Comrade A B Bardhan, Lal Salam!

By Saswat Pattanayak

Comrade A B Bardhan (1924-2016) was not just the foremost communist mass leader of India who raised working class consciousness among millions through his oratory and organizational persistence, he was also the Marxist historian who accounted peoples’ struggles like no one else had quite done.

Well before publishing “People’s History” had become a worldwide trend, Comrade Bardhan had reflected upon the critical role of working class in India’s freedom struggle with these words –
“Official histories are apt to pass over in silence the role of the working class in India’s freedom struggle. They depict the freedom struggle as a series of events determined and influenced by individuals from the upper strata of society, who reacted against the humiliation and oppression of foreign rule, and moved the masses in their wake.
As to the workers and working people, they were considered either too weak or ignorant to play any role in this struggle, or concerned themselves with the more immediate problems of mitigating exploitation and improving their lot.
Nothing could be more one sided and false than this picture. In fact, with the growth of the working class in India and the rise of the labor movement commences the impact on India’s struggle against foreign domination.”

Well before social justice movements demanded reservations as part of parliamentary political norm, Comrade Bardhan had gone beyond the traditional proposals and recognizing the imminent pervasiveness of private capital, he had called for reservations in private sector as well –
“As Communists, we take note of the problems of the deprived communities in our society and pay special attention to them. These are for instance the dalits, the adivasis and the minorities, especially the Muslims. We shall actively support the demand that reservation should be extended to the private sector, especially when moves for privatization are afoot.

Well before the caste discourse in public policies had gained momentum and denouncing Hindutva politics had become mainstream, and intolerance debate had gained a foothold in India to prompt celebrities in joining the chorus, Comrade Bardhan had urged the people to reject communal casteist elements from the political sphere, in these words –

“Neither Gandhi or Nehru nor the hundreds of martyrs who climbed the gallows for independence – none of them gave their lives for a Hindu nation.
Never forget that!

We who uphold the red flag – we respect all religions. For the identity and ego of one religion, you cannot attack and break the identity and faith of another religion.
Always remember this.

In Hinduism, there is both tolerance as well as intolerance. There is humanity, but there is also a caste system. That is why for years saints and enlightened ones have tried to bring in reforms. They raised their voices against casteism, but even today caste remains. Today a new effort is being made to share power with those who were always kept out of Government, those who were considered only fit to be servants. Today an effort is being made that they too get a chance to help run the country. But the very forces who wish to preserve Hindu fundamentalism and unfurl their flags over destroyed mosques, these very forces swear by the caste system.
Recognize them and understand their mentality.”

Comrade Bardhan had confidence in fellow Indians that they shall reject communal, Hindutva politics and usher in a new age that will put the working class in charge of its own priorities. And armed with his inspiring words and following the exemplary life he led, his dreams shall certainly be realized.

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2016: Divided We Fall

Last year alone, an earthquake – among many – left 9,000 dead in Nepal. Stampede among the devotees caused death of 2,200 people in Mecca. Over 3.1 million children – under five – died of malnutrition everywhere in the world. They were not victims of terrorism or organized murders. They did not perpetuate any evil to justify a divine plan that took their lives. And yet, not one God or multiple versions of Gods could do anything to save them. That is because there is no God. There is no reason for a belief in God, or adherence to any religion. And yet, as if such tolls were not enough, we exponentially increase the number of untimely deaths of fellow human beings while using religion, god, nationality, race, caste, gender and private capital and power as our divine alibi. Instead of love, we engage in war. Instead of sharing, we promote hoarding. Instead of cooperation, we encourage competition. Nothing will likely change in 2016. But the hope still remains that reason shall prevail over unexamined emotions, while using historical lessons from the years before, as potential tools of liberation.

2016: Divided We Fall

Yet another year went past defining
deriding, describing, disrupting
decrying. Terrorism.

In the fight against the evil
the war of the rich
pitting the poor, the unsung
the unknown, unemployed
famished, hopeless.
Handing them a shotgun
assault rifle, pistol,
an oath of loyalty
to the military, nation-state,
a god, a belief, holy text
preaching freedom, salvation
duty, patriotism, nationalism
Terrorism – both ours, the NATOs
and theirs, the ISILs.

Yet another year went past ridiculing
rehashing, regrouping, replenishing
renaming. Identities.

In the fight against the backward
the march of the elite
positioning the hungry, the oppressed
the voices without a social handle
the suicidal farmers, indebted students
the workers without a union
being Black while driving – car and life
and those bereft of privileges
to raise their consciousness.
Deluding them with elections
leader after leader, hope after hope
emptying the wallet of promises
showering the wealth of rhetorics
constructing the highway of dreams
preaching love, preaching hate,
after a while, love-hate.
Plutocracy – both ours, the voting class
and theirs, the ruling corporate bosses.

Yet another year went past propagating
polarizing, preaching, propounding
programming. Ignorance.

In the fight against the subjugated
the collusion of the masters
requiring the working class
to stay divided, trusting none
vanquishing incentives to imagine –
a planet without borders,
people without religions,
genders without assigned roles
to obliterate the regressive texts
that justify terrorism, by state; by others.
Unity, empathy, solidarity –
not anymore threats to ruling class
when the year went past us
like they were anathema to the workers.

This world never so fragmented
so in despair to not understand,
to lend an ear, a hand, a tear.
Never so lacking in care
that it advances a Trump, a Modi,
a Hillary, a Cameron, a Bibi.
Only a Paris. Eurocentric lease.
Warmongers, homophobes, xenophobes
In power everywhere, the worst of us.

Maybe its all that we can muster
– or, with contradictions exposed
we can take this just no more?
Won’t the new year notice any difference
shall we keep on penalizing dissidence?
Call fellow travelers aliens, illegals, refugees
– or, with our inhumanity exposed
we can reattempt unity amidst diversities?

(by Saswat Pattanayak)

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Modi-Sharif Class Interests

By Saswat Pattanayak

Narendra Modi’s newfound love for Sharif only proves how Class triumphs over everything. Capitalists can forgo all their differences in coming together for common cause. Adani/Jindal commercial interests in Pakistan ruled by a feudal lord whose family has profiteering interests in collaborating with the new souled-out India show how even the worst form of jingoism from either side has no locus standi when it comes to safeguarding class interests. No matter the religion or caste (Sharif being a Sunni Muslim and Modi being an OBC Hindu) or nationality and gender, when it comes to class interests, there is no stopping in their consolidating efforts. Likewise, Reagan (Presbyterian) and Bush (Methodist) were buddies with Taliban and ran family businesses with Osama bin Laden (Wahhabi Muslim) in their common interest, putting aside nationalistic rhetorics employed domestically to retain their patriotically misguided fan bases.

While the corporate bosses collaborate with each other representing their own class interests, they make sure to let the working class folks fight with each other in the name of various distracting absurdities. The more the working poor continue to distrust and hate each other in the name of religious fixations, the easier it is to rule over the divided lot. “Workers of the world, unite!” is the only anathema to the ruling bourgeois elites. And to subvert the revolutionary potential, the ruling elites at times project themselves as humane and just. In the latest instance, Modi-Sharif may appear to be shockingly generous in their “neighbors-are-irreplaceable” offering, but in reality they are merely throwing lavish parties for each other to celebrate future corporate collaborations.

(Photo: NDTV)

Looking for Jesus and Finding them

By Saswat Pattanayak

Perhaps the prevailing eurocentrism in the world makes more non-Christians celebrate this day with such fanfare, than they would observe an occasion from any other religious text. December 25 resonates in all, regardless of religious backgrounds, owing to our colonized subconsciousness. Amidst humanized samaritan renditions of a generous Santa rewarding submissive kids, most folks today set aside their intelligence while momentarily forgetting how Christianity has been the most gruesome and atrocious religion in the history of the world, single-handedly responsible for genocide of indigenous peoples all over the planet through its spread of terror and imperialism.

The only redeeming feature of this horrendously traumatic saga of lies and outright deceit is the possible salvaging of Jesus as a working class hero, albeit a nonviolent one. Like any other religious icon, Jesus too is imagined to be on the side of the oppressed and the dispossessed, on the side of truth and justice, on the side of the revolutionaries, the imprisoned and the conscientious, on the side of the internationalists, the communists and the labor organizers.

Malcolm X said, “they charged Jesus with sedition” because he went to the exploited and the downtrodden. Woody Guthrie said, Jesus was laid in his grave by the preachers, bankers, landlords, rich men and their soldiers. If every revolution needs a few myths to provide hope, every religious text provides to the believers some myths to cling unto. But for revolutions to succeed, humanization of icons is not adequate. It does not suffice to celebrate that alone which is dead, but also to embrace the best of what is living. What is needed is to recognize today’s revolutionaries as Jesus. Ideally, all religions should be declared extinct, as they historically have been tools for the ruling elites to exploit people of the world by dividing them up into various conflicting sub-groups. Unfortunately, majority of the world is still not ready to prioritize struggles for liberation from superstitions. As Lenin had said, “No number of pamphlets and no amount of preaching can enlighten the proletariat, if it is not enlightened by its own struggle against the dark forces of capitalism. Unity in this really revolutionary struggle of the oppressed class for the creation of a paradise on earth is more important to us than unity of proletarian opinion on paradise in heaven.” Until the time the working class is awakened to unite itself, we may find it empowering to wrest the gods from the tax-free temples and churches and mosques – and to find them in revolutionaries amidst ourselves instead.

And therefore, the trans woman Chelsea Manning who languishes in the jail past six Decembers for sharing powerful truths, is Jesus. Physically disabled GN Saibaba, the revolutionary from Delhi University who is suffering the brunt of a fascist Indian state for holding radical views, is Jesus. The Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera suffering from a sentence of 70 years in an American prison, charged with “seditious conspiracy”, is Jesus. Black Panther and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal who remains the undying conscience of a world crying for freedom, is Jesus. Countless freedom fighters “hard-working and brave”, to quote Woody, across the globe resisting ruling class excesses and facing charges on behalf of us today, are all Jesus – today, and they are various other gods too, on other religious days. With due apologies to George Carlin, Gods don’t just need money to remain relevant; they also need great human beings, to survive their purpose.

Arvind Kejriwal Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai?

Arvind Kejriwal suddenly discovers in Modi a coward and psychopath, simply because he finally becomes a victim of fascist vendetta now. However, this outrage is a social media melodrama as it was Kejriwal himself who has contributed the most in the resulting chaos that prevail today. Modi/Shah and their BJP goons are professionally committed as communal politicians and xenophobes who have always practiced hate politics to perfection. Indian public had always rejected such right-wing fanatics throughout the country’s democratic history. It is Kejriwal who lent them a humane face through his creation of a hoopla over the corruption bogeyman, only with the sole aim to destabilize what he and his right-wing allies Shanti Bhushan, Kiran Bedi and Kumar Vishwas felt as “dynasty politics”.

Bhushan who funded the creation of AAP was also the same man who was one of the founders of BJP in 1980 – the only aim at that time was to oppose Indira Gandhi because she had dared to “misuse her power” by ensuring that India aims to become a “socialist” and “secular” country. When BJP failed to gain any momentum in India owing to their rabidly communal agendas, these reactionaries floated an outfit by the name of AAP to espouse the same anti-Congress politics, but on a more populist political plank: Corruption.

Prior to advancing the carefully orchestrated political party AAP, Kejriwal was at the forefront of the anti-socialist formation called “India Against Corruption” and an anti-secular formation called “Youth for Equality” – the sole aim of these so-called apolitical movements (ably supported by the likes of objective corporate media comprising Arnav Goswami/Rajat Sharma) was to excite the otherwise indifferent middle class students into getting wet dreams over the potential demise of Congress and the Left in India; to materialize the RSS reveries of a Congress-Mukt Bharat into reality.

Aam Aadmi Party – many of whose stalwarts subsequently have gone back to their BJP family – thereafter emerged as the New Right in India, the first outfit to succeed in legitimizing capitalistic meritocracy as an acceptable political proposition in a society whose collective progress depends on reservation policies, to allow for a political scope for rabidly communal elements of this society to gain a respectable electoral mandate that was virtually impossible to obtain prior to Kejriwal and his team arrived as the educated “we-are-not-political-we-are-you” actors, and to create for the first time in India’s history a Parliament without an empowered Opposition.

It is not Modi, but Kejriwal who created an imagination for a new India whose socio-economic policies could be drafted without the Congress and the Left. And when Kejriwal is not given that rightful due, and instead is treated like he were an outsider, it is only natural that he calls his former bosses names. But even then, Modi continues to heave a sigh of relief, because Kejriwal once again is letting him to be used as a tool to diminish the current debate just when Rahul Gandhi cries vendetta. Because educated Indian bourgeois class and its aspirants know quite well, that when vendetta too appears meritocratic, it is no longer to be treated as a misuse of power.

(Saswat Pattanayak – Written for Facebook)