Thursday, February 9, 2012

Comrade Jesus Christ, CPI (M)

The State Committee of the Kerala unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is in session at the State capital, Trivandrum. Several All-India leaders are taking part.

A few days back a Kerala leader of this Party, who is undergoing a contempt of Court case, made a rather sensational remark – Jesus Christ and Prakash Karat, the All India General Secretary of the party are alike. One thing that I am sure of is that Karat will not be crucified.

The criticisms that some people might raise against Karat – perhaps trying to prevent Jyothi Basu from becoming the Prime Minister of India, withdrawing the support to the Congress during the last Parliament so that the government could implement the policies the Marxists opposed, and administratively reducing the Party to the district sized Tripura. None of this requires crucifixion in democratic countries.

But Karat is facing a major problem. He heads a party which has no manifesto. That is not his fault. Initially there was Russia for money and methods. Then it was China. VS Achudanandan, former Chief Minister and present Leader of the Opposition in Kerala State was, it is said, demoted from the Central Committee of the Party for donating blood to the Indian Army when China attacked India. But the Asian neighbour is now becoming a capitalist country. I don’t think that anyone would claim that N.Korea and Cuba are democratic countries and their systems can work in India.

But some Latin American ideologies could give a bit of hope to CPI (M). Ernesto "Che" Guevara (14 June 1928 –9 October 1967) was a combination of many things – medical doctor, intellectual, Marxist revolutionary, writer, military theorist and diplomat. There is Venezuela as well. Reportedly, the Indian Marxists are trying to form a manifesto on Latin American model, with some changes to suit India.

I wonder how many Indian Communists know the name MN Roy (1887 - 1954). He was the most intellectual and the only internationally accepted Indian Communist leader. He and Vladimir Lenin worked together. He formed the first Communist Party outside Russia, in Mexico. He then organized the Communist Party of India October 17, 1920 at Tashkent. When Joseph Stalin started transforming Communism into dictatorship, MN Roy left the scene.

The Oxford University Press has published four volumes of MN Roy’s writings. Because the Project Editor died in 2008, further publications have stopped. CPI (M) could go through the ones that are available and hopefully get some ideas for their new manifesto.

Back to Jesus Christ. Even before the CPI split in 1964, the Party quietly revived utsavams (festivals) in several Kerala temples. This provided them a great propaganda opportunity. In the 1950s and 1960s, the most appreciated entertainment in Kerala was the left oriented dramas by Kerala People’s Art Club (KPAC). The songs from those plays could be heard everywhere.

In the 1990s the Christian churches were targeted. The operators assigned for this were mostly Pulaya converts to Christianity who were actually loyal to the left. They started getting into the Parish Committees which manage the church affairs. The priests could not have been blind to this development. In my parish when a party and church committee member died, to start the last rites, the priest had to wait outside the man’s house till the Communist leaders left after their procedures.

Well, at the State Committee meeting the CPI (M) exhibited a picture of Jesus on Cross, along with those of the Communist revolutionaries. Different leaders praised Christ as a great revolutionary. One even quoted Fidel Castro saying in 1971 that there are 10,000 similarities between the Bible and the Communist dogma based on dialectical materialism. I suppose that nobody would bother to count.

Jesus Christ Super Star? Or should it be Lal Salam (Red Salute), Jesus Christ?


Anand Antony said...

Good tongue-in-cheek article and makes interesting reading. Don't disagree on the points raised but I have another view. Jesus Christ was a revolutionary, he did not create a religion and there is nothing wrong in him being used by a party professing revolution. After all his name has so long been used by the followers of Christianity which is actually a religion created by St. Paul. Overall I see this as a smart and opportunistic move by CPM and as such there is nothing immoral in it.

Happy Kitten said...

Would like to agree with Anand.. Jesus was indeed a revolutionist, put to death by those who hated his interference in the life of those who professed to be closest to the Almighty in those days. Not very different from the present times. If a party in Kerala can change things around.. very good for the Christians! :)

Justice K.T Thomas did utter a paiful truth.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Anand Antony, Happy Kitten, thank you for the comments. The whole problem is that the Marxists didn’t plan properly the welcoming of Christ into their group and the move appears to have misfired. One cause was that just before the conference da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’ was redone by somebody under the title ‘Last Supper of Capitalists’. It had Obama as Christ. His ears were curved up like devil’s horns. All others in the picture were political faces. It was removed after a few days because of protest.

A top Communist leader stated that it was the artist’s imagination. But then, the imagination of an artist can be applied only to his creations and not to that of others. CPIM then disclaimed the picture and according to one report even filed a police case. But by then the credibility was lost.

One of the Marthomite Church Metropolitans said almost what both of you are saying. But leaders of other churches say that Christ was a different kind of revolutionary and cannot be compared to the Communist radicals whose pictures were also exhibited.

Personally I think the recent methodology adopted by the Kerala Communists was ill prepared. They are unlikely to gain anything. A good number of people might think that the Party has lost to the Church.

Happy Kitten said...

Personally, I think Jesus has been reduced to a figure head: inside the Church and now inside a communist party office. If the Christian leaders are taking an exception and suddenly feels offended, it would be a good sign, if they realize why.

Not sure how Jesus is different; he was killed only since he tried to bring radical change. If the Church wants to have an exclusive right over him, then it needs to tell why. I cannot see a reason.

As for Da Vince's Last Supper caricature, the same has been done to death... even by a Malayalam daily earlier.

Anand Antony said...

In my opinion it was unwise for the CPM to beat the retreat on the "last supper" issue. Gods and religious leaders (Hinduism often, Christianity sometimes and Islam generally excepted!)have been often depicted in political cartoons in the past and there were no furore whatsoever. In fact there was a cartoon in Manorama itself (see the link Notwihstanding this anyone can see that there was no intention of denigrating Jesus Christ in the cartoon.

Happy Kitten said...

Here is a link to the last supper being done with.. over and over..

Religion already gives some of us shivers... hopefully the Christian community will show better sense.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Happy Kitten, in a way, all gods are figureheads. But the fact is that millions believe in them. Nobody has an exclusive right to Jesus Christ. Any one can believe in him, admire him. But the sudden attachment of the Communists to Jesus Christ makes many people smell a rat. Christ has never been given such importance by the Communist anywhere in the world.
The forthcoming Piravam election could be the Marxist’s motive for this sudden love for Christ.
An interesting thought. What would people’s reaction be if the pictures of Marx, Engles and Che Guevara were placed in the churches?

Abraham Tharakan said...

Anand Antony, I agree with you that the Marxists should have ignored the picture. It is in such things that their leadership fails.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Happy Kitten, one of the major problems is that generally the Christians in Kerala do not think as we do. And, the State CPIM Secretary has been, during the last few years, calling bishops all sorts of names like “rotten creatures”. We cannot expect the people to restrain from reacting to such insults.