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Maoist scholar who said, 'annihilation of class enemy' talk was a gross error

By Harsh Thakor* 
May 11th is the 10th death anniversary of a well-known Marxist intellectual Suniti Kumar Ghosh, also considered a Maoist by many in the Left. I was privileged to have personally met him in Kolkata in March 2009. It is very rare to experience any personality with such clear thinking ability or incisive thought or one who would penetrate as extensively in historic endeavors in pursuit of truth.
Ghosh was born on 18 February 1918 at the Sibpur area of district Howrah, West Bengal. After passing the school-leaving examination from the BK Paul Institution, Sibpur, he got himself admitted at St Paul's College, Kolkata, with honours in English literature, got his BA from there and then his MA degree in English from the University of Calcutta. He took teaching as his profession and taught at nearly eleven colleges covering East and West Bengal as also Bihar. He took part in the Tebhaga movement (l946-47). He joined CPI(M) after it was formed in 1964, but later left the party.
For political reasons, Ghosh was externed from the then East Pakistan in 1949. At that point of time, he was teaching at Madan Mohan College and then at Dinajpur College. He was forced him to move to this side of Bengal and Bihar. He continued with his teaching profession thereafter. He got a job at the Barasat Government College. 
However, in those days, as now, government jobs required police verification. Since he was a member of the CPI and was under the government scanner, he was asked to give an assurance that he would disown the CPI and all his previous linkages. Although he was not a member of the CPI at that time, he refused to give any such written undertaking and resigned the post while on probation. 
Vidyasagar College was the last college where he taught till he went underground some time in the formative phase of the Naxalbari Communist revolutionary movement.
Ghosh joined CPI-M some time after its formation in 1964 and was associated with the editorial boards of "Desh Hitaishi" and "People's Democracy" — the two organs of the CPI(M). However, that period was shortlived and he left the party by being critical of what he thought were its revisionist policies. 
He then became associated with a radical Bengali periodical  "Kalpurush" along with Saroj Datta and others and wrote articles that reflected the ideology of  the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China and the impact  of Mao tse-tung thought.
Naxalbari ignited Ghosh to action. He was associated with it right from the time of the formation of the Naxalbari Krishak Sangram Sahayak Committee, which planted the seeds of formation of a Communist revolutionary centre, which was followed by the formation of the All-India Coordination Committee of Revolutionaries (AICCR) and then the All-India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR). The newly formed organs such as "Deshabrati" and "Liberation" tried spreading the message of Indian revolution. Since the inception of "Liberation" on 11 November 1967 till April 1972, he was its editor. 
Ghosh was entrenched in the movement for the rest of the decade, and returned home when he was helpless. In that decade of the movement not only he, but his family (his wife Anima and his two daughters), were subjected to turmoil. He never forgot the martyrs of the movement, to whom he dedicated several of his writings: “I owe to those who, sharing my ideals and braving immense risks, gave me shelter and food when shelter was more precious than food.”  In 1974 Ghosh was instrumental in the formation of the Central Organising Committee (COC) of the CPI (ML). In 1977 he officially left the party. 
He wrote: 
“The COC held that the battle of annihilation of class enemies, carried out by secret squads of militants, cannot solve our problems nor can it serve as the beginning of guerrilla war. That is why the COC considered it necessary to participate in and lead mass struggles of the people on all fronts – economic, political and cultural – and establish the party's political leadership over mass organizations with a view to organizing armed struggles of the peasantry on the basis of an Agrarian Programme and for building up base areas in the countryside. This method of strengthening the Party, establishing the Party's leadership over the people, developing armed struggles of the peasantry, building up the people's armed forces and rural base areas is fundamentally different from the method propagated and practised at a certain phase that ended with the death of Comrade Mazumdar (photo).”
Thereafter, Ghosh ventured into writing several books as also articles in "Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars", "Economic and Political Weekly", "Frontier", "Monthly Review" and "Visvabharati Quarterly". He dipped his pen as late as 2010 at the age of 92, after which his body simply gave in.
After 1980s, Ghosh was not politically active and did not formally belong to any political organization. His academic side and political activism were intertwined. The root of his academic work was on the Naxalbari struggle, and his academic work sought to plant the theoretical breeding ground for political activists. He analysed in his books and articles the character of India’s ruling classes, the nature of modern India’s historical development and political economy, the revolutionary struggles of the Indian people to transform Indian society, and the political leadership of that revolutionary movement.
Though not directly active in politics, Ghosh  would personally attend the conferences of the All India Revolutionary Students Federation to deliver a fraternal message in Madras in 1989, Mumbai in 1993 and Kolkata in 1997. 
In early 1990s the Communist revolutionary movement was so disintegrated or fragmented that Ghosh suggested a coordination committee or platform. However, he refrained from being on editorial board of any Marxist-Leninist group organ. 
Among his books, "India and the Raj 1919-1947" seeks to expose the "treachery" of the Indian National Congress in 1947 and the *betrayal" of the Indian big bourgeoisie. He investigates and summarizes the "partisan nature" of the Congress and the Indian big bourgeoisie, diagnosing the "collusion or complicit role" of the bourgeoisie with imperialism, seeking to explode the myth of conventional historiography. 
The book also investigated Gandhi’s early experiments with Satygagraha, the "collaboration" of the Indian bourgeoise with imperialism, the repression in Jallinawala Bagh and Chauri-Chaura, civil and criminal disobedience, the "hypocrisy" of non-violent nationalism and goals and strategies of the Congress, how the Gandhi-led Congress consistently acted "on the behest or patronised the industrialists and landlords, as well as appeased religious politics." 
Ghosh narrates the militant peasant and workers struggles which the Congress "diverted or diffused",  "genuine" anti-colonial uprisings,   economics of comprador bourgeoise, which "did not divorce links with imperialism", and how Congress leaders "appeased or operated hand and glove" with landlord classes. Ghosh evaluates how the Tatas, Birlas  or Singhanias allegedly acted as "brokers" for British capital, differentiating the comprador bourgeoisie with the national bourgeoise.
In Ghosh's view, Gandhi had powerful Hindu overtones when conducting his political propaganda, backed the caste system and  motivated Hindus to defend themselves against Muslims. To him, the Congress projected itself as secular, but morally was partial to Hindus and carved partition in collaboration with the British and the Muslin League.
In  ‘Himalayan Adventure –India-China 1962 War' Ghosh tries to argue that it was India or Nehru who were on the offensive in 1962 Indo-China War, by violating the Macmohan line agreement. Even some Indian generals admitted this, he says, extensively quoting Neville Maxwell, arguing, there was collusion of superpowers USSR and USA to conspire against China and "promoting" Indian expansionism,  especially India’s claim over Tibet.  
Earlier appeals from China for negotiations for a peaceful settlement found no echo in the hearts of the Nehrus, he says. 
In 1960, he states, Nehru agreed to Chou En-lai’s proposal to meet. The Chinese prime minister, accompanied by Chen Yi, China’s foreign minister, came to India in April 1960 to negotiate a peaceful settlement. But the hosts were not quite friendly; Nehru had assured the Indian hawks that there would be ‘talks’ but not ‘negotiations’ . 
The path of abandoning mass organizations and movements took place alongside the authoritarianism of the party
According to Ghosh, the decision of the Indian ruling classes to go to war with China was, as the "Times of India" noted, a political decision -- a decision which was in conflict with military advice. This political decision invited a rebuff from China under which the Indian army, the Indian government and Nehru reeled. Between 20 and 24 October, the Chinese forces overran Indian positions, penetrated into the NEFA territory, occupied Towang (not far south of the Macmahon line), halted and again began diplomatic exchanges. But Nehru was  determined not to enter into negotiations for a peaceful settlement of the boundary problem.
In "Historic Turning-Point -- A Liberation Anthology", Ghosh makes a balanced appraisal of the CPI (ML), formed in 1969. He throws light on how Naxalbari turned Indian history and how the party shaped the rebellion of all oppressed classes, dwelling into how the movement was based on mass character and how it literally was a turning point in the history of India. He believes, the party and the  uprising were an integral part of each other and the symmetrical synthesis of the party with the armed struggle and mass movement.
Although an admirer of Charu Mazumdar, CPI(ML) and Naxalbari, Ghosh criticises their "left adventurism", stating how the path of abandoning mass organizations and movements took place alongside the "authoritarianism" of the party. Instead of placing the blame on Charu Mazumdar solely, he asserts that the fault of the setback was because of the collective leadership.
Ghosh’s critique lucidly portrays the leader’s autocratic style of functioning  To him, Mazumdar committed the gross error of overemphasizing the line of annihilation of the class enemy and negating the importance of mass mobilization. He says, “Charu Mazumdar had Mao Zedong’s name always on his lips, while his policies were at complete variance with Mao Zedong’s teachings”. 
His book reveals that Mazumdar negated from the party the criticism of his line by Zhou Enlai and Kang Sheng, the two top Chinese Communist leaders, when the former’s emissary, Souren Bose, met them in Beijing in mid-1970. He publishes a document of the Chinese criticism that Mazumdar projected himself as the one and only authority in the party. He is also critical of Bose demanding no circulation of the report and dropping mere hints, vaguely.
In "India’s Constitution and Its Review", Ghosh dissects the essence of the Indian Constitution, portraying its class character, exploring how the Constitution could not protect genuine rights of the people and how in practice lot of what was enshrined was nonexistent.
---
*Freelance Journalist

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