Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Socialist who became a Communist

EMS Namboodiripad - History, Society and Land Relations: Selected Essays.

EMS Namboodiripad - The Frontline Years: Selected Articles.

LeftWord Books
Rs. 250 each

“Sankara was one of the tallest of India's (and the world's) idealist philosophers; his Advaita Vedanta is one of the richest contributions India has made to the treasury of human knowledge.” So declares Elamkulam Manakkal Sankaran Namboodiripad, known to the nation simply as EMS. The Marxist, who headed the world's first elected Communist government in Kerala, pays this tribute to the saint-philosopher from Kaladi in an essay in the academic journal, Social Scientist, on the occasion of Adi Sankara's 1,200th birth anniversary in 1989. “Is the participation of Marxist theoreticians (in the anniversary) not a betrayal of dialectical and historical materialism...?” ‘No', says EMS, recalling the recognition by Marx and Lenin of the contributions of idealist philosophy and philosophers. From the tribute, however, he proceeds to a trenchant criticism of Sankara and the Advaita Vedanta.

Pointing to the non-idealist streams of ancient Indian philosophy, including that of “the Buddha whose near-materialist philosophy gripped the mass of suppressed humanity,” EMS writes: “...those belonging to the materialist school had to fight an unequal fight and were therefore defeated...the defeat of the materialists in this unequal battle was the beginning of a millennium-long age of intellectual and socio-political backwardness which culminated in the establishment of British rule in our land.” The approach is illustrative of the world outlook that informs the entire volume titled “History, Society and Land Relations.”

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