolutionary Writers Association turns 50. It is a landmark day in the history of the Indian Communist or Revolutionary movement as it played the role of a pioneer in   igniting the spark of Naxalbari and Mao thought in the field of literature. Thus, its formation defined a new epoch in the Indian literary revolutionary movement. For half a century withstanding the most powerful tides of Neo-fascism it has stood up like a boulder in defending the essence of Marxist-Leninist ideology by creating genuine anti-feudal and anti-imperialist literature. No organization in the history of Indian revolutionary Movement has matched the quality of the writings or poems Virasam in terms of revolutionary democratic depth. It shimmered the flame of Naxalbari and Srikaulam political line with consistency and depth equalled by no other organization existing today. Even in the darkest days it could resurrect itself like a phoenix from the Ashes to enable new roses to bloom, with the spirit of an army. It nurtured many an individual into dipping their ink or brush to express revolutionary creativity at it's deepest depth. Creativity. The writings, poems and art work reflected the very soul of the oppressed masses, particularly that of the peasantry. It founded a style which could reach the hearts of the people at the very core.
Today Virasam is the only political organization which defends the politics of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism or the Maoist movement in Dandakaranya that can function openly. It defied a ban imposed in 2005 and eventually got it repealed but is been a victim of several attacks by the state with hundreds of its members implicated in false cases, till now. It is ironic that for 50 years since its inception it’s founding member Vara Vara Rao is behind the bars, being framed as a conspirator or   'urban maoist.' Just a fortnight ago its newly elected secretary Kasim was arrested on charges of sedition. These are ample illustrations of how Virasam has boldly raised its voice against Saffron fascism and been a major thorn in the flesh for them. No mass organization in the country is confronting saffron Hindutva fascism at it's very core at an ideological level as Virasam.
Virasam was founded in the context of Naxalbari and Srikakulam struggles and murder of revolutionary writer Subbarao Panigrani. What was remarkable that it was founded when the C.P.I.(M.L.) had formally disallowed the formation of mass Organizations. Thus morally the Naxalbari and Srikakulam struggles were the precursor of VIRASAM.
In the same year, Virasam was formed, with revolutionary poet Srirangam Srinivasa Rao as the founding president, and Digambara Kavulu, Rachakonda Vishwanatha Shastri, Kodavatiganti Kutumba Rao, Vara Vara Rao, Chalasani Prasad, Krishna Bai as members. This was a watershed moment in the struggle, as several revolutionary songs and writings were later translated into all Indian languages, to build a united forum for creative resistance.
The founder-president of Virasam was poet Sri Sri and its founding vice-presidents were Kodavatiganti Kutumba Rao and Rachakonda Viswanath Shastri, K.V.Ramanna Reddy wa sit sfirst general secretary. The architects behind it were Vara vara Rao and Kondapalli Settharamiah.
Virasam took its birth just a few days before the martyrdom of Vempatapu Satya naranya and Adivatla Kailasam,2 major leaders of the Srikakulam movement who were captured and killed. The main objective of its formation was to demarcate from revisionism prevailing in the Progressive writers Association and illuminate the path of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China. A historic pamphlet was written by the students in a meeting in celebration of poet Sri Sri's 60th birthday attended by about 25,000 people. In the 1st manifesto of Virasam it pledged to hit reformism at its very core with 7 major points.
1. Objective of Marxian Socialism
2. Unite writers who recognize and support peoples struggles.
3. Support peoples struggles irrespective of the form they took
4. Establish complete economic independence of the country.
5. Creating a new democratic system removing all remnants of capitalist, feudal and colonial remnants.
6. Create proletarian internationalism
7. Wholeheartedly support peoples liberation struggles worldwide
A 2 line struggle took shape within Virasam on the issue of whether Marxism-Leninism-Mao thought ideology should be an integral part of the manifesto. A certain section of comrades influenced by the line of T.Nagi Reddy opposed it claiming it was a form of imposition of ideology on the people. They produced what was known as the 'Oldga document' which was supported by Jwalamukhi .It claimed that a mass organization can only be anti-feudal and anti-imperialist but including Mao thought would alienate it from the broad masses. This group in 1975 left in January 1975 and held a conference in Anantapur.In 1973, Varavara Rao and MT Khan produced a counter document known as the 'KS Document (Kondapalli Setharamiah) which countered the Oldgha document.In the Kanoor conference in 1974 Mao thought was officially proclaimed in the manifesto .In 1979 the Chandra Pulla Reddy group too opposed introduction of Mao thought and formed their own group in September 1985 after earlier producing a document in 1979 called Namma document.
For decades Virasam not only enriched the history of Telugu literature but also of Indian literature. In the 1st stage of formation it lit the spark of the sacrifices of the martyrs by publishing poetry shimmering or ressurecting the very essence of their spirit. Their poetry even encompassed the mainstream of Telugu literature.Subbara Panigrahi was their role model who dipped his pen along with his weapon to ressurect the flame of the Telengana armed struggle by advocating the writers to adopt popular art forms in the countryside. Many a boy and girl youth was inspired in the manner of a new spirit infused into them, reminiscent of what Lu Hsun and Maxim Gorky did in their day.
Classic examples of works are a poems and songs of Subbarao Panigrahi "Kondu Bigubhu Teleginatti/Kondu jati Birura ,Uppenayale oyakkasari/Lechi mundhu Korajara (Arise you brave Adivasis /Flex your muscles/Pounce on the class enemy like a thunderstorm."Other poems of Panigrahi include ‘Redness’’.
Chear banda Raju wrote"Ours is the age of revolution" while Sri Sri wrote "Final Journey:First Victory."
One of the most impactful activities of Virasam was it's participation in 'go to Villages campaigns ' where it received firsthand experience of the day to day lives and struggles of of the people .It gave memories of the Yenan spirit of revolutionary China and gave a major boost in shaping their artistic skills or style.Virasam Welfare Patshalas or Schools also facilitated members to interact and share their experience. For a long time it worked in tandem with the Jana Natya Mandali,the Radical Youth league and the Radical Students Union .and acted as the breeding ground for many a new student, youth or cultural activist.Virasam stitched the threads for Organizations like the Radical Students Union and League to bloom .
By the Eighth conference fifteen books were published including Maro Jhanjha, Maro (Another Whirlwind) Prasthanam,(Another direction)Sastriya Vijanamam,(Art and Scientfic knowledge) ,Tullugullo Kavita Viplaba Swarupam(The nature of revolution in Telugu poetry)and Rytu Coolie Porata Potharu(Anthology of songs of peasant struggles)
In the last decades it published hundreds of books in literary forms including collected works of Sri Sri in twenty volumes, Kodavatiganti Kutumba Rao's non -fiction writings in eight volumes, and Cherabandu Raju's writings in several volumes. Its first anthology of poetry called 'jhanjha" carried a poem named "Narudo Bhaskaruda which is said to have defined a new landmark in Telegu poetry. Thousand short stories were printed. The form of novel was innovated portraying the highs and lows of the ever day lives of the broad masses.Virasam developed literary criticism in a higher form basing it on deep historical and philosophical traditions.
One of Virasam's notable losses in recent years has been that of Chelasani Prasad, who was one of it's founding members and till his last breadth defended revolutionary ideology with his literary work.
I have been privileged in attending programmes of Virasam in the last 4 years which include 2 state conferences, 2 public meetings and one seminar. I was most impressed with the seminar it organized commemorating the 50th anniversary of Naxalbari in September 2017..No mass organization shimmered the flame of Naxalbari in its 50th anniversary year as Virasam did who invited a huge spectrum of intellectuals from different states and spheres .It gave a most analytical historical projection of naxalbari and its aftermath, giving most accurate appraisal and self -criticism.
Boldly former secretary Varalaxmi reflected on how at several junctures genuine armed struggle could not be consolidated and bourgeois parties or ruling class forces took over the genuine people’s movements. She reflected how the armed movements were not sufficiently sharpened to combat the fascist attacks by the state.
The political weaknesses of mass organizations were summarized in a paper by N.Ravi terms of lack of democratic functioning, imposing politics of Mao thought ,loose or open functioning etc.The positive aspects were highlighted in respect of building armed agrarian movements in Karimnagar and later Dandakaranya as well as Student movement of APRSU and trade Union Movement of SIKASA.The need for organization snot directly connected to the party politics were highlighted by the All India Peoples Resistance forum etc.It also noted how the C.P.I.(M.L.) Party Unity Group from the start obliterated Mao thought from the manifesto of mass organizations it formed .
 Vernon Gonzalves ,of Mumbai, reflected on Naxalbari's impact on Social movements in general where he threw light on relevance of the movement in confronting fascism. He threw light on the plight of the dalits and minorities with particular reference to Maharashtra.
 Although the comrade was not present a most comprehensive paper was presented on the Movement in Bihar which in dialectical depths analyzed the deviations and mass line in practice in Bihar.Self-critically it summed up the inability to penetrate into the urban ares or working class .In immaculate detail it summarized how the revolutionary peasant comities distributed land and how the revolutionary armed squads confronted the senas of upper caste landlords.
Sukhwinder Kaur from Punjab adressed the historical developments after Naxalbari discussing the Bhakra-Samaon movement and the repression in falsely staged encounters on activists like Baba Bhooja Singh.
Seema Azad from Uttar Pradesh touched upon the trend of fascism prevailing and how naxalbari shaped the thinking and cultural level of the common people.
Vir Sathidar portrayed the practices of Brahmanical fascism in Maharastra with the persecution of dalits in every sphere and the history of the dalit panther movement. One of the most significant aspects discussed was the one of how to integrate caste struggle with class struggle and an important platform was given to Vir Sathidar on this aspect.
No organization has shimmered the flame of the maoist movement in Dandakaranya like Virasam who held meetings commemorating the 10th anniversary of formation of Janata Sarkars  in Dandakaranya and when the massacres of Adivasis took place in Bijapur  in Orissa in no time it organized a state level protest meeting in November,in 2016..One of its senior members Comrade Paani wrote a book on how the struggle in Dandakarnya transformed the very base of the social lives of the people by creating revolutionary alternative structures run by the Adivasis.Tooth and nail it has confronted all ideological attacks on the Maoist party and movement .Surpassing the intensity of any other group in confronting what it theorizes as 'Brahmanical fascism"it has struggled to bring within its manifold democratic dalit organizations and movements and those of Muslim minorities. Resembling the flow of river water flowing it has continuously published books or poems of revolutionary martyrs .Above all it has harnessed all its energy in uniting or bringing into its camp writers who are even not Marxist but generally revolutionary democratic or anti-fascist. Above all it has not mechanically applied Marxism-Leninism-Maoism but has given it most creative forms in context of the situation prevailing. Annually it has held patshalas on topics like the Brahmanical fascism ,fascist essence of Hinduism,semi-feudal economic relations,etc.
One valid criticism could be made of VIRASAM placing ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism in its manifesto as a perquisite for membership which may thus fail to integrate all genuinely democratic sections. This criticism was made by the Peoples Literary Cultural Federation 4 decades ago which led to splits within Virasam.
On January 11-12th Virasam held its 27th state conference in Hyderabad at Baglinglimpally in Vigyan Kendra Sundram hall commemorating 50 years of its existence. It called for ‘creative resistance.’ Before the conference a flag hoisting programme of Virasam completing 50 years was held for an hour .It was heart touching witnessing the songs sung and the expressions of comrades who converged around the flag, with the spirit of revolution written on their faces, Revolutionary writer, journalist and translator Kanchan Kumar, during his inaugural address, urged writers and cultural activists to learn from protesters how to organise against ‘fascism’. “People are telling revolutionaries how to unite. We need a united cultural front now,” he said, after recalling how protesters across the country came together after CAA and violence at Jamia Milia Islamia.
Tracing through the protests in Aligarh Muslim University followed by attacks on Jawaharlal Nehru University where students were agitating against fee hike, he noted that scrapping of Article 370A and 35A was “beginning of the end” for the government which had won with brute majority just a year ago. In his view virtually a new epoch was written in India in the struggle waged against fascism with Muslim women calling their Hindu brethren to join their protest.
In Shaheen Bagh, Muslim women, who have never been part of any protest, came out and stood against the “fascist regime”, he observed, and said people of all religions and walks of life stormed the streets of Kolkata in protest against CAA. Ruling class is now in trouble, owing to people’s resistance, he added.
He likened the present day’s youth resistance to the 1970 era when Virasam was founded.
Yakub, president of the invitation committee of the Virasam Convention, said Hindu fascism was growing, and that the responsibility of such organizations had increased. People facing all types of persecution have to stand up and fight. "The situation in the country is getting worse. The Modi-Shah duo has come to power at the center for the second time. Violence against the minorities has increased," said Ahmad Khan. on He said that the government has been given the right to quash all civil liberties and that all people must seize the opportunity defend the secular democratic rights of the country.
In a keynote speech, Secretary Pani described the fifty-year-long journey in building the creative resistance. He summed up the co-relation between the material lives of the people and its relationship with art and culture and how Virasam established revolutionary art and literature. They upheld the creativity of the people and brought the class struggle into literature and art. He explained that the language and style of the struggling citizens and the oppressed people were embraced by the aspirations of the social liberation aspirations, movements and factions.
The activist and writer of the Bhopal Movement, writer Ririn Muhil, said that the broad masses should be able to reflect on the stories and movements of the masses. He was of the opinion that good children's literature should be brought to light in the light of praja movements. He said that children's literature is only half as much in progressive literature as required.
Afterwards, K K S Das, a Dalit poet and writer from Kerala, spoke. on how the The Communist Party is in a state of disarray. and how Brahmanical fascism was the very basis of Hindu philosophy. In his view the Communist parties totally neglected the aspect of caste. He summarized how the language policy of the rulers was so autocratic ,supressing the native dialects.
Hemanta Dalpathi, an Adivasi poet of Orissa, described the civic life and life of Aboriginal people touching upon the economic monopoly over the economy and seizure Adivasi land by the corporates.with the blessings of the ruling BJP. Karnataka writer and cultural activist,
Nagegiri Ramesh spoke about Karnataka's public affairs and the BJP's government's imprisonment of democrats..
Comrade Ravunni stressed that the target should not only be the ruling BJP but the fascist nature of the social order as a whole and in depth condemned how revisionism or neo-liberalism collaborated with fascism.
Poets and artists like .Siva Reddy. Andhrajyothi editors K Sivakumar condemned fascism which they felt was reaching a crescendo and taking a new form.
Talking about the revolutionary literary movement is not an easy task, says Virasam secretary elect Professor Kasim..Said that "50 years of history marks fascism ar at it's crescendo".. He said writing politics is inseparable from writing and it has been proven since ancient times. He said that the revolutionary literary movement played an important role in all literary processes, highlighting popular struggles. He touched on the series of democratic activists framed on false sedition charges.
Sangishetti Srinivas (Singidi), Taidala Anjayya (marasam), Bhupathi Venkateswaras (Telangana Sahiti), Shikhamani, Kondepudi Nirmala, KN Malliswari (Prasave) (Narasvaram) Venugopal (Viewing Editor), Nallela Rajaya (Warangal Writers Association), c. Rammohan (Palamooru Study Plaza), Chaman (Telangana Chaitanya Sahitya), Sajaya called for the masses to ignite the anti-fascist spark to build a prairie fire.Comrade Allam Rajjiah delivered a speech summarizing fascism which created ripples in the audience .
Professor Haragopal, Ratnamala, Nalluri Rukmini and G. Kalyanrava participated in the concluding session, Resolutions were adopted on the various repressive acts of the govt like introduction of NRC or CAA ,releasing of 'urban maoists'.,'release of Professor Saibaba'Scraping of UPA law, justice for Muslims in Babri Masjid verdict etc. The Revolutionary Writing Committee has elected a new committee to address the congress.
It was heart touching witnessing the cultural programmes and songs with a cultural team from the Revolutionary Students Front or Red Lantern group from West Bengal performing many songs and even jointly coming on stage with the Praja Mandali Cultural team comrades of Andhra Pradesh and Telengana.Although young and small in size the contingent from Bengal evoked the hearts of all the delegates with their powerful voices. Sad not to see participation of delegates from states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Punjab or from other constituents of the revolutionary camp.
The Revolutionary Writers Association (the) elected the new executive commitee with a new secretary and President. The office bearers elected are as named below
President - Arasavelli Krishna,
Vice President - baasith
Secretary - Professor Kasim
Assistant Secretary - Rivera
Executive Member: Varalakshmi, Ramakrishna (ram ki), revolution, venkanna, Rama, ujval, Kiran, style, cinnayya
Arun's working editor: Varalakshmi
Website Editor: Sagar

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Jan 31, 2020

Harsh Thakor