The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Stalin’s comrades go red and repent
- Critical appraisal of dictator in party mouthpiece puts CPM in a flap

Calcutta, June 29: Well and truly dead for 50 years and abandoned by the communist world (or what’s left of it), Comrade Josef Stalin has managed to find a place — several thousand kilometres from his native Russia — where he is still living enough to kick up a storm.

Nandan, the CPM’s monthly magazine in a part of the world where some still swear by Stalin, has done the unimaginable by publishing an essay that takes a closer — and not unalloyedly hagiographic — look at the Stalin era.

This has raised dust within the CPM, with very few caring to read between the lines and see how the essay has tried to explain Stalin’s “rough methods and unrefinedness” by portraying his working-class background and difficult childhood.

From plans to “publish” several letters criticising the article to printing an apology in the July issue, the party is now in the midst of an orchestrated campaign to undo the “sin” its magazine has committed on the occasion of Stalin’s 50th death anniversary.

Admitting to the controversy fuelled by the article, CPM state secretary Anil Biswas — himself known by a sobriquet (the “education czar”) that derives much of its flavour from a tongue that was native to Stalin — said the party would decide on appropriate corrective steps needed to set things right. “I have read this month’s issue and we are going to decide on what needs to be done very shortly,” he added.

The article — “Josef Stalin Stalin Jug (Josef Stalin and the Stalin Era)” — however, tries to maintain a fine balance between reporting the excesses and explaining their historical background. Making a case out for the man who ruled the USSR with an iron hand by mentioning his working-class origins and rough childhood and the bureaucracy that worked overtime to take advantage of the situation, the essay mentions several excesses like the sham “Moscow Trials” that led to the elimination of Stalin’s rivals within the organisation and the murder of Trotsky.

Details like Trotsky’s assassin (Ramon Mercader) being awarded the “Hero of the Soviet Union” title pepper the article, though the author makes it clear that, in the circumstances, someone else would have done what Stalin did if the man himself was not there. But Stalin’s poor grounding in theory and his “mediocre” writing skills — and the elimination of the “Left Opposition” and his followers’ efforts to paint him in brighter-than-truthful colours — get a closer look than what they have got in the CPM canon.

All these have succeeded in ruffling feathers. Nandan, like Ganashakti, is directly answerable to the party’s state committee in the organisational hierarchy and — if the events of the past week are anything to go by — the editorial board, the two branches managing Nandan and the author himself (Anindya Bandyopadhyay) have a lot of answering to do.

“Both branches running the magazine have been told to be ready to face the state committee,” a Nandan branch committee member told The Telegraph. “We have been asked to explain how the article went to press,” he added. The state committee, say insiders, is meeting members of several allied branches on Monday.

Ditto for Bandyopadhyay, who penned the essay. He has been asked to give a written explanation and, most probably, it will be printed in the July issue.

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