Autumn Number 2019

Voice of the Voiceless

Amar Kant

Jis khet se dehqan ko muessarnahi roti,
Us khet ke har khosha—e—gandam ko jalado
[The farming, that doesn't provide livelihood
                             To its farmer, set on fire every grain of its harvest]

It was a call to the starving millions to rebel and was an extract from a poem penned by Sir Mohammed iqbal, a poet laureate of the Indian Sub-Continent.

Famines were not uncommon during the British rule in India. A devastating famine in Bengal in 1943, resulting in the deaths of an estimated two to three million people out of a population of sixty millions, due to starvation and disease, had been going on.

I, a college student at Lahore (now in Pakistan) in 1943-44, was a leading member of the Students Federation of India. During Sundays and other holidays, we, a group of students, used to visit villages situated in the vicinity of the city of Lahore. There we would address small gatherings of peasants on the agrarian problems facing them. We also used to explain what Scientific Socialism was and how it would eradicate their poverty. The 'Cry of Bhooka Hai Bengal' (Bengal is starving) used to be one of our slogans, urging the people to donate liberally to the Bengal Famine Relief Fund, floated by the Communist Party of India. Every one of our group would begin his speech by reciting the above lines of Sir Iqbal.

The decades preceding the independence in 1947 and the years following were a revolutionary period. Revolutionary thinking and the concept of Socialism were in the air. Socialism and revolution were closely associated concepts. Every leader and worker of the political parties would proudly call himself a socialist, though would often add the word 'democratic' to his Socialism in order to distance himself from revolution. Many of the followers of Mahatma Gandhi, had also started calling themselves 'Gandhian Socialists'.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, though, a staunch follower of Mahatma Gandhi, declaring, time and again, his belief in the Gandhian ideology of Non-Violence, would also call himself a Democratic Socialist. In pre-independence years, he used to call himself a Socialist. He had written six chapters in praise of Marxism, Soviet Union and her titanic Five Year Plans in his world famous book, 'Glimpses of World History'. There were a few good words about J V Stalin in it.

The concept of Socialism was so popular that in January 1955, Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru along with his Finance Minister, Morarji Desai and other leaders at the Avadi AICC Session declared 'the goal of the Congress was a Socialistic Pattern of Society. The ruling bourgeois classes were afraid of the concept of Socialism, yet were keen to associate it with themselves and their political parties as a safety-valve against revolution.

It is a part of the history of the country that it was in order to thwart the possibility of revolution that the Indian National Congress was founded as a safety-valve in 1885. It was the work of Lord Dufferin, a shrewd and cunning British Governor-General of India. He had got it done through Allan Octavian Hume, a retired British civil servant. His effort had proved to be extremely successful as the Party founded by him had performed its job satisfactorily.

All the variations of Socialism adopted by the bourgeois leaders such as Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and their parties had nothing to do with Scientific Socialism. It was only in order to captivate the minds of the masses towards their own parties, thereby, diverting their minds and thoughts from the activities of the revolutionaries spearheaded by Bhagat Singh. It was a kind of State Capitalism in a disguised form that resulted in giving a bad name to Scientific Socialism and Marxism.

Inspite of the endeavours of the bourgeoisie to repulse the tide of revolution and Scientific Socialism, revolutionary thoughts continued to inspire the people during those times. The Republic of Cuba and the Republic of North Korea continued to be the shining flag-posts of Scientific Socialism of that period, despite the crippling blockades and sanctions against them by the imperialist countries headed by the USA.

Writings of writers and poets such as Sahir Ludhianvi, Kaifi Azami, Faiz Ahmed Faiz continued to evoke revolutionary thinking. Here are a few lines of a poem by Faiz which had been, and continue to be, on the lips of the people.


(Oh, wretched of the earth! Wake UP.
The Time Has Arrived, when the Empires
Would Collapse like the House of cards.
And The King Emperors Would Be Made
To bite the dust.)

This was again a call to the workers and peasants to rebel and bring about Socialist revolution.

Most of the Weekly and Monthly magazines in the country subscribed to the ideology of market economy or the ideology of social democracy, both of which were variations of Capitalism.

'Frontier,' a Weekly published from Kolkata stands out amongst the exceptions. It was launched in 1968 with meagre funds by Samar Sen, a renowned left intellectual, journalist and writer. After his demise in August 1987, Timir Basu, a devoted Marxist comrade of Samar Sen, has been bringing out the Weekly in spite of the tremendous financial crunch. Its commitment is to Scientific Socialism and Democracy. It analyses the happenings in the socio-political sphere in the country and the world from the class angle enabling the readers to understand the social system in its true colours.

A few extracts from the articles published in 'Frontier' would make obvious the valuable role, the Weekly is playing in revolutionising the thinking of its readers.

In a short piece in its recent issue, 'Frontier' has discussed why corporates were relentlessly asking the country's Reserve Bank as well as the Government, to lower the repo interest rate and in whose interest it is lowered. They call it stimulus to prompt the corporates to invest more money in the business and trade so that the jobs are created. Never an industrialist invests his own funds or those borrowed from the banks at low interest rate to create jobs. He makes investments only to maximise his profits. The lowering of interest rates hurts the livelihood of millions of lower middle class people who had deposited their hard-earned savings in the banks to live on the income the interest earned. Hurting the interests of these modest and low income persons in the interest of the corporate groups is certainly nefarious, added 'Frontier' in its issue dated June 30-July 6, 2019.

'Rights and Wrongs of Armed Resistance', an important issue in defending the basic rights of the peasants, tribals and other poverty-stricken people, was discussed in an earlier issue of 'Frontier' by Gautam Navalakha.

"Violance", Navalakha wrote, "had and will continue to play an emancipator and empowering role. Without armed people organised and, therefore, properly harnessed violence, there can be no transformation of society... Nowhere has any revolution ever succeeded simply by remaining non-violent... without armed resistance, to believe that ruling bourgeois classes so well-armed, will peacefully submit, may remain a wishful thinking", Navalakha added in 'Frontier'.

This truth had been acknowledged and given legitimacy earlier by the Government of India, when late Shri K R Narayanan, then hon'ble President of India, unveiled the statue of Birsa Munda, the legendary tribal hero, in Parliament House, New Delhi on 28 August 1998. Paying tributes to Birsa Munda, the then President had said that Birsa Munda had fought against the predatory tendencies of the ruling classes in the name of modernisation and the oppressive Zamindari system.

The Government had superabun-dantly honoured Birsa Munda because he was an extremely popular tribal icon. He had sacrificed his life fighting for safeguarding the rights of the tribals. The honours accorded to him were with the intention of sharing a slice of his popularity.

No matter, the legendary Birsa had organised a well-trained and well-armed army of the tribals. No matter, he had indulged in acts of violence, rather of grave and revolutionary violence. No matter, he had attacked the police stations. No matter, he had killed the police officials. Whatever violent and murderous acts, Birsa Munda had committed, were done in the past. What mattered now to the Government was, his enormous popularity and that the government needed to share.

Posing itself as the well-wisher of the tribals, the Government was keen to handover the lands of the tribals, their forests and their rivers to the corporates. The corporates had avaricious eyes on the highly precious bauxite and other minerals worth millions of rupees and dollars buried under the lands and forests of the tribals. No matter to the Government, that the corporates would destroy their forests and pollute their rivers. No matter to the Government, the tribals would become landless and lose their livelihood. The Government was keen and wished tribals to agree to give up their forest lands to the corporate.

The tribals, however, could not agree to ruin themselves. They had, like Birsa Munda, developed a strong resistance movement. This movement had been called Maoist Movement. It was considered by the Government the greatest danger facing the country that had to be eliminated.

Gautam Navalakha had, at the end of his article put a few pertinent questions. He had asked, 'what are the tribals, called the Maoists, supposed to do, say in Bastar? Surrender to enable the corporates, a free-run of their forest land and water? Will this provide a better deal to the Adivasis? Had the condition of people improved since the Maoists retreated from North Telengana? Will the three districts of Purulia, Bankura and West Mednipur in West Bengal usher in prosperity, were the Maoists to pull out from there? Will the UP Government bother about the 30 years long struggle of Dalit 'Patta' holders to get possession of land when they woke up to their plight only, when Maoists began to organise them? Will the Government in Bihar begin to distribute land, were the Maoists not around? Will the Government of India and some other mainstream political parties such as the BJP and the Congress give up its corporate-led development programme? Will the lands grabbed through coercion and fraud be returned to the tribals? Will they reverse privatisation of rivers in Chhattisgarh? Will they allow Adivasis to return to their villages from where they had been displaced? Let the people interested in political problems facing the country ponder over these issues.

Had Gautam Navalakha's article published long ago (in 2010) in 'Frontier', also been published in the mainstream media, it would have helped the people in understanding the problems of the tribals in the country. The country is facing Naga problem in the North-Eastern States and there is Kashmir problem. All these problems basically relate to the elimination of poverty, providing livelihood, job to everyone, free quality health services and free quality education facilities to the poor and the marginalised sections of people. The prevailing Capitalist Mode of Development, now being called 'Market Economy' also called Neo-Liberalism, Privatisation and Globali-sation, can neither fulfil the basic needs of the people nor can eliminate poverty. It is possible only when a Socio-Political System based on Scientific Socialism as envisaged by Sheed-E-Azam Bhagat Singh and his Party, namely, Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, is established in the country.

I would, here, mention one more, amongst the numerous highly illuminating articles published by the Weekly, namely, 'WHAT IS TO BE DONE?' authored by another learned columnist, namely, Gayatri Chakraborty Spivak published in the issue of 'Frontier' dated May 23-29, 2010.

At a time when Capitalism had become the dominating ideology and when lured by the parliamentary privileges and a comfortable life, many of the communist leaders in India and the World have discarded the revolutionary path, of which, the glaring example, is the Maoist communists of Nepal. Once leading a glorious revolution successfully and on the verge of turning Nepal into a communist country, but fearing intervention from the world imperialists, got themselves charmed by the bourgeois democracy.

Karl Marx's famous dictum: 'The philosophers have only interpreted the World, the point, however, is to change it,' had been the guiding principle of 'Frontier'. This Weekly, through its editorials and articles, had been inculcating class consciousness among its readers, making them dream of a society of equals and, thereby, educating them the principles of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. The members of its editorial board headed by Timir Basu and assistant editor Anirban Biswas are devoted Marxists.

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Autumn Number 2019
Vol. 52, No. 13 - 16, Sep 29 - October 26, 2019