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Mainstream, VOL LII No 1, December 28, 2013 - ANNUAL 2013

Reminiscent of an Era that went Wrong

Sunday 29 December 2013

by Bishwajit Sen

It is as if the British media has suddenly been hit by a thunderbolt. It is of course not the “spring thunder” of the Naxalbari type, which was distinctly heard in Peking (now Beijing) and faithfully reported by its radio. This is of another sort. Aravindan Balakrishnan (73), a suspended member of the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist), and his wife Chanda (67) have been found guilty of enslaving three women (of different nationalities, that is, Malay-sian, Irish and British). In the British media’s opinion, Aravindan has been a person of “Radical Maoist” background, and the Communist Party of England (ML)’s documents testify to it. However, what the British media does not elaborate is how this “slavery” was made possible in Lambethh, in the twentyfirst century, and involved three hapless women, two of them quite advanced in age. So the British civil society has quite a few questions to answer too, apart from the “Radical Maoists”. The Independent of November 26, 2013 says “the police declined to comment on reports that concerns were previously raised with officers about the alter-native lifestyle of the Balakrishnans and the education of the 30-year-old, who is alleged to have been raised in a form of modern-day slavery”. What did the police do about these concerns? Obviously nothing, till the beans were spilled. The police too was affected by the insularity that the British society breeds, it seems.

“Aravindan Balakrishnan and his clique were suspended from the party, because of their spreading social fascist slanders against the party and the proletarian movement,” the CPE (ML) CC document says. Living in a country which has more than 80 CP(ML)s at the moment, we have no difficulty in reading the mind of Aravindan Balakrishnan. Though each of our CP(ML)s is a Maoist one, only one of them writes so openly. Others continue with a hair- splitting debate on the difference between “Mao’s thoughts” and Maoism, thus spending their time engrossed in subtleties. The slavery that these outfits promote is more intense and of greater magnitude than the Lambeth “slavery”.

This slavery became evident for the first time when the “cultural revolution” took off in China. The best elements of the Chinese Communist Party were made to submit to unheard of humiliations. They were beaten and insulted by mere kids parading as “Red Guards” and then thrown into prisons. Their fault? They were “capitalist roaders”. No proof was needed to establish this grave charge. The word of mouth was enough. People like Liu Shao Chi (author of the famed classic How to be a Good Communist) and his wife died in prison, and so did several others. The personality cult of Mao went to unheard of extremes. But there was no protest, either from the members of the CPC or from the people. This was also a kind of slavery. An interesting description of that period has been given by Kanu Sanyal in his “History of CPI (ML) from 1969-1972” (published in Class Struggle, vol. 2, issue 6, May 2010). Kanu Sanyal was on a visit to China alongwith his other comrades. The following transpired on his return from China:

“After seven days, Com KS (Kanu Sanyal) again contacted Com CM (Charu Majumdar) and met him at his house. A detailed report was placed before Com CM about the visit to the PRC. At first KS informed Com CM that they met chairman Mao Tse Tung. At once Com CM became emotional and exclaimed, didn’t you weep at the sight of Com Mao? KS told him that he was bewildered but did not weep. It took two hours to report about the talks with Com Mao Tse Tung. KS also reported about certain important events of the cultural revolution. KS made his observation regarding cultural revolution. KS said he did not like certain things like the Chinese comrades used to ask the dele-gation to read quotations before eating, before boarding an aeroplane or before going to a new place. KS told CM that he did not like this because the quotations from Chairman Mao were not the Bible. Com CM became furious with KS and told him that it should be religiously followed but KS disagreed with him.” (page 15, Ibid.)

Thus, a scientific ideology was vulgarised, distorted and abused to an unbelievable extent in the name of a single person. Of course, that single person (Mao) was by no means an ordinary person. But that uniqueness certainly did not give his followers the right to replace Marxism with a set of Black Magic rituals.

The Independent of November 26, 2013 writes: “Shortly after a police raid to close down his revolutionary political party in 1978, Aravindan Balakrishnan began disciplinary proceedings against three leadership rivals within the commune he presided over in a Brixton shop in south London adorned with a portrait of Chairman Mao. The rivals were expelled and ‘Comrade Bala’—a well known figure among ideologues battling for influence on Britain’s Left-wing fringe in the 1970s—retained an iron grip on his grouping, the Workers Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought.”

The Independent further writes: “Scotland Yard detectives are now investigating whether Mr Balakrishnan’s charismatic powers were deployed in exerting control of a more sinister kind, after he and his wife Chanda were revealed to be the couple arrested on suspicion of holding three women against their will for more than 30 years.”

Aravindam Balakrishnan indeed held his captives in a vice-like grip. The Independent notes: “Two of the alleged victims—A 69-year-old Malaysian and a 57-year-old Irish woman, who is believed to be the mother of the third victim, a 30-year-old Briton—met “Comrade Bala” through what police have described as a ‘shared political ideology’. Sources described the living arrangement, during which the women were allegedly only ever let out of their home if accompanied by one of the couple as ‘cut-like’.”

With the exposure of the Lambeth “Slavery”, the Communist Party of England (ML) is trying to distance itself from Aravindan Balakrishnan, claiming that he was suspended from the party in as early as 1974. It has cited a statement issued on August 1, 1974, by the National Executive Committee, Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) which says that Aravindan was suspended from all posts in the CPE (ML) on July 10 itself, on the charge of going against the political line of the party. Copies of the statement are making rounds in the media. If the statement is not a forgery and “Workers Institute” was not conceived as a cover for the CPE (ML), there are still some questions, which remain unanswered. Apparently, Aravindan was a political being. How was he able to carry on all through these forty plus years? It is not a short period of time. The mystery of Aravindan’s remaining afloat for all these years needs to be probed. It should be found if, in the guise of a “Maoist” revolutionary, he was not an operator of the shady kind, indulging in activities such as espionage, flesh trade or else and whether the “Workers Institute” acted as his cover for the misdeeds mentioned above.

People like Aravindan Balachandran are the products of an era, which went all wrong, because of suicidal, sectarian and mechanical strategies adopted by the so-called “Marxist-Leninists” in fighting imperialism. The era in question not only took a heavy toll on the lives of revolutionaries, but left a trail of disenchant-ment and bitterness in its wake too, which was perhaps more damaging than the loss of lives. It also created megalomaniacs, psychologically disordered people or pure and simple criminals who are being put to use by imperialism even today. Their social behaviour proves to be of great help to imperialism in maligning Communists, as the Lambeth “slavery” case exhibits most clearly.

 They, therefore, need to be fought most vigorously on the ideological plane by genuine Marxist-Leninists.

The author, who is close to the communist movement, is a literary figure based in Patna.

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