Left, wrong and right
I am a Marxist-Leninist and a supporter of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), although not its member. I live in the Vadakara region and both my family and village are strongly inclined to the left, especially the CPI(M). I have memberships in both the SFI and the DYFI but that is not necessarily the hallmark of an active political persona, which is my case. I strongly condemn the assassination of T.P. Chandrashekharan and was also part of the crowd (later portrayed to be composed solely of Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) supporters) that received his body. I state all these facts up-front to save the reader the trouble of wondering about my political orientation and bias while reading the article. I am biased. But that shouldn't affect my description of facts, should it? After all, absolute truths cannot be affected by bias, can they?
We always search for truth - for the absolute, ultimate kind – or at least, we pretend that we do. We also often encounter the question of whether there are any such absolute truths and also plain lies and wrongs? Or is everything gray? According to me, the mere fact that we cannot sometimes extract rights and wrongs doesn't mean that there aren't any.
On the 4th of May, 2012 at 10.20 pm, T.P. Chandrashekharan was assassinated. Understandably, the entire political spectrum across Kerala was shocked. Predictably, the media went haywire. The central and state governments, as is custom, accused the CPI(M) right away. Anti-CPI (M) mobs wreaked havoc throughout Onchiyam area. Hundreds of houses, offices, libraries and vehicles were burned and destroyed. The district collector declared a curfew in four nearby panchayaths and yet, members and supporters of the CPI(M) came under attack. The total loss in the violence that ensued is estimated to be close to 30 million rupees, not to speak of the immeasurable damage done to the social fabric of the village.
In the aftermath of the assassination, the media was full of praise for T.P., hailing him as an ideal communist, a model humanitarian and a hero of the community. I do not intend to disprove any of this. He truly was a great person, who possessed a very strong character. The Samakalika Malayalam weekly recently published an admiring article about T.P., his relations with people, and his general life style. However, the one thing they missed or intentionally omitted was the fact that these were not characteristics of T.P. Chandrashekharan alone. The same could be said for almost any leader who rose up through the ranks of the CPI(M). You will meet communists who have spent their entire lives in the service of the people in almost every corner and turn of Vadakara and Onchiyam. T.P. was one such comrade – perhaps the only unique fact he could lay claim to was his rebellion against the party.
After the rebellion, the media often described T.P. as a brave warrior who was fighting on the behalf of those values which the CPI(M) was losing or had already lost. But the fundamental question remains that even if there was some truth in the accusations made against the CPI(M), was that the right way for T.P. to have reacted? If he was, like he called himself, a revolutionary Marxist, was he not supposed to act accordingly? Should he not have resorted to a Marxian solution to the problem? In order to find answers to this question, we must go to the root of problem.
The key question is - was there really any ideological foundation to the split within the the CPI(M) in the Onchiyam area? The stated reason was an agreement within the LDF whereby the Janata Dal (Secular) would get the post of the Panchayath president for a total of five years from different Panchayaths under LDF. The decision came directly from the district committee of the CPI(M). The matter was discussed in the area committee and was passed on to the respective people in charge in the Panchayath. T.P. and some others protested against this decision saying that the Janata Dal (S) had no strength in their area whatsoever, and hence their getting to rule the Panchayath was ridiculous. But according to Leninist organizational practices, the matter should have been closed once the discussion was over and the decision taken.
Chandrashekharan later was instrumental in the revolt and was expelled from the party. He formed the RMP which initially seemed to have quite a bit of support from the people. However, it soon began suffering from chronic diminution and was gasping for life in its primary strongholds. The CPI(M) strategy to meet individually with old comrades and bring them back to the party practically killed the RMP before it could mark its third founding day. Any resident of the Onchiyam or nearby areas knows this. And the proof of this fact was in the recent elections as the CPI (M) was thriving and back to its full glory. The last thing they would have wanted was to give the RMP was a martyr.
So, now we know how the RMP was formed. There were no ideological differences - just the inability to obey higher orders and authority on the part of T.P. But in this context, another valid question remains - how did the RMP manage to attract so many supporters in the area?
In order to answer this, we must turn back the pages of (recent) history. The right-wing media (which included most of the media at the time) began to report about two groups within the CPI(M) a little while before the 2005 Malappurram State Conference. According to these tales, there were two groups - one led by Pinarayi Vijayan and aiming for control over the party and the other one with V.S. Achuthanandan at the helm and comprising a group of old-school activists. Nobody could care less cared about who was winning and who was losing. Because, for them, the matter was simple – it was just two groups fighting over power.
A little while after that, things began to change. V.S. began his crusade against all kinds of 'evils' in society and this drew serious media attention. Now, this was a golden opportunity for the right-wing media (at least according to conspiracy theories) which saw an opportunity to drain support from the CPI(M) leadership. After a few of these 'stunts' which made V.S. a superstar in media and among the people in general, the media's perception of these groups began to transform. Thus, on one hand there was the V.S. Group, considered rebellious, old-school, 'real communists' and good people. The Pinarayi group, or the official group, on the other hand, were made out to be rude, capitalists, revisionists, 'bad communists' and associated with the 'mafia' . To say the least, the story hit off and amazingly, that theme was used to pen stories around all recent developments in the left political space of Kerala (like the unified theory Einstein dreamt of, it explained everything).
Why did I explain this 'conspiracy theory'? After all, this is what happened in the media, not in the minds of the people. In fact, that’s where the real magic happened. As is known, the party machinery of the CPI (M) is pretty strong. So this 'unified theory' hardly affected the genuine members and the committed workers of the party. They knew what was happening. But on the peripheries is another group of people often referred by the party as 'Party Bandhu' - who are members of organizations like DYFI and SFI - who are not always thoroughly educated about the party.
It was among them that the propaganda spread by the so-called media syndicate slowly started to become effective. The 'supporters' became confused first, then raged against the 'anti communist' tendencies of the CPI (M) official group. An unofficial V.S. fan group was formed all across Kerala. They saw themselves as the good guys – united only in their solid hatred of Pinarayi Vijayan and the official group. When the RMP declared their war against the decay in the CPI(M), these 'fans' who generally lacked party education and party morale, flooded the organisation. This was the first factor.
Now, how did they get some of CPI (M) office-bearers to join them? That was all T.P. He was famous for his convincing powers. His speeches were magical and people were drawn to him like flies to honey. There are many stories of T.P. standing against whole committees of the SFI and many others and convincing them to his way of thinking. He was adept at this and this was another factor in the initial success of the revolt. It was not that he had parliamentary ambitions, it was just that he was as stubborn as a stone. A subtle point, that is easy to miss amidst all the commotion.
We have seen how a deceptive dichotomy was created of the 'good people' and the 'bad people' within the system of the CPI(M). And it is only fair to say that it was a brilliant idea. We have already seen how it affected the situation in a general way but how did it affect people at a very personal level? This Goebbelsian propaganda affected the very soul of Kerala, which was once described by Pinarayi Vijayan, as innately very left-oriented. The orientation, more or less, has stayed the same. But the way we fight for it has changed.
Recently Samakalika Malayalam weekly, a magazine owned by the Indian Express group, disallowed the publication of a poem by Prabha Varma, a reputed writer and activist in Kerala, claiming that his reactions against the T.P. assassination weren’t strong enough. This is, in fact, the latest in the list of attacks against cultural leaders and activists for the same reason. People’s morality and integrity are questioned in public when they don’t speak like they are expected to. What is wrong with this picture? What is really happening here? Let’s see if we can figure out.
Ayn Rand is a Russian American writer and philosopher well known for the creation of the philosophical realm known as objectivism. Its ideas, spread through her best-seller novels, The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged and others, state that the human ego is the fountain head of progress, and in fact, everything desirable. Her 'concept of man as a heroic being with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life' (Atlas Shrugged 1957) caught the attention of millions. It was also characterised by overarching presence of the ego - the determination to get accepted, the craving to be the best, the egotistic desire to be right. Her theories influenced right-wing politics abundantly and she is often referred to as the Marx of capitalism or right-wing politics. When we come back to our current political scenario and the previously mentioned Goebbelsian propaganda and the so-called V.S. fanatics (not necessarily including V.S. in it), can't we see this ego? This ego-driven sense of certainty? This egotistic zeal to prove to themselves that they are doing the right thing? This ego to be clear of all sins? The inability to go wrong?
We could of course ask, what could possibly be wrong in being right? (Then we can go back to our first discussion, can’t we? The absolute kinds? ) Let's see if we can find out. Che Guevara often defined himself as a pacifist. Ironically, he wrote the bible of armed revolution – Guerilla Warfare. So was he lying? The question is, was he lying? Or was perhaps he defying himself ?
Redistribution of wealth is an eventuality in communism. Then selflessness in capitalism isn’t necessarily the same selflessness in communism, is it? As Emile Burns clearly stated in his work 'What is Marxism' (1939).. 'It is for this reason that Marxists do not setup abstract 'principles' for the organization of society, like the proponents of Utopias. Marxism, considers that all such 'principles' as have appeared in human thought merely reflect the actual organization of society at a particular time and place and do not and cannot hold good always and everywhere.'
Hence selflessness when it comes to material objects or possessions isn't a huge issue in a system which seeks economic equality like communism. So for the real communist, the meaning of selflessness boils down to the ability to lose oneself or to defy oneself for the greater good. The ability to give up your ego for the benefit of others - just like Che did by resorting to violent revolutions. This must have been the value we should have resorted to; this is what was hijacked from our soul.
And the solution to this narcissistic dilemma, lies in a piece of advice by John Abraham to a journalist who was interviewing him -"You just have to think outside your masturbatory limits".