The selection aims at bringing glimpses of VM’s vast world of Marxist theory and practice. Spread over a dozen different sections, the writings begin with the invoking of the India of VM’s dreams and end with a clarion call for the party of his passion. The compulsion to keep the selections within the bounds of one single volume has meant leaving out at least four to five articles for every piece included. Left out are his entire writings published in Hindi journals "Shramik Solidarity" and "Samkalen Janmat" and English periodicals "Voice of Alternative" and "People’s Front", extensive portions from various documents adopted in party conferences and congresses and minutes of Central Committee and Polit Bureau meetings and a host of other written records.
Even then, readers can clearly get an idea from the present selection about the great volume and variety of VM’s intellectual output during the twenty-odd turbulent years he steered the party ship. And more than that, what stands out singularly in every piece of his writing is the tremendous creative impulse whether we are reading the offbeat "India of My Dreams" or the editorials of Liberation and ML Update.
From the barely legible handwritten manuscripts of the 70s and early 80s produced on a war-footing for the underground press amidst the extreme uncertainty and rigour of underground life to the occasional late-90s articles composed directly on the computer at a relatively relaxed pace, the material environment surrounding his intellectual production did see occasional changes. But writing for him remained for ever a conscious act of class struggle and commanding the creative urge of the writer in VM was the tireless zeal of the revolutionary communist leader in him. In the revolutionary tradition of Marxism, he regarded the struggle of ideas and ideologies as a key component of class struggle and most of his political writings therefore tended to have a polemical character.
Thematically, these writings cover a vast ground, reflecting the long march of the party from a point when it virtually rose from the ashes in the 70s to its confident strides through the crucial ideological challenges of the 80s and 90s. Readers can get a clear glimpse of the steady evolution of the revolutionary line of CPI(ML) in simultaneous struggle with tendencies of both anarchism and ultra-left phrase-mongering on the one hand and capitulationism and petty liberal reformism of social democracy on the other.
At the centre of all his writings lie the party and revolution — not as abstract and perfect ideological products, but as intense and intricate processes of history and society. The party to him is both an organiser and organisation of the proletariat and revolution is both the goal and a growing possibility which informs and guides the continuing metamorphosis of the proletariat from its formative class-in-itself days to the developed class-for-itself phase through relentless contention with the bourgeoisie. Yet these are processes that do not abide by laws of linear progress. The course is zig-zag, the motion is spiral and progress comes more through jerks and breaks, ruptures and leaps than through the smooth constancy of a steady rhythm.
The communist party, VM believed, would lose its raison d’etre if it could not simultaneously prepare the proletariat for its role as the leader of the revolution and also be wielded as a mass revolutionary weapon by proletarian vanguards. Independent political assertion of the proletariat therefore remained the cornerstone of VM’s communism, and he always attached the greatest priority to the task of guarding this essence against every threat of possible dilution, distortion and derailment. For a communist party entrusted with the task of leading a democrtaic revolution in a country with a preponderant agrarian population, any neglect of the task of bringing about proletarian consolidation and a worker-peasant alliance under proletarian leadership can only reduce the proletariat and its potential alliance partner in the peasantry into a passive appendage of the political hegemony of the bourgeois-landlord combine. If this lack of assertion of proletarian independence reflects in a line of class collaboration and acquiescence to bourgeois politics in ordinary times, in crisis times it leads to a virtual state of paralysis. This tragedy was only too evident during the Emergency era in the 70s!
In several of his writings, VM comes back repeatedly to the party’s unfolding history and critically measures the evolution of the party line against the touchstone of practice without ever losing sight of its moorings in Marxism-Leninism. Sometimes urging expansion, sometimes calling for consolidation, he is always fighting for the overall quantitative growth and qualitative development of the party. He has a remarkable knack for every detail, but never misses the wood for the trees. Every aspect of the great mission of building a revolutionary communist party in India’s semi-feudal semi-colonial setting — from developing the appropriate style of work and a vibrant democratic atmosphere inside the party to striving for integration of theory and practice and promotion of greater participation of women at all levels of the party — received his careful and emphatic attention.
Deepening the study of Indian society in the complex interaction of its base and superstructure and thereby perfecting the party’s programmatic understanding of Indian revolution was another constant focus of his intellectual endeavours. While studying the developing situation and the maturing and surfacing of various contradictions and trends, he would always make it a point to follow every lead to go back to the underlying social reality so as to enrich the party’s strategic vision. This stands out in marked and refreshing contrast to the dominant left discourse which generally does not go beyond a superficial liberal and constitutional gaze. Whether it is on the question of caste and class, religion and secularism, tribal autonomy or women’s liberation, VM always brings his deep revolutionary Marxist insight to tear asunder both liberal illusions, commonplace or sophisticated, as well as the cultivated confusion of many an exponent of post-modernism.
In all his theoretical writings, VM stands for a creative integration of the universal revolutionary essence of Marxism-Leninism and Mao’s thought with the concrete Indian reality. This integration is of course a painstaking and continuing process and it can only take place in the backdrop of historical experiences of victorious revolutions, in Russia and China in particular. It was quite natural for communist revolutionaries in India in the 60s to begin with the Chinese model, all the more so because the official communist leadership in India had never paid serious heed to the lessons from China. The attempt to copy the Chinese model revealed most glaringly the peculiarities of the Indian situation and the task of later generations of communist revolutionaries was to suitably adjust and develop the programme and tactical line in consonance with these particularities. This was how, VM believed, revolution in India would evolve its own distinctly Indian path and model.
The disintegration of the Soviet Union and collapse and crisis of the existing models of socialism could not but have greatly stirred VM. Among Indian communist organisations, the CPI(ML) was clearly in the best position to comprehend and withstand the Soviet debacle. While the CPI and CPI(M) were busy singing paeans to Soviet socialism even as the stagnation and degeneration of the Soviet system had begun to trigger its eventual collapse, the CPI(ML) remained all along openly critical in its assessment of the Soviet situation. Yet VM never took the we-told-you-so line of easy escape. In confronting the wave of post-Soviet bourgeois triumphalism, he never belittled the crisis facing the international socialist and communist movement by making it out to be a case of mere failure of applied Marxism. In the true Marxist-Leninist spirit of acknowledging the real problem, he went on to identify the challenge of making an in-depth study of the laws of motion of the socialist mode of production, a task, he saw as being comparable in its dimensions only to Marx’s historic study of the capitalist mode as in Capital.
In sum, VM’s selected writings represent a jargon-free, straightforward and self-critical autobiographical odyssey of the Indian communist movement in the last quarter of the twentieth century. As a post-Independence Marxist who read his Marx, Lenin and Mao in the spring thunder of Naxalbari and its roaring reverberations across the flaming fields of Bihar, VM was not burdened with any baggage from the London School of Social Democracy and the Gandhi-Nehru discourse of Congress socialism and Indian nationalism. His engagement with the Indian version of bourgeois democracy was that of a practical revolutionary forced to operate from within the system who however never allowed his analysis and vision to be limited by the ever narrowing horizon of bourgeois liberalism and constitutionalism. All his writings are therefore illumined by the remarkable clarity and sincerity of his revolutionary purpose.
His writings are also an object lesson in Marxist dialectics. It is his dialectical outlook which prevents him from becoming one-sided and dogmatic. He locates his objects of study in their relevant contexts and studies every aspect with remarkable objectivity. But this objectivity is not neutral and stationary, it is revolutionary and dynamic. The focus of his dialectics lies in grasping the small but developing positive aspect of every process and then turning the tables to transform it into the dominant and decisive aspect.
In his short speech at the funeral of Marx, Engels had used one single word as the most decisive description of the multi-dimensional and colourful creative personality of his departed comrade-in-arms. Marx was above all a revolutionary, Engels reminded his listeners. Later, Lenin also warned against the vulgarisation of Marxism. Robbed of its revolutionary core, Marxism would become lifeless and revisionist, he cautioned. VM was also above all a revolutionary and retrieving and enriching the revolutionary essence of Marxism was his most passionate and consistent mission.
The selected works of VM provide an abridged account of this unfinished mission of one of the greatest revolutionaries produced by the Indian communist movement. Pulsating with the spirit of a simmering revolution spilling over into the next millennium, these writings are dedicated to the onward march of revolutionary Marxism worldwide.
General Secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)