Sardar Fazlul Karim

For a Humane Society

Farooque Chowdhury

Sardar Fazlul Karim, a veteran revolutionary of Bangladesh, used to say: a communist society is a humane society. And, he spent a significant part of his life for materializing the humane society.

The assertion was not his innovation. It's the lofty goal of the toiling people all around the world. And, the goal is built up on the scientific analysis of economy and society. This goal drove Sardar all through his life. It was his dream, his area of activism.

Sardar Fazlul Karim has passed away on the early hours of June 15, 2014 in a Dhaka hospital. He was 89.

To many, the National Professor was Sardar Sir, a teacher. And, many knew, he was a communist to his last breath. He had no confusion about humanity's journey to communism. Based on a scientific analysis he dauntlessly stood for socialism during the liquidationist Gorbachev-days of so-called Glasnost-Perestroika.

Sardar was one of the initiators of Socialism Forum, organized in the set back-days of 1990 to popularize the concept of socialism, while the sophisticated lumpens who once crowded the revisionist camp to consume butter and honey, left in a bunch and started a cacophony of denouncing all the advancements humanity has so far made: achievements in erstwhile Soviet Union and China, in the east and central European countries, in Cuba and Vietnam. The bunch was nullifying their souls, if there was any, and a part of their life. The lousy wanderers' despicable journey without a grain of dignity dumped them in the heap of rotten garbage capital joyfully produces.

But the Forum with the leading intellectuals, poets, artists and activists of Bangladesh issued a declaration defending socialism and organized discussion meetings in major cities and towns in the country. Sardar Fazlul Karim used to say: Victory of socialism is inevitable. He denied denying class struggle and its role in human history.

Coming from a peasant family in Barisal in the southern part of Bangladesh Sardar Fazlul Karim came into contact with the politics of the toilers during his school-student days. The politics was practiced by the communist party.

He joined the philosophy department of the Dhaka University as a teacher in 1946 after completing his studies in the university. As a brilliant student Sardar stood first class first in both graduate and post-graduate levels. He was also offered a scholarship abroad. Instead of availing the scholarship he opted to be an organizer among the masses.

In 1948, he resigned from his job as a teacher of the Dhaka University and began work with the communist party in today's Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan). He became an underground communist organizer.

At that time, the communist party was facing brutal repression unleashed by the Muslim League rulers of Pakistan. In the face of police surveillance, he had to leave Dhaka and take temporary shelter in Kolkata. But police surveillance in Kolkata pushed him back to Dhaka. He took shelter among peasants near Dhaka.

He was arrested from Dhaka in 1949. At that time, political prisoners in Dhaka jail were in hunger strike. Their demands included recognizing them as political prisoners. Sardar joined the hunger strike. Jail authority resorted to forced feeding. Sardar's hunger strike continued for 30 days. The reactionary Pakistan government was compelled to compromise. A number of denands were realized by the striking political prisoners.

Sardar Fazlul Karim was released from prison after five years. Total length of his life in prisons in four terms was 11 years.

Sardar was elected to the Pakistan Constituent Assembly while he was behind bars. It was a show of his connection with the masses.

He again joined the Dhaka University in 1972.

Sardar Fazlul Karim was involved with the Progressive Writers Association.

His major Baanglaa works include a dictionary on philosophy. Author of a number of books on the political history of the country his major Baanglaa translation works include Aristotle's Politics, Plato's Republic, Rousseau's The Social Contract and Engels' Anti-Duhring.

A person closer to commoners Sardar Fazlul Karim was always easy in discussions with peasants, workers, rickshaw pullers, students, political activists and leaders, intellectuals. But he was not with the type of intellectuals, who sold their hearts to NGOs. He was not also with the group of persons that claims to be "civil society" sermonizing everyone but self. Shunning limelight he was averse to sell self. Standing opposite to "noble" cheats he made no effort for self-propaganda: "See, this is Sardar".

He was an image of the saying: knowledge makes one modest. His personality was not like a scorching hot, rather like a soothing moonlight. Sardar always tried his best not to get isolated from the tradition of the commoners. He very often said in a colloquial style: ‘I'm a peasant's pola–son.

Long ago, Sardar Fazlul Karim made a request: please, bury my body neither in the intellectuals' nor in the national graveyard. I prefer Azimpur graveyard as my last resting place as commoners are there.

Sardar Sir made efforts in accumulating knowledge from classic literature, science and traditional wisdom.

He used to say: ‘We have to learn from Lalon, the philosopher from the colonial east Bengal rural life, to Lenin. We have to assimilate all the knowledge humankind has accumulated over generations in our country and in other countries. There is no reason to solely depend on imported knowledge. He was always eager to learn and gather knowledge from the commoners’.

Sardar Sir used to say: ‘All through my life, I've repeatedly gone through a single book. The name of that book is Jeeban, life’.

Even, he suggested his students to learn from the book Jeeban whenever they asked for the name of the book to read. Sometimes a few students missed the meaning and asked for the name of the ‘book’s author, and a smiling Sardar said: It's Jeeban Babu or Jeeban Dutt.

Preferring dialogue in informal setting instead of seminar, round table, etc. he produced a number of essays in the form of dialogue. A part of the Dhaka press carried those dialogues. He was a regular contributor to weekly Ekota, the organ of the Communist Party of Bangladesh.

Always updated with latest information he invited questions, and then attended to those by entering into long discussions. He used to say: Formulating and asking questions is also important.

To him, human is a total entity. This led him to say: Human's struggle to be humane is the struggle for communism, is the communist struggle.

Indicating pseudo-revolutionaries shouting slogans of adventurism he used to say: ‘We live within revolution. So we fail to see its march forward. I find young girl workers confidently moving fast through the streets as they rush to their workplaces, garments manufacturing units, in the morning. They don't bother about who the guy I'm passing by them. In the evenings, as I return home from my workplace I find them also going back to their homes. Even then, they don't care. They are confident and brave. Do you know what the change is going on? You miss it as you have already turned "communist". A communist is not made overnight. One has to be a communist gradually through a process; it's a long, arduous process. It's not that whoever involved with a communist party is a communist. One has to be human and humane before one turns a communist. A communist is a humane developed further.

Thus Sardar Fazlul Karim used to perceive problems around life and struggle. In the time of putting out everything on auction by a significant part of society, from self to soul, from dignity to love, from creativity to commitment, from imagination to involvement, from agenda to activism, Sardar, the commoner at heart, remains bright as an example to learn from.

Vol. 47, No. 2, Jul 20 - 26, 2014