In memory of late Dipankar Chakraborty on 10th death anniversary

Dipankar Chakraborty

This year, on January 27th, democratic forces commemorated the 10th anniversary of late Professor Dipankar Chakraborty, the founding editor of the independent left Bangla journal Aneek and a stalwart of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights. Without doubt one of our finest and most progressive intellectuals, who till his last breath, strived to render service to humanity. Above all a mascot for the Communist Revolutionary or democratic camp as a whole.

He was 71.  A cardiac patient, he had suffered a respiratory problem in the evening and died on the way to hospital.  He was survived by his wife, son, daughter, and grandchildren

After his retirement as a lecturer, he settled in Kolkata and immersed himself completely in people’s movement. During the Singur and Nandigram days, he raised his powerful voice. He had visited the affected areas numerous times, was a member of people’s tribunal and was man-handled and detained for some time by the authorities.

Deteriorating health curtailed his capabilities to integrate in mass work towards the end.

In his last few days he was busy in editing a collection of essays, translated from the Monthly Review in Bengali, to be published in the forthcoming Book Fair. He never left any job half-done.

I was privileged to have met and discussed with him. Touching to remember his simplistic but open nature, with no pretence..Regretful that he left us so early with his remarkable talents as a progressive political writer and economic analysis. Dipankar was a most accomplished political commentator who wrote several books to his credit.

In the darkest days or with the movement at low ebb Dipankar Chakraborty would unflinchingly stand up like a shining star and lifted the sagging morale of activists.

His departure was major loss to the progressive democratic movement as a whole. He could analyse a wide range of issues most articulately, with a most symmetric methodology. It was admirable that he never resorted to mere rhetoric and expressed views in a most balanced manner.  Few in his day, could infuse as much lie into mass movements, as him. His skills are deeply missed today in garnering democratic forces to give progressive turn to movements and in offering a lucid, critical analysis of issues like Ukraine War, Palestine or Hindutva fascism. Loss of Chakaborty,was similar to the void caused by death of Samar Sen ,editor of Frontier Weekly ,in 1987.

We need stalwarts like Dipankar Chakraborty to be re-born with Hindutva neo-fascism and human rights violations shimmering at an unprecedented wave and a deep void or vacuum in genuine progressive intellectuals. The left and democratic movement is vitiated with powerful ecclectism , sectarianism and egoism.. There is lack of coherent analysis amongst Marxist or progressive forces today, with strong deviations towards Ambedkarist or New Left ideology.

Noted novelist and activist Mahasveta Devi, who knew Chakraborty at time of his departure stated.  “I am deeply grieved.  It’s an irreplaceable loss for the human rights movement as well as for me,” the octogenarian writer said.  Poet Sankhaya Ghosh also mourned Chakraborty’s death.  “I feel like losing a near and dear one,” he said.

Journals like Monthly Review and Aspects of India’s Economy praised his lauadable contribution as a revolutionary democrat. Peoples Union for democratic Rights also deeply grieved his loss. Former secretary of All India Peoples Resistance Forum,Arjun Prasad Singh, also paid him high complements.

One should embark on compiling Chakraborty’s writings in a single book, being translated into English. It would be part of treasure house of any Marxist or progressive thinker.

Early Life

Chakraborty was born in Dhaka in 1941 and grew up in Murshidabad after the partition.  Educated in Baharampur and Kolkata, he taught economics at Krishnanath College at Baharampur.  He later settled in Kolkata.

Gaining his baptism within the left movement since the sixties,. In the mid 60s when Chakraborty was a young political activist, he started a radical magazine called Punoscho from his hometown, Berhampur, which ultimately became Aneek, the Bengali monthly. Chakraborty did not join the CPI (ML) when it was formed in 1969; instead he contributed actively through Aneek.

Chakraborty embarked on role of publishing and editing Aneek in 1964 when deviations in the CPI on ideo-political issues led to its first split and the birth of the CPI (M).

Dipankar was an activist in the student movement in his student days, was also shaping the disoriented teachers’ front at the district level. Punascha, the literary effort vibrantly spread in other areas of culture, a cultural society; a debate society and a vibrant film society were also created

During the India-Pakistan war in 1965, the societies guided by him played a crucial role in maintaining peace and harmony in the district which has borders with the erstwhile East Pakistan.

He visited Bangladesh in December 1972 producing  two brilliant reports on the state-of-affairs as regards the stance of various left groups over there, and was described as a ‘person posing a serious threat to Indo-Soviet and Indo-Bangladesh Friendship endeavour’, by the Government of India and was grilled on the Indo-Bangladesh border.

Political Orientation

I can never forget my encounter with Late Dipankar Chakraborty  in 2011in July in  Lucknow in the Arvind memorial seminar, on the issue of Democratic Rights Movement. His sheer sharpness of narration, balanced and coherent analysis deeply impressed me.

Chakraborty gave a most illustrative analysis on the state of the civil rights movement and civil liberties violations in West Bengal.

I appreciated his cooperation in publishing my analysis of the Indian Communist Movement in Aneek issue of 2012.

Chakraborty loathed left sectarianism and although condemning state repression on the movement in Lalgarh was critical of the methods adopted by the Maoists. In his analysis he assessed that the Maoist squads robbed he democratic legitimacy of the democratic tribal movement of the PCPA.

Most astutely he analysed and defended Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought in his writings and in a seminar in Kolkata, in December 2005, rebuking the lies of the Western media on China under Mao. He expressed deep admiration and gave solidarity to progressive movements in every sphere. Marxist orientation was permanent feature of his political involvement, manifesting Marxism Leninism with high mastery.

Chakraborty held the 2 volumes on the history of the Indian Communist Movement by the Tarimela Nagi Reddy memorial Trust, in great esteem .Unlike many democratic sections, he had admiration for the Rahul foundation or Jan Chetna Group, having a most lively interaction with late leader Arvind .Both expressed mutual admiration for each other.

Chakraborty was critical of the sectarianism of the Maoist Movement in Bengal, particularly in Lalgarh. However he refrained from being engaged in mutual polemics.

EPW editor Bernard De Mello admired the tenacity with which he defended the legacy of ‘Mao Thought’ instead of ‘Maoism’ and the extent to which he inspired him to undertake task of analysing Maoism.

Chakrabory ascribed to India being semi-feudal and semi-colonial but had strong conviction that it was in the stage of turning capitalist.

To the very end Chakraborty was a staunch admire of ‘Monthly Review’ and’ Aspects of India’s Economy’ of RUPE.

He wrote brilliant set of critical essays on Netaji which created a ripple or fervour in the academic circle.

.One of Chakraborty’s best writings were on Naxalbari in ‘The Naxalite Movement:In Search o the Root of It’s Debacle’, a masterpiece in it’s own right. Here  most lucidly and dialectically he dissected  in eight parts all the aspects of the Leninist mass line ,investigating the causes for setback in Naxalbari.. Invaluable reference source for any Marxist cadre,with most invoking analysis.

Here Chakraborty delved into the advent of revisionism within the Indian Communist Movement and it’s rupture in Naxabari, most symmetrically summarising the crystallisation of the Naxalbari uprising. He traced the genesis or roots of the deviation in massline by the Charu Mazumdar led CPI (ML) like calling for ‘Boycott of Election ‘as a strategy, abandoning mass organisations and mass movements, terming Mao thought as the Marxism Leninism of the era etc.Chakraborty dwelled on the actual definition of massline and how Mao converted it into a conscious theory by summarising how mass line relied on the masses. He elaborated how mass line was a method of leadership, whereby the party learned from the masses and vice versa.

Quoting the essay”According to Marxism, mass line is the primary method of developing and practising revolutionary leadership of the masses followed by the proletarian party. It is a reiterative method, applied over and over again, infusing class consciousness, among masses and imbuing them with revolutionary inspiration,step by step, advancing towards proletarian revolution. It is a cyclical process, starting from the diverse ideas of the masses, and finally bringing back those ideas in a concentrated and systematic form.”

Chakraborty quoted Mao “Take the ideas of the masses, and concentrate them, then go to the masses,and propagate and explain these ideas, until the masses embrace them as their very own.”

He narrated how Mao emphasised on reposing faith in the masses and how this approach was based on materialism, importance of methods of leadership, and that mass line was the most important single method of leadership.

“Communists have to combine the genera with the particular, and also combine the leadership of the masses,”

He concluded that there is still inability to analyse the aspect of massline, expressing that the Naxalite movement had powerful content of ecclectical and mechanical abandonment of all forms of struggle and pursue path of ‘annihilation. “For the Indian Communist Movement it is essential that utmost emphasis is given to implement the massline” from the masses, to the masses. On one hand parliamentary cretinism and on the other one sided dependence on arms abandoning struggles of mass character led to utter disaster.”

Aneek

Chakraborty embarked on role of publishing and editing Aneek in 1964 when deviations in the CPI on ideo-political issues led to its first split and the birth of the CPI (M).This journal was formerly known as  Punascha,.

Amidst Naxalbari uprising three years later that sparked the second split and the birth of the CPI (ML), Chakraborty refused to join the new party.  Alternatively he converted Aneek which was founded in 1964 into an independent platform for a wide spectrum of debates on contemporary communist movements, both national and international. His guidance enabled , Aneek to blossom as  one of the leading left periodicals in Bengal and among the few ‘little magazines’ which had survived five decades withstanding the most daring obstacles.

As editor of Aneek, Chakraborty dipped his in nurturing and educating generations of activists.  The Bangla monthly, under his editorship, projected important political and cultural issues for debate.

What was most admirable about Aneek, was that it rendered or incorporated a voice of a wide range of Marxist Leninist or democratic trends, and did not profess views of a single organisation or trend. It was the regional equivalent of journal ‘Frontier Weekly.’

Aneek  in its  formative stage turned  very much critical about the Indo-Soviet Treaty, India government’s stance on Sikkim, Kashmir and the North-Eastern states. During the Bangladesh liberation war days, Dipankar took an active role in exposing the sham Bengali sentiments publicised by Mujibur Rahaman.

Apart from the two dark years of emergency, the journal would never miss a single issue, which is remarkable.

In deep depth in the last 5  decades  it encompassed topics like Revisionism in Soviet Union, Rupture of Naxalbari,Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, Mode of Production in India, Violation of civil liberties, and peoples Movements. It carried special issues on topics like Mode of Production in India,Lalgarh Movement,Naxalbari etc.

In the commemoration meeting held in Kokata after he died in which I personally attended and adressed, speakers came representing every trend of the Communist Revolutionary movement in West Bengal, be it Maoist, Liberation, New Democracy, PCC or SUCI. Aneek thus played the role of a steering force or as a fulcrum to the democratic mass movement of West Bengal, It galvanised people to make democratic movements ride on a wave. It offered solidarity to struggles traversing almost every sphere, be it workers, students, farmers, govt,employees ,doctors  or Tribals.

With great skill he knitted together a team of intellectuals to keep ‘Aneek’ going .After he died the team of his journal expressed how Chakraborty played the role of a pivot in igniting it’s message.

Chakraborty translated into Bangla a couple of essays by Paul M Sweezy. He also edited a collection of Bangla-translated essays by Sweezy.  Aneek regularly carried essays by John Bellamy Foster and other Monthly Review authors.Chakraborty was also one of the founders of People’s Book Society, a major publishing house, and an enthusiast of the ‘little magazine’ movement in Bengal.

Civil Liberties

An evergreen participant in people’s movements, Chakraborty played pioneering role in the civil rights movement of West Bengal.Chakraborty was imprisoned by the S.S Roy government during the Emergency. . During the emergency, he was arrested, not for any ‘annihilation’, but for editing a legal, registered literary magazine Aneek. No other editors of any journal of any standing had been booked. Ironically this was the second event in which an editor is booked for ‘sedition’ of some kind. (Any thing of that nature traces back   to British Days!)

Being a relentless defender of human rights, he was also one of the founders of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights and its vice-president.

He left no stone unturned in activating campaigns to release political prisoners irrespective of the creeds of the ruling parties and governments.  He unflinchingly backed all people’s movements and joined protests in their support despite his failing health– from Maruti to Nonadanga.

Harsh Thakor is freelance journalist who has been associated with the civil liberties movement and personally met late Dipankar Chakraborty in 2011 in Lucknow and team of Aneek. in 2013.

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