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Mainstream, Vol XLV, No 51

Wages of Gulagism

’Creative Marxism’ of a ’Communist Rishi’

Tuesday 11 December 2007, by Subrata Banerjee


[(On the occasion of the birth centenary of Prof H.N. Mukerjee)]

Scholar, writer, orator, politician and parliamen-tarian, Prof H.N. Mukerjee (Hirendranath Mukhopadhyay) is a venerated figure in the fields of both politics and literature. The published books, written by him, exceed fifty in number. Commencing 1952, he was elected to the Lok Sabha for five consecutive terms by a Calcutta constituency. His speeches in Parliament received rapt attention. He has been praised as a ’creative Marxist’ and a ’Communist Rishi’.1 The West Bengal Government has honoured him with the Vidyasagar Award. The Government of India has honoured him with Padmabhusan and Padmabibhusan.

He joined the Communist Party of India in 1936 at the behest of P.C. Joshi, the then General Secretary of the CPI. His conversion to communism came somewhat earlier, while studying at Oxford and training to be a Barister at Law in the United Kingdom.2 Unfortunately, this was the time when Soviet socialism (dictatorship of the proletariat) was being transformed into its opposite, Gulagism, a vicious and cannibalistic dictatorship of the bureaucracy and its ablest representative, J.V. Stalin. Starting with the CPSU, this degeneration, debasement and negation engulfed the Communist or the Third International and all its sections.3 Like the preponderant majority, Prof Mukerjee took to Gulagism enthusiastically. This cardinal fact coloured all his political and literary life till the very end.

Friendship or Servility?

Prof Mukerjee has been described as an architect of Indo-Soviet friendship.4 He was a founder member of the Indo-Soviet Friendship Society and its successor, Indo-Soviet Cultural Society. ISCUS has felicitated him publicly for service to the cause of this friendship.

Actually, the attitude of Prof Mukerjee and other chartered friends towards their imagined fatherland is best described as servility. Prof Mukerjee swallowed every execrable lie concocted by the Stalin School of Falsification in Moscow and propagated it as the Gospel truth with baristocratic cleverness. In the process he had to jettision all concern for objectivity and truth.

Consider the following passage:

Interest of the collective overrides personal opinion. Hence Trotsky was punished for disobeying the party. Martov and Dan were forced to leave the country during Lenin’s time. Trotsky was forced to leave the country during Stalin’s time. Others who obstructed day-to-day activity of the Soviet, in a way helped the attempts to pull down the Soviet regime, while repeating bookish dogma and indulging in revolutionary rhetoric, also had to face punishment.

The passage occurs in Prof Mukerjee’s essay Rush Viplab o Lenin and was initially included in his collection, Bharatbarsha o Marxbad (1943) and is now included in his selected essays edited by Pranab Biswas.5

Note the Oxbridge baristocrat’s disregard for truth and his topsy-turvy concept of crime and punishment. Menshevik leaders, Martov and Dan, like other Russian leaders, had spent many years in exile before the Revolution. The Soviets that sprang up during the October Revolution and ultimately assumed power followed the lead of the Bolsheviks rather than that of the Mensheviks. Martov and Dan and a few other Menshevik leaders once again left the country in frustration. The question of crime and punishment never arose. Anatoli Lunacharasky, while serving as the Minister for Education and Culture in Lenin’s Cabinet, included a thumbnail sketch of Martov in his Revolutionary Silhouettes, a collection of sketches of Russian revolutionaries.6

By contrast, Trotsky was first deported to Alma Ata and then exiled from the country by fiats of the GPU (predecessor of the KGB).7 Even the formality of a show-trial in a kangaroo court was not considered necessary.

The last sentence in the passage appears to be an oblique reference to the Moscow Trials. The writer has recently discussed those travesty of justice in these pages. Hence a detailed discussion of the trials can be avoided.8

Even the earlier expulsion of Trotsky and other Opposition leaders, first from the leading bodies and then from the party, were illegal and contrary to the principle of democratic centralism.9

In an interview with Tariq Ali in 1974, for the New Left Review, the well-known CPI leader, K. Damodaran, makes the following confession:

We were told that Stalin was the ’great teacher’, who was building socialism in the USSR…. However, there were comrades who were extremely perturbed at the information on the massacres which were coming out of Moscow. Philip Spratt, one of the Communists sent to help the CPI from Britain, became so demoralised

that he abandoned communism altogether … The Congress Left-wing was also extremely critical of the purges taking place in Moscow and some of their leaders were extremely disgusted by the propaganda contained in the CPI front journal National Front, which depicted Trotsky as a poisonous cobra and an agent of fascism. Even Nehru, who was one of the first Congressmen who popularised the Russian Revolution and Soviet achievements, expressed his disapproval of the purges of 1938.10

The purges gave rise to a veritable library of extremely nasty publications in many languages. Stenographic records of the Moscow Trials were published in major European languages. A particularly obnoxious summary in English was The Great Conspiracy by Sayers and Kahn. The offensive piece was translated into many Indian languages (including Bengali). A summary of the summary, in the racy style of a crime thriller, Chakra o Chakranta by Nripendrakrishna Chattopadhyay, too was available. Damodaran admits that he wrote in Malayalam about the purges using materials from The Great Conspiracy. He also mentions the role of the scurrilous official History of the CPSU(B), Short Course in slandering the leaders of the Opposition.11 Prof Mukerjee recommends this particularly obnoxious book for further reading in the bibliography of his primer, Marxbader a aa ka kha (1955) attributing the authorship to Stalin.12 Wisened by hindsight, Mohit Sen, however admits that Stalin assassinated Trotsty, Bukharin, Zinoviev, Kamenev and other associates of Lenin “politically, morally and physically”.13

There is no running away from history. It caught up with Prof Mukerjee in February 1956 in the form of Nikita Krushchev’s ’Secret Report’.14 Two-and-a-half years after the report was out, he took cognisance of it hesitantly, and tangentially.15 Apparently, out of longstanding habit, he could not refrain from an unnecessary untruth. He claims that he is constrained to accept the version of the report available in the West as by and large true, because the Soviet Union has failed to reject it and no alternative version of the Report has been released from Moscow.16 The truth is revealed much later by Mohit Sen in his Autography:

The CPSU held its Twentieth Congress. Ajoy Ghosh attended. He heard Khrushchev’s ’secret report’ on the or errors and crimes of Stalin but had to return the copy before he left the venue as all delegates including those from the fraternal parties. When he came back, he made a full report to the Polit-Bureau. That body decided this was not to be reported even to the Central Committee.

Deceit has apparently become a way of life for the Gulagists.

There are ample attempts to justify the Gulagists’ efforts to cover up the sins of the Soviet Union, as arising out of loyality to the first socialist state in the world. High-profile personalities are cited to justify their blind admiration. What is missing is the slightest regret for mercilessly slandering Stalin’s victims. Not one word about Stalin’s Indian victims is considered necessary.18 He cites the famous economist, Pigoue about the necessity of sometimes choosing sides, even in the absence of complete information.19 Apparently, everything is fair in love and war. Considerations of morality and ethics be damned.

Creative Marxism

Arup Kumar Sen20 and Prof Ravi M. Bakaya21 praise Prof Mukerjee as a creative Marxist. The basis is his ’original’ evaluation of Indian leaders like Nehru and Gandhi. Actually, Prof Mukerjee’s assessment of events and personalities have always been guided by the laid-down party line and revealed truth from Moscow.

Consider his review of Nehru’s Discovery of India (Circa 1945).22 True to the Adhikari thesis, he scolds Nehru for superfluous attempts to refute the arguments of M.A. Jinnah and the Muslim League in favour of the pernicious two-nation theory. He rebukes Nehru for failing to appreciate the anti-imperialist significance of the Wahabi Movement, for failure to take cognisance of the Khilafat Movement in the fat tome and the failure to recognise the reason behind repeated failure of attempts to find a solution to the communal problem.

He castigates Nehru for his failure to recognise the role of the Gulagists as the vanguard of the working class in India and the world. He is quite severe with Nehru for interspersing his praise for the Soviet Union with unnecessary criticism. He cleverly insinuates that the onus for failure to solve the communal problem lies with Nehru and the Congress rather that the Gulagists’ ally, the Muslim League, and its leader Jinnah.

Wonder of wonders, he is even critical of Nehru for his attitude towards Subhash Bose and the INA. He is of course silent about the Gulagists’ campaign of slander against Netaji during the war. Mohit Sen puts the issue in perspective in his Autobiography. “Subhash Chandra Bose,” writes Mohit Sen, “was shown in cartoons as a pet dog of the Japanese. Jayaprakash, Aruna Asaf Ali and others were assailed as being the fifth column of the Japanese.”23 Only the Gulagists can be as brazen as Prof Mukerjee.

The attitude of the Soviet Union, and consequently that of the Gulagist Party of India, towards Nehru changed after the end of the Korean war. The Soviet Union became quite appreciative of India’s role as an honest broker to end the war. The same can be said about India’s efforts to broker a piece in Vietnam at an early stage, which failed solely because of American cussedness. Nehru was invited to the Soviet Union and heartily feted. The change is reflected in Prof Mukerjees obituary of Nehru 24 and much more in the full- length study, The Gentle Colossus.

Prof Mukerjee revealed his great admiration for Mahatma Gandhi in 1969.25 As usual, this was preceded by a re-evaluation of Mahatma Gandhi in the Soviet press, on the occasion of the Gandhi Centenary.26 Creative Marxism indeed!

Wages of Gulagism

Prof Mukerjee did not come from a working class background. He did not suffer the inevitable educational and cultural deprivation. He had the advantage of imbibing both the traditional and modern culture and the best of both Indian and British education. Yet he could work over time to cover up or justify the heinous crimes of Stalin and his successors. The burden of face-saving prevented him from resiling from the slanders he had hurled against the unfortunate victims. Unlike Damodaran and Mohit Sen, he refused to regret his misdeeds till the end.

Morality and Criminality

To lose faith in mankind is a sin—said Rabindranath in his profound essay, Crisis of Civilisation. Prof Mukerjee and other Gulagists lost faith in humanity as early as the thirties of the century gone by. Negating this anti-humanism proved impossible for most of them. Mohit Sen, a younger but equally erudite colleague of Prof Mukerjee, made this confession at the fag end of his life:

What crime did we not commit. Our cruelty was no less than that of the imperialists and fascists. We can never be forgiven for this. Nor should we forgive and excuse ourselves. That we believed this was the need of the cause is no justification.23

This should serve as an appropriate epitaph for every illustrious Gulagist. Oxbridge baristo-crats from the subcontinent are no exception.


1. Ravi M. Bakaya, Mainstream, March 12, 2005.

2. As part of their internationalist duty, the Communist Parties of the imperialist countries ran campaigns of enlightenment, education and indoctrination amongst students from the colonies. Even the CPUSA did the same for students from Central and South America and the Caribbean. The success of the British Communists amongst the students from the subcontinent was considerable. This, however, cannot be said about students from other areas or the efforts of other Communist Parties.

3. For a brief account of the transformation, see the writer’s “Moscow Trials and Lenin Enrolment”, Mainstream, August 4, 2007.

4. Bakaya, op. cit.

5. Nirbachita Prabandha (in Bengali), Vol. 1 (hereinafter NPI), Mitra and Ghosh, Calcutta, 1998, p. 40, (translation by the writer).

6. A conspicuous absence was Stalin.

7. Issac Deutscher, Prophet Unarmed, paperback edition, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1978, pp. 390-391.

8. Subrata Sen, op. cit.

9. Democratic centralism requires the dissenting minority to accept the programmatic decision of the party in spite of disagreements. It does not provide for ’punishment’ for what George Orwell in his immortal classic, 1984, so aptly describes as ’thought crime’.

For a cogent exposition of the principle, see Tridib Chaudhuri, “Lenin and Democratic Centralism”, The Call, September, 1972.

10. K. Damodarn, “Tragedy of Indian Communism”, in Tariq Ali (ed.), The Stalinist Legacy, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1984, pp. 348-349.

11. Ibid., p. 349.

12. NPI, pp. 312-313. For extensive quotes from this scurrilous work, see Subrata Sen, op. cit.

13. Mohit Sen, An Autobiography, National Book Trust, New Delhi, 2007, pp. 362-363.

14. For full text of the report, see Tariq Ali, op. cit. See also Subrata Sen, “Nikita Khruschev’s Secret Report”, Mainstream, February 25, 2007.

15. “Yugasandhi o Buddhijibir Daitwa”, NPI, pp. 228-237.

16. NPI, p. 234.

17. Mohit Sen, op. cit. p. 121.

18. See the writer’s “Stalin’s Indian Victims”, Mainstream, March 31, 2001, and “Hiren Mukerjee and Stalin’s Indian Victims”, Mainstream, November 20, 2004.

19. NPI, pp. 236-237.

20. Mainstream, November 20, 2004

21. Mainstream, March 12, 2005.

22. NPI, 184-187.

23. Op. cit., pp. 23-24.

24. “Jawaharlalji Nehru” in Nirbachita Prabandha, Vol. II, (hereinafter NPII), Mitra and Ghosh, Calcutta, 1996, pp. 63-68.

25. “Gandhiji”, in NPII, pp. 106-116.

26. For some samples of new revised appreciation of Gandhiji, see The Call, September 1969. See also the editorial on in the October issue of the same journal.

27. Op. cit., p. 397.

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