Sunday, May 25, 2008

Cut, Paste and Preserve Their Calumny

Arun Shourie

Namboodiripas' fusillade was just the opening salvo, it turned out. The Communist Party of India published a series of pamphlets - Arun Shourie's Slanders Rebutted History has indicated the Communists, 1942 August Struggle and the Communist Party of India... Translated into several languages, these were distributed far and wide. Today, they are prophylactics -- anyone who reads them will be immunised against the abuse of these 'leading intellectuals' and their parties!

"This is not the first time that the Quit India movement has been forked out to slander and attack the communist movement in our country," began the Foreword by the General Secretary of the CPI, C Rajeshwara Rao.

"Whenever the ruling circles and reactionary vested interests are in a tight corner or the communist movement is making headway, they would dig up old fables to whip up anti-Communist prejudices. The pet theme is the so-called 'betrayal' of the freedom struggle in 1942 by the united Communist Party of India. Such things have happened a number of times in the past, even as late as 1975, during the days of Emergency imposed by Mrs Indira Gandhi' -- that last bit was truly audacious! For it was the General Secretary's very own Communist Party which had supported Mrs Gandhi's Emergency!

"Now the extreme reaction is worried because of the forging of left unity through the united struggles of the toiling people and also its gathering round of democratic allies," the General Secretary pronounced. "Hence this resurrection of the ghost of 1942 once again by Mr Arun Shourie in order to isolate the communist movement by fanning anti-communism."

"One would have ignored these attacks since we know very well that this is not the first time that such attacks have been leveled against us," the publication declared. "Arun Shourie, howsoever his journalistic talent may be, stands no comparison to such eminent personalities who have attacked us in the past. The eminent barrister, Langford James, of Meerut Conspiracy Case called us anti-God, anti-family, anti-decent everything with no sense of humour. History vindicated us. The Communist Party of India grew from strength to strength since those days of 1929. Today the Communist Movement is a strength to reckon with."

What all this had to do with the facts which I had set out, what I had to do with that barrister of 1929 was and remains a mystery. But 'devastating refutation' it was! And remember the line, 'One would have ignored these attacks...' -- it too is a standard one. The facts which have been brought to light, even more so those who have brought the facts to light are always beneath their dignity to answer. In his article 'refuting' what I had written, Panikkar had been the embodiment of lofty self- abnegation: "The alternative of suing for defamation the likes of Shourie is below one's dignity.... "

Now that a heap of new facts have been revealed, he is loftier still -- Shourie is not a historian, he is a mythologist... a political pornographer... I shall not dignify him by answering his diatribe...

Apart from everything else, one reason it is a waste of one's time to do so is that the dunce is not going to be able to comprehend the reality in any case. "It will be a waste of effort and also good space to refute this nonsense which betrays Shourie's utter Ignorance of history and world events," the Communist Party publication continued.

"We do not want to go into his vapid nonsensical utterances in the last installment," wrote the Communist Party publication. "They are tarred with the same rotten anti-Communist stuff with the hackneyed claim that communists are but the agents of Moscow (or rather of the Soviet Union) and as such they have to be treated with contempt. (On the contrary, my argument had been that precisely for this reason they ought to be treated with wariness, that their potential for harming the country, for poisoning discourse must not be ignored!)

"Even a cursory reading of the names of the Communist Party members who have found their way from other streams Of the national movement, either of the national revolutionary or of the orthodox Gandhian type (And what about those who saw through the Communist Party, including several of the topmost functionaries of the Party, and left it?) and the whole host of intellectuals who have adored (sic) the ranks of the Communist Party, and the large mass of workers and peasants who have acquired a new stature in their life by joining and working for the Communist Party would belie Arun Shourie's vile slanders."

Suppose for a moment that all the intellectuals of India had fallen to 'adoring' the ranks of the Communist Party, that every worker and peasant had become a devotee of the Party, how would that alter the assistance the Party had rendered to the British?

The 'this-is-an-old-charge' defence again: "These slanders themselves are not of Arun Shourie's original imagination either; they are products of a diseased and jaundiced view of the state of affairs which cannot bear the thought of the ordinary worker and peasant, of the ordinary man taking part and having a say in the political life of the country..."

Mockery, derision, scorn, the charge of conspiracy, of secret funds being pumped in by un-named forces, the charge that the critic is privilege-personified and therefore cannot stand the fact that, because of the struggles put up by the Left, the masses are coming into their own - an avalanche to scare everyone from doing what this fellow has done. "The argument would be similar to say, 'When did you last stop beating your wife?'," the Party publication declared. "This pearl of wisdom which Shourie seems to be bestowing cannot just be called a fool's paradise in which he may be lurking. It is a dangerous game to sow dissensions In the minds of the young political workers. And there are many other interests in the country who are financing it as is evident from various translations and other media coverage that have gone with it."

But hope also, confidence too -- lest the rank and file lose heart: "But truth is truth and must stand out, even when Shourie indulges in making a lot of 'shor' (noise), but with a purpose no doubt."

The great names who saw the light and acknowledged that the Communists are the ones who had been right... : "They all did this out of a process of understanding of national events in the context of international developments which is beyond the mental horizon of Arun Shourie or similar other anti-Communist scribes who have slandered us in the past..." Two key points in that - the ones who criticise them are deficient in understanding, and they are congenitally anti-Communist.

That last bit - about being congenitally anti-Communist -- is doubly believed: On metaphysical grounds, as well as practical ones. Once you believe in a religion which maintains that the Revelation has been handed to it alone, it necessarily follows that, if a person does not see the truth of that religion, there is something congenitally wrong with him! In totalitarian societies -- Stalin's Soviet Union which our Communists so adored -- there is a practical reason too: For anyone to stand against the received Line in such a set up, he must necessarily be congenitally mad!

"It is difficult for Arun Shourie to realise this, devoid as he is of any political perspective" -- the person in question can be said to have 'political perspective' only when and if he reaches the same conclusions as The Theory dictates!

As the man lacks elementary political understanding, it is always pointless to check up the facts which such a person has adduced: I had published extensive extracts from a 120-page report which the Communist Party had submitted to the British narrating the assistance its members were rendering by sabotaging the Quit India Movement. "The so-called 120-page document," the publication scoffed, "unfortunately I thought it a waste of time to count whether it was actually 120 pages as Shourie seems to have done. " Exactly what these historians maintained when I nailed the concoction they had put out: Of 'rational' having been surreptitiously changed to 'national' in the ICHR Resolution, of three of the five objectives having been deleted from the Resolution.

Hence, the confidence in the future: "We are aware that the four articles by Arun Shourie both in English and other languages are designed particularly to create a rift between the left and the other democratic forces. We have every confidence that this will fail and our healthy national movement will work steadily towards the goal of bringing about the social transformation through the path of peace, consolidation of national freedom, and socialism."

"Shourie's series", began another publication which the Communist Party put out, "is a long chain of distortions, canards and slander against the Communist Party of India, the international communist movement and the Soviet Union..." "From 1944 onward (and even earlier) paid pen-pushers and agents of imperialism and the bourgeoisie have repeatedly run slander campaigns against the CPI and the USSR..." Hansraj Vohra... Langford James, the barrister again..., "the notorious Minoo Masani and later on his worthy 'disciple' Sitaram Goel"... "Naturally enough questions are being asked by people all over India: Why has Shourie started this foul campaign now?... " That is always a useful question to ask: When you can't answer a person on facts, ask: "But why now?" India carries out its first nuclear explosion on 18 May 1974 at Pokhran. And what does the redoubtable representative of the Communists ask in the Lok Sabha? "We have been told that we have (had) the capability for a long time, we could have set off this blast much earlier, if we wanted to. Well, if we could have set it off much earlier, we could have set it off much later also. My question is about the timing of it. There must be some reason behind the timing of this, this particular timing of 18th May. I am not clear about it."

Next, redouble authority by quoting each other! That is twice- blessed: It doubles the weight of your assertion, and, as the comrade is being cited as an authority, it doubles his weight for the future! And so the CPI publication fortified the question it had posed - the hardy perennial, 'But why now?'- by citing what E M S Namboodiripad had asked!

"Reputed Communist leader and General Secretary of the CPI(M) E M S Namboodiripad," it said, "has queried: 'Why should Arun Shourie have taken up the shop-soiled wares of Communist Betrayal in 1942, 40 years after the Quit India struggle started?' "

And the answer too was fortified by citing E M S once again: "The seasoned anti-Communist Minoo Masani promptly jumped into the fray, in defence of Shourie... E M S sharply retorts: 'What Mr Shourie himself and Mr Masani are afraid of is thus the coming together of opposition parties not opposed to the Communists, but cooperating with them. This is exactly what I suspected in my Bombay press conference.'..." "Thus the cat is out of the bag," the publication proclaimed in triumph taking E M S' assertion as proof.

"Large segments of the non-Communist non-left opposition parties have repeatedly joined hands with the Communist-led left opposition, both against the authoritarian forces led by Indira Congress as well as against right-wing communal and divisive forces like the BJP and others. This has alarmed both Indira Gandhi and her entourage, as well as the BJP, RSS and their allies. Shourie and Masani have come out as their spokesmen and in their desperate efforts to drive a wedge between the Communists and the non-Communist opposition parties. In this foul effort, what better weapon can they take up than the shop- soiled ware of anti-Communist, anti-Soviet canard?"

Thus, congenitally anti-Communist, vile motives, desperation of the critic - all there!

Next, a repeat of denunciation-by-association: "let us now have a brief look at the 'noble' anti-Communist predecessors of Arun Shourie!," the publication proceeds. Hansraj Vohra... Minoo Masani... And now comes Arun Shourie who is supposed to be a talented journalist but who has been exposed as a communalist... And who has published his articles? The Illustrated Weekly of India which has also published an article (among the hundreds it would have published in the period!) 'The RSS will stay' by an RSS member. And so the truth manifest: "The communists must go and the RSS must stay - the 'Weekly-Shourie-Masani tie-up is now crystal clear! This is the basic reason why Shourie has picked up from the dustbin of history the discarded weapon of anti-communism!"

Forty pages of such sterling refutations in one publication, twenty-three pages in another. All leading to the conclusion at once triumphal and defiant, and comic: "The CPI is a party of heroes and martyrs of freedom struggle as well as of class battles. The Shouries and Masanis can wear the shop-soiled dirty shirt of anti-communism as long as they like, but their place is in the dung-heap of history! The combined imperialist armies tried to destroy the young Soviet State. They failed. Hitler tried it too and was destroyed in turn.

"Today the Reagans and Thatchers are again trying to play the same dirty game. They too will meet the fate of Hitler and Mussolini! So also will their paid henchmen, who spatter mud at the communists! Like old man Galileo facing the inquisition and like our own Dimitrov, facing the butcher Goering, we Indian communists also hurl defiance at the face of all our reactionary detractors and persecutors and with rock-like conviction, resolutely declare: Nonetheless, the Earth goes forward, and all roads lead to Communism!"


Twin lessons in that. To roll back their untruth, we must immunise ourselves against their verbal terrorism. And among the easy prophylactics is to cut out and store their vituperation -- in less than no time it mutates into the ridiculous.

The press conferences and pamphlets were hurled at me in 1984. In 1986 in his A History of Indian Freedom Struggle, E M S Namboodiripad acknowledged that communists had collaborated with the British -- or rather, that they "did not hesitate to establish contact with the government and accept the assistance...."! -- during the 'Quit India' Movement.

In 1984, as we have just seen, the Communists were proclaiming, "Nonetheless, the Earth goes forward, and all roads lead to Communism." In 1989 the Berlin Wall was pulled down...

The Observer
January 22, 1999

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