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Mainstream, Vol XLVII No 10, February 21, 2009

Remembering Ajoy Ghosh on his Birth Centenary

Monday 23 February 2009, by SC


The birth centenary of Ajoy Ghosh, the fourth General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (October 1951-January 1962), falls on February 20, 2009. He took over the reins of the party at a critical period when the CPI was ravaged by the disastrous Left-sectarian course of B.T. Ranadive (under whose leadership the entire party suffered from what Lenin had aptly characterised as an ‘infantile disorder’) and painstakingly helped to rebuild it, put it back on rails, and nurture and sustain it as the second largest party in the country (after the Congress) through the parliamentary path of a struggle while faithfully upholding the principles of Marxism-Leninism.

Ajoy had plunged into revolutionary activity when he was just a teenager joining the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association in the 1920s and tirelessly working for the nation’s emancipation from alien rule—he was one of the co-accused along with the legendary Bhagat Singh in the Second Lahore Conspiracy Case and was imprisoned and incarcerated along with his colleagues; while in prison he also participated in a historic 63-day hunger strike which took a heavy toll on his health ultimately leading to his contracting TB thus weakening his heart. On his release he strove to organise workers in his home town, Kanpur; his revolutionary struggles, association with the working class and exposure to Marxist classics inevitably drew him into the Communist Party in the thirties. Soon he rose to the CPI leadership and became a member of its Political Bureau, its highest decision-making body. At the time of partition in 1947, when he was in charge of Punjab, he risked his life on several occasions to save the lives of the party cadres and leaders when they came under attack from both Hindu and Muslim fanatics.

During the eleven years of his stewardship of the CPI, Ajoy effectively steered the party through many twists and turns vigorously fighting both Right and Left deviations within the organisation but never losing sight of the overriding importance and urgency of the Communists waging a relentless struggle, in cooperation with the Congress masses, against the forces of Right reaction spearheaded by communalism of the majoritarian variety in particular even while opposing the anti-people policies of the Congress Government. That period witnessed the emergence of the first Communist Government in Kerala in 1957 following the communist victory at the hustings in the State, a unique development anywhere in the world. It did unfold the possibility of a peaceful transition to socialism, a possibility which to this day survives through all vicissitudes (even after the snuffing out of that first Kerala experiment in two years’ time). In fact the Kerala electoral success spurred the CPI, under Ajoy’s guidance, to take the first concrete step at the Amritsar Congress in the late fifties to reorganise itself in tune with the changing political realities on the national plane.

Ajoy Ghosh played an exceptional role in the international communist movement and resisted with all his strength the Maoist onslaught on the movement in the late fifties and early sixties that also took the shape of a virulent assault on our first PM, Jawaharlal Nehru, as well as a concerted attempt to split the CPI; Ajoy repudiated the savage Maoist attack on Nehru from the Marxist standpoint without giving any quarter to Left-wing sectarianism and did everything to preserve the unity of the party which he all along protected as the apple of his eye. A staunch defender of Indo-Soviet friendship, his countribution to keeping the CPI united was indeed phenomenal. Many still feel that if his life was not tragically cut short following a massive heart attack on January 13, 1962, he would have been able to prevent the CPI split in 1964 or at least considerably minimise its impact. While he had the best of relations with representatives of all streams of thought in the party, he never compromised on matters of principle at any point of time.

N.C., as Mohit Sen has stated in his autobiography, was Ajoy’s “most trusted aide and confidant”, and remained close to him till literally his last breath. Regrettably Ajoy did not live to see the birth of Mainstream (which first appeared almost eight months after his demise) though he had lent full support to N.C. in bringing it out; N.C. also launched the feature news service, India Press Agency (IPA), with Ajoy’s generous blessings.

While remembering him on his birth centenary we are carrying excerpts from the writings on him by

S.G.Sardesai, the Communist veteran instrumental in bringing Ajoy into the CPI, and Mohit Sen, who functioned as his aide for several years. We are also reproducing excerpts from two of his speeches as a token of our tribute to that indomitable freedom fighter, outstanding revolutionary, distinguished Communist leader endowed with a broad national vision and genuine internationalist loyal to the world communist movement.

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