Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani -- The Mojlum Jononeta of Assam - Bengal

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A Sufi Pir and a Jihadi against the Julm and the Jalim

By Arupa Mahajan

Maulan’s Ideals

Moulana Abdul HamidKhan first journeyed to Assam in the year 1904 at the age of 24 from his birthplace of Tangail of East Bengal and he considered Assam as his homeland. At that time he was moved by the sufferings of the 2.5 million Bengali Muslim peasant. He worked for them and tried to organize them. He came again in the early 1930s and spent his 15 years of political leadership in Assam as an uncompromising voice of the toiling masses. The Moulana of Bhasanchar of Dhubri district became the folk hero of the oppressed peasantry whom he organized and led for their movement for justice and became popularly known as Moulana Bhasani.  His ideological position became amply clear when he told the great Chinese leaders Mao and Zhou that he was impressed with China’s progress and social transformation, and while he liked everything of them, regretted that Chinese lacked faith in God. To him struggle against all forms of oppression and discrimination was a religious duty. He used the religious ideas of rubu`biyah(anti-communalism) and jihad against oppression, discrimination and imperialism.

Secular Political Outlook

                 His secular credential was also apparent at the time of partition from his cherished dream of united Assam – Bengal which went against the notion of two-nation theory and he advocated a confederation of seven sisters of NE-India and East Bengal (Bangladesh) in his last days. That his demand to include Assam in Pakistan during partition had the connotation different from his Muslim League colleagues became apparent from the challenge of the Congress leaders by saying that : “One Moulana will be enough to divide Pakistan.” Historical documents further revealed that Moulana Bhasani irked Indira Gandhi and her government by reviving his old demand for uniting the peasantry of Assam, Bengal, and East Pakistan in a continued struggle for social and economic justice. During the war of independence Bhasani advocated that Bengalis be given the chance to win their own war even if it meant prolonging the guerrilla struggle against the Pakistani military. This stand, along with his known leaning towards Chinese communist dispensation and coupled with his pre-partition advocacy of a united front of peasantry cutting across national boundaries and his demand for an Independent Assam, made him suspect in the eyes of Indian leaders. After that he was almost under house arrest in India and returned to Bangladesh in March 1972.

   Uncompromising for the cause

          On the issues of the just cause of the toiling masses and most oppressed immigrant peasantry of Assam and building resistance  against  peasant-eviction and Bangal Khedao movement, he was so committed that he even openly criticised his Muslim league colleague Syed Saddullah whom he supported on many occasions against Gopinath Bordoloi in government formation in Assam assembly by saying that the apparent difference between these two political leaders was, in fact, a matter of a Tupi (a cap on Saddullah’s head) and a Tiki (a bunch of hair on the rear of Bordolo’s head). This revealed the fact that he was always against the landed gentry and the vested interests and unequivocally sided with the toiling masses even when he was fighting for his own religious brethren.

Secular Political leanings

           This widely revered Sufi itinerant being impressed by the sustained effort of Deshabandhu Chitta Ranjan Das to forge Hindu-Muslim unity joined Swarajya Party and acted as a grassroot level foot soldier of the party till the sudden death of C. R. Das in June, 1925. His journey as a Muslim league leader started in Assam in the year 1934 when he was elected president of the party and started organizing the migrant Muslim peasantry of Assam to fight against severe injustice and brutal repression. But within the ambit of the overarching Muslim League elite leadership, he established a different character of Assam Muslim League with his own brand of politics which was guided by the principle of the toiling masses, for the toiling masses and  by the toiling masses under his charismatic mass-leadership.  

During partition

           His role in Sylhet partition is often criticized by the Bengali Hindu leadership of Assam. But no attempt is made to view his role at the backdrop of his long unflinching role in Assam to build Hindu-Muslim unity. Despite the prevalence of serious Hindu-Muslim tension immediately before, during, and after the observance of Direct Action Day, no communal riot broke out anywhere in Assam mainly due to the non-communal nature of Bhasani’s struggle against the Line System and Bangal Kheda movements. Of course, a host of dedicated Hindu leaders in Assam (most of them critics of the Hindu Mahashabha’s communal policy) did lend support to Bhasani’s genuine efforts of maintaining friendship and goodwill between Hindu and Muslims even in the communally charged situation. The political situation at that time was very volatile because of the frequent confrontation between the supporters of Ambikagiri Roy Chaudhury, the general secretary of Assam Hindu Mahasabha and the chief leader of the communally-motivated Bangal Kheda movement during the years between 1945 and 1947 and the supporters of Moulana Bhasani, the undisputed leader of the Bengali muslim peasantry in Assam. After the installation of Bordoloi Government, the Bangal Kheda movement in the later part of 1946 and in early 1947 was intensified with demolition and burning down of the homes of several hundred thousand Bengali Muslim settlers in different areas, including Mongoldoi, Borpeta etc. Assam congress government with a view to gag a secular voice arrested him before partition period in 1946 and released him after partition of India and escorted him up to Dahuk of Sylhet to push inside Bangladesh at the dark night, during early 1948.

Grassroot organiser of the Immigrants

        Moulana Bhasani organized a huge Krishok Shammelon (Peasant Conference) at Char Bhasan in 1929 and since then he devoted most of his efforts to build up grassroot organization throughout Brahmaputra Valley. He organized agricultural labourer and landless peasant of Assam through the formation of Assam Chashi Majoor Samiti ( Assam Peasant and Worker’s Association). He even organized Bangla-Assam Proja Sammelan (Bengal-Assam tenants’ conference) in 1932 at the-then Pabna district. Summarizing Bhasani’s activity and rise as a political leader, Amalendu Guha noted, “From 1928 to 1936, while still maintaining his contact with Bengal, Bhasani used to move up and down the Brahmaputra to visit the riverside immigrant Muslim villages in accessible areas of Assam and organized them on the basis of a peasant programme including the demand for land. People, suffering under the oppression of Zamindars in Bengal, were in any case flocking to Assam in large numbers in Assam in order to settle on its beckoning wasteland.”  On the other hand, British colonial power also encouraged immigration which was considered as welcome phenomenon for labor-short, land-abundant Assam for the economic point of view, as the immigrants living the lives of inhuman amphibious turned thickest forests of Assam into smiling paddy lands yielding all kinds of crops, bringing prosperity, health and wealth to the province of Assam. By 1936, Bhasani became the undisputed leader of the immigrant peasantry and got elected in the Assam assembly from south Dhubri constituency in 1937. That he represented the peasant interest against the interest of Zamindars became aptly clear when he said, “The capitalist and imperialist government does not heed the problems of the poor peasant. This government continues to allow the zamindars to have the power of giving certificate. When zamindars can give certificate, it means they have the license to use machine guns to collect revenue.”

Ethnic politics

          By this time, the unabated immigration of the landless Bengali Muslim peasantry instilled a fear-psychosis of loosing land and identity in the minds of indigenous Assamese ethnicities. More imaginary than real threat that caused psychological fear of identity crisis that was brewing up during this period within the Assamese ethnicities was fanned by both the colonial masters and the Assamese Hindu ruling class leadership with a view to divide and rule. The British move to make Bengali the official language of the province was designed to trigger Assamese sentiment. The line system which was initially introduced to assuage the fear-psychosis of the Assamese ethnicities of losing their own land grabbed by the landless immigrants by containing the immigration was used as a tool to evict large-scale settlers and merciless killings. The Line System coupled with Bangal-Kheda then became the issues to be vehemently opposed and resisted by the masses under the leadership of Moulana Bhasani. On November 18, 1939, Bhasani declared in a conference of Assam Muslim League, “I have lost my patience on account of the inhuman oppression carried on the lakhs of poor Muhammedans of Assam by the Congress Government (under the leadership of Bordoloi). Not only do I kick at the law by means of which the houses of lakhs of people have been burnt down, … The whole world is docile before the mighty and killer of the weak….The days have come now to get your demands fulfilled by becoming Shaheeds(martyrs)”. He even compared the collective victimization of Bengali peasantry in Assam with that of Hitler’s Nazi tactics in Germany. That the colonial agents and the Assamese ruling class leaders played with the cultural difference of the migrants and the ethnic tribals and the sentiment of the Assamese ethnic communities became amply clear from the “irresponsible and unfounded” utterances of European member of ICS G.S.Mullan regarding the destruction of the whole structure of Assamese culture and civilization by citing the rise of immigrant population in 1931 census. His mischievous intention even prompted the Governor to announce that ‘in spite of the large increase in the population of Assam at every census since 1901, the percentage of speakers of Assamese to the total population has remained very steady. It is clear from the figures of increase in the speakers of Assamese at the Census that the [Assamese] language is at present no danger of suppression’.

Role of middle class

            It is interesting to note that the Moulana Bhasani’s relentless struggle for the cause of the Bengali peasantry could not garner tangible support from both Bengali Hindu as well as Muslim upper class leadership as well as from the educated Bengali-speaking middle class. But this middleclass and uppercaste leadership of the both religious section of Bengali community jumped into the fray to woo the support of the completely shattered, brutally oppressed Bengali Muslim peasantry when the-then government made the unilateral determination in 1935 “to close down the Bengali classes in schools” to create another wedge between the Assamese and the Bengali. Moulana Bhasani being the folk-hero and a leader organically linked with masses who had faith on his divine quality and his uncompromising - self-sacrificing character, could only realize the intertwined relationship between the peasant question and nationality question, though this is only one of the vital components of complex and intricately related issues of  caste-class in the process of building a nationality and on the question of identity crisis. His realization of the intertwined relationship of peasant interest, religiosity and the linguistic nationality was also visible from his later role as activist and political leader in the independence movement of Bangladesh.

Beyond religious domain

           That he did not fight for a particular religion or race became clear when he urged to observe “Assam Day” on March 10, 1947 to demand independence of Assam and declared “My struggle is against the British imperialism and the misrule and atrocities of Assam Government and not against any particular religious or racial groups in Assam.”  From the dream of his last days also, it became apparent that he applied his mind for the cause of all communities of Bengal and North-Eastern region and this visionary folk-hero with his astute organizing ability could hugely surpass the mindset as depicted by Amalendu Guha, “The land-hungry Muslim immigrants from East Bengal segregated and fighting against all odds, never appreciated the Assamese point of view. If all men were equal in the eyes of Allah, why should thousands of acres of land remain waste, when men in search of a livelihood were available to turn them into smiling fields?”

Relevance of Moulana Bhasani

           At the present juncture, the history of Assam is repeating itself albeit in a different local-national and global perspective. The same migrant Muslim peasantry are being brutally killed and mercilessly evicted by demolishing their shelters. The land grabbing issue is similarly blown out of proportion by the vested interest to achieve narrow political ends. Extending the view of Amalendu Guha who described colonial Assam as a “case of contending hegemonies owing to the coexistence of pan-India nationalism and regionalism, the latter manifesting itself in the form of a struggle to drive out the Bengali immigrants from Assam”, one can depict the present Assam as a case of contending hegemonies of neo-liberalism and ethnic chauvinism, the latter manifesting itself as an ethnic-cleanser and the resistances of poor peasantry and toiling masses are tacitly directed against the neo-liberal policy drive of the Assamese ruling class in tow with their master in Delhi. In these circumstances, Moulana Bhasani has become more relevant for the religious as well as the left leaders to learn from his experience and to devise more cogent formulations for struggle for justice befitting for the present situation. Are these leaders listening? One will always become skeptical to give an answer.

((For the entire period of Bhasani’s activity in Assam, we draw on Anisuzzaman Chowdhury edited book titled Moulana Bhasani, Leader of the Toiling Masses” (Moulana Bhasani Foundation, NY, USA, 2012)         

Some critical questions on left practice

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(The revised version of article on "Some critical questions on left practice" written by Arup Baisya has appeared in the online page of Frontier Weekly. So this has now been replaced by the article appeared in Frontier Weekly. You may also  visit

Capitalist crisis and statist outlook

The new phase of structural crisis of capitalism started brewing up in the late sixties or early seventies. Amidst the Cold War framework, the peasant and popular uprisings especially in the third world countries came to the centre stage to set the left activism anew. Lenin envisaged the revolution in developed countries after breaking the weakest link of capitalism in Czarist Russia. But the revolution in China already shifted the focus of revolution from the developed countries to backward countries as centre of gravity for transcendence of capitalism. The socialism building in post-revolutionary China, Soviet practice of socialism vis-à-vis “the really existing socialism” was the inspiration to innumerable left-activists who were like “fish in the water”(Mao) within the resurgence of peasant and popular uprisings unfolded in the backdrop of entry of capitalism in the new phase of structural crisis. The heat of the tumultuous situation did not allow the majority of the practicing left-activists to look back to question the socialist-legitimacy behind the Soviet aggression in the name of exporting socialism and the Chinese practice with lack of democracy. Instead of relying on the inherent logic of capitalism behind imperialism, majority of them were engrossed with the idea of treating ‘socialist state power’ as the basic countervailing factor to challenge capitalism and its highest form, imperialism. This statist outlook veiled the process that strengthens the state power instead of social power necessary for the real socialist transitional project of ‘withering away of state’ to build communist society.

Defeatist mindset of the left

The skewed vision developed within the garb of revolutionary activism and revolutionary zeal to complete the imminent revolution in third world left many questions out of the purview of left discourse within the practicing left circles. After the disintegration of Soviet Russia, and when the facts, hitherto remained unnoticed or discarded being treated as the conspiracy of the capitalist roaders, started pouring out abundantly in a neo-liberal environ from within the Chinese society confirming its reversal from socialist trend, the most of the practicing left became puzzled and started questioning Leninist position on imperialism and Mao’s path of revolution. Instead of dwelling on the ‘really existing capitalism’ and the mistakes in the socialism building process and thus improving the concept of ‘theory and practice’ behind the revolutionary success story to fit in a new set of existing parameters, they preferred to go for a paradigm shift from the Leninist and Mao’s position. The defeatist tendency instilled in the minds of millions of left activists has actually provoked some left intellectuals to delineate the present situation in such a way that being far from Leninist position justifies the left inactivity or activity without agenda to defeat imperialism and to transcend capitalism. This, at least for the time being, suits the activists to cope with the argument of eternal capitalism.

The basic premises on which the aberrant and skewed vision have its fall out can be identified as (1) the question of imperialist rivalry (2) the Indian caste-class question (3) the democracy in a socialist state (4) the revolutionary organization.

The question of imperialist rivalry

On the first question of imperialist rivalry, a section of the left intellectuals want to describe the current phase of capitalist competition as ‘collaborative competition’ that nullifies the Leninist formulation on imperialist rivalry and war. Aizaz Ahmad asserts an element of fundamental novelty of present situation by stating “the first specificity of this regime (in the United Sates) lies in the fact that, thanks to the dissolution of the Soviet bloc, this is the first time in human history that a single imperial power is so dominant over its rival that it really has no rival, near or far, precisely at the time when it has the greatest capacity to dominate the globe”.1 He further asserts that Lenin’s conception of ‘inter-imperialist rivalry’ arose in the course of a conjunctural analysis required by an intense debate on whether a world war was imminent or not. He also points out, “the specificity of the conjuncture in the imperialism of our time, as different from Lenin’s, is that its core – consisting of advanced capitalist countries – is comprised of neither rivals nor equals”.2 He even rules out the idea of inter-imperialist rivalry being shifted from the Atlantic zone to Pacific zone as less plausible and more or less futuristic. Evidently any form of ‘imperialist rivalry’ in Leninist sense of the term does not hold good in his scheme of things depicting the present time. In the cold war phase, one camp of the left squarely put the difference of ideological convictions as the main driving force behind the rivalry between the U.S. and erstwhile Soviet Union and other camp emphasized the difference of material interests.  As in the present neo-liberal phase of capitalism, there does not exist a powerful state that bears an ideology polar opposite to bourgeois liberalism and a state or group of states powerful enough to challenge the scheme of planetary domination of Pax Americana, it is concluded that the imperialistic rivalry in Leninist sense of the term does not hold good. The overemphasis on external phenomena rather than the internal dynamism of capitalism where the material interests and ideological convictions are intertwined obscures the underlying reality.       
Lenin locates the nature of imperialism in the modes of behaviour of monopoly capitalism to protect and increase their profit. Among the essential features of the imperialist stage, according to Lenin, are the economic struggle (or alliances) among sectors of finance capital for division of markets and investment opportunities in the advanced as well as the underdeveloped nations, and the military and diplomatic struggle among the imperialist powers for control and influence over weaker nations, industrialised  as well as non-industrialised. Lenin emphasises imperialism as the culmination of inherent dynamism of capitalism and imperialist rivalry as the extension of the logic of this inherent dynamics rather than as formulation evolving from conjunctural analysis of Lenin’s time. The imperialist rivalry is the basic tenet of capitalism in monopoly phase, the only difference is that at a certain point of time, one power-center may be economically and politically much more powerful than others who may strive to avoid full-blown conflict as a tactical move. But this armistice among the imperialist powers is not the principal feature of the time, rather the intrinsic crisis as well as monopolistic interest set the trend to face one another as rivals to combat. The basic premise of Lenin’s theorisation of imperialism as monopoly stage of capitalism, during which finance capital is in the ascendancy and the imperialists rivalries do hold good provides us the necessary framework to analyse the situation unfolding at this juncture. Harry Magdoff describes the features of the post-World War II years as the integration of military production with the dominant industrial sectors, the drive of multinational corporation toward worldwide control of the most profitable and newest industries in both the periphery and advanced countries and the priority of the interest of military-multinational industry on the affairs of the state. He is right when he states, “true, this describes primarily the situation in the united states, but at the same time it outlines the path now being followed in rival imperialist powers – a process that may well be speeded up in view of the weakness now being revealed in the internal and external position of U.S. capitalism”.3 But the strange situation of apparent non-death of neo-liberal capitalism and the fall of “really existing socialism” has retarded the process Magdoff envisaged. In the first Gulf War and subsequent Yugoslav conflict United States asserted its hegemony through its traditional policy of multilateralism. But from the Nineties in the vacuum created by the collapse of Soviet Union, the features of unilateralism in American foreign policy started emerging. But after the Iraq occupation the policy of planetary domination of Pax-Americana and the atavistic American attitude has soon started retreating under the unforeseen political, military, and economic difficulties arisen from rival powers and in the backdrop of deep crisis of capitalism. So it can be said that there are transitory phases unilateralism, multilateralism and full blown conflict within the ambit of underlying imperialistic rivalries after the emergence of monopoly capitalism as Lenin envisaged and this basic tenet of Leninism has not been changed in the present phase of neo-liberalism except the fact that the finance capital has overwhelming sway over industrial capital and the oligopolistic corporate giants have become more powerful than the nation-states whose interests are sometimes downplayed by the global interests of the corporate, but these surface phenomena in the monopoly phase of capitalism whose internal dynamics is to ensure the wheels of capitalist machine running, and to produce and reproduce the relations of production brings the imperialistic rivalry back in the centre stage.      
Sustainability of neo-liberal capitalism

In the present phase of neo-liberalism, the rules of the market are set by the state on behalf of the large corporation in globalising India in the name of economic development. The twentieth century post-war capitalism developed through a complex process of conflict and cooperation between state and market. The state furthered the market’s interest but at times also regulated it in favour of the labour. But in the current phase of capitalism after 1980, the state is under the complete sway of giant corporate oligopolies, and the role of the state is completely determined by the motive of profit-maximisation of the financial and other corporate gulags. Neoliberalism departs from both the political and economic legacy of liberalism in not seeing any problem in a close relationship between firms and the state, provided the influence runs from firms to state and not vice versa. The first error of this position is not to realise that firms try to influence the state precisely because they then want that influence to turn back onto the economy, to grant them favours. The occasional ruptures of financial bubbles in the World’s largest economy of America like dot com or sub-prime bubbles blown by the multi-faceted and skillfully designed debt structure causing abundance of toxic financial assets to surface has been handled by the state to bail out the farms which are considered “too big to fail” following the prescription of the powerful corporate lobby. Thus the precise meaning of neo-liberalism is getting clearer to everyone.
Karl Marx considered that at certain moments of historical crisis a social class would emerge whose concerned became the international proletariat and thus there would be an end to the process, because the proletariat was the generality of society and not just a particular interest within it. The Keynesian model that guided economic policy in the first thirty years after the Second World War did represent a temporary coincidence between the interests of the industrial working class in the global northwest and a general interest of the politico-economic system. This had been the class likely to threaten political and social order. It was also potentially the class whose mass consumption could fuel economic growth of a kind unprecedented in human history. The Keynesian model, combined with mass production, was a response to these demands that reconciled workers with a capitalist system of production. The opposing set of neoliberal ideas that leapt to prominence during the 1970s stagflationary crisis of the Keynesian model was also carried by a class, the class of finance capitalist, geographically grounded primarily in the USA and the UK, but extending across the globe. By the 1980s the process generally known as globalisation, both a producer and product of deregulation of financial market set the only actor capable of rapid action at global level were giant TNCs, which preferred their own private regulation over that by governments. Does the strange situation of non-death of capitalism appear to be prevailingly due to the creation of demand in the financial market by series of financial bubbles do away with the imperialist war for supremacy over neo-colonial states? Does the global scenario represent homogeneity of market regulated under single capitalist centre regulated by oligopolistic cartel instead of imperialistic-capitalist pattern of multilayered centre-periphery structure and thus bring the capital-labor contradiction as the principal contradiction in the global stage? Rather the converse is perhaps true and the facts reveal that the gap between diverse centers and peripheries are widening with the gradual strengthening of multiple centers more and more backed by the policy makers who are advocating strong states amid deepening and unmanageable  financial crisis.  

Class-Caste struggle 

The militancy of the industrial workers in 1970s, though this section never constituted a majority of the working population anywhere, had been the growing class, but now they are declining. Workers in the main growth sectors of the new economy, private services, were usually not organized and had developed no autonomous political agenda, no organization to articulate their specific grievances. So as the class interest of workers and peasant being contingent to the community interest in the developing countries like India, the community struggles are steered under the leadership of the class or group of people who benefited from the first spell of neo-liberal economy. This development in this neo-liberal phase of capitalism has been hitherto ignored by the dominant section of the left forces. After 1947 in the post British period, though Indian communists advocated linguistic states, but it tragically failed to comprehend the overlapping & multi-dimensional identity & consciousness of the Indian people due to their adherence to the Russian legacy of deterministic approach and in this context there remained a curious inconsistency in their position on nationality question and subsequently they even bade farewell to the idea of “right to self determination”. Lenin always advocated right to self-determination. But though in the case of Georgian invasion Lenin envisaged the danger of “Great Russian bully” over Georgian revolution, Lenin’s agreement with the invasion in the first instance is also questionable and seems to be guided by the deterministic approach of overemphasizing the external factors rather than complete reliance on the dynamics of internal forces. This deterministic approach also moulded the ideological mindset of the Indian first generation communists like Dange to overlook the caste reality of India to suggest that Brahman was the ‘commune of Aryan Man’ which was ridiculed by eminent Marxist historian D.D.Kosambi. The religious doctrines that are so venerated by Indian Castes, minimized the need for internal violence, thereby leading all social manifestations of the class-struggle in India into religeo-philosophical channels of expression. In this sense, opined Kosambi, caste is the negation of history, so that it is not in the least surprising to find that Indian literary tradition has virtually no historical sense or content ( Kosambi : stages of Indian history). The servility towards religious doctrine and religious amassing of wealth as expropriator has been retained by the popular classes from their traditional past, as this popular classes was the Sudra who could not be manumitted. Manusmriti 8.414 tells us  explicitly : ‘Even if released by his master, the Sudra is not freed from servitude :  if (servitude) is his lot by nature, who can remove that from him?(Kosambi : On a Marxist approach to Indian chronology). The Indian caste question has always been neglected by considering it as the question of superstructure which will be automatically abolished with the change of structure. But there were no dearth of empirical and theoretical data to consider caste as the question of structure and super-structure both at the same time. So for formulating a revolutionary strategy, the deterministic approach and the narrow definition of class on the basis of juridical ownership only need to be abandoned and focus on the method of concrete situation of concrete analysis.

Democracy in a Socialist state

The discourse on democracy is based on Stalinist theoretical enunciation that withering away of state would occur through its reinforcement and leading role of the party. These two ideas combined give rise to strengthen state-power with the communist party at its overwhelming control. Going by the Stalinist conception, they believe that this state cannot exercise ‘function of repression’ because in the socialist state, exploitation is suppressed, the exploiters no longer exist, there is no one to be suppressed. As the democracy and politics get withered away with the withering away of state as the instrument of suppression and dominance, there cannot be any socialist democracy. So only task on the question of democracy is to attain purest form of bourgeois democracy in a bourgeois state and as a result, the struggle for democracy is limited to rectify the aberration in bourgeois democracy in a bourgeois state, not to extend and surpass it in a socialist state. The task of simultaneously weakening the state power and strengthening the social power under the leadership of working class gets obliterated from communist proggramme that revolves around the reformist act of taking corrective measures to attain purest form of bourgeois democracy and then discard the essence of this democracy altogether instead of extending it in the futuristic project of socialism building. Charles Bettelheim writes, “the Stalinist ideology of the state and of its relationship with citizens thus enunciates a double discourse : a “democratic discourse” which is in contradiction with facts and an absolutist and repressive discourse which is a commentary on actual practice. This duality is an expression of a social schizophrenia. It reflects the deep contradictions of an economic and political system which oppresses this masses, subjects them to repression and exploits them with an intensity rarely attained in history”.4 So for evolving a futuristic project for socialism building, the question of democracy has the paramount importance.

Question of Organisation  

One of the most important aspects that needs to be discussed and debated is the question of communist organisation. The skewed vision on the question of communist organisation can be traced back even to Lenin’s time. Lenin’s idea of ‘Vanguardism’ is ripe with implications that can arrest the process of working class self-consciousness. Being the vanguard, the communist party and its activist-leaders are indoctrinated as the infallible mass-leaders who only bear the knowledge to lead the civilization ahead. Mao’s idea of communist activist as ‘the fish in the water’ and to educate the masses from the conception of “from the people, to the people”, though a better extension of vanguardist idea, is also problematic in initiating the process of development of mass-consciousness. This metaphor that symbolises communist organiser as ‘fish’ and society as ‘water’ is closely inter-related with the question of being declassed. As the fish can be brought from outside and thrown into the stagnant water, a communist activist becomes leader of the working class from outside and it does not entail the communist who is evolved from within the class and the mutual interaction between the activist and society to ensure the raising of self-consciousness of working class. As the activists constitute the basic foundation of the party-strength, the party is bestowed with responsibility to train them who in turn repose high esteem to the party high-ups for preparing the theoretical materials to train them. Thus the social division of mental and physical labour starts replicating and reinforcing within the party life itself and sets the ground for cultism. Recently the ruminations on this question are becoming visible within the practicing left circle, after the demise of “really existing socialism” and the loss of ground of the main stream left forces. It is now being felt that the organisational practice of the communists till date is not in keeping with the Marxist concept of withering away of state and politics. So keeping in view the Lenin’s theoretical concept of consciousness to the masses from without and proletarian vanguard, Stalinist practice, Gramsci’s concept of organic intellectual and Rosa Luxembourgian critiques, this organizational question needs to be discussed & debated at length.

On the organization question, Luxemburg took an overall organic view. Her polemics against Lenin can be understood when she says, “let us speak plainly, historically, the errors committed by a truly revolutionary movement are infinitely more fruitful and more valuable than the infallibility of the best of all possible central committees”.5 But over-dependence on spontaneity may distract the party organiser from its educator role and transform the party-leaders into quotidian activists in a sterile situation or quixotic in a vibrant situation with a built-in ‘empiricist outlook’. That Luxemburg was aware of this is clear from her passage that states, “On the one hand, we have the mass; on the other, its historic goal, located outside the existing society. On one hand, we have the day-to-day struggle; on the other, the social revolution. Such are the terms of the dialectical contradiction through which the socialist movement makes its way. It follows that this movement can best advance by taking betwixt and between the two dangers by which it is constantly being threatened. One is the loss of its mass character; the other the abandonment of its goal. One is the danger of sinking back to the condition of a sect; the other, the danger of becoming a movement of bourgeois social reform. That is why it is illusory, and contrary to historic experience, to hope to fix, once for always, the direction of the revolutionary socialist struggle with the aid of formal means, which are expected to secure the labour movement against possibilities of opportunist digression”6. Like Lenin, Gramsci also finds the remedy of the problem in democratic centralism. But in his opinion, democratic centralism must be elastic, it comes alive in so far as it is continuously interpreted and adapted to necessity. It needs continual renewal. Democratic centralism, again, must be ‘organic’ in the sense that both the leaders and the rank and file must obey the rule of democracy. So the central core of the organizational problem lies on the question of organic nature of party members and the continuously evolving and extending the party democracy vis-à-vis overall democracy. Gramsci states “The Socialist Party is not a sectional, but a class organization: its morphology is quite different from that of any other party. It can only view the state, the network of bourgeois class power, as its antagonistic likeness. It cannot enter into direct or indirect competition for the conquest of the state without committing suicide, without losing its nature, without becoming a mere political faction that is estranged from the historical activity of the proletariat, without turning into a swarm of ‘coachman-flies’ on the hunt of bowl of blancmange in which to get stuck and perish ingloriously. The Socialist Party does not conquer the state, it replace it; it replaces the regime, abolishes party government and replaces free competition by the organization of production and exchange.”7 It must be emphasized that the evolving consciousness of the masses should transform their status from object of history to the subject with the withering away of the party itself and in this context, mass-action is to be given utmost importance as Rosa Luxemburg envisaged and on this premise the concept of new left organization needs to be developed.

Notes :
(1) Iran, Afghanistan : The Imperialism Of Our Time, by Aijaz Ahmad, LeftWord Books, March 2005, page 239. italic words in parenthesis are additions of the author of this article.
(2)  Ibid, page 242.
(3) Imperialism : From the Colonial Age to the Present, by Harry Magdoff, Monthly Review Press 1978. page 111.
(4) Cass Struggle in the USSR, Third Period : 1930-1941, Part 2: The Dominators, by Charles Bettelheim, T R Publication Pvt Ltd 1996, page 17
(5) Readings in Revolution and Organization : Rosa Luxemburg And Her Critic : Selected and Introduced by Sobhanlal DattaGupta, Pearl Publishers, September 1994, page 139.
(6)  The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, edited by Peter Hudis & Kelvin B. Anderson, Cornerstone Publication August 2005, page 263.
(7) The Antonio Gramsci Reader, edited by David Forgacs, NYU press, 2000, page 40.011)

হেমাঙ্গ বিশ্বাস স্মরণে

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অরূপ বৈশ্য

(বরাক কণ্ঠের জন্য) 
হেমাঙ্গ বিশ্বাসের সৃষ্টি আমাদেরকে একটা উত্তাল সময়কে স্মরণ করিয়ে দেয়। কিন্তু সেই সময়ের আবেগ কী এখনো আমাদের মনকে নাড়া দেয়? আবেগ কাল-নির্ভর, আবার কাল নিরন্তর প্রবহমান। তাহলে একই আবেগ কী বারবার ফিরে ফিরে আসে? তাই যদি সত্যি হয়, তাহলে কালের আমরা পর্বভাগ করব কী করে, প্রতিটি সময়ের পরিধিকে আমরা আলাদা করে চিনব কী করে? অথচ হেমাঙ্গ বিশ্বাসের মত সংগঠক-শিল্পী উত্থানোন্মুখ সমাজ-পরিবর্তনকামী শ্রেণির অফুরন্ত গতিশীলতায় সৃষ্ট প্রাণশক্তিকেই ধারণ করেছেন তাঁর সৃষ্টিশীল সাংস্কৃতিক কর্মকাণ্ডে। তাঁর সাংস্কৃতিক কর্মকাণ্ডের সূচনা সেই সময়ে যখন ভারতীয় বুর্জোয়া শ্রেণির প্রগতিশীল ভূমিকা নিঃশেষিত হয়ে প্রতিক্রিয়াশীল ভূমিকা প্রাধান্যের জায়গায়, যখন এই শ্রেণিটির দেশীয় গ্রামীণ সামন্তশ্রেণির সাথে গাঁটছাড়া বেঁধে তাদের উপনিবেশিক প্রভুদের সাথে আপস রফা চূড়ান্ত, যখন চূড়ান্ত স্বাধীনতা অর্জনের জন্য চিনে শ্রমিক-কৃষকের নেতৃত্বাধীন নতুন শক্তি উদিত, যখন একের পর এক কৃষক বিদ্রোহে ভারতের মাটিতে পোঁতা লাল-পতাকা আকাশে উড্ডীন।
সেই সময়ের সৃষ্ট এবং সেই সময়কে বদলে দেওয়ার অগ্নিমন্ত্রে দীক্ষিত একজন শিল্পী কালজয়ী হয়ে যাওয়ার নিদর্শন হচ্ছেন আমাদের পরম শ্রদ্ধেয় হেমাঙ্গ বিশ্বাস। কিন্তু আমাদেরই এই সুরমা-বরাক উপত্যকার সন্তান শহিদ মাধব নাথের স্মৃতিতে গাওয়া হেমাঙ্গ বিশ্বাসের গান ‘আমরা তো ভুলি নাই শহিদ, সেকথা কি ভুলা যায়......” কি সত্যিই আমাদের এখনও আবেগতাড়িত করে? করে না, করার কথা নয় – কারুর কাছে এটা স্মৃতিমেদুরতা – কারু কাছে বিশেষ করে নব্য প্রজন্মের কাছে যোগসূত্রহীন। সেজন্যই সম্ভবত আমাদের এই সুরমা-বরাক অঞ্চলের একজন মহান সংগ্রামী শিল্পীর জন্মশতবর্ষেও আমরা বেশ নির্লিপ্ত। এঅঞ্চলের বোদ্ধারা তাদের ঘরের এই মহান মানুষকে নিয়েও যে বিশেষ কোন চর্চা করার, তার জীবন ও সৃষ্টির ডকুমেন্টশন করার ব্যপারে কোন উৎসাহ দেখান না, তার রহস্য লুকিয়ে রয়েছে সম্ভবত শ্রেণি দৃষ্টিভঙ্গীর মধ্যে। হেমাঙ্গ বিশ্বাস যে আবেগকে সাধারণীকৃত ও আধুনিক প্রগতিশীল মননে পরিশীলিত করতে পেরেছিলেন তা আজকের এই পরজীবী মনস্কতায় আচ্ছন্ন মধ্যশ্রেণির সাথে যোগসূত্র স্থাপনের আবেগ নয়, এটা এমন এক আবেগ যা জাগ্রত লোকায়ত আবেগকে সাধারণীকৃত করে এবং আধুনিক সমাজ দেখতে আগ্রহী মধ্যবিত্ত মনকেও তার গণ্ডির মধ্যে আকৃষ্ট করে নিতে সক্ষম হয়। তাই এই আবেগ ফিরে ফিরে ভেসে আসে প্রবহমান কালের স্রোতকে মাধ্যম হিসেবে ব্যবহার করে এবং মানুষ এই আবেগ-স্নাত হয় যখন তার মনে জয়ের আকাঙ্খা, পরিবর্তনের আকাঙ্খা, নতুনের আকাঙ্খা সঞ্চারিত হয়। পরাজয়ের গ্লানি ও সামগ্রিক হতাশার বাতাবরণেও কালজয়ী আবেগ মানুষের মন জয় করে নিতে পারে, কিন্তু সে এক ভিন্ন ধরনের আবেগ, এক ভিন্ন শ্রেণির – ভিন্ন পরিস্থিতির আবেগ যেখানে আলস্য - কর্মবিমুখতা – অসন্তুষ্টি আধুনিক বুর্জোয়া মনকে গ্রাস করে নেয়। কিন্তু যে পরিস্থিতিতে মানুষ আত্মসন্তুষ্ট, ন্যায়-অন্যায় ভেদ ভুলে সাফল্য – আয়েস – স্থবিরতাকেই জীবনের লক্ষ্য হিসেবে জ্ঞান করতে শিখে সেই বাস্তব পরিস্থিতিতে কালজয়ী সৃষ্টির আবেগ চোরাস্রোতে বয়ে চলে, মানুষের আবেগে ধরা দেয় না। কালকে আমরা যদি এরকম বাস্তব পরিস্থিতির গুণাবলি দিয়ে ভাগ করি তাহলে কালজয়ী সৃষ্টি আমরা তাকেই বলতে পারি যা সময়ের এক বিশেষ মূহূর্তে নতুন রূপে নতুন বার্তা নিয়ে ফিরে ফিরে আসে।

                     যারা শ্রমিক-শ্রেণির নেতৃত্বাধীন এক নতুন সভ্যতা গড়ার কল্পনা করেন, তারা রাষ্ট্র-উৎপাদন পদ্ধতি-বিনিময় মূল্যকে যেমনি অন্য বিকল্প দিয়ে প্রতিস্থাপিত করার রূপরেখা তৈরি করার কথা ভাবেন, ঠিক তেমনি সভ্যতার অবিভাজ্য অঙ্গ কলা-সংস্কৃতি চর্চার বিকল্প রূপরেখা তৈরির দায়ও তাদের উপর বর্তায়। তাদের কাছে হেমাঙ্গ বিশ্বাস চর্চা ভীষণ জরুরি বিশেষ কর সেই যুগ-সময়ের সন্ধিক্ষণে যখন জয়ের আকাঙ্খা, পরিবর্তনের আকাঙ্খা, নতুনের আকাঙ্খা সঞ্চারিত করার সামাজিক শক্তির আবারও ঘুম থেকে জেগে ওঠার বার্তা আকাশে-বাতাসে ভেসে বেরায়। হেমাঙ্গ বিশ্বাসের মত সংগঠক-শিল্পীর সৃষ্টি আবার ফিরে আসবে, কিন্তু সচেতনভাবে ফিরিয়ে আনতে হবে নতুন রূপে, নতুন উপলব্ধিতে, নতুন সভ্যতার প্রয়োজনে। সেজন্যই হেমাঙ্গ বিশ্বাসের কর্মকাণ্ড নিয়ে চর্চা এতো জরুরি। এই পরিপ্রেক্ষিতে সলিল চৌধুরী-হেমাঙ্গ বিশ্বাস বিতর্ক নিয়ে কিছু কথা বলা অত্যন্ত প্রাসঙ্গিক।

                   হেমাঙ্গ বিশ্বাসের জন্ম শতবর্ষে তারা মিউজিক চ্যানেলে আজ সকালের আমন্ত্রণের অতিথি শিল্পী শুভ প্রসাদ নন্দী মজুমদারের অনুষ্ঠানে শুভেন্দু মাইতী বলেন, হেমাঙ্গ বিশ্বাস যে অহং-বর্জিত একজন বড়মাপের মানুষ তার প্রমাণ মেলে সলিল চৌধুরীর সংস্কৃতি-সংক্রান্ত মতকে মেনে নেওয়ার মধ্য দিয়ে। দুটি ভিন্ন মতের বিতর্কে অন্যের মতের সাথে একমত হয়ে গেলে নিজের মত ত্যাগ করে তার মান্যতা দেওয়ার মধ্যে নিশ্চয়ই নিরহংকারী ব্যক্তিত্বের পরিচয় পাওয়া যায়, কিন্তু হেমাঙ্গ বিশ্বাসের মতো সাধারণ মানুষের কাছের শিল্পীর এই তথ্য থেকে তাঁর নিরহংকারী ব্যক্তিত্বের পরিচয় পাওয়া খুব জরুরি বিষয় নয়, যা আমাদের কাছে জানা বেশি জরুরি তা হল সেই বিতর্কের মোদ্দা কথা এবং সলিল চৌধুরীর মতকে মেনে নেওয়ার সঠিকতার বিষয়। এই বিতর্কের কোন লিখিত ডকুমেণ্ট পাঠের সুযোগ না হওয়া সত্বেও, বিভিন্ন আলোচনা থেকে এই বিতর্কের সারকথা বিধৃত করা যায়। হেমাঙ্গ বিশ্বাসের মত ছিল এই যে লোকায়ত জীবন থেকে রূপ-বিষয়কে নিয়ে গান রচনা করে লোকায়ত মানুষকে ভবিষ্যত সমাজের জন্য লড়াইয়ে উদ্দীপ্ত করা, অন্যদিকে সলিল চৌধুরীর মত ছিল আধুনিক সমাজ গড়ার লক্ষ্যে সাংস্কৃতিক কর্মকাণ্ডে আধুনিক বিষয়কে নতুন রচনায় লোকায়েতের সাথে সমন্বিত করতে হবে।

                    এক সঠিক মত থেকে শুরু করে বিতর্ককে আরও এগিয়ে নিয়ে যাওয়ার পরিবর্তে সলিল চোধুরীর মতকে গ্রহণ করার মধ্য দিয়ে হেমাঙ্গ বিশ্বাস নতুন সমাজ গড়ার প্রাণশক্তি স্তিমিত হয় আসার সেই সময়ের অন্তর্বস্তুকে মেনে নিয়েছেন। সেজন্যই হেমাঙ্গ বিশ্বাসরা আসামের সমাজ জীবনে অন্তর্নিহিত উগ্রজাতিয়তাবাদী মূল্যবোধ ও উত্থানোন্মুখ উগ্রজাতিয়তাবাদকে যথাযথ গুরুত্ব আরোপ করতে পারেননি এবং সেই শক্তির কাছে প্রগতিশীল শক্তির পরাজয়কে অসহায়ের মত মেনে নিতে বাধ্য হয়েছেন। এই বাস্তবস্তাকে এবার খানিকটা ব্যাখ্যা করা যাক।

      যখন কোন সমাজ আন্দোলিত হয় - যখন সমাজের প্রগতিশীল শ্রেণি-বর্ণ তাদের পুরোনো অবস্থা পরিবর্তনে সচল হয়ে উঠে, তখন পুরোনো-প্রতিক্রিয়াশীল ও নতুন-প্রগতিশীল মূল্যবোধ ও সংস্কৃতির সংঘাত সমাজের অভ্যন্তরেই চলমান সংগ্রামের রূপে দেখা দেয়। এই সংঘাতে নতুনের বিজয় ঘটবে কিনা বা যদি বিজয় ঘটে তাহলে পরিবর্তিত সমাজের সংস্কৃতি চর্চার রূপ কী হবে বা হওয়া উচিত তা কিন্তু নির্ধারিত হবে সেই সমাজের অভ্যন্তরেই এবং তা বহন করবে সেই গণ-সমাজই। শিল্পসংস্কৃতি-সংগঠক এবং শিল্পের স্রষ্টাও কিন্তু এই জেগে ওঠা সমাজেরই অঙ্গ। সুতরাং শিল্পীর সৃষ্টি মানুষের অবচেতনে থাকা নতুনের বার্তাকে বহন করবে গণ-সমাজের সচেতন হয়ে ওঠার সংগ্রামী প্রক্রিয়ার মধ্য দিয়ে। এ এক বিচিত্র পথে বহুমুখী আন্তঃক্রিয়া যেখানে বিভিন্ন মত-পথ শুধু নয়, পুরোনোকে ভাঙার রস আস্বাদনে উত্থিত বিভিন্ন শ্রেণি-বর্ণের মূল্যবোধেরও এক অন্ত ও আন্তঃক্রিয়া। সুতরাং প্রগতিশীল শিল্পী যদি আধুনিক বা নতুন অন্তর্বস্তু সংগ্রামের স্থান-কালের সীমার বাইরে থেকে বহন করে এনে লোকায়ত চর্চার সাথে জুড়ে দিতে চান তাহলে তা আপাত আধুনিক মনে হতে পারে, কিন্তু গণ-সমাজ তাদের সংগ্রামের বর্ষাফলক যার দিকে তাক করার কথা তাকে চিনতে ভুল করবে এবং ফলে এই সংগ্রামের মধ্য থেকে সৃষ্ট শিল্প-রচনাকেও তার জীবনের অঙ্গ করে নিতে বিফল হবে।

                     আসামের উদাহরণ এব্যাপারে আমাদেরকে গুরুত্বপূর্ণ শিক্ষা দিতে পারে। আসামে কৃষক অভ্যুত্থানের সাথে সামঞ্জস্য রেখে চীনের শ্রমিক-কৃষকের লড়াই থেকে, আমেরিকার শ্রমিকদের লড়াই থেকে দিন-বদলের কথা সাংস্কৃতিক কর্মকাণ্ডে সংযোজিত করা হল, কিন্তু আসামের এই সংগ্রামী কৃষকদের অবচেতনে থাকা উগ্রজাতিয়তাবাদ বিরোধিতাকে (লোকায়ত স্তরে থাকা উগ্রজাতিয়তাবাদী আবছা রূপের বিরোধিতা) কোন ভাষা দেওয়ার প্রচেষ্টা হল না, আমেরিকার গণসঙ্গীত ‘নিগারদের’ চিনল – কিন্তু এখানে চা-শ্রমিক ঝাড়খণ্ডী-আদিবাসীদের জীবন সংগ্রাম নিয়ে তেমন কোন রচনা হল না এবং ফলে গণ-সমাজকে তাদের সংগ্রামের সমস্ত অন্তর্বস্তুকে জলাঞ্জলি দিয়ে আশ্রয় নিতে হল উগ্রজাতিয়তাবাদী শিবিরের কাছেই।

             হেমাঙ্গ বিশ্বাসই তখনকার সাংস্কৃতিক আন্দোলনের অন্যতম ব্যক্তিত্ব যিনি সঠিক পথটি চিনতে পেরেছিলেন, কিন্তু এই পথে আরও বহুদূর অগ্রসর হয়ে সঠিক চিন্তাকে সম্প্রসারিত ও সার-সংকলিত করার বিপরীতে তখনকার সাংস্কৃতিক আন্দোলনের মূল ধারার চিন্তায় প্রভাবিত হয়ে গিয়েছিলেন। সে সময়ের সংগ্রামী উত্তাপ এবং চোখের সামনে থাকা মডেলকে অনুসরণ করার আবহ সম্ভবত বিকল্প চিন্তার পথ রুদ্ধ করে দাঁড়িয়েছিল। এই রুদ্ধদ্বার আমাদের সামনে আজ নেই, অথচ শীতের ভোরে সংগ্রামের উত্তাপ নেওয়ার সূর্য বহুদূরে উঁকিঝুঁকি মারছে, তাই এখনই সময় নতুন করে – নতুন ভাবে দিন-বদলের গান বাঁধার উদ্যোগ নেওয়ার এবং সেই কাজটি সবচে ভাল হতে পারে হেমাঙ্গ বিশ্বাসের কর্মকাণ্ডের চর্চার মধ্য দিয়েই।  

স্বাভিমান:SWABHIMAN Headline Animator

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