Aniket Alam 40
Heretic, Friend, Marxist, Father, Historian, Non-vegetarian, Journalist, Husband, Iconoclast, Student, Environmentalist, Traitor, Gastronome, Critic, Petit-Bourgeois, Procrastinator, Feminist, Photographer, Son, Revolutionary, Pen-pusher, Blogger ……
I was born in Calcutta in 1971. In chronological order, I have lived in Delhi, Shimla, Calcutta, York, Shimla, Delhi, London, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Delhi, back in Hyderabad and now in Bombay. I have visited Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Haiti, Jamaica, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Germany (when it was West), Nepal, Bangladesh, United States, South Africa and Switzerland.
I have worked with the International Labour Organisation, The Hindu newspaper, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Panos Network Foundation. At present I work as the executive editor of Economic and Political Weekly.
I have a Doctorate for a thesis I wrote on British Rule in the Western Himalayas, which was published by Cambridge University Press India in 2007 as Becoming India: Western Himalayas under British Rule.
I have been an activist of the Students’ Federation of India since I was in class 10 (1986) when I joined it in Shimla. I continued my association with SFI when I came to do my graduation in Delhi University (1989-92) and during my years in JNU [1992-98] when I was doing my MA and PhD research. Now I am politically inactive but like to call myself a verbal warrior for the left.
If at all I could distill the basic principles on which I live my (intellectual) life, it would be these –
*Dont be dogmatic,
*Dont make prophets out of humans,
*Your friends may be your worst enemies for learning new things while your enemies may teach you more,
*Educate yourself always, keep your mind open, never stop a new idea from blossoming,
*Learn from past mistakes.
The following lines from Che Guevara are like a talisman for me, I read them often to keep myself politically sane:
When asked whether or not we are Marxists, our position is the same as that of a physicist or a biologist when asked if he is a “Newtonian,” or if he is a “Pasteurian”.
There are truths so evident, so much a part of people’s knowledge, that it is now useless to discuss them. One ought to be “Marxist’ with the same naturalness with which one is “Newtonian” in physics, or “Pasteurian” in biology, considering that if facts determine new concepts, these new concepts will never divest themselves of that portion of truth possessed by the older concepts they have outdated. Such is the case, for example, of Einsteinian relativity or of Planck’s “quantum” theory with respect to the discoveries of Newton; they take nothing at all away from the greatness of the learned Englishman. Thanks to Newton, physics was able to advance until it had achieved new concepts of space. The learned Englishman provided the necessary stepping-stone for them.
Commandate Ernesto Che Guevara, Notes for the Study of the Ideology of the Cuban Revolution, October 1960.
The photo on the banner is a testament in self-criticism of my own politics and ideological affiliations. It is a cropped image from a famous photo of Lenin addressing Bolshevik workers who are off to fight for the revolution on the frontlines on the second anniversary of the Russian Revolution.
In his brilliant novel, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Milan Kundera recounts the incident where a leading Politbureau member of the Czech Communist Party was expelled and shot for anti-party activities and his image was airbrushed from the iconic group photo of the politbureau which hung in all public places. In their haste to airbrush their ex-comrade off the photo, the censors forgot to airbrush his hat. So, Kundera writes, the new, politically correct photo of the politbureau had one hat more than the number of people visible in it. He ends that part of his novel with one of my favourite slogans
The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting!
The image I have on my banner has a similar story. This photo became iconic in Bolshevik circles and spread far and wide all over the world. It showed Lenin in full flow, addressing the workers, who had picked up guns and were going to the frontline to fight the White forces with their lives. It was three days before the second anniversary of the Russian Revolution. On the side of the podium stood Leon Trotsky, the leader of the Red Army which was winning the war for the Revolution. About a decade later, when Trotsky fell out of favour with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, this image was doctored to extend the podium where Lenin stood and thus obliterating any visual image of Trotsky’s association with Lenin.
The image I have on my banner shows Lenin’s hands and Trotsky’s hat. It is a small and, perhaps silly, visual self-criticism of the petty, idiotic and ultimately tragic and fatal follies of communists and communist parties. I must add that for all its shortcoming and transgressions, I remain a convinced communist and deeply influenced by Marxism. I stand in solidarity with the communist project, which I own as my own, but which has so much to answer for. It is my way of reminding myself, and my comrades, of the great follies and tragedies enacted by us and the long path of self-criticism and self-correction we have to traverse.