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Mainstream, Vol. XLVII, No 27, June 20, 2009

Comrade EMS - A Homage

Monday 22 June 2009, by Ashok Mitra

Tributes to E.M.S. Namboodripad

Scholar extraordinary, Comrade EMS would hold his own in intense discussions on ideological, methodological and epistemological issues with close comrades as much as with foremost economists, historians and other social scientists. He would write tracts on both Marxist theory and on emerging aspects of what he described as the National Question. He would, simultaneously, compose documents, in English as well as Malayalam, on contemporary political issues, whether involving the region, the country or the world.

And yet, the same person, when he would address a rural assemblage, would have no problem unburdening himself in the plainest of language on the most intricate themes. He would make himself understood to each and every one, including the slowest of the slow learners. His invectives would be ferocious and his wit devastating, evoking both chuckle and catharisis of passion. He would hold the crowd in thralldom; those who came to scoff would stay back to extol.

This man commanded immediate respect when he visited New Delhi or foreign capitals because, while he remained on the surface the near-rustic activist from Kerala, he could also understand the mind of his ‘sophisticated’ class adversaries. He would listen to them with patience; when he would respond, while borrowing their lingo, he would still be devastating both in the formulation of his syllogisms and the thrust of his repartees.

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All this, in a sense, is perhaps beside the point. Comrade E.M.S. was, above all, a great human being, full of vision, but full of the milk of pristine kindness too. He knew how to shower affection to those who drew close to him; he also knew how to express scorn for renegades to the cause. He was, till till his last breath, a believer in the policy of the principle. If he were still around—and at the helm—those currently mouthing the proposition that the primary task of a Communist is to nurture and defend capitalist growth, would have found themselves thrown out of the party in no time.

Leaders like E.M.S. Namboodiripad and A.K. Gopalan built the Communist Party through decades of sacrifice, dedication, hard work and maintenance of ideological rigour. The edifice they constructed is now in danger, not so much on account of international developments, but because, on the domestic front, ideological purity has taken a back seat.

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