Friday, October 23, 2009

An Exceptional Communist

By Prakash Karat

JUNE 13, 2009 marks the birth centenary of E M S Namboodiripad, whose life and work has left an indelible imprint on the communist movement in India. Born in 1909, EMS's remarkable life spanned the entire gamut of the social and political movements of the 20th century in India.

As a young student he became the standard bearer for social reforms in the orthodox Namboodiri community to which he belonged. He became a Gandhian Congressman who participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement as a student and went to jail. He was one of the founders of the Congress Socialist Party when it was formed in 1934 at the all India level. He became a key organiser of the peasant movement against feudalism and imperialism in Malabar. By 1936, he joined the Communist Party, being among the first group of five members in Kerala.

Thus began the extraordinary journey of EMS as a communist who became the foremost leader of the communist movement. It is not possible to make a full and proper evaluation of EMS as a Marxist thinker and his great contribution to the communist movement in a short article. But there are five distinctive features which stand out in his revolutionary life.

Firstly, EMS was pre-eminent among all the communist leaders in his creative application of Marxist theory and practice. His extraordinary intellectual prowess enabled him to grasp the essence of Marxism and apply it in a creative fashion to Indian conditions. It is this outstanding ability which enabled EMS to become the first to lay down the theoretical basis for the abolition of landlordism in Kerala after a concrete study of the socio-economic conditions. He also had the unmatched capacity to translate theory into practice. His thesis on the jenmi-landlord system in Malabar became the basis for providing practical guidance to the developing peasant movement. His exposition of agrarian relations and the democratic content of the agrarian revolution laid the basis for the pioneering land reforms which were later initiated when he became the chief minister of the first Communist ministry in Kerala in 1957.

EMS also showed how a Marxist analysis of society and history should be conducted in his study of the evolution of the linguistic nationality formation of the Malayalis and Kerala society. His Aikya Kerala and the study of “National Question in Kerala” became the basis for the major democratic movement in post-independence India for the linguistic reorganisation of the states. On all the major questions of India's politics and society, EMS made an original contribution because of his firm grounding in Marxist theory. He analysed history, society, politics and culture from the Marxist standpoint in the most authentic manner. These interventions and views would provide the catalyst for discussions and debates amongst not only Left intellectuals but also among all thinking sections of society.

It would not be an exaggeration to state that no other communist leader has made such a contribution to the development of Marxist theory and practice in the ex-colonial countries or the developing world.

As a Marxist-Leninist, EMS was deeply committed to the cause of world socialism and internationalism. But after decades of experience of the international communist movement, the CPI(M) leadership of which EMS was part, broke from the practice of heeding the line emanating from Moscow. EMS and his comrades began the arduous quest to apply Marxism-Leninism to evolve the correct strategy and tactics of the Indian revolution based on their own experience. EMS played an important role in this process.

The second important feature was the pioneering role that EMS played in developing the correct perspective for the Communist Party's participation in parliamentary forums. He himself charted out the course for communist participation in government by becoming the chief minister of the first communist ministry to be formed in India in Kerala in 1957. The 28-month stint of the communist government blazed a new path by adopting land reform measures, democratic decentralisation and a pro-people police policy.
EMS throughout was firmly committed to democratic decentralisation. Both as a Party leader and as an administrator EMS conceived of and worked to execute a more federal and decentralised system from the centre to the states and down to the panchayats. It was EMS who did the most in translating the Left vision into public policy making and execution. To EMS must also go the credit for clearly demarcating from revisionism and parliamentarism when he drew the proper lessons of communist participation in government. He saw this as part of the class struggle and laid out clearly that participation in government should be accompanied by extra parliamentary work which will strengthen the working class movement.

The third distinctive feature was EMS's original contribution to the Marxist understanding of caste and class relations. After analysing the caste structure in Kerala society in the early decades of the 20th century, EMS drew out the class content of the caste configurations and was able to develop the communist outlook and practice which harnessed the anti-caste revolt and the democratic aspirations of the lower castes to the wider goals of the proletarian movement. Unlike many in the earlier generations of communists, EMS did not ignore the realities of the caste system and was able to utilise the impetus for social change for building the wider unity of the working people. In later life too, EMS also sought to apply Marxism to an ever changing caste-class correlation. As an authentic Marxist leader, EMS's interests spanned all aspects of society and social change. He was equally insightful in interpreting culture and on ways to build an alternative cultural hegemony to that of the ruling classes. From his earliest days fighting for social reform he was deeply committed to women's emancipation and as the general secretary he played a key role in the Party addressing issues of gender equality and women's oppression.

The fourth unique feature was EMS's unparalleled role in communicating to the people the ideas and the politics of the Party. No other communist leader had such a prodigious output in terms of articles, reviews, commentaries and books. In Kerala, there was a remarkable dialogue between EMS and the people through his daily writings.

EMS was the editor of a number of Party publications starting from Prabhatham which began as a paper of the CSP in 1935 in Kerala and ending in his last years once again as the editor in chief of Deshabhimani. In between he was the editor of a number of papers in the united party and of People's Democracy and The Marxist. The collected works of EMS in Malayalam which are being brought out will run into over a hundred volumes. These writings put together are an impressive and enduring legacy for the people and the country.

The fifth distinctive feature of EMS was that he was a communist of special mould. Despite his intellectual prowess he was modest and devoid of egoism. The love and reverence of the people of Kerala never turned his head. He lived a life of utmost simplicity after giving up his property to the Party. As a leader he set the standards for democratic functioning and by sheer example exercised a great moral influence over the cadres to live up to the expectations of the people.

For the Communist and Left movement in India the theoretical and practical work of E M S Namboodiripad is a rich and abiding legacy. The essence of that legacy – study of Marxist theory, its creative application to the live and concrete conditions of society, the firm belief in the emancipatory goal of socialism and a total identification with the people – has to be transmitted to succeeding generations of activists committed to the people's cause.

Peoples’ Democracy, June 14, 2009

CPI(M) Commemorates EMS Birth Centenary

KERALA: THE two day national seminar on the ‘World of EMS’ was held to commemorate the birth centenary of Comrade EMS Namboodiripad at his birth place, Perinthalmanna in Malappuram district. Inaugurating the seminar CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat recalled his experience with EMS Namboodiripad, who was the first chief minister of a democratically elected communist government in Kerala and the general secretary of the Party for nearly one and a half decade.
Prakash reiterated that the Party would continue its struggle against neo-liberal economic policies and the pro- imperialist stand of the UPA government. He also emphasised the importance of a self-critical analysis on the recent electoral setbacks and assured that the Party would examine whether it had distanced away from certain sections of the society. He also added that the electoral defeat is only temporary and the Party will continue to be the leading force in resisting the pro-rich, anti-people policies. The consolidated attacks of the right wing political parties, and other sectarian forces backed by imperialism can never hamper our struggle to resist neo-liberal economic policies and UPA government’s servile attitude towards imperialism, he said.

It is none but EMS Namboodiripad who identified the threat of majority communalism against democratic ethos and designed our strategy against the fascist forces. Even in the early eighties, he warned about the strengthening of the right wing Hindutva forces and their penetration into our secular society. Talking about the contributions of Comrade EMS Namboodiripad, Prakash described him as the most original and outstanding Marxist produced by the developing world in the 20th century. No other Marxist thinker theorised about the class and caste associations of our society as EMS did. He evaluated Indian national movement from a working class perspective and played a pioneering role in developing communist perspective for parliamentary forums.
The minister for local administration, Paloli Muhammedkutty presided over the seminar. Presenting a paper on democratic perspective of development, Prabhat Patnaik, vice chairman of the State Planning Board said that Kerala could never duplicate other states in development. If we imitate other states, much of our freedom would be negated and indiscriminate encouragement of capitalist investment would be dangerous to Kerala, he said.

The Finance minister T M Thomas Issac recalled the role played by EMS Namboodiripad in the successful implementation of decentralisation of power in Kerala.

The evening session kindled nostalgic revolutionary memories of Comrade EMS when Prakash Karat laid the foundation stone for EMS Memorial Complex on the banks of river Nila in a ceremony charged with emotions in which thousands of comrades and sympathisers participated. A Vijayaraghavan, MP presided over the function and the daughters of EMS, Dr Malathi, EM Radha and son in law Dr A D Damodaran attended. Dr Sumangala, the grand daughter of EMS sang melodious revolutionary songs belonging to the resistance music genre.

On the second day, the session started with CPI(M) Polit Bureau member S Ramachandran Pillai’s paper on ‘EMS and Coalition Politics in Kerala’. He urged the activists to follow the model of EMS in waging restless and sustained struggles against bourgeois social system and reactionary ideas. He also cautioned the Party activists not to confuse between the third front and the third alternative, which the Party seeks to build. He warned the Party activists to be vigilant against the influence the existing bourgeoisie society is trying to exert on them. Instead of being influenced by the unequal society, the communists should try to change the society, he said and called upon the activists to be prepared to face any challenges.

Many other learned scholars and practicing politicians presented their views on various facets of Comrade EMS’s life and related these to the contemporary task of the communist movement. Madhavankutty, famous journalist criticised the media for targeting CPI(M) adversely. Speaking on ‘Coalition Experiments and Media,’ he accused the media of giving shape to a ‘mega media rainbow coalition’ against the CPI(M). KKN Kuruppu, historian presented a paper on coalition politics in pre independent days. T N Seema, AIDWA state president spoke on Left perspective on women’s interventions.

The last session which dealt with EMS’s relationship with the cultural front was inaugurated by M A Baby, minister for Culture and Education. The session was presided over by Prabha Varma, the poet and was enriched by the presence of luminaries from the cultural front. Veteran poet Akkitham and Dr K G Poulose, vice chancellor of Kerala Kalamandalam participated. Baby described EMS as a leader who recognised the importance of cultural activities for the movements which work for social change.

The two days of discussion on EMS’s life, politics and contributions recharged the comrades with inspiration and confidence with the light radiating from the brilliance of the ‘Genius of the epoch’.
Kolkata Observes EMS Centenary

ADDRESSING a large indoor rally to remember E M S Namboodiripad, the legendary communist leader, in his centenary year, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said that the party would go to the people as in the past, learn from them and battle ahead, defeating all adversities.

The function was organised at the Calcutta University Centenary Hall on July 31 evening, with Biman Basu in the chair and CPI(M) state secretariat members on the dais.

Prakash Karat said EMS was not merely a theoretician, he was also of that rare quality that allowed one to put theory into practice. He would analyse the evolving situation and draw correct lessons from them. He placed a remarkable address on the problems plaguing the Malabar kisans when he was speaking at a legislative session in Delhi in the pre-independence years. This was the address that later served to inspire the land reforms movement in the country and gave birth much later to the movement for land reforms in places like Kerala and West Bengal.

EMS’s was also a correct analysis of the nationalities question in Kerala and, apart from calling for an integrated concept of what was then called a province, EMS also spoke firmly in favour of democratic decentralisation of power, financial as well as administrative.

Prakash Karat said the CPI(M) was at present under assault from the forces of reaction, indigenous and foreign. The attacks assumed a sharp dimension during the run-up to the 15th Lok Sabha elections and has continued since in Bengal.

From the date of the announcement of election schedule, 70 comrades have been martyred here in West Bengal, said Prakash Karat. In Kerala, the attack was open and overt. In Bengal the attack is covert and in the guise of ‘Maoism.’ Prakash Karat was bitterly critical of the politics of ‘Maoism’ being practiced in some parts of the country.

Analysing the election results of the 15th Lok Sabha elections, Prakash Karat pointed out that the results were an “exception in Bengal where the LF has been in office for 32 long years.” The CPI(M) has full confidence, and it would learn from the people the correct lessons to drive forward in the days to come. The life and achievements of EMS would serve as source on inspiration in this task.