FEATURE

THE LONG MARCH OF LIBERATION

“ Liberation appears at a time when India is in the throes of an acute economic and political crisis, when the class struggle within our country and outside grows sharper and sharper...”, read the first editorial of the first issue (November 1967) of the central organ of CPI (ML), " For the first time in India's history, the revolutionary peasant movement led by the working class has been able to smash a weak link in the feudal-comprador bourgeois-imperialist chain despite all the terror unleashed by the rulers. Naxalbari marks the beginning of a new era in India 's history... It is Naxalbari which has given the revolutionary working people of India their rightful place as a contingent of the world revolutionary forces."

How authentically do these words catch the sparkling spirit of those turbulent times! This November, as we begin celebrating the 40th year of publication of our central organ, why not look back on its checkered history – a glorious history of upholding the highest standards of revolutionary journalism and maintaining continuity, often in the face of white terror? To quote the concluding paragraphs of the editorial:

" Liberation dedicates itself to the noblest of all causes – the liberation of the toiling people. It dedicates itself to the cause of the Indian revolution and takes the pledge to wage an uncompromising fight against the imperialists and native reactionaries including the revisionists and neo-revisionists.

Liberation sends its warmest fraternal greetings to the great Chinese comrades, the valiant Vietnamese comrades, the brave comrades in Burma, Thailand, Laos, Indonesia, Ceylon, the USA and all other countries, who, guided by the thought of Mao Tse-tung, Marxism-Leninism of our era, are fighting relentless battles for national liberation, world peace and socialism."

Thus began the journey of Liberation – the name was suggested by comrade Saroj Dutta – under the able editorship of comrade Suniti Kumar Ghosh. Deshabrati had been started four months ago as a Bengali weekly. The need was now felt for an all-India organ that would carry the ideological, political and organizational line of the revolutionary communist party in the making to communists scattered across the country and thus help unify them on that basis. And Liberation played this role extremely well. Its first issue appeared on 11 November, the day of the historic Shahid Minar rally at Kolkata addressed, among others, by comrade Charu Mazumdar. Marxists-Leninist parties in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh ), Ceylon and the UK sent messages of greeting to the new magazine. As the organ of AICCCR from May 1968 and then as the central organ of CPI (ML) from April 1969, it played an exemplary role in party building.

While CM's articles were most eagerly awaited and instantly devoured by comrades everywhere, no less interesting were the struggle reports – not only on struggles led by our comrades but those by other forces including national minorities like Nagas, Mizos and Kashmiris. Articles by Comrade Saroj Dutta and other leaders, including polemical pieces and deep theoretical analyses on a wide range of subjects – such as the international struggle against revisionism, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, the class character of the Indian big bourgeoisie, the nature of parliamentary democracy in our country, the nature and implications of Soviet aid to India, the language question and nationality question in a country like ours, a critical review of the history of communist movement in India, and of course, reviews of the advancing waves of struggles – made liberation a first grade theoretical-political journal. Reflecting the warm internationalism of Marxist-Leninist parties engaged in a relentless struggle against neo-revisionism, Liberation would regularly reproduce statements, articles, struggle reports etc from magazines of fraternal parties, while reports and articles published in our magazine would frequently be broadcast by Radio Peking and reproduced in Chinese and other publications. Copies of Liberation , at one time reaching up to a few hundred, used to be sent to readers abroad.

With the police raid on the office and printing press of the Deshabrati Prakashani on 27 April 1970, all party organs including Liberation had to go underground. Up to that time it used to come out every month, but now publication became rather irregular. Difficulties of underground publication also told on quality and circulation. After the severe setback the party suffered in 1972, for all practical purposes the curtain came down on the central organ, although a few more issues were published.

Liberation again saw the light of the day after the reorganisation of the party centre on 28 July 1974 with Comrade Jauhar as General Secretary. In keeping with the state of the organisation and real requirements of class struggle, it was then brought out in Hindi and Bengali. Hindi Lok Yudh and Bengali Srenisangramer Deshabrati ( Deshabrati for class struggle, the suffix added to mark the distinct identity of our organisation vis-à-vis other groups which also published their magazines with the same names) were also appearing, but a separate central organ was considered necessary to strengthen political centralisation in the midst of widespread confusion. It was only since 1978 that Liberation began to appear again in English in addition to the Hindi and Bengali editions, which were stopped in the mid-eighties with the express purpose of regularising and strengthening the vernacular magazines so as to focus better on regional features under centralised guidance.

With the launching of the rectification movement in 1978, the party began to acquire a new content and countenance in terms of ideology, politics and organisation. This was immediately and unmistakably reflected in the pages of Liberation . Newer areas of party practice came to be discussed, greater emphasis was placed on theoretical work and new sections like the Readers' Forum were introduced. The writings became more varied, more dialectical, more realistic and the magazine became very popular within the party and without. Towards the end of seventies, Comrade Vinod Mishra suggested that instead of being identified as ‘VM group' (in those days the different factions of CPI (ML) were known by the names of their respective readers) we should insist on the name of ‘CPI (ML) Liberation '. A healthy trend was thus introduced in our party as well as the ML movement.

Over the long years of underground existence following reorganisation of the party centre, and during the emergency years in particular, the party had to suffer many arrests, a large number of comrades embraced martyrdom, our communication lines were snapped, but the enemy never succeeded in destroying our publication setup. To ensure this, very few and very carefully selected comrades were entrusted with this work, this part of their responsibility was kept secret from other comrades including leading ones, and the whole publication setup including shelters used for the purpose was kept separated from the general organizational structure. Certain special measures were also adopted at different periods, such as using false covers to hide the actual liberation covers. Thanks to all this, from mid-seventies to late eighties the frequency of publication improved from 2-3 issues a year to quarterly to bi-monthly to monthly, and not one issue was ever dropped.

During the 1980s Liberation appeared as an illegal magazine and then after a brief transition period of semi-legality became the party's open organ since the early nineties. The Liberation setup was then shifted to Delhi , the centre of national politics, where it could function in closer association with the party centre. Liberation is also currently published in Kannada and Telugu.

Over the four decades (well, almost) of its service to revolution, Liberation has passed through many ups and downs. From small, traditional printing presses (a few cyclostyled copies were also brought out) to offset printing with typesetting done by our comrades in our own electronic typewriter, to computerised desktop publishing with contributors and editors scattered throughout the land (some in foreign lands) and connected to the magazine office through the Internet, it has traversed a long and tortuous road. At the moment, comrades in all parts of the country are busy enrolling new subscribers and boosting cash sales so as to attain a more than hundred percent rise in circulation before the eighth party congress. On their part, the magazine staff including editors are also doing all they can to improve quality and circulation.

Over the decades, continuity of the central organ has come to epitomise that of the revolutionary movement and the correct party line. In the years to come, Liberation will definitely march more forcefully forward as the authentic voice of revolutionary communism in India and the tribune of all streams of people's struggles in this great land of ours.

– ARINDAM SEN