ALL VIJAYANS are not winners. There are Vijayans who are winners and Vijayans who are losers. When two Vijayans are locked in struggle only one can win. So the other must lose. In a long drawn out war, there are many battles and there is a winner and a loser in each of them. The real winner then is the one who wins the last battle.
M. N. Vijayan and Pinarayi Vijayan came up winning battles in different fields. Pinarayi Vijayan won until he became Kerala State Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and a member of the party’s Politburo. M. N. Vijayan won until he became the guiding force of the pro-CPI (M) art and literature organization, Purogamana Kalasahitya Sangham, and Editor of the party’s Deshabhimani weekly. While fighting their separate battles they were friends. When M. N. Vijayan took over as Editor of Padham magazine, which was attacking the CPI (M) leadership, even as he remained editor of the party publication, they became foes.
In the condolence message distributed to the media on M. N. Vijayan’s death, Pinarayi pointedly referred to his friendship and enmity with the party. He also certified that M. N. Vijayan was a distinguished college teacher. He saw in M. N. Vijayan no other quality worth mentioning. Pinarayi’s message prompted Advocate Jayashankar to speculate in a television programme on how the party State Secretary would remember Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan at some future date. He came to the conclusion that Pinarayi would describe him as “a distinguished tailor”. If Jayashankar had gone one step farther and tried to figure out how Pinarayi would be remembered at some future, the question that M. V. Devan asked might have come up. Unlike Devan, M. N. Vijayan never asked if Pinarayi had done a spot of work. In fact, in an interview published last year, he had evaluated Pinarayi in these words: “He had the capacity to organize workers. In those days Pinarayi Vijayan was the name of efficient organizational effort.” As for the present, avoiding personal references, he said, “We assess a person in politics by the political impact that he makes. Political effect is always a decisive factor. The persona is very irrelevant. Its place is elsewhere.”
The political effect of Pinarayi Vijayan and M. N. Vijayan needs to be studied. They reached the heights of left-wing politics through different routes. Pinarayi reached the top fighting his way up from the lowest levels. Entering public life without any special circumstances that favour him, he was ready to offer the sacrifices that the Communist Party demanded. Europeans had brought together Marx and Freud even before World War II. M. N. Vijayan attracted attention by doing that in Kerala. After attaining a high place in the cultural sphere, he made a lateral entry into politics. He then took up the task of tying up Malayalam literary and cultural activities with the CPI (M). Without being a party member, he became the party’s cultural commissar.
He did not hesitate to justify party men hacking a school teacher, who belonged to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, in front of his pupils. He saw nothing wrong in burning to death the snakes of Pappinassery to settle scores with M. V. Raghavan. There was really no need for a person who demonstrated such loyalty to the party to quarrel with the party leadership. Yet he quarrelled. It was the feeling that the party was on the wrong track that led to it.
An organization must change with the times. The CPI (M) could not make timely changes because party minds had remained frozen at some point in the past. The political gains made by the leadership through tactical moves at a time when Kerala society was sliding backwards enabled the party to hide this fact. In the absence of any adversary with a modern face, this weakness did not become a big problem.
Pinarayi Vijayan entered the scene as a leader capable of leading the way for changes as a time when the need for changes was being recognized increasingly by the party and the public. But he soon came to symbolize the wrong kind of changes. Both friends and foes made their contributions to the transformation of his image in this manner. It was M. N. Vijayan’s role in this matter that prompted Pinarayi Vijayan to state that he was a fierce foe of the party in his last days.
M. N. Vijayan’s charges against the party leadership conveyed the impression that he wanted the party to remain unchanged. But, essentially, what he raised was a moral issue, not an ideological one. His quarrel was against the moral decline at the leadership level. Since he was not a party member, the leadership could not contain his revolt by expelling him or demoting him to a lower committee.
When he was a friend of the party, M. N. Vijayan could easily have got any post and position it could offer. But he did not become an Ezhuthachchhan Award winner, an academy chairman or a vice-chancellor. Because of that, he remains high above those who received such rewards.
M. N. Vijayan departed after winning a battle. He realized that it was not the final battle and went to the Press Club of Thrissur to sound the bugle for the next battle. Though he is no more, the war goes on. Hence the party leadership’s eagerness to pull him down from the high place that he had reached during his lifetime, drag him to his old college and tie him down there.
M. N. Vijayan’s revolt and the party's response to it have circumscribed left-wing thought in such a way that it looks as though Stalinism and capitalism are the only alternatives before us. This betrays the intellectual limit of those engaged in debates here. We must be able to understand that there are various possibilities outside them and explore them. In trying to figure out which Vijayan will finally win, we must keep in mind these words of M. N. Vijayan: political effect is the decisive factor; persona does not matter.
Based on column “Nerkkazhcha” appearing in Kerala Kaumudi dated October 12, 2007