The present monograph on distinguished freedom fighter and the pioneering communist leader Puran Chandra Joshi or P.C Joshi, as he was popularly known, is as much an analysis of the leader as it is of the making of the Communist movement and the Party in the country and the unique dilemmas associated with its growth in India. It brings to light the relentless Endeavour of the visionary leader in the thirties and the forties to seek common grounds with the progressive and secular elements of different political streams in order to fight the imperialist forces on the one hand, and the communal and reactionary forces, on the other. Joshi’s stance, which did not find favors with the ‘hands off’ approach of the leadership of the Communist Party in 1948 as regards seeking associations with other like-mined political parties to build and protect the freedom of the newly independent nation seems to have become all the more relevant in the contemporary India thus vindication the vision of this great political, cultural and social leader. Brought out especially to commemorate the centenary of his birth, the monograph puts the role of Joshi and the communist movement in India in the proper historical perspective while throwing valuable insights on this multifaceted personality.
Gargi Chakravartty teaches history in Maitreyi College, University of Delhi. Her book Gandhi: A challenge to communalism, published in 1987, is a critical appraisal of Gadhi’s crusade against the forces of communalism from 1919-1929. Her latest book entitled Coming out of Partition: Refugee Women of Bengal, published in 2005, narrates the experiences of Bengali women, their trauma followed by the struggle for food shelter and job in the post-Partition era.
Being put in charge of the fledgling the Communist Party of India in 1935 at the young age of 28, P C Joshi succeeded in raising its strength from about 50 members to about 90,000 members in 1947. More importantly, he made the CPI an important force in national politics and in the peasants' and workers' movements.
Joshi was a rare Communist who was aware of the role of artists, writers, scientists and other intellectuals in society. He developed links of the Party with some of the major intellectuals of the country. He played a pioneering role in the formation of the Indian Peoples Theatre Association. He gathered a brilliant team of scattered artists, singers, dancers/poets and playwrights and forged an organization the like of which did not exist in the past and has not existed since.
Over time, he also began to understand better the role of the Indian National Movement, of which he made the CPI an important part.
Unfortunately, just when he had matured as a political leader, Joshi was thrown out of the Party leadership for the crime of having declared that India had become independent in 1947.
Despite grave provocations, Joshi remained loyal to the CPI and helped it evolve from, and get out of the morass of, the Cominform-imposed political line of 'Yen Azadi Jhooti Hai'.
Joshi invariably took principled positions in Indian politics even though he refused to playa major role in CPI's organizational matters. While condemning Chinese aggression in 1962, he opposed detention of the Left- Communist leaders. He was not in favour of CPI's unprincipled alliance with communal right-wing forces in the Samyukda Vidhayak Dal governments in 1967. And, above all, he warned the Indian people that the communal forces posed the most important threat to Indian democracy and development.
Gargi Chakravartty is to be congratulated for having captured in print, the major facets of PC Joshi's life, one of modern India's major political and cultural figures, on his lOOth birth anniversary.
Puran Chandra Joshi, popularly known as P.c. Joshi, a great patriot and the builder of the communist movement in India, is now relegated to oblivion. His has been a life dedicated to the nation, to the people and to the Communist Party which he had built up brick by brick as the General Secretary during the late thirties and forties in a difficult era of our freedom struggle. His was not an ordinary life-it was a life of struggle within and outside, untiringly fighting for a cherished dream with a firm conviction, even when he became physically immobile due to poor health.
Here was a leader whose charismatic personality and humaneness inspired so many young and old people, toiling masses and intellectuals for decades, a visionary who could think and act simultaneously, who could understand the political reality, an organiser who elevated the infant Communist Party to a national stature, and yet who was cornered and ignored by his fellow travellers at the fag end of his life. Till his last breath he waged a relentless struggle to unite the country's secular, democratic forces against Right reaction of all shades. It is an irony that whereas nobody understood his politics of National Front in his lifetime, today the same politics is being carried forward by the existing Left formations in our country and that too at a time when he would have crossed his century had he been alive.
To write a biography of such a multifaceted, outstanding, intensely political thinker and organiser is a challenging task indeed. Almost all his close associates are no more, and this void cannot be filled. After P.c. Joshi's death in November 1980, prominent Communist leaders like Hiren Mukerjee, Satyapal Dang and his close followers Govind Vidyarthi, Ishwar Bhatt, Dilip Bose, Sunil Sen and P.c. Joshi, the economist, paid rich tributes recalling those glorious days of his General Secretaryship. On the occasion of his centenary this year (2007), a few more reminiscences have come throwing valuable insights with a lot of information. Of these, the ones written by Rekha Jain, a prominent artiste in the Cultural Squad set up by Joshi, Subrata Banerjee, who stayed in the party headquarters in Bombay in the forties, Satyapal Dang and Sunil Munshi, the student leaders of those days, are full of anecdotes and personal experiences of Joshi.
The brittle yellow pages of the journals of the Communist Party during Joshi's time - National Front, People's War, People's Age - replete with reports, articles, reportages, sketches of Chittaprosad, and photographs of Sunil Janah of movements, politics and the people of that period have enriched my understanding of Joshi and his ideological pursuit. I am particularly grateful to the staff of the Ajay Bhavan Library and Archives of Contemporary India at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, which was built by P.c. Joshi himself and still remains a treasure house of materials on the Left movement in the country.
I found some of the biographical publications, even if a bit subjective and personal, to be a useful source of history as these mirror the inner-party life and the response of the comrades to national and international events. I would like to make a special mention of Manikuntala Sen's In Search of Freedom: An Unfinished Journey, Mohit Sen's A Traveller and the Road: The Journey of an Indian Communist and Ganesh Shukla's unpublished manuscript CPI: An Insider's View. I must specially thank Ravi Bakaya for giving me some rare articles written by Joshi over the years and reprinted in The New Thinking Communist. I am also thankful to P.C Joshi, the economist, whom I bothered on several occasions with all my queries and who ungrudgingly tried to find out the lost links of Joshi's personal life. Unfortunately, little could be gathered about Joshi's childhood and early life.
I have extensively quoted from P.C Joshi's notes on himself written on November 7, 1968 when he was staying in Hauz Khas, New Delhi. However, those quotations are not indexed in the footnotes.
To travel through the trajectory of events of complex dialectics marking Joshi's seventy-year life-span and constructing a political biography has been a difficult task. Readers should forgive my limitations. I can only hope that this first venture would be followed by better attempts at bringing out a more comprehensive and analytical work on P.C Joshi's life, politics, ideas and activities in the coming days.
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