People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIII

No. 31

August 02, 200

REMEMBERING COMRADE SURJEET

 

Prakash Karat

 

IT is a year since Comrade Harkishan Singh Surjeet died on August 1, 2008. With this came to an end an eventful life that made a big contribution to the Communist movement in the country.

Surjeet belonged to a generation in the Communist Party whose political activities spanned both the pre-independence period of the struggle against British imperialism and the subsequent post-independence era. His membership in the Congress party, the Congress Socialist Party and the Communist Party reflected his evolving political and ideological outlook.

His early work in organising the peasantry was motivated by the dual goal of drawing in the peasantry into the fight against imperialism and to spearhead the struggle against feudalism. His lifelong association with the peasant movement was based on the understanding that the tasks of the democratic revolution were not completed with independence in 1947.

The early experience of the tumultuous anti-imperialist movement in Punjab and the subsequent communal strife and division shaped his outlook in two areas -- firstly he developed an uncompromising stand against communalism. He was unwavering in his belief that communalism if it succeeds will spell the destruction of India as a modern secular State. Secondly, more than anybody else he understood the importance of national unity in the context of imperialism trying to break up and subvert big multinational states. He fought against all forms of communalism and the divisive separatist movements. This stemmed from his basic Marxist outlook that saw these forces as disruptive of the unity of the working class.

Surjeet made a valuable contribution in the struggle for establishing and defending the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism disavowing revisionist and sectarian positions. As the leader of the CPI(M) with the widest experience of the international communist movement, he played a key role in the period when the Soviet Union was dismantled and the setbacks to socialism occured. As general secretary, he steered the Party through a difficult period. He constantly stressed the need to creatively apply Marxism-Leninism to Indian conditions and not mechanically copy the model of other countries. Comrade Surjeet was a master tactician. He was the most skilled in creating opportunities by which political-tactical line of the Party could be advanced.

This skill was seen in the period when the Left sought to build an anti-Congress unity without compromising with the BJP in the period between 1987 and 1991 and later when a unity of secular parties had to be built against the BJP and the communal danger without allying with the Congress. If the idea of a third force in Indian politics against the Congress and the BJP emerged as a possibility in the late 1980ís and efforts were made to translate it into a viable proposition, much of the credit for this goes to the tireless and skillfull endeavours of Surjeet.

Surjeet was imbued with the spirit of internationalism. His firm commitment to fight imperialism and defend socialism never wavered even when an adverse situation developed in the early 1990s. Surjeet was the prime mover of the campaign to organise solidarity with Vietnam, Cuba and Palestine on different occasions.

What stood out in the life of Harkishan Singh Surjeet was his devotion and commitment to the Communist Party. He would expend all his energies and time to implement and make success all the Party's decisions. His only concern was how to develop the Party and advance the cause of the democratic revolution and socialism.

We deeply miss his presence at this juncture when the Party has to face many challenges. But we should be fortified in our resolve by the example he has set and the legacy he has left behind for us.