(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
October 04, 2009
�The Song of Youth�
An Inspiring Book on the Chinese Revolution
the occasion of the
60th anniversary of the founding of People's Republic of
Song of Youth
that I read during my student movement days remained firmly
etched in my mind. I lived through the novel as the conditions of
oppression and imperialist domination ring a similar echo with our own
experiences. The courage and sacrifices of the people in fighting the
also sound similar and familiar to us. Unfortunately, while the dreams
of the freedom fighters of
to the book, The Song of Youth published in 1958, was
translated into 20 languages with over five million copies sold. The
made into a film on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of
founding of the People's Republic of China and recently it has been
an opera to mark the 90th anniversary of the May 4th Movement. It is a
story about patriotic students in Peking (
facing many ordeals during her childhood, escapes from the clutches of
stepmother and starts working as a teacher in
When Tao-ching tells Lu Chia-chuan that to her it always seemed better to die a heroic death than to lead a vain, humdrum life, he emphatically clears the vainness of this romantic notion and says, �We join the revolution not in order to die but to live � to live a more worthwhile life and to bring happiness to millions upon millions of oppressed. Why think of death before you have done anything worthwhile? That's a mistaken notion�. This in no sense means that he is afraid of death or not ready to sacrifice his life for the sake of the cause. This is proved by his heroic death without doubt - the Kuomintang government buries him alive after torturing him brutally. What this dialogue shows is how communists value life and also corrects the misunderstanding among many who regard communists as blood thirsty - always spilling blood, if not theirs, others. Of course, there are some groups even in our country who do these things, but can they be called �communists� just because they have labelled themselves as such? Alas, how many �unhappy� people have we not seen whose optimistic parents have named them as �happy� (Anand) and how many �unhealthy� people have we not come across who are called �healthy� (Arogyam)! Thus, it is not name that counts but deeds that define a true communist. This is thoroughly exemplified in this novel.
For Lu Chia-chuan, his own life, his personal concerns counted for nothing. He always used to say that the cause of the Party, the collective cause must be safeguarded at all costs. The torch of the struggle must be kept alight.
When Tao-ching gets arrested and is subjected to inhuman torture by the Kuomintang, she bravely faces them, without letting a word pass her lips. Bars were pressed down across the backs of her knees; one kettle after another of pepper water was poured into her nostrils. She bites her lips till they bled. Then a red-hot iron was applied to her thighs making her shriek and lose completely her consciousness. Cruel tortures had not succeeded in weakening her resolve. Unnerved by her grit and commitment, the bullies comment, 'This girl has guts! What is it about the Communist Party that makes ordinary men and women behave like this? For communism they're ready to give up their lives. And what's more precious than life, I'd like to know?' And do we not find such heroes and heroines in our freedom struggle? The Bhagat Singhs, Preetilatas, Sunitis and Shantis�
Iron bars, chains, high prison walls,
Can rob us of our freedom,
Not of our revolutionary spirit!
Rotten prison fare and vermin
May waste our flesh
But cannot wear out our courage!
The final victory will be ours!
We steel and temper ourselves
To fight bravely on!
The day will come
When red flags follow the sun
To all parts of the earth!
In the prison, Tao-ching meets another resolute Bolshevik fighter, Liu Yi-feng. Hearing the news of Lu Chia-chuan's death in the hands of Kuomintang from Liu Yi-feng, Tao-ching yearns to avenge him, avenge the thousands upon thousands of others who had given their lives for the revolution and blurts out, 'Mother, let me go to the soviet area! I want to take up arms...I can't bear this quiet life here!' Liu Yi-feng recalls and retells the advice of her husband, who was a Party leader and who was also killed by the Kuomintang � �Victory can't be won overnight � there's still a long path ahead strewn with difficulties. Go among the masses in earnest and work hard�, quoting this she tells Tao-ching to steel herself and work steadily and conscientiously. She says, �Go where the Party needs you most. You don't need a gun to fight the enemy. You can fight with your pen, with your ideas � even a washboard is a weapon in our hands.� These words tell the importance of battle of ideas. Many young people live under a false impression that it is only �action� that counts and think of all other works as �boring�. True, it signals their urge and impatience for change which is positive. But unless the ground is prepared thoroughly we cannot reap a harvest. That is the importance of agitation and propaganda. Unless this is properly and thoroughly carried out, there is every danger that �impatience� for action will lead to �impatience� for victories and makes them unprepared for setbacks and once forced to retreat tactically, they fall out. This is a sound advice of great importance for people like me.
a sense of
defeatism present among a section of academic community in the
Some people think and say that they would participate only in �revolutionary activities�. They forget the concrete realities in which they are living. For them �revolution� is a romantic notion divorced from reality. It does not involve coercing the government to implement its promises, as it is �reformist� for them. In fact, they use these as cloaks to mask their inaction. The history of all successful revolutions proves the sham of these ideas and how mistaken they are. This book too talks of the need to expose the ruling classes among the people by taking up the issues they themselves promise. �...Its not wrong to demand democracy from the enemy, for the simple reason that state power is still in their hands... The Kuomintang has a high-sounding constitution- we must show that its a sham. If they don�t give us democracy, they'll be slapping their own faces.�
is one, among a
host of the most interesting anecdotes in this book that tells us not
some petty excuses and refrain from taking part in peoples� movements.
professor of the university makes up his mind to join the revolution
his wife about it. When she asks him to change his mind and reminds him
old age, he says, �You may not know it, my dear, but some men are still
at ninety, while others are old at twenty. My mind's made up, so please
say any more!� Hearing this, the wife also expresses her desire to join
they both go and participate in the December 16th student
A meaningful life is not possible or achievable without struggle. History has proved it. There is no place in the entire world, that is what it is, but for the endeavours and sacrifices of our earlier generations. We, the young people would not be enjoying our happy life today if not for their struggles. There are umpteen problems in this world that require our urgent attention- social inequality, economic inequality, gender disparity, climate change and many such. The question is very simple, are we ready to take them up or hide under petty excuses? The Song of Youth is all about answering this question positively.