Sahir Ludhianvi – Communist and a Poet

By Saswat Pattanayak It was more than a coincidence that Sahir Ludhianvi was born on an International Women’s Day. His concern and respect for women was as much personal as it was political. For him, no one – and nothing – was more important than his mother Sardar Begum. Resenting her husband’s feudal properties, his mother had left that household and raised Sahir on her own. And Sahir grew up as an organic revolutionary against landlords and burgeoning capitalism of that era. And more importantly, as a progressive poet deeply aware of the capitalistic exploitations of women and the working…

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…

Pete Seeger: UnAmerican Communist and a People’s Songster

By Saswat Pattanayak Pete Seeger was not the “American conscience”, as he is being now crowned by the corporate media after his demise. In reality, he was the UnAmerican conscience. And to understand this, it is important to underscore the extent of his internationalism, his commitment towards humanity, his selfless unpatriotic journey as a fervent communist, his lifelong quest against American militarism, adventurism and exceptionalism. Most importantly, to use history as a weapon in the class struggle, as Pete used music as his tool, it is pivotal to not let go of the “unAmerican” label that was imposed upon him…

On Einstein’s Acceptance of Communist Russia and Rejection of Zionist Israel

by Saswat Pattanayak With the “God Letter” recently auctioned for over $3 million, the world has started taking a renewed interest in Albert Einstein’s core philosophies. In the most conservative estimate, he has been described as the father of modern physics; and by most liberal counts, the most intelligent human being in history. But despite tremendous biographical sketches, Einstein has remained largely unknown as an activist, or terribly misunderstood as a statesman. Many dimensions of his life have been deliberately suppressed, some grossly exaggerated, and quite a few entirely concocted with blatant lies. This is quite natural considering the ruling…

Tribute to Woody!

Woody Guthrie, the labor organizer and agitator who redefined the entire genre of folk music through his political philosophy was an unrepentant Marxist-Leninist, an avowed supporter of Joseph Stalin and a lifelong adherent of Communism. By today’s standard, it certainly is not a flattering introduction to the man America has glorified to a postage stamp and whose centennial is being celebrated across corporate media in full flair without any mention of his political legacies. But to understand Woody Guthrie’s contributions, it is critical to explore why he has been stripped of all the aspects he held closest to heart. If…

Gil Scott-Heron :: Revolutionaries Live Forever

The brother who prophesied that the revolution won’t be televised is no more. Many of us did not believe in his cautionary words. Some of us caricatured the concept of revolution as manifesting in fast cars and expensive elections. Those in Egypt claiming themselves to be revolutionaries even held up signs to proclaim revolution was indeed being televised. Some Iranian protesters claimed revolution was being Twitted. Indeed, during his lifetime, Gil Scott-Heron was ridiculed, neglected and relegated to a hopeless corner. After his passage, he will probably be obliterated from prospective history narratives, as our liberalized society continues to glory…

Lucy Parsons :: Revolutionary Feminist

By Saswat Pattanayak No legal case in American history has been more cited than The Scottsboro Trial. Nine young African American men, aged 13 and up, were jailed in Scottsboro, Alabama to await trial over an accusation that they had raped two white women on a train in the Spring of 1931. The nature of racism in this instance was not the novelty – indeed, American society was witness to countless false charges brought against the black people. However, The Scottsboro Trial became a landmark via the manner in which racism for the first time was fiercely and openly challenged…

Remembering Howard Zinn (August 24, 1922 – January 27, 2010)

(For publication in Radical Notes) By Saswat Pattanayak “To be neutral is to collaborate with whatever is going on, and I as a teacher do not want to be a collaborator with whatever is happening in the world today.” (Howard Zinn) In the grossly unequal world that we inhabit, it is always tempting to remain apolitical, especially if one is an academician materially benefiting from the status quo system of education. It is only logical to separate classroom instructions from political activisms, since teachers are desired by the system to enhance employability of students within the social framework, not to…