The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, July 6, 2003

The memoirs of a Communist

A Traveller and the Road: The Journey of an Indian Communist
by Mohit Sen.
Rupa, New Delhi. Pages 524. Rs 395.

A Traveller and the Road: The Journey of an Indian Communist"FROM each according to his ability to each according to his needs, "Mohit Sen sends through his work the message across as to what Communists like him have aimed and worked for in their lives. Believing like Lenin in the extinction of all politics, and that the government of men will be replaced by administration of things, the Communists want freedom from the fetters imposed by capitalism on the developing forces of production. Reminiscing about his childhood and past experiences, the late Mohit Sen, in simple words, thanks the circumstances for placing him wherever he was, which helped him in various ways to develop his thinking and assess the course of his life. What is prominent about the work is how the author remembers his acquaintances, friends and relatives. Besides mentioning the various persons, he talks about the qualities, the contribution they made to whatever cause they were living for, i.e., "for ending oppression and ensuring human emancipation."


His work is to be read to know the answers to various questions, i.e., as to why Communism did not emerge triumphant in India though it "registered spectacular success." Should loyalty to the cause or to the party override all other loyalties? Is Communism about geographical expansion, or should it be a way of life? Why did the Communists boycott the Quit India Movement? Why did they support the Emergency declared by Mrs Indira Gandhi? In fact, besides giving an insight into Communism, the work also covers the historic moments of the nation. It is the history of India given by a luminary who has lived the century and feels lucky to have got rich by the experience. For Mohit Sen, distancing himself from the Communist Party was an obvious one, for he believed that the Communists in India never understood the importance of nationalism. As he says, the Communists should have been more a Ďpart of the main.í Prof Bhupinder Brar, Department of Political Science, Panjab University, says, "Mohit Sen believed that nationalism and socialism have to be put together. You cannot pit one against the other. Sen was all for the reforms undertaken in the now defunct USSR. In a nutshell, Sen believed that duty to oneís country is of paramount significance and this is reflected in his talks and in his various works."

Dedicated to his wife, Vanaja, the autobiography takes the reader through a journey of relationships. And the relationship that stands out is the one he shared with his wife whom he calls the "great-rooted blossomer."

The chapters are well divided, and one that holds the special attention of the reader is of the time the author spent in China when Mao was leading the revolutionary processes. It is an amazing account as to how Communists in China slowly spread their influence among the masses.

Whether it is about the national issues like Ranadive Line or "the three Ps" document, talks with Pandit Nehru or his daughter or his grandson; Operation Bluestar or the Ram-Janambhoomi-Babri Masjit dispute or about other Communists like Ajoy Ghosh, P.C. Joshi, Dange, Dr Adhikari, etc., Sen has covered each with discussions and given his opinion as a close attentive observer. Besides this, his account of international issues like formation of Bangladesh, the China-USSR and US-USSR relations, Indiaís endeavour to develop all have been covered minutely. In his title he calls himself an Indian Communist, for he is a Communist who held the interests of the nation as close to his heart as he did the principles of Marxism. While remaining active in his own way in politics, Sen talks of giving away the baton to younger recruits of Communism who, he hopes, will surge ahead on a new path to give the nation and Communism a new lease of life. Praising the Communists of yesteryears, who struggled for socialism and equality, he hopes the new recruits will follow them and yet bring forth positive changes without getting involved in the murky waste.

His explanation of Communism, its core ideas, which influenced and attracted great intellectuals to its fold, and about the movement in India have been written without mincing words. A chapter, Reflections, clears whatever doubts one has regarding Mohit Senís ideas and his views on Communism.

A well-edited book, the publishers have done justice to Senís memories and his decision to put them on paper. An inspired book, it serves its purpose of understanding the life of an Indian Communist. It is an eloquent expression of the authorís passionate concern for his cause and his principles.