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Mainstream, VOL LI No 25, June 8, 2013

Tridib Chowdhuri and his Growing Relevance

Sunday 9 June 2013, by Pramothes Mukherjee


[(The birth centenary of the exemplary parliamentarian and extraordinary Left leader, Tridib Chowdhuri of the RSP, was observed last December, that is, six months ago, without any major celebration in West Bengal, leave aside the country as a whole. We remember that outstanding Revolutionary Socialist with the following article by a distinguished leader of his party and erstwhile Member of the Lok Sabha.)]


The Sheikh Hasina Government of Bangladesh has decided to confer posthumous award on Tridib Chowdhuri at a convenient time in 2013 at Dhaka in a befitting manner for his contri-bution to the liberation struggle of Bangladesh in 1971. We express deep gratitude and hearty congratulations to the Bangladesh Government for their decision to honour Tridib Chowdhuri posthumously even after 15 years of his demise. He was a freedom fighter, an outstanding states-man of modern India and a colossal personality among the pioneers of the revolutionary socialist movement in India. He was the champion of the working class people, a gifted orator and a prolific writer (better to say, a theoretician). It is the right moment to present here some reflections on his life and activity for the benefit of the present generation.

A Profile

Born to Gonesh Govinda Chowdhuri and Tarubala Debi on December 12, 1911 at Dhaka, Tridib Chowdhuri belonged to the noted Chowdhuri family of Haripur in the district of Pabna in North Bengal (now in Bangladesh). The Chowdhuris of Haripur were a middle-class family of landlords and lawyers endowed with cultural and literary traits.

As a boy in Giagonj (Murshidabad) he was closely associated with Lora Park, which was the embodiment of revolutionary ideas behind the curtain of a library, a cultural centre, and a gymnasium maintained by the elder Anushi-lonites in disguise. That was the first intro-duction to revolutionary romanticism that Tridib Chowdhuri enjoyed in his life.

In Krishnath College, then in ferment due to nationalist revolutionary politics, he came in contact with the revolutionary leader, Niranjan Sen. He joined the Anushilon Samity under the influence of Maharaj Troilakya Chakraborty, Rabindra Mohan Sen and Protul Ganguly. He plunged into the mainstream of national revolutionary struggle for freedom of his mother- land India. On April 18, 1930 India was rocked by the daring exploits of Master-da Surya Sen and his comrade-in-arms by what is called the Chittagong Armoury Raid in the history of the freedom struggle. Historically, the Chitagong uprising was clearly patterned in the Irish Republican Army (IRA) model and it was the first armed rebellion in the history of the freedom movement of India. In the aftermath of this heroic incident the Bengal Ordinance Act was promulgated by the imperialist British and Tridib Chowdhuri was identified as a dangerous terrorist. He was arrested in 1931 and sent to Deoli Detention Camp in Rajputana (Rajasthan). During seven years of rigorous imprisonment in the Deoli camp Tridib Chowdhuri passed the BA Examination in 1933 and subsequently MA (Econ.) from Calcutta University as an external candidate from jail. He was a brilliant student, a voracious reader and the intellectual in him began to search the ways and means for his conversion to Marxism-Leninism for the freedom of India and also for the socialist transformation of the country in the light of the November Revolution of 1917. His contact with the senior leaders and co-prisoners paved the way for his choice of the Marxist-Leninist path of class struggle and mass struggle to overthrow the class-divided society and establish a classless society and socialism.

Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee was entrusted in 1923 with the task of organising the revolu-tionary activities in northern India. At his initiative the Hindusthan Republican Association (HRA) was formed and this subsequently changed into the HSRA.

“A major influence on the young revolutionaries was the Russian Revolution. It was Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev who began to look upon the Soviet Union as the state nearest to their ideal. They created a new leadership with a difference. —the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. (HSRA) According to them, ‘Chaos is necessary for the birth of a new star and the birth of life is accompanied by agony and pain.’ (HSRA manifesto)”

Then began a journey of the national revolutionary from “retaliatory terrorism” to socialism. The most distinctive trend during this period has been characterised as terroso-cialism. Tridib Chowdhuri was one of the pioneering personalities of this kind of journey in history. He was released from jail in 1937 and was assigned to transform the Anushilon Samity into a Marxist Party based on mass and class struggle.

Builder of RSP

It was about 1937-38 when their conversion to Marxism-Leninism took place. A separate document was historically necessary and its draft was prepared in the Deoli Detention Camp in Rajputana by the close of 1936. It was duly discussed and debated in different jails and camps.... In the middle of 1938 they adopted their thesis in September 1938. Tridib Chow-dhuri had a significant role to play in this entire process.

They were equipped with the document of “what revolutionary socialism stands for” and that’s why they could not join the Royists’ Party (M.N. Roy) and Communist Party (CPI). The alternative left before them was to join the Congress Socialist Party or to form a new party.

The last alternative before them was to form a new party based on Marxism-Leninism. Thus a new party RSPI (Marxist-Leninist) was born at Ramgarh (Bihar) on March 19, 1940. It integrated the revolutionary tradition with a new orientation of Marxism-Leninism and it was based on revolutionary socialism as opposed to both social Gandhism of the CSP and the conformist official communism of the CPI. Tridib Chowdhuri theorised the prelude to the formation of this party, RSPI-ML, along with Satish Sarkar, Dwijen Roy, Atin Roy, who were the harbingers of revolutionary socialism. [At the first All India Conference, held in May 1946, the party was renamed as the Revolutionary Socialist Party of India (RSPI). At the sixth All India National Conference (Quilon, April 1956), it was decided to further amend the name of the Party as the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP). (Source: Origins of RSP by Dr B. Bhattacharya)]

The process of building up the new party, RSPI-ML, being over, in March 1940 Tridib Chowdhuri was arrested and detained in Hijli Special Jail, and subsequently in Dhaka and Dumdum Central Jail for the crucial years (1940-1946) during war time. He was detained under the Defence of India Rules by the British Government along with Subhas Chandra Bose. In the course of history, he built up the RSP along with his comrades-in-arms.

His Political Philosophy

That the victory of communism is inevitable was the main driving force for Tridib Chowdhuri to move philosophically and historically. The history at that time was developing in accordance with the laws of Marxism-Leninism. Tridib Chowdhuri was growing in the 1920s with the turn of this history and the beginning of a new age of transition with more and more people accepting the socialist path; the Great October Socialist Revolution—the main event of the 20th century—had inspired Tridib Chow-dhuri, the Anushilon Marxist and non-confor-mist national revolutionist.

To him, socialism meant the only way to liberate the poor and working class people from the chains of exploitation, misery and hunger. Abolition of the private property system was a necessary condition for the transformation of society accepting the socialist path. “He, who shall not work, shall not eat” and “each according to his labour” were the basic principles of socialism. He cultivated himself in all the components of Marxism: philosophy, political economy, scientific communism. Socialism is the basic structure of a social system under the proletarian dictatorship for a certain period. They start a journey from pre-socialist or capitalist stage to the higher stage of communism, where the state must wither away. Engels explained that a government of persons shall be replaced by the administration of things. Withering away of the state would be followed by a classless society and stateless democracy.

Doctrine of Fifth Contradiction

According to Lenin, since the November Revolution 1917, these contradictions could be classified into four main political categoires:

i) Overall contradiction between the world system of imperialism-capitalism and the world system of socialism.

ii) Internecine contradictions between the imperialist-capitalist powers themselves in the shape of economic trade contradiction, diplomatic and political contradiction and finally armed conflict over market and colonies.

iii) Contradiction between the imperialist-capitalist powers and their colonies and semi-colonies which appear in the shape of National Democratic freedom struggles of the peoples of the colonies and semi-colonies.

iv) Internal social class contradictions within every capitalist country, between the ruling capitalist class and allied vested interest on the one side and the proletarian masses of these countries, the industrial workers, poor peasantry, toiling intelligentsia etc. on the other.

To these four contradictions, well known to all Marxist-Leninists, Tridib Chowdhuri added a new fifth category of historical contradiction of our epoch in the latest phase, namely,

v) Internal contradiction in the camp of socialism which has manifested totally (for several decades now) in the shape of open political conflicts and clashes between the USSR and the PRC pushing the two countries at times to the brink of armed confrontation and war.

His Theory of Left Alternative

In this epoch of people’s transition from capitalism to socialism, we have to take stock of the present political situation and political parties with their agenda. The crisis of world capitalism along with the crisis of Indian capitalism is an admitted fact, which brings forth the crisis and instability of bourgeois democracy in India. The Indian capitalist class and the bourgeois ruling party are broadly divided among two segments, namely, the Congress and BJP. There are regional bourgeois parties which ultimately serve the interests of the capitalist ruling class.

Under the given conditions the RSP is of the opinion of developing Left unity and also projecting the “Left as the third alternative” before the people as opposed to both the Congress and BJP. The RSP also believes that the united front of genuine Left parties, without any bourgeois or petty-bourgeois party in the name of “Left and Democratic Unity”, could mobilise and lead the people.

On different occasions Tridib Chowdhuri had explained this perspective and asserted that the “toiling people’s front for socialism is the basic general principle of the RSP”. That is why from 1964 (Patna Thesis) the RSP has asserted that the main fulcrum of the political struggle would be Left unity. The Left Front is a priority task today. The formation of a united Left and Democratic Front under the united leadership of genuinely Leftist and socialist parties in the country on the national plane thus becomes a priority task in the background of the new political situation arising out of the conditions for the Left in West Bengal and Kerala.

On Contemporary Stalinism

Tridib Chowdhuri made a unique evaluation on contemporary Stalinism. He came to the conclusion that “Stalinism is dead from the point of view of its historical role”. But he showed the dual aspects of Stalinism. According to him, “Stalinism had a role to play in history but the historical role of Stalinism has lost its relevance in the present international socialist movement.”

He has referred to the historical remark of Trotsky in Revolution Betrayed: Stalin had betrayed the ideals of the Great Socialist Revolution of 1917; but the historic contribution of the Stalin Age in Soviet Union ‘is unexampled in history’.

“......... a backward country like Russia has achieved in less than 10 years success unexampled in history.”

But there is an ugly face of Stalinism when we see the bloodshed and murder of human and democratic values by Stalin’s secret police. Let us quote from the pages of history: “Stalin’s industrial revolution transformed Soviet Union from a weak backward country into a formidable opponent that soon broke the US nuclear monopoly (1949) and also the frontier of space (1957). All of this did not come without a heavy price. Stalin transformed ‘Dictatorship of the proletariat into Dictatorship of the party over the proletariat, and peasantry’, and eventually into a Dictatorship of the secret police over the proletariat, peasantry and the party itself.”

Liberation of Goa

He was a freedom fighter. Even after independence in 1947, he did not leave the field of struggle for freedom. He participated in the liberation (satyagraha) movement against the Portuguese colonialism for the liberation of Goa. He led the movement and entered Goa in July 1955 with a batch of volunteers and was arrested. Subsequently he was released from the prison of Dr Salazar after 19 months.

An Eminent Parliamentarian

Tridib Chowdhuri was elected to the House of the People for seven consecutive terms (1952-1984) and subsequently became a Member of the Rajya Sabha in 1987 and then in 1993 till his death on December 21, 1997. He will be remembered for his honesty, sincerity and also for his good work as a parliamentarian. He showed his keen interest in a wide spectrum of subjects, namely, Foreign Policy, Railway and General Budget, Economic Affairs, Tea Bill and Language Bill, floods in the country, Ganga Barrage, Berubari Transfer, Minimum Wages for the Beedi-binders, cottage and silk industry, that is, on every aspect of human life and the country. He was loved and highly respected by the people of the constituency as well whole country for his excellent and polite behaviour as well as his practice of meticulously respon-ding to every letter he received from people all over the country. Such a responsive and responsible parliamentarian is rarely found.

For his erudition and trustworthiness he was unitedly chosen and finally put up as a candidate for the office of the President of India by the Left and non-Congress Opposition parties in 1974. He was defeated but he declared that his candidature was a symbol of protest against the tyranny of the Indira regime.

He died on December 21, 1997 when he was 86. K.R. Narayanan, the President of India, in his message, expressed his shock and sadness over his death and recalled his historic role in the freedom movement. I.K. Gujral, the then Prime Minister, described him as an able parliamentarian and a champion of the downtrodden.

“He was an articulate defender of the down- trodden and the oppressed. He was the man who always fought for democracy and justice.”

Thousands of people walked in silence with his body at Berhampore Town mile after mile with a deep sense of grief and unfathomable loss writ large on their faces. They sensed the bereavement of a close relative. People silently stood on roof-tops of the houses on either side of the road as the slogan “Long live Com Tridib Chowdhuri, Long live, Long live” reverberated across the sky.

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