Naxalite Movement and the influence of Lenin


Greetings, dear readers. As promised, I am writing about the Bengali Naxalite movement of the 1970s. This is based on a few texts written by level-headed historians and stories from the elders of my family across the spectrum of the political divide of that time. As a Bengali born in the 1970s, I find myself reflecting on the life and legacy of  Lenin and the profound impact his ideas had on my own homeland. Growing up in West Bengal during the tumultuous years of the Naxalite movement, my elder cousins witnessed firsthand the devastating consequences of a revolution gone astray.

Lenin, the mastermind behind the Bolshevik Revolution, was a figure who inspired many in our state. His call for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of a socialist state resonated with the disenfranchised and the marginalized. The Naxalite movement, which began as a peasant uprising in the village of Naxalbari in 1967, drew heavily from Lenin's ideas and tactics, including those of Mao's.

As a young Bengali, my elder cousin watched as the movement spread like wildfire across West Bengal and Calcutta. Young men and women, many of them brilliant students like him, took up arms and pledged to fight for the rights of the landless and the oppressed. They saw in Lenin a hero, a visionary who had shown the way to a better world. But alas, the reality was far from the utopian dream they had envisioned. The Naxalite movement, like Lenin's Bolshevik Revolution, was marked by violence, terror, and the suppression of dissent. The streets of Calcutta became battlegrounds, with clashes between the Naxalites and the police a daily occurrence. Many of his friends and classmates were swept up in the fervor, only to be imprisoned, tortured, or killed.

As I look back on those dark days, I cannot help but wonder if Lenin himself would have recognized the monster that his ideas had spawned. The Naxalite movement, like the Soviet Union under Lenin's leadership, had become a twisted caricature of its original ideals. The pursuit of a classless society had given way to a reign of terror, with anyone who dared to question the party line branded a traitor and an enemy of the people.

I must admit, even amidst the chaos and bloodshed, there were glimmers of hope. The Naxalite movement, for all its flaws, shone a light on the deep-seated inequalities and injustices that plagued our society. It gave voice to the voiceless and forced those in power to confront the reality of poverty and oppression. As a Bengali who lived through those turbulent times, my family cannot help but feel a sense of ambivalence towards Lenin and his legacy. On the one hand, we admire his commitment to the cause of the proletariat and his unwavering belief in the power of revolution to bring about change. On the other hand, we are all too aware of the dangers of dogmatism and the perils of unchecked power.

Perhaps the lesson we must take from Lenin and the Naxalite movement is that change, real change, cannot be imposed from above or below through violence and coercion. It must come from within, through dialogue, compassion, and a willingness to listen to those with whom we disagree. As I look back on the West Bengal of my youth, I am filled with a sense of sadness for the lives lost and the dreams shattered. But I am also filled with hope, hope that we can learn from the mistakes of the past and build a better future, one that upholds the ideals of justice, equality, and freedom for all.

Until next time, dear readers. May we never forget the lessons of history, and may we always strive to create a world in which the voices of the marginalized are heard and their rights are respected.


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