KC Umesh Babu, CPM’s party poet in Kerala, was expelled last week for penning a sarcastic poem aimed at party state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan
How do you react to this disciplinary action?
Have you ever heard of a communist party that expelled a poet from not only its ranks but also from its cultural front for writing a poem? It’s nothing but fascism. Turn the pages of history to know how Stalin reacted to the criticism from Mayakovski. No writer was expelled or humiliated just because he had written a literary piece. It is a blatant violation of the freedom of expression. I have named nobody in the poem. In fact, my attempt was to expose the mindset of social democrats and neo-liberals who are trying to destabilise the communist movement.What did the party find objectionable in your poem?
The party found the following lines objectionable.
“Someone wrote a poem, and the leaders said it’s to clobber the party
Someone launched a newspaper, and the leaders said it’s to clobber the party...
Need to know the truth, and the leaders said, let the committee meet
Can’t get justice, and the leaders said, let the committee meet
Ten percent commission, and the leaders said give it to us, discreetly.”
These lines are not about any individual but fitting for any leader of any party who is known for shadowy dealings.
It is clear that you are targeting the party state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan because he often says allegations against him, including corruption charges in the multi-crore snc Lavlin deal, are intended to clobber the party.
These lines are applicable to Pinarayi as well if he shares the rightist-revisionist agenda. There are a number of leaders in Kerala CPM like state Finance Minister Thomas Isaac and Culture Minister MA Baby who have lost faith in Marxism-Leninism. They are social democrats who have no tolerance or democratic spirit in their words or deeds.
You have been with the party for the last three decades. Is it the end of the road for you?
As a poet, I need to react to things happening around me. I will continue to write and continue to be a Marxist. I have no other identity. No social democrat can end my political and cultural interventions.
Is it possible to continue in a cadre party like CPM after questioning the ideology of a section of party leaders?
Leaders like Baby, Isaac and Vijayan would not tolerate even a passive comment against them. The party had purged several Left-leaning writers like Sara Joseph, MN Vijayan, Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan, Kunhappa Pattannoor and P. Surendran for their constructive criticism. Even the icons like Justice VR Krishna Iyer and Sukumar Azhikode were at the receiving end.
In Kerala, Baby is the cultural czar of the CPM. Like a feudal lord of the 19th century, he is offering positions in government bodies and academies to those who remain tamed and subdued. Their silence would be rewarded. I am not against the CPM. But I am definitely against the social democrats who have hijacked the party. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya (West Bengal chief minister) and Baby might be soft spoken in nature. But how can we justify the Nandigram firing? How we can justify Issac’s decision to avail loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) with objectionable clauses?
Why does Pinarayi Vijayan fear criticism and dissent?
His statements and outburst are clearly showing that he is a paranoiac. He even fears his shadow. The very mention of the snc Lavlin contract makes him furious. He fears the media, the writers and even progressive elements among his own cadre. The crucial question is: why Achuthanandan is not using the same language as they are? Why he is not getting nervous even in the face of criticism? That is the difference between these social democrats and an old Marxist.
Do you think the CPM has transformed into a social democratic party?
It seems so in the changed political context. How can a party of Pramod Das Gupta, Harekrishna Konar and Binoy Chowdhary blindly justify the police action in Nandigram in which 14 peasants were killed?
Did you enjoy any benefits from the party during your association with it?
Nothing. I never pursued the ‘power politics’ nor begged for any alms from the party leadership. There were a lot of opportunities when I was in good relations with the party. But my commitment was purely ideological. At one level, expulsion (from the party) is freedom. It is an opportunity to be active in a wider world. Writers must be critical of the establishment. There will be a day the people will end the impudence of leaders like Vijayan.