Com. Ramnath left us a few days ago at the age of 83. He suffered a heart attack and passed away in his sleep early in the morning of August 31st. He was unwell for the last several years but his health had deteriorated severely recently. Without doubt he played an integral role in the history of the Indian Communist Movement, and carried the baton Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought or was a true Bolshevik till the bitter end.
I staunchly disagree with Ramnath’s analysis on the path and practice of Indian revolution, but admire his tenacity to sharpen the sword of Marxism-Leninism-Mao thought and deliver revisionism a bitter blow. Still his name will be inscribed in letters of gold in the history of the Indian Communist Movement. It is my deep regret that I never met him personally.
Com. Ramnath was born in a big landowning family of a village on the banks of Ganga in Ballia district. His evolution into a Communist is a fascinating story. He received his baptism in Marxism in early youth under the influence of Rahul Sankrityayan, and rugged travelling and intense study of philosophy, history, art, literature and politics became a feature of his life. During the tumultuous years of the 1960s, his life revolved around Kolkata. He was studying law. It was his school of Marxist study, a revolutionary training school and laboratory for social experiments.
His political journey began with the undivided Communist Party, then he joined CPI (M) and then the Kanhai Chatterjee-led communist revolutionary group ‘Chinta Group’ which later organized itself as the ‘Dakshin Desh Group’ and then as ‘Maoist Communist Centre’. After the declaration of the founding of the CPI (ML) in 1969 (and before the Party Congress in 1970), Com. Ramnath joined the CPI (ML) and started working in the rural areas of the Gangetic districts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, Ghazipur, Ballia and Ara-Bhojpur.Today the sustained working class movement in Balia, is a product of the seeds sown by Comrade Ramnath.It is significant that Ramnath received enlightenment by working within the Maoist Communist Centre and the C.P.I.(M.L).Few comrades branched into such a wide range of Communist revolutionary streams.
Com. Ramnath played a leading role in the efforts to reorganize the party after the death of Charu Mazumdar, and the Central Organizing Committee (COC), CPI (ML) was formed mainly due to his efforts, in February 1974. Com. Ramnath was also part of its leading committee along with Com. Jagjit Singh Sohal, Com. Suniti Kumar Ghosh, Com. Kondapalli Sitaramayya and Com. Shamlal (Chopra). While working in the COC, CPI(ML), Com. Ramnath left no stone unturned -in confronting Charu’s “Left” adventurist line which became the subject of serious differences in the organization. Com. Ramnath was was one of the principal protagonists of the massline of Nagireddy-DV Rao and Harbhajan Singh Sohi in waging an uncompromising and consistent struggle against “left” adventurism.
During the COC period, Com. Ramnath began to question the character of the Indian bourgeoisie and the state, particularly on the basis of the experiences of the Emergency. Based on his experiences of grassroot work in the countryside, he also started rethinking on the established notion of the feudal character of land-relations in India.
The dissolution of COC, gave birth to the the Communist League of India (Marxist-Leninist) ,which was formed In March 1978 under the leadership of Com. Ramnath. Despite various organizational crises and adverse circumstances, after undertaking most meticulous research and study on the question of the nature of Indian society and the program of revolution under the guidance and leadership of Com. Ramnath, CLI (ML) concluded in 1982 that Indian society is not semi feudal-semi colonial or neo colonial like China, but it is a backward capitalist society, the capitalist class here is politically independent and a junior partner of imperialism, despite some pre-capitalist remnants, the land-relations here, after the gradual transformation through the Indian version of the ‘Prussian path’, have fundamentally and mainly turned into bourgeois land relations and hence the stage of Indian revolution is no longer national democratic but it is in the stage of anti-capitalist anti-imperialist socialist revolution. The publication of this thesis in 1983 sparked a lengthy debate with communist revolutionary organizations across the country and the question which was believed to be resolved, became a central issue of study and political debate. Later many organizations adopted the position of socialist revolution.
Research and study on the global changes in the post-World War II scenario and changes in the imperialist equations of the contemporary world also began in 1986 under the guidance and leadership of Com. Ramnath which was published as a comprehensive document in 1987. The purpose of this research study was to take a step forward in developing an understanding of the general political line of the world proletarian revolution in the new world situations. Unfortunately, Comrade Ramnath failed to recognize the principal base of semi-feudalism or semi-colonial nature of India or understand the very basis of the line advocated by the CPC in 1963.
It is worth mentioning that during this entire period, Com. Ramnath launched an ideological crusade against both right and “left” opportunism within the movement. CLI (ML) had published one of the most dialectical and thorough criticism of Vinod Mishra’s “seven colour socialism” in 1988 under the tutelage of Com. Ramnath.
Unlike the Communist League of India factions today in my view Ramnath made no historical and path-breaking contribution on the question of the program of the Indian Revolution, Still I respect Com. Ramnath for his relentless pursuit of a Leninist organizational line and implement it at the plane of party-building and methodology,. The inabilty to comprehend the correct path for revolution as New Democratic and mode of production as semi-feudal led to stagnation and disintegration of CLI (ML) in the late 1980s after significant achievements in certain spheres of the working class. Due to his inability to grasp the correct fundamental line of New Democratic Revolution ,all efforts of organizational restructuring after 1991 by Com. Ramnath failed, and many people who stood with him and several groups who parted ways with him either got mired in the multi-colored non-Bolshevik social-democratic cesspool or got liquidated. During these years, Com. Ramnath was also unable to advance his theoretical works. In my opinion towards the end of his life to an extent he progressively extricated from his former position on the basic contradictions of Indian society, and started identifying Neo-colonial penetration in Indian economy and supporting agrarian resistance to globalization. In complete contrast with the Communist League of India factions, I feel Ramnath’s alienation from the CLI centres be it of Sashi Prakash section or Mangal Pandey, was his disillusionment with the futility of the path of Socialist Revolution, and the most mechanical approach of the organisations towards the peasantry.
However, despite these failures and setbacks, the most important thing is that Com. Ramnath shimmered the spark of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, till his last breath. The path of the socialist revolution illuminated by Com. Ramnath and the journey he started on this road, harmed the Indian revolution .Still I recommend every political cadre to study the documents written by Comrade Ramnath in 1983 and 1987.Even with wrong conclusions of India being backward capitalist and path of Indian revolution being Socialist, the writings display dialectical approach towards challenging trends of terrorist line or petit bourgeois romanticism and proletarian approach in regard to nationality movements. With the methodology of an architect he refuted wrong practices towards Leninist party building and correct method of work within the Industrial working class. I remember a trade Union Comrade Vishwanath in Bombay in the late 1990’s stating that there was more dialectical consistency in the writings of Ramnath or journals like Lal Tara than that of ‘Red Star’ of the C.P.I.(M.L) Red Flag .The late Comrade Arvind of Prakash group was virtually grew in the cradle of Comrade Ramnath. Ramnath reflected a classical Bolshevik style, towards re-building the society.
Today the Rahul Foundation or Prakash group owe their sound understanding on important aspects like upholding the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, positive contribution of Stalin or of Nagi Reddy and Harbhajan Sohi to Ramnath.I am critical of their ecclectic stand on not supporting farmer’s movements and failing to recognize India as a semi-feudal society. However the political consistency of the cadre in undertaking ideological work to impart political education to cadre,owe a lot to the roots won by Ramnath,Unlike the view of the CLI factions, I feel the incorrect analysis on path of revolution and mode of production has led to stagnation amongst their ranks .inspite of possessing some of the best of political cadre. I interpret Comrade Ramnath’s alienation from the mainstream to the degenerative political line adopted by the Communist League of India factions. My personal view is the very anti-thesis of the views of the CLI factions like Re-Organising Commitee,Rahul group and Prathibadh group led by Sukhwinder in Punjab ,who credit Ramnath for making a path-breaking contribution on political line ,but are critical of him for deviating from Bolsheviks approach. It is notable that that even the CLI streams have splintered.
To me the highlight of Ramnath’s career was in demarcating from the left adventurist line of C.P.I.(M.L) or Charu Mazumdar, and upholding the contribution of Nagi Reddy.DV Rao and Harbhajan Sohi..I also applaud his consistent efforts in defending the kernel of Leninist ideology after the fall of USSR in 1991. Few comrades displayed more prowess in knitting together the scattered forces of the party. His method of study and writings to are an enriching experience for cadres ,but unfortunately his conclusions were ecclectical.In the correct spirit, I wish the Marxist Leninist forces wrote a document refuting the analysis of Ramnath on mode of production nod path of revolution ,dialectically. In a memorial meeting I would love to hear the analysis of the Communist Party Re-organist Centre of India (Marxist-Leninist) on the contribution of Ramnath.I hope collectively Marxist groups stage a memorial meeting for this great Communist personality.
Towards the end his Gargi publications played a formidable role in illuminating the spark Of Marxism-Leninism.
I was most impressed with the statement of Ramnath paying homage to late Comrade Harbhajan Sohi at the time of his death in 2009.It reflected classic Leninist style.
“The movement has always struggled on the question of left terrorism and the mass line. Comrade Sohi played an integral role in giving shape to the massline.This dealt a blow to left terrorism. As a result, a clear line of demarcation emerged between the massline and left terrorism. There is still deep influence of left terrorism on the revolutionary movement of our country. This has accused incomparable and serious damage to the communist movement of our country. Only after a decisive and serious struggle against terrorism can the revolutionary movement advance. Comrade Sohi’s role was an illumination for all cadres. To establish the revolutionary massline and give it practical shape is a difficult challenge of today.”
“The Communist movement of India has sparkled greatly because of the dedication and comprehension of Comrades Sohi on Marxism-Leninism-Mao Thought. Considering the unprecedented crisis faced by the International Communist Movement and the Indian Communism movement, the Communist revolutionary movement lost a brilliant leader.”
Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist.Toured India,particularly Punjab .Written on Mass movements ,,Massline,Maoism on blogs like Democracy and Class Struggle and frontierweekly .An avid cricket lover too who has posted writings on blogs like Pakpassion Indian Cricket Fans and Sulekha.com