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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Editorial to New Year Issue: A young mind's tryst with communism

I was not a communist by birth (unlike many of our childhood friends who had both the parents active in communist parties) but it was not long before the ideology caught my attention.
By the time I had started to doubt the religious beliefs instilled by mother and grandmother, communism, rather socialism was ready to wean me over. Not long after, I was a communist, at least by belief (even though many in the village doubted such credentials of a child whose parents were not proper communists).

At first, communism taught me to question everything that was a taboo under the prevailing religious and social norms, like “why can’t I see god if there is one?”. But eventually, I started discovering a set of contradictions inside the version of communism in our village, talking about which was rather a taboo of its own kind. For example, why did each of the revered communist leaders, Lenin, Stalin and Mao, lead the party as well as the state till the minute of their death? Why were they so infallible while the dissenters in the party were always so horribly wrong? Why did the so called reformists prevail so comprehensively both in USSR and China after physical demise of Stalin and Mao Zedong respectively? Later on, I started posing questions about those systems at a higher level: was this the fault of the system that fed on the personality cult of the leaders with essence of the whole system epitomized by the persona of that particular leader, or could we simply place blame on the reformists like Khruschev or Deng Xiao Ping who overwhelmed the benevolent Stalinists or the Maoists? Can the system be absolved of any responsibility for having let down the expectations of the proletariat?

Over my late childhood, I had come to discover that the communist regimes so passionately revered by the communists in Nepal were no longer in existence. So what had gone so utterly wrong so as to annihilate the systems that were supposed to be invincible? I desperately searched for literature that would answer my questions but to no avail. At least among the proper communist parties of Nepal, there was a blackout when it came to questioning the past communist regimes and elaborating the causes of their demise.

Because of my child-like nature, I could not resist the curiosity and eventually started devouring any piece of information related to the demise of the communist giants in the past, however reactionary and counter-revolutionary they appeared. With time, first I got frustrated and even felt cheated. Slowly, the amount of perplexity and anxiety about the end of benevolent communist regimes gave way to a mild sense of amusement and revelation as the downsides of those regimes unfolded in front of me. After all, their demise was pretty much inherent to their modus operandi, I started to believe, and their (untimely) demise was not as devastating as the fallen sky, I assured myself and continued to read and grasp from literatures in both sides of the political spectrum.

It was a strange coincidence that the three people whom I interviewed for this blog, two of them luminaries in their field and one energetic analyst, all had nearly similar views about the communist regimes of the past, that they were far from miracles as depicted by the orthodox communist parties, rather the contrary.  Significantly, none of these people are rightists or their apologists. First is a thinker (who chose to remain anonymous for some personal reasons ) who used this sentence outright: the regimes in USSR and China were far from communism. Second is the leading socio-political thinker and eminent sociologist of Nepal, Prof. Chaitanya Mishra who characterized regimes in USSR and China as the particularly harsh forms of state capitalism both built on and ruined by the excessive centralization of power. Third is the leading voice in alternative media community, Jeremy P. Hammond, the editor of Foreign Policy Journal. His answer was also petty straight forward: communist regimes in USSR and China were disasters in terms of the cause of humanity.

To be honest, I had no plans at the beginning to devote this special issue of my blog to the subject of exploring the downsides of communist regimes, and that too through people widely believed to be in the left of the political spectrum in today’s world. But somehow my instincts from childhood prompted me to include the very question to every one of the three people who did not snub my proposal to be interviewed in some way. After seeing the coincidence in the answer of the trio, I had little difficulty in sorting out the theme of this issue: ‘Debunking the myth of past communist regimes’.

It has been long since I have been frankly criticizing the two historical phenomena with which the world remembers those regimes today: Stalinist purges and associated atrocities committed in Soviet Russia and the notorious Cultural Revolution under Mao’s China. Because of my own limitations, I had the opportunity to dwell on these two issues in some satisfactory details in the interview with Chaitanya Mishra only and he clearly shows the relationship between the evolution of an opaque and unaccountable system with absolute centralization of power and degeneration of the party and state leadership into a ruthless tyranny.

It is my sincere belief that my tryst with communism is not unique. On the other hand, I am among people who pretty much savor the information emanating from the mainstream media in today’s world but think twice before buying their arguments or depending upon their judgments to make our own. Consequently, it is a matter of not being carried away by the propaganda machines of either side (right and left) and either time (past and present) and developing our own shrewd faculty of judgment. I have no qualms admitting my own such faculty is still very rudimentary but I was nearly startled when the judgments of some prominent and well-informed people somewhat corresponded with those of mine.  You are free to try your luck!

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विजय कुमारको खुशी पढेपछि

जीवन, खुशी अहंकार

जीवनमा अफ्ठ्यारा घुम्तीहरुमा हिंडिरहँदा मैले कुनै क्षणमा पलायनलाई एउटा विकल्पको रुपमा कल्पना गरेको थिएँ, त्यसलाई यथार्थमा बदल्ने आँट गरिनँ, त्यो बेग्लै कुरा हो त्यसबेला लाग्थ्योः मेरा समग्र दुखहरुको कारण मेरो वरपरको वातावरण हो, यसबाट साहसपूर्वक बाहिरिएँ भने नयाँ दुख आउलान् तर तत्क्षणका दुरुह दुखहरु गायब भएर जानेछन् कति गलत थिएँ !

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I do not know why I often tend to view people rather grimly: they usually are not as benevolent, well-intentioned and capable or strong as they appear to be. This assumption is founded on my own self-assessment, though I don’t have a clue as to whether it is justifiable to generalize an observation made in one individual. This being the fact, my views of writers as ‘capable’ people are not that encouraging: I tend to see them as people who intend to create really great and world-changing writings but most of the times end up producing parochial pieces. Also, given the fact that the society where we grow and learn is full of dishonesty, treachery, deceit and above else, mundanity, it is rather unrealistic to expect an entirely reinvigorating work of writing from every other person who scribbles words in paper.

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Somebody has said: “I was born intelligent but education ruined me”. I was born a mere child, as everyone is, and grew up as an ordinary teenager eventually landing up in youth and then adulthood. The extent to which formal education helped me to learn about the world may be debatable but it definitely did not ruin me. There were, however, things that nearly ruined me. There came moments when I contemplated some difficult choices. And there came and passed periods when I underwent through an apparently everlasting spell of agony. There came bends in life from which it was very tempting to move straight ahead instead of following the zigzag course.

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