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)
Comrade Soren Bose left us on the early morning of 17 August. After three days of programmes at Mumbai, which enthused the comrades and all the well-wishers of the revolutionary movement, he was to leave for Calcutta a few hours later. His sudden death, when he was playing a leading role in the reorganization of CPI(ML) is an irreparable loss. It has greatly grieved the Communist Revolutionaries all over India.
Comrade Soren Bose was one of the architects of Naxalbari movement and CPI(ML) under the leadership of comrade Charu Mazumdar in the tumultuous decade of 1960s. For him working under the leadership of and together with com. CM started from the early 1940s when he joined the communist party. To CPI(M) and later to Naxalbari and CPI(ML) they advanced together. He became Polit Bureau member of CPI(ML). Till the last moment he upheld the glorious tradition of CPI(ML) and became a central pillar in the present efforts to reorganize the party based on the concrete analysis of present concrete situation. He became a great bridge between the glorious late 1960s and early 1970s when the communist revolutionaries all over India fought against revisionism, gave a basically Marxist-Leninist orientation to the Communist movement and launched uncompromising struggle for overthrowing the present reactionary Indian state and to create a New Democratic India under the leadership of CM, and the present when the communist revolutionaries are engaged in reorganizing CPI(ML) by rectifying all sectarian mistakes, continuing the struggle against all shades of right opportunism and by developing the basic orientation of the party in the concrete conditions of the neo-colonial phase of capitalist-imperialist system.
As he used to say repeatedly, he did not join any of the CPI(ML) groups for long years after coming out of jail in early 1980s not because he was in anyway influenced by the non-party thinking prevalent among many from the earlier CPI(ML) leaders and cadres and among many petti-bourgeois intellectuals, as he was searching for answers to the questions he started raising after he became critical of the tactical line of the movement from early 1970s and after his discussion with the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
He came in contact with the literature of CPI(ML) Red Flag and started discussion with its leading cadres only from 1994. But once he was convinced that the basic orientation of Red Flag is correct he did not hesitate to join it. He became member of Central Reorganization Committee of CPI(ML) Red Flag and secretary of its West Bengal state committee. He started actively participating in the reorganization of the party under the banner of Red Flag. During the last one year he visited Kerala, Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Bihar and encouraged the comrades to carry forward the task of NDR in the new conditions taking lessons from the past. He repeated the necessity of uncompromising struggle against both right and left opportunism for building up a Bolshevik style party at all India level. It was during one of these trips, when he was attending the programmes organized by the Maharashtra state committee of the party at Mumbai, he breathed his last. Thus till his last moment he remained a Bolshevik in the true spirit.
When he returned from China in 1970 end after long discussions with top CPC leaders and a brief meeting with Mao, and submitted his report, there were many in the then leadership who suspected the bonafides of the report. As far as the leadership of CPC was concerned, it had begun a rectification against the sectarian deviations which were influencing the CPC during the 1969 Congress. The suggestions of the CPC leaders reflected the spirit of this rectification and the vast experience of the protracted struggle waged by it to achieve victory in the NDR. They repeated the necessity for concrete analysis of concrete Indian situation and for developing the ideological-political-organizational orientation based on it.
But the sectarian influence was so profound in the movement that it was not possible then to start rectification based on CPC suggestions. This sectarianism went to the extent of some of the forces even rejecting the 10th Congress Report of CPC which had rejected earlier 1969 formulations regarding era and many connected positions. Later this metaphysical approach went to the other extreme in 1977 when most of the CPI(ML) forces mechanically accepted the Hua-Teng group’s total rejection of Mao’s revolutionary line, once again in the name of Mao! The upholding of the dialectical relation between developing the revolutionary movement in one country according to concrete conditions there and linking it with proletarian internationalism continued to elude the International Communist Movement. But comrade Soren Bose persisted to uphold his opposition to sectarianism and revisionism, repeated the cardinal points from the suggestions of the CPC leaders, and inspired the Bolshevik party building which is the pre-condition to mobilize the revolutionary masses for the NDR.
Both in his personal and political life he was one of the finest examples of Communist Culture. Starting his political life by organizing the tea-garden workers and peasants of North Bengal, he was always wedded to the mass line and thoroughly hated sectarianism. In his characteristic style he used to educate how mass line advanced the movement, and how sectarian mistakes distorted it and brought incalculable damage to it. In a humorous way he used to self-critically explain the past errors while highlighting the great contributions of the movement.
In these days when imperialism has intensified it frenzied attack on communism and non-party thinking is propagated by various petti-bourgeois, opportunist trends, his life with total involvement in the communist movement for a long period spanning more than five decades, and consistent advocacy of the socialist future are shining examples for the new generation to emulate.
We have received reports of memorial meetings not only from Calcutta, but also from numerous places all over the country expressing shock at comrade Soren Bose’s unexpected departure and pledging to follow the ideals for which he fought all through his life. Red Star joins the Communist Revolutionaries all over the country on this occasion in upholding the great revolutionary contributions of comrade Soren Bose to the communist movement and pledges to tirelessly work for realizing the socialist ideals.
(Editorial of Red Star, September 1997)
Comrade Souren Bose was one of the leading comrades of the Naxalbari Uprising along with Charu Majumdar, Kanu Sanyal, Jangal Santhal, Khokan Majumdar and others from North Bengal. He joined CPI in 1940s, became part of CPI(M) when the party splitted in 1964, joined the inner party struggle against the neo-revisionist leadership, and after Naxalbari Uprising was active during the Coordination period, in the formation of CPI(ML) and in its First (8th ) Congress in 1970, in which he was elected as its PB member. As decided by the party he went to China in 1970, met leaders of the CPC including Chou Enlai, who made a scathing attack on the line practiced by CPI(ML), while upholding its formation as a historic step forward. He came back and handed over the written report of the conversation to com CM. But he was arrested soon and was in jail till 1980. On 17th August, 1997 he passed way at Mumbai where he had gone to attend a program of the CPI(ML) Red Flag (now Red Star), in the 4th All India Conference of which he was elected as its CRC member.
Though Janata Party came to power at centre in 1977, and soon CPI(M) led Left Front came to power in W. Bengal, com. Souren Bose like many other leaders of the CPI(ML) movement could come out from jail only in 1980. By that time the Naxalbari movement had splintered to many groups. Though their analysis of Indian situation, strategic line of democratic revolution and path of them were the same, they viewed each other with hostility because of sectarian influence. The atmosphere was suffocating, com. SB used to say. Because of this, large number of comrades from working class and peasantry who came out of jail got frustrated and became inactive. Though he had an idea of what was happening outside and since these divisions had their influence within the jails also, he had no idea to join any section without studying the situation. Though he later participated in the activities of some mass organizations linked to some groups, he did not become a member of any group. It was following a number of discussions with the comrades of the CPI(ML) Red Flag (now Red Star), from the beginning of 1994 and joint efforts to analyze the changes taking place in the country under neo-colonial situation after transfer of power as a part of preparing an agrarian program, he agreed with the general orientation of the organization and joined it by the end of 1995. It was when he was actively engaged in the re-organization of the movement, he left us, which was a great loss to the whole movement. In this issue we are re-producing the editorial and an article of com. KN on com. SB. Red Salute to com SB who remained a Bolshevik till his last day.