A Tragic Communist Hero

50th Death Anniversary of Charu Mazumdar

Harsh Thakor

On 28th July this year Naxalites commemorated the 50th death anniversary of Charu Mazumdar, who was tortured to death in police custody. It ranks amongst the worst abuse of human rights of a political prisoner or leader in India or the world. Today history is repeating itself with custodial deaths being a routine occurrence in jails. Charu Mazum-der’s assassination illustrated the neo-fascist nature of the Congress regime in West Bengal. The Civil Rights groups undertook extensive research on the fascist nature of the execution of not only Mazumdar but thousands of cadres of CPI (ML). In 1997 a judicial inquiry was initiated 25 years after the murder by son Abhijit Mazumdar and other activists, but the petition was dismissed by the High Court and Supreme Court.

Charu Mazumdar must be credited for igniting the spark of ‘Naxalbari’ by giving it a political shape, through his eight documents. He planted the seeds of the Indian Communist Movement demarcation from revisionism and Naxalbari Movement by formulating path of New Democratic Revolution. Whatever serious errors or dogmatic thinking, Charu Mazumdar formulated a path of agrarian revolution based on teachings of the Chinese Revolution. He stitched the base for re-building an All-India Revolutionary Party by delivering a striking blow to revisionism and parliamentary opportunism. Naxalbari and Charu Mazumdar are inseparable.

Charu Mazumdar infused the spirit in thousands of students and youth to rebel against feudal autocracy and an authoritarian social order. Young rebels thronged the villages to organise the peasantry. Students and youth at the very core revolted against the semi-colonial and casteist education system. Workers’ rage reached a boiling point over their economic exploitation. Peasants sprung out like a spark turning into prairie fire, to confront the landlords—jotedars. An upsurge was created within Bengali Society, with poets, musicians and painters plunging into fire.

In his lifetime Charu Mazumdar was one of the most popular Communist leaders worldwide. CPI(ML) sprouted an upsurge nationwide. Tribals in Srikakaulam were also inspired to combat police and landlords heroically as well as peasants in Terai and Bhojpur or Punjab. Thousands were victims of police bullets, fluttering the red flag of liberation.

5 years ago Mazumdar’s son Abhijit Mazumdar gave a heart- touching interview on his experiences. He narrated how people were obstructed from entering the crematorium where his father’s dead body lay, to pay tributes, with the area packed with policemen. Still some people daringly paid homage. Charu Mazumdar’s wife was so devastated that she fell into the morass of oblivion, remaining in absolute political silence from media till death in 1995. His father was praised as being very loving and caring. He also recounted how his mother as a life Insurance agent, was the sole bread winner of the family.

CM rebelled against social inequalities even as a teenager. Later, impressed by "petty-bourgeois" national revolutionaries, he joined All Bengal Students Association affiliated to Anusilan group.

Dropping out of college in 1937-38 he joined Congress and tried to organise bidi workers. He later crossed over to CPI to work in its peasant front and soon won adulation of the poor of Jalpaiguri region.

Soon an arrest-warrant forced him to go underground for the first time as a Left activist. Although CPI was banned at the outbreak of World War II, he continued CPI activities among peasants and was made a member of CPI Jalpaiguri district committee in 1942.

This move motivated him to organise a 'seizure of crops' campaign in Jalpaiguri during the Great Famine of 1943, more or less successfully.

In 1946, he joined Tebhaga movement and organised a militant peasant struggle in North Bengal. The stir designed his perspective of a revolutionary struggle. Later he worked among tea garden workers in Darjeeling.

The CPI was banned in 1948 and he spent the next three years in jail. He tied the nuptial knot with a fellow CPI member from Jalpaiguri —Lila Mazumdar Sengupta in January 1954.

CM's escalating ideological rift with CPI came alive after the party's Palghat Congress in 1956. The 'Great Debate' across the communist world in the late 50s had a telling effect on Charu Mazumdar, inspiring him to devise a revolutionary line for the Indian situation. He was again jailed during 1962 Indo-China war as part of curbs on all Left activities in India.

After the CPI split in 1964 CM joined the breakaway CPI(M) but failed to abide by its decision to participate in polls postponing 'armed struggle' at a time when revolutionary situation prevailed in India.

He kept a bad health during 1964-65 and was advised rest. But he devoted this time, even in jail, to study and write about Mao's thoughts. The exercise crystallised his vision and ideas of a mass struggle, which were recorded in his writings and speeches of 1965-67. These were later called 'Historic Eight Documents' and subsequently formed the basis of Naxalbari.

The CPM formed a coalition United Front government with Bangla Congress in West Bengal in 1967 but CM and other 'purist' elements in the party charged the party with betraying the revolution.

On May 25 the same year, the CM-led "rebels" lit the first spark to the historic peasant uprising at Naxalbari in Darjeeling district of West Bengal. It was "brutally" suppressed by the CPM-led state government but the ideology of "naxalbari" spread like wildfire.

With the upsurge of Naxalbari, communist revolutionaries from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, UP, Bihar, Karnataka, Orissa and West Bengal set up All India Coordination Committee of Revolutionaries (AICCR) in Kolkata on Nov 12-13, 1967. It was later renamed as All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries, which launched CPI(ML) on April 22, 1969 with Charu Mazumdar as its General Secretary.

Unfortunately Charu Mazumdar committed serious mistakes letting the movement veer towards left adventurism or terroristic path. His calling for ‘China’s path as India’s path’, ‘Chairman Mao as India’s party chairman’ etc was not in consonance with a Marxist Line. The national bourgeoisie was charac-terised as an enemy as well as the rich peasant class. Mass organisa-tions were disbanded being described as revisionist. Line of ‘Individual annihilation of class enemies ‘was adopted as the sole form of struggle’. ‘Boycott of Elections was propagated as a strategic path’. It was predicted that the evolution would be completed by 1975. The CPI(ML) too displayed authoritarian or bureaucratic tendencies, which led to its eventual disintegration. It failed to properly knit or converge all party forces around it. Most undemocratically it expelled communist veterans like T Nagi Reddy and D V Rao in 1968 from the Al India Coordination Committee. In 1971 in an interview with Premier Chou En Lai Souren Bose received strong criticisms of the CPI(ML), on all these questions.

Quoting Sankar Ray in Frontier weekly in 2011 “There is no denying that Mazumdar had inspired thousands to plunge into the Naxalbari armed struggle. However after few years after the formation of CPI(ML), Charu Mazumdar failed to create an impulse among hundreds of youths to plunge into armed revolutionary path unlike in the end-1960s. The adventurist essence of Naxalbari came into the open. Nonetheless, the CPI (Maoist) and most of the variants of over-ground CPI (ML) indulge in personality cult of CM. Portrait of Mazumdar is placed aside Marx, Lenin and Mao at every state party conference and congress of the CPI (ML) Liberation but no ideological debate on CM is encouraged.”

It must be remembered that Mazumdar did not play the exclusive role in Naxalbari. Charu Mazumdar himself admitted in his speech in the rally at Shaheed Minar on 11 November 1967 that the leader of Naxalbari was not him but the local organisers including Kanu Sanyal, Jangal Santhal, Kadam Mallik and Khokan Mazumdar etc.

Though it is incorrect to say that Charu Mazumdar was the leader and architect of the Naxalbari peasant uprising, it must be stated that he created the breeding ground for its ideological basis. Charu Mazumdar was instrumental in establishing a radical rupture from CPM politics. Had it not been for Charu Mazumdar, perhaps the Naxalbari struggle would have simply been reduced to a quagmire of economism?

Intellectuals like Bernard De Mello feel that Charu Mazumdar failed to distinguish the Indian path of revolution or the nature of the Indian bourgeoisie, from the Chinese one, but still credits achievement of Charu Mazumdar and CPI (ML) in inspiring peasant uprising nationwide. Earlier late Mohan Ram made an incisive analysis in ‘Maoism in India’ on why CPI (ML) formation was incorrect in 1969.

In truth the Revolutionary Movement today has not yet completely extricated itself from line of ‘annihilation of class enemy’ which glorifies individual heroism of squads. Earlier ‘annihilation line’ had a telling impact on the practice of erstwhile CPI (ML) People’s War and Party Unity Groups who persisted with it in spite of initiating self-criticism. In spite of self-critical documents by the COC of CPI (ML) in 1975 and Andhra Pradesh State Committee in 1977, infections of past line still vitiated political practice.

Today right opportunism is predominant in the Indian Communist Revolutionary camp .Some groups like CPI (ML) Liberation or CPI(ML) Red Star have abandoned the path of protracted People’s War and embraced parliamentarism. Other groups like Communist League of India are propagating Socialist Revolution as the path of Indian revolution and labelling Charu Mazumdar as a terrorist. On the other hand CPI (Maoist) has not completely extricated the erroneous line of ‘annihilation of class enemy’; propagated by CM. Very few sections adopt balanced view of Charu Mazumdar’s contribution. Maoists still eulogise CM, but fail to recognise contribution of mass-line by Communist Revolutionaries like Tarimela Nagi Reddy or DV Rao.

Today Marxist historians have to probe into the phenomena of the Charu Mazumdar era, in light of re-organising the Communist Movement in India, chalking a path conducive towards the Indian revolution and confronting neo-fascism.

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Vol 55, No. 14-17, Oct 2 - 29, 2022