03 August 2020

I first met comrade Soren Bose (SB) in early 1994. Comrade Arup Mazumdar had seen him in early seventies itself inside Presidency Jail. At that time Arup was a very young activists and comrade SB was a very senior comrade. After Arup became active in CRC, CPI(ML), which is now known as CPI(ML) Red Flag, he had reported about comrade SB. Once he put an end to his association with Asim Chatterjee when latter started moving closer to Left Front, and started taking positions nearer to that of Red Flag, comrade Arup suggested a discussion with comrade SB. That is how we first met him in his rented flat at Dumdum road.

In our first discussion we found that there were many differences between our positions. But his approach to various basic questions confronting the Communist movement both nationally and internationally, and his Communist culture tremendously attracted me. They inspired us to continue the discussions. And a visit to his place and a long discussion with him became an integral part of my frequent visits to Calcutta.

Comrade SB, we used to call him, explained that after coming out of jail in 1980 he did not play any leading role in any of the organizations to which CPI(ML) was split since he was not convinced about the ideological-political positions of the organizations he came across. Though he attended many programmes and even played major role in some of the class/mass organizations or mass movements during this period, he did not identify himself with any of the CPI(ML) factions.

Starting from the discussions he held with top CPC leadership in 1970 as representative of CPI(ML) he had taken an uncompromising position against sectarianism. The degeneration of CPC leadership to revisionist positions in the post-Mao years had given new dimensions to anti-revisionist struggle. The severe setback suffered by the international communist movement with the degeneration of all socialist states and communist party leaderships to capitalist path, and later disintegration of Soviet Union had posed a major challenge before the Communists everywhere. Both right and left opportunism were causing severe damage to the movement.

Within the various factions to which CPI(ML) was split and among other revolutionary organizations a major section continue to uphold Dengist positions and are erasing the line of demarcation between themselves and the CPI-CPI(M) brand of Krushchevite revisionism. On the other hand, some other are clinging to the very sectarian positions of late 1960s which the CPC leadership had soundly criticized during discussion with him. Even many of those who oppose these extreme opportunist positions are reluctant to make a concrete analysis of the present situation when imperialism in its neo-colonial phase has launched an all out aggression against world people in all fields.

In our first discussion itself many of these questions were taken up by us. The fact that CPI(ML) Red Flag has taken concrete positions on many of these questions or has initiated discussions to develop better understanding about them made him happy. With each round of discussion we started coming closer. His participation in the all India Convention organized by TUCI (Trade Union Centre of India) at Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu) as its main speaker and his discussions with many of the leading comrades, as he later said, further convinced him that he can play a leading revolutionary role once again by joining Red Flag.

To concretize this unity process we decided to start discussions on the changes taking places in the agrarian field and to draft an approach paper for working in agricultural workers and peasant front. Based on the understanding he had gathered about the changes in class relations taken place at micro level in Naxalbari like areas and about the macro level data collected through the young comrades in Bengal, he himself prepared an initial draft. In a three day long discussion with some of the leading comrades of Red Flag during his visit to Kerala in 1996 his initial draft was developed. Later it was discussed and adopted in the Central Reorganization Committee (CRC) and is now distributed among the activists in agricultural workers and peasant front (published in Red Star, July-September, 1997 issue). It clearly shows the consequences of neo-colonization in agrarian field and the necessity for developing the approach towards struggles according to these concrete changes. It was also decided to hold a camp for the activists in agricultural workers and peasants front at Naxalbari (we are compelled to postpone this now in his absence).

When the initial drafts for the Fourth All India Conference to be held in April 1997 were prepared in late 1996, we discussed the main points at length with comrade SB. He was in full agreement with all the basic positions put forward in these drafts and formally decided to join Red Flag. As a result, in the West Bengal state conference held in April 1997 he played a leading role and he was elected secretary of new state organizing committee. He played an active role in the All India Conference held later in April and based on his vast experience reiterated in the necessity for uncompromisingly struggling against both right opportunism and sectarianism. He expressed his happiness over the democratic process he witnessed in the conference. He was elected a member of CRC and in his concluding speech pledged to serve the party reorganization process to the best of his ability.

He was already elected as the leading member of the 28 July Committee formed in West Bengal uniting all revolutionary organizations to observe the 25th anniversary of the martyrdom of comrade Charu Majumdar. In the rally organized on 16 July, in spite of heavy rains, about six to seven thousand comrades participated and the marched to Writers Building demanding enquiry in to the killings of large number of communist revolutionaries including comrades CM and Saroj Dutta in early 1970s in police custody and in the name of encounters. Probably this was the first time after the peak of the movement in early 1970s that such a large number of comrades with such enthusiasm could be mobilized entirely from West Bengal alone for such a rally. As far as both party reorganization and united activities of revolutionary organizations are concerned, this signaled a positive turning point. Comrade SB was in the forefront of this new initiative.

When CRC decided to organize all India programmes from May 25 to July 28 to observe the 25th anniversary of the martyrdom of comrade CM, and later to observe from August 15, 1997 to next August 15 as a period to expose the celebrations organized by the ruling classes in the name of 50 years of so-called independence, comrade SB was playing a significant role in both. As he repeatedly stressed wherever he went reorganizing CPI(ML) on Bolshevik lines and based on the ideological-political orientation put forward by the Fourth Conference was the primary task at all India level before him and the organization. Even during the last programmes he attended at Mumbai, in the press conference on 14 August, in the seminar on transfer of power on August 15 and in the public meeting on 16 August he reiterated these points.

During our numerous discussions he was always stressing on the importance of the Party. He was a dedicated cadre of CPI and then CPI(M) before he rebelled against their revisionist line under CM’s leadership. He firmly supported CM’s call to reorganized the party in to CPI(ML) and played a leading role in putting this to practice. Till his arrest he continued to uphold the party line as a Polit Bureau member of its CC. after coming out of jail though he did not join or form a party organization for long, he was against all forms of non-party concept. He used to strongly denounce the petti-bourgeois, sectarian trends prevalent in West Bengal. And when he found that CPI(ML) Red Flag can be the best vehicle for carrying forward the rectification process and rebuilding CPI(ML) at all India level, without hesitation he joined it and appealed to all of his younger comrades to join it.

After his sudden departure on the early morning on 17th August at Mumbai, when I went to Calcutta, Naxalbari and Siliguri, met his old comrades and friends as well as the young comrades, I could feel how much respect, love and attention they had for him. He was a veteran communist revolutionary with great proletarian culture. While strongly criticizing the sectarian mistakes of the early period, he always presented it as a self-criticism. And even in his personal habits, like insisting on carrying his own bag, he was always ready to share all difficulties with his younger comrades. At Naxalbari many comrades told us that even during his last visit to that area in May he went round the villages walking, over sitting on the carrier behind a cycle. At the memorial meeting at Siliguri we heard many of his friends and party comrades from 1940s narrating his versatile character, as a dedicated communist, agitator, artist, journalist of the party paper.

His departure at this crucial juncture when we have taken up party reorganization with all its seriousness is an irreparable loss not only to Red Flag, but to the Communist movement in India as a whole. The best we can do to do justice to the memory of this great veteran revolutionary is to dedicate ourselves with more determination to realize the goals for which he stood and fought throughout his life as a great Bolshevik. 

(Red Star October 1997)

The Communist movement in India has a history of almost a century after the salvos of October Revolution in Russia brought Marxism-Leninism to the people of India who were engaged in the national liberation struggle against the British colonialists. It is a complex and chequered history.