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Blasphemy in CPM pantheon

New Delhi, June 24: An embarrassed CPM leadership in Kerala has decided to “publicly censure” party veteran and ideologue P. Govinda Pillai for “grave indiscipline” in criticising the late E.M.S. Namboodiripad, who headed the world’s first elected communist government.

The CPM state committee met yesterday to discuss Pillai’s comments on the Indian communist icon. Taking into account Pillai’s contribution and standing, the party decided to spare him “higher punishment”.

Pillai said EMS, who became Kerala chief minister in 1957 after a groundbreaking communist poll victory, was “overrated”, suffered from ideological confusion, easily succumbed to pressure from the party’s central leadership and lacked political courage and insight.

The ideologue said ruling communists had forgotten that people craved for more than just bread. Stressing the need to go beyond dialectical materialism, Pillai called for a change in CPM’s attitude towards religion. He said the numbers of believers were increasing worldwide and that the party should consider the implications.

Popularly known as PG and first elected to the Kerala Assembly in 1952, Pillai has been described by Mohit Sen as a “rebel communist” in his biography.

A scholar and former editor of party mouthpiece Deshabhimani, Pillai criticised the CPM stand on religion in a recent interview with Bhashaposhini, a literary magazine.

In his wide-ranging interview, the ideologue touched upon several issues, including politics and religion. “Dominance of a mechanical, materialist trend is responsible for the deteriorating communist movement. If only bread is needed, what is the difference between man and animals'” he asks in the course of the interview.

“Man does not live by bread alone,” says Pillai, adding that there is something more to it: “Our consciousness, our system of values, our sense of beauty, our art, our philosophy..., without these, communism can not be sustained. Ruling communist parties have forgotten this,” he adds.

Pillai’s criticism of EMS is:

—The late leader did not have the courage for political changes and was not bold enough to theorise on it. Even if EMS was bold, he was not sure about his convictions

—The veteran was not dynamic and easily gave in to the party’s central leadership which did not understand the dynamics of Kerala’s social and political landscape

—He did nothing to stop the exodus of several top leaders from the CPM to the CPI after the Communist Party split

—EMS did not handle the 1969 crisis properly. (He resigned following corruption charges against a Cabinet minister, resulting in the collapse of the CPM government.) The veteran should not have succumbed to central pressure

—“Consciousness” can interpret the world, but several communists, including EMS, did not understand this

—Ajay Ghosh, general secretary of the unified Communist Party, had deep insight and was sharper than EMS

—The veteran leader did not have the insight of Basava Punnaiah, another communist stalwart. Though the party created history by seizing power through the ballot in Kerala, EMS failed to theorise on this and take the communist movement forward

—EMS’ writings were no match for CPI leader .E. Balaram’s, which were more original.

The veteran Marxist said human consciousness and action could remedy injustices. He said this was possible because of man’s innate goodness. “The injustices which go back thousands of years can not be removed instantly even if Harkishen Singh Surjeet replaces Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Prime Minister...,” Pillai said.

Pillai says three books he has read of late — Religion and Globalisation, Religion in the Modern World and Religion and Politics — agree that the number of believers is swelling rapidly.

“One of the most surprising factors of the 20th century, especially its last decades, is the unexpected development of religious consciousness all over the world. How has it happened'” he asks.

Talking about the need to change the communist perception of religion, Pillai said: “A human life is nothing if it does not have a philosophy, if it does not have a value system or concepts like art and beauty.”

The veteran Marxist said human consciousness and action could remedy injustices. He said this was possible because of man’s innate goodness.

“The injustices which go back thousands of years can not be removed instantly even if Harkishen Singh Surjeet replaces Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Prime Minister or E.K. Nayanar replaces A.K. Antony as chief minister,” Pillai said.

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