v. 39: No. 11-12 November-December 2011 #462-463
Editorial Note, p. 1
"Politics, Culture and Socialism," Prabhat Patnaik, p. 3
"Progressive Cultural Movement in India," K N Panikkar, p. 14
"The Progressive Movement in Its International Setting," Aijaz Ahmad, p. 26
"Exercise of Hegemony in Contemporary Culture and Media," Sashi Kumar, p. 33
"Moment and Movement," Mihir Bhattacharya, p. 41
"Two Brothers, Bhisham and Balraj Sahni," Kalpana Sahni, p. 48
"Transgression of Boundaries," Lata Singh, p. 63
Report, p. 73-81
Documents, p. 82-98
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The current issue of Social Scientist carries the first instalment of the papers presented at a seminar organized by Sahmat on the Progressive Cultural Movement ('Awaaz Do: Legacy and Relevance of the Progressive Cultural Movement in India', 13-15 October 2011, New Delhi). There were a large number of papers presented at the seminar, and subsequent issues will be carrying other papers. In addition to the seminar papers, we are publishing two other pieces in the current issue. One is the Presidential Address of Munshi Premchand at the founding conference of the Progressive Writers' Association in 1936, and the other is a review article by E.M.S. Namboodiri-pad, then General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), on the collection of documents of the progressive cultural movement brought out by Sudhi Pradhan.
This review article was published originally in The Marxist and is being republished here both because the views of E.M.S. Namboodiripad, a major participant in the progressive cultural movement from its inception and an incisive Communist thinker, are important in themselves, and also to underscore the point that the mainstream Left has always owned the legacy of this movement. An impression is often sought to be created in the media that this legacy had been disowned earlier and is being reclaimed only now, the Sahmat seminar itself being an instance of this attempt to reclaim.
This, however, is a travesty of the truth. The Party never disowned this legacy, even when, after independence and its Second Congress, it wanted this movement to turn in a different direction, in keeping with its own belief that the time had come for Communists to separate themselves from at least one section of the Nationalists. In short, even though the Party felt after its Calcutta Congress that the time had come to move away from the old theoretical position of 'United Front' adopted at the Seventh Congress of the Communist International, it never had either any remorse about its own stance on the progressive cultural movement of the thirties and forties, or any reservations about the role played by this movement at that time. While one can, and should, be legitimately critical of the theoretical position of the Second Congress of the Communist Party, historical verisimilitude demands that we should also recognize this fact.
An additional point should be noted here. The initiative for a rupture in the class alliance that had fought the anti-colonial struggle had come not from the Communists but from the powerful conservative element within
Social Scientist, p. 2
the Congress Party itself. True, a major difference had arisen between the Communists and the Congress over 1942. But it was not the Communists who wanted to keep themselves aloof because of this difference. The initiative for isolating them, and expelling those Communists who happened to be within the Congress, was taken by the Congress itself in 1946 when political power appeared within its grasp. And the difference over 1942 was used as an excuse to expel Communists from the Congress, many of whom had spent long years in jail as a consequence of the Quit India movement because, despite being Communists, they had also been members of the Congress. Unlike in South Africa where Communists continue to be members of the African National Congress even now, long after the end of the apartheid regime, in India the very appearance of decolonisation on the horizon made the Congress, under the influence of its powerful conservative leaders, expel the Communists from its ranks.
The Calcutta Congress can be criticized for its reading of the national and international situation, for its ultra-Left political line, and for not responding correctly to the new situation where the Congress Party was expelling Communists from within its ranks; but the rupture between the Congress Party and the Communists had occurred long before 1948, and the initiative for it had not come from the Communists.
This rupture was bound to affect the progressive cultural movement. Even if it had been less closely associated with the Communist Party, it could not have escaped the phenomenon of the new conjuncture. The questions of whether it could have done better than it did, and how it can be revitalised in the current period, are of paramount importance. Answering them requires an accurate reading not only of our history, but also of our present; and it requires above all a revival of discussion about this movement itself. It is towards such a revival that the papers of the current issue of Social Scientist, and of the issues to follow, will hopefully contribute.
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