Communist Negation: Historical Transformation
By M C Arun
If Hijam Irabot was an advocate of alternative thought, there were many intellectuals who safeguarded the existing social ideology in the brief period of political confusion preceding merger. The confusion period started with the independence of Manipur under Indian Independence Act, 1947 and ended with the
signing of Merger Agreement between the representatives of Manipur and India on 21 September 1949. This brief period witnessed various currents of political thoughts ranging from liberal democracy to Young Socialists’ demand for Referendum on the issue of merger of Manipur with Assam (then to India) as part of
socialist movement in Manipur; from the issues of Purbanchal Pradesh formation to Gandhian movements. The communists in Manipur negated the existing social ideology which was partly shaped by feudal-colonial rule and India’s new dream of democratic Republic. For sure, the communist did not take the independence
as people’s independence. It was, to them, just a transfer of power from imperialist to Indian ruling class. There was a great transformation from anti-imperialist movement to people’s movement, both in India and Manipur. They looked for a society/state free from any form of exploitation and establishing the “Dictatorship of the proletariat” (of the peasants). This ideological negation was spearheaded by the communists in Manipur; they stood strongly against the liberal democracy as well as against any form of feudal residues like democratic monarchy. The loud slogan for “Land to the cultivators” was the single line manifestation of the negation to the social ideology. The communist slogan was different from the then socialist slogan:
Manipur Raja Goonda hain. Though the socialist and communist political stances were against the formation of Purbanchal Pradesh (even a large section of Congress also stood against such formation), there was a qualitative difference between the communist and socialist political moves. The socialists in Manipur wanted merger of Manipur with Assam and hence stood against the King. Though both the communists and socialists stood against the King, their ideological foundations were different. And Hijam Irabot was the public face of the communists in Manipur and was the idol of the communist negation. He was also symbol of communism in Manipur. So, it is meaningless to ask if his movement was not a part of Indian communist movement; equally it is a waste of time to look into the differences between Hijam Irabot and other communists in Manipur unless we are looking into the history of Communist Party in Manipur.
It is evident from his Party’s stand on armed struggle that the State force and social ideology were very strong in spite of the confusions prevailing in the then political scenario. The communist negation could not fully contradict the existing ideology because of the peculiar social condition at that time.
With a limited knowledge and resource or base, the communists however could pose a threat to the State and its agencies. At the same time, the mobilization of the masses could not yield the result as had been expected; the party could not meet all the demands after it went underground. Still their ideological
stand was clear and they were committed to the same. Moreover, the line of demarcation between the communist thought and liberal democratic thought was very clear in their minds. The present historical studies however puts more focus on the question whether Hijam Irabot was member of Indian communist party or was a leader of Manipuri variant of communism. Any such question like “was he a communist following the mainstream of international communist movement or of Marshal Tito” does not give extra information on the line of political action in that period. The more pointed study that is required today is on the
communist negation and its impact on the history of Manipuri ideas. The history of the growth and offshoots of this negation is less dealt with however.
The social ideology which was negated by the communists in late 1940s and early 1950s is growing, developing and adapting in the changing times. It shows its highest peak these days. However, the communist negation takes various courses in its journey through time and loses its own mainstream. The insurgency politics are one of the variants of this negation, as many insurgent groups claim themselves. The idea of “society based on equality” (Mannaba Khunnai in Manipuri) was a political mantra among the communists at that point of time. In later course of history, no one looks into this mantra. No historian deals with the question why communists in Manipur could not continue its armed struggle after the death of Hijam Irabot. On the other hand, with the first split and emergence of various communist lines in India the communist negation in Manipur also suffered split. The negation became social capital of electoral politics on one hand and driving force for underground politics on the other. Many parties added various colours to the primary negation with Maoism, Tito-ism, Castro-ism and many more. To some parties, Hijam Irabot becomes not more than a figure which is remembered on a particular date of a year. Is it a new breed of communist: Machiavellian Communist?
The communist negation lost its heat over time. The parties could not distance themselves from the existing system. The mantra of communist negation remains as a decorative piece of political writings which are not translated into action. The existing system is not a rigid system; it is so flexible that it can absorb many shocks and waves of different lengths. Unlike many other systems in the world which do not allow other ideas, the present system in Manipur (India for that matter) can face various challenges arisen from outside or inside the system. The newly emerged class of contractors is the best example of
how the system can handle the threats of its negation. The two worlds are poles apart: the dream of communism and the living world of most ‘liberal’ democratic state of affairs in Manipur. Only those who dare to die can cross the line of demarcation between these worlds: the deserters or the surrendered.
But, many individuals in the new class of contractors (if not all), at least in people’s lore, can cross the line without any harm to themselves and all others involved. They are the angels who can travel across the different worlds of life and of dead.
Historically speaking, the communist negation is not important only for political movement; it is the basic foundation of all the political actions. Hijam Irabot’s negation was not perfect, it is true. His idea of class and class relation in Manipur might not be outstanding. His methods of class analysis might
have been rudimentary. He might not have full knowledge of capital and surplus value. But, he was quite sure that the class society could be transformed with communist action to a classless society. For his political action, he did not take trouble to seek help from the petit-bourgeoisie; for him, separating
himself from the middle class was right political action. He walked away from the Congress Party with a broad smile. This was a big good bye to Manipuri middle class. These days, many communists – inside or outside the system – are happy to handshake with the middle class.
The underground life of Hijam Irabot is not clearly constructed so far. Only a few oral historical accounts which require rigorous historical scrutiny are available. The narrators were very young when they worked with the Lamyanba or Jana Neta. Many of his colleagues in Party’s Central Committee are still shy to narrate their experiences in those difficult days of communist movement and of the brief confusion period. Because of it, his political actions in Burma cannot be fully understood; did he go to Burma to “join forces of Burma Communist” or “to prepare for a war in Manipur for Manipur only.” As there are many
variants of communist negation in the State as well as many interests of both private and public natures, the core value of communist negation started from Hijam Irabot lost in contemporary interactions between status quoist and opposition parties. It is a Manipur where police personnel are reported to involve
in underground activities. It is a Manipur where many pressures for contract and supply works, promotion and service matters, appointment and admission come from various quarters. It is a Manipur that see the transformation of communist negation over six decades. Floral tribute is given to one whose function in
life and society cease. Manipur pays floral tribute to the Lamyanba or Jana Neta every year. Is it a classical example of conflict transformation or transformed self of a communist?