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Top Punjab Maoist who failed to analyse caste question, promoted economism

By Harsh Thakor* 

On June 15th we commemorated the 15th death anniversary of Harbhajan Singh Sohi or HBS, a well known Communist leader in Punjab. He expired of a heart attack in Bathinda in 2009.
Sohi was born on March 28th. He was the son of a police inspector. His ancestral village was Bhari in Sangrur district of Punjab. During his student days in Bhatinda, he dipped his feet in the leftist movement. After doing his MA in English literature from Punjabi University, Patiala, he taught for a few months at Rajindra Government College, Bhatinda.
Sohi extensively analysed Mao Tse Tung thought and was the first Communist in India to explore the trend of Chinese  reversion to capitalism. He played the pioneering role in refuting the ‘three worlds theory’ propounded by the Chineese Communist Party (CCP) led by Deng Xiaoping.  He initiated  struggle within the Unity Centre of Communist Revolutionaries of India against supporting the "revisionist line" of Deng Xiaoping-led CCP.
A Maoist himself, Sohi asserted that 
armed struggle isolated from the people can never succeed. Sohi rejected path of ‘individual annihilation’ and ‘rejection of mass movements and organisations.’ Also a poet, he enriched Punjabi literature through his poems, songs and literary criticism.

Political work

 Sohi received his revolutionary baptism in the CPI-M, within which he waged a revolt as a member of the Students Federation of India (SFI). He joined the All India Co-ordination Commitee of Communist Revolutionaries of India and the CPI (ML), but rejected their left adventurist line, especially in Punjab. 
Sohi’s leadership played an important role in Punjab in organising Lok Sangram rallies of the Punjab Students Union and the Naujawan Bharat Sabha in mid-1970s. One of them took place in 1974 -- a 20,000 strong rally.  He opposed the JP movement and instead set the ball rolling for students and youth to integrate and organise the peasantry in the villages on the burning issues of the day.
In the 1980s Sohi differed with sections of Communist revolutionaries, who were entrapped into the quagmire of Sikh separatism or Khalistani politics. Sohi’s guidance during the Khalistani movement acted as a pivot in the mass resistance movement challenging the communal fascism on one hand and state terrorism in the other.
HBS steered various party forces to first merge into the Centre of Communist Revolutionaries in 1988 and then the Communist party Re-Organisation Centre of India (Marxist-Leninist). As secretary of the CPRCI (ML) he played an instrumental part in shaping mass political resistance movement in Punjab integrating peasants and farm labourers and Adivasi movement in Malkangiri in Orissa.


.Sohi failed to analyse the caste question, which is a burning issue of the day. His harsh critics feel he promoted economism within the movement, failing to politicize the mass movements. Some Maoists in Punjab classified his line as right reformist or backing stages theory-seperating political work from economic struggle. substantial chunk of the revolutionary ranks departed from his group in the early 1980s

Important writings

Harbhajan Sohi’s articles sought to  dissect Mao thought, especially the compilation “In Defence of Mao Tse Tung", published in 2023 by the Harbhajan Sohi Yaadgar Prakashan. In "The Significance of Combating International Opportunism of the Teng-Hua brand” he analyses how a series of contending forces were interplaying turning China into a capitalist society.
In "To Play or not to Play the Parliamentary Game” (1972) HBS summed up that when the reactionary ruling classes in a bourgeois democratic country are on the path of suppressing and dissipating the democratic processes, and when the importance of struggle for bourgeois democratic instituting increases, it is appropriate for Communists to join the election campaign along with democratically minded people and expose the anti-democratic character of the ruling classes.
In "A Striking Expose of the Fragile Political Base and Tyrannical face of the Indian State" (1990) HBS analyses the  resistance waged by the Jammu and Kashmir National Liberation Front in giving armed counter resistance to the paramilitary forces. He said, there was a need to diagnose the demarcation from communal fascist outfits like Hizbul Mujahudin, concluding, there was hardly any class analysis of the political content of the demand for self-determination in Kashmir. 
In his article "Hold Aloft the Invincible Banner of Mao Tse Tung Thought" (1980) he elaborates the contributions of Mao, claiming Mao elevated Leninism to unscaled heights during the cultural revolution. In "In Defence of Marxism-Leninism Mao Tse Tung Thought and General Line of International Communist Movement" (1982) HBS refutes the 3 worldist analysis that the 2nd world countries exploit the oppressed nations and are at the same time bullied by the superpowers, thus granting them dual character to stand in contradiction with both the first and third worlds. 
It analyses how the loss of socialist states, especially Socialist China, paved the way for a major setback for the international Communist movement and revolutionary forces worldwide. It narrates how Dengist China triggered capitulation to USA. He believed, Soviet social imperialism retreated from revolutionary fighting positions.  
In "Documents of the Developments Inside China" HBS delves on the dividing line between revolution and revisionism. He believed, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was a massive revolutionary offensive of the proletariat against bourgeois ideology -- the gains of which were lost during the post-Mao phase, stating, counter-revolutionary currents received setback due to the reversal of socialism in China. He summarizes how Deng published three documents termed as the "Three Poisonous Weeds" to reverse the goals of the Cultural Revolution. 
*Freelance journalist


Anonymous said…
The writer is moorkh gadaha aur neech hai bhani hai


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