Tuesday, April 9, 2013

An Open Letter to the world on the Bangladesh crisis of 1971

Letter from Members of the CPI (ML)
See the facsimile of the original here: http://www.sacw.net/article4164.html

Explanatory Note
1./ This is an open letter I wrote in December 1971, as a Naxalite cadre (among many) who experienced the political crisis accompanying the disintegration of Pakistan in 1970-71. It was anonymous, and I was the sole author. So the phrases 'letter from members' & 'some comrades' are incorrect. It was difficult to identify myself at that time. 

More than four decades later, there are many things in the letter that I am far removed from. I place it in the public domain because it is part of the micro-history of our shared and fractured past. The letter was appended in a book called Naxalite politics in India, by J.C. Johri (1972). One major newspaper reported its contents as an example of dissent among Maoists. It has become especially relevant in light of the ongoing Shahbag protests.

2./ The letter has glaring mistakes, such as confusing Cripps for Radcliffe (the author of the 1947 partition boundaries). It also speaks of “erasing, through struggle the international boundaries” drawn up in 1947. This will alarm many people, but let me make clear that it was written at a time when the boundaries were being re-drawn anyway, in a military conflict. What I was trying to convey was that communists were supposed to be internationalists, and that nationalism based on religion was a dangerous concept, which was coming apart at the time. And I was deeply disturbed by the Chinese support for the Yahya regime. This extract from an article I wrote in 2010 on insurrectionary politics explains better what was in my mind in 1971:

Pakistan’s crisis in 1970 could have been the starting point of a popular reassessment of the anti-democratic partition of 1947. The CPI(ML) could have articulated a discourse devoid of the hateful views of communalists. But the leadership was incapable of formulating any viewpoint outside the framework favoured by the Chinese communists, for whom the question of sovereignty seems to have been settled by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648; and what goes on inside a nation state is no one else’s business... Dreamers of a classless society found it too utopian to question the partition of India. Consequently in 1971, Naxalites were the only Indian political current that supported Yahya Khan. They also advised revolutionaries in East Pakistan to defend Pakistan’s integrity. This was in line with the Chinese preference for dictators in Sri Lanka, Sudan, Chile and Cambodia. All that counted was anti-Sovietism…” Read more: 
Maoism and the Philosophy of Insurrection (2010, Seminar # 607)

3./ A fuller context of my Open Letter may be obtained by reading the Chinese governments letter to President Yahya Khan, that was published in Pakistan Times 13 April 1971: Chinese Premier Chou En Lai’s letter to President Yahya Khan:

'I have read Your Excellency’s letter and Ambassador Chang Tung’s report on Your Excellency’s conversation with him. I am grateful to Your Excellency for your trust in the Chinese government. China and Pakistan are friendly neighbours. The Chinese government and people are following with close concern the development of the present situation in Pakistan.

Your Excellency and leaders of various quarters in Pakistan have done a lot of useful work to uphold the unification of Pakistan and prevent it from moving towards a split. We believe that through the wise consultations and efforts of Your Excellency and leaders of various quarters in Pakistan, the situation in Pakistan will certainly be restored to normal. In our opinion, the unification of Pakistan and the unity of the people of East and West Pakistan are the basic guarantees for Pakistan to attain prosperity and strength. Here it is most important to differentiate the broad masses of people from a handful of persons who want to sabotage the unification of Pakistan. As a genuine friend of Pakistan, we would like to present these views for Your Excellency’s reference.

As the same time we have noted that of late the Indian government has been carrying out gross interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan by exploiting the internal problems of your country. The Soviet Union and the United States are doing the same, one after the other. The Chinese Press is carrying reports to expose such unreasonable interference and has published Your Excellency’s letter of reply to Podgorny.

The Chinese government holds that what is happening in Pakistan at present is purely an internal affair of Pakistan, which can only be settled by the Pakistan people themselves and which brooks no foreign interference whatsoever. Your Excellency may rest assured that should the Indian expansionists dare to launch aggression against Pakistan, the Chinese government and people will, as always, firmly support the Pakistan government and people in their just struggle to safeguard state sovereignty and national independence.'

NB – In October 1971, the People’s Republic of China was admitted to the United Nations as the legitimate Chinese government, taking the place occupied by the Republic of China, also known as Taiwan. India voted for the resolution. China became a member of the Security Council. Its first use of the veto was to block the entrance of Bangladesh to the United Nations.

4./ Today, when the long-term consequences of communal politics continue to play out in all the successor states of British India, I feel it necessary to remind the younger generation that left politics and values are incompatible with communalism, of any religious hue whatsoever. I salute the people of Bangladesh for their struggle against the murderous politics of razakars and Jamaatis. Indians should support them and do their best to resist communal manifestations in India. Please study the painful and tragic history of fascism, in South Asia, India and in Europe. Remember the millions killed, of all communities, in the name of racist and communal nationalism. Build nations on the basis of love, non-violence and secular values. If we cannot turn back the clock or erase artificial frontiers, we can transcend them, leave them behind us in a new atmosphere of trans-national solidarity.

‘If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own' 
(a student broadcaster in Berkeley, 1968)

Dilip Simeon

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Letter from Members of the CPI (ML)
(written in December 1971 & published in Red Mole February 7, 1972)

Dear Comrades and Friends Abroad, 
In light of what has happened in the South Asian region during the past twelve months, we wish to make some statements and ask some questions. 

First, it should be made absolutely clear that the revolutionaries of this subcontinent regard it as one country and are resolved to erase, through struggle, the ‘international boundaries’ drawn up by Messrs. Patel, Nehru, Jinnah and Stafford Cripps.

Second, what took place in East Bengal in the first quarter of 1971 was nothing but the bloody and genocidal suppression of a people’s mass and democratic movement by a gang of fascist, obscurantist and utterly foul madmen—and every adjective is carefully chosen.

Third, a certain Foreign Office abroad, the only one from which we expected a principled stand, chose to represent black as white, chose to hide from its people the true nature of its fascist friends, chose to depict a people’s desperate struggle against bloody ogres as an 'anti-China war plot', chose to use the terms ‘rebel’ and ‘secessionist’ as abuse (!) and chose not to interfere in the 'internal affairs’ of inhuman murderers - after having interfered in the ‘internal affairs’ of Ceylon and Sudan - on behalf of the inhuman murderers, of course.

Fourth, the clever reactionaries in lndia (who never turned a hair while brutally suppressing the revolutionary movement in West Bengal, Andhra and Punjab, and the national struggles of the Naga, Mizo,and Kashmir peoples) and their Soviet well wishers, cashed in on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and immeasurably strengthened their position in the sub-continent - partly, if not wholly due to the marvelous non-interference by the leaders of world revolution and the activities of their good friends, the Maoist mullahs of Islamabad.

The inner crisis of the revolutionary movement in South Asia is the subject matter for a different discussion. But what did the 'revolutionary’ leadership of our party (now split in the tradition, no doubt, of 'one divides into two’) do with regard to the Indo-Pak crisis? Since their proclaimed first principle is 'loyalty to the CPC' - not loyalty to the masses or to Marxism-Leninism, but to the CPC - they naturally proceeded with the holy task of rationalising the opportunism and chauvinism of the Chinese Foreign Office. A quantitative (or is it qualitative) development of Mao Tsetung Thought was made by a certain leader who proclaimed that Yahya Khan was a 'national bourgeois’ (sic!!).

We have been betrayed, comrades and friends, and we know that this is strong language. The 'proletarian headquarters’ has indulged in nothing but out and out opportunism and big power chauvinism and we, who were ardent 'Maoists’ until recently, say this with the deepest sorrow and dismay. We ask the Maoist missionaries - do you expect us now to quote the Red Book at common people murdered by Chinese bullets? Do you expect us to preach armed struggle to people whose just armed struggle was faced with Chinese tanks? We shall not give up revolution gentlemen, as you have, but we have learned a very bitter and yet very basic lesson - the loyalty of a revolutionary party is to the people, to Marxism, and certainly not to this or that party. And we shall not accept the selling out of proletarian internationalism to the Yahyas, Nimeirys, Nixons and Bandaranaikes of the world. From Stalin onwards, the Soviet leaders have sacrificed world revolution at the altar of their chauvinist foreign policy. We cannot allow this to happen all over again.

Perhaps Allah will tell us why our great helmsman steered our ship on to the rocks and then abandoned us. But as someone said once, great men need no reasons, they leave them to the creative hands of their apologists. ’Sham is sham, and the mask must be stripped off’-It is a damning irony that we have now to strip the mask off the Chinese leadership.

SOME INDIAN COMRADES OF CPI (ML)
Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)
http://www.sacw.net/article4164.html

See also Solidarity Vigil in Delhi for Bangladesh's Shahbagh Movement
Bangladesh has awarded 13 Pakistani friends for their contribution during the war in 1971. These Pakistani nationals raised their voice for the freedom of Bangladesh against all the odds in their home country, which attacked unarmed Bangladeshis on the night of March 25, 1971. Some of them were sacked from their jobs, imprisoned and tortured for helping Bangladesh. They have been conferred the “Friends of Liberation War Honour” at a function at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka. The awardees are politicians Begum Naseem Akhter, Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, Habib Jalib, Malik Ghulam Jilani and Qazi Faiz Mohammad; politician and filmmaker Shameem Ashraf Malik; journalists Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Prof Waris Mir; journalist and pilot Anwer Pirzado; human rights activists Begum Tahira Mazhar Ali and Ahmad Salim; lawyer Zafar Malik; and late philosopher Dr Eqbal Ahmad.

How we loved China and Chairman Mao! Mao was the route to humanity, to die for him was to die for the human race. It was immensely sad to see the death of that faith. Maybe such is the fate of all passionate attachments. Perhaps this could improve if we pruned our expectations. We need to speak again, not just about about, software, turnkey projects and expanding trade, but also about history and philosophy, books and paintings and what we want of life. We need to break the wall of silence and good manners and get back to being ordinary people..


The word revolution came to acquire a new political usage from the late eighteenth century. Prior to that, it referred to the circular or elliptical movement of the celestial bodies, more specifically, to the completion of such a rotation. In English history, for example, it did not refer to the civil wars and political upheavals associated with Oliver Cromwell; but to the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and the installation of a protestant monarch in the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688. It was only with the American and French revolutions of the late eighteenth century, that revolution began to signify an overhaul of a social and political system. Even here, the leaders active in the beginning appealed for a return to an order of things that had been sullied by despotic monarchs – they used nostalgic language, they sought a restoration. However, the war of independence and the storming of the Bastille launched a flow of events that overthrew the earlier usages, along with the despotism that was the immediate target. Revolution began its new semantic journey, into the political vocabulary of modern protest and the aspirations of the oppressed. It retains its geometric usage, as in the number of revolutions per minute of mechanical rotors, but in the political realm, it evokes not a circle but a straight line, a pathway to a freedom and a better life... http://dilipsimeon.blogspot.in/2012/08/closing-circle-article-on-revolution-in.html