Letter from the Editors of LeftWord Books
The BJP government has decided that it is time to turn its attention to the epidemic of lynching that engulfs India. It has asked Amit Shah, the Home Minister, to turn his languid eye towards these fires that are burning from Dadri (where Mohammed Akhlaq was lynched in 2015) to Dhatkidih (where Tabrez Ansari was lynched in 2019). If you look carefully at the record of the BJP central and state governments, it would be foolish to assume that they will be seized of the hideousness of these murders.
A few weeks ago, we were pleased to release Subhash Gatade's Modinama: Issues That Did Not Matter (also in Hindi). Subhash, a veteran journalist, catalogues the violence during the first term of the prime ministership of Narendra Modi. He does not sanitise the violence, which has come to define contemporary India. The attempted murder of the woman who accused a BJP MLA of rape in the Unnao case is another example of this violence.
Over the past few months, we have published two books on the RSS, which has – since 1925 – developed the philosophy of social suffocation and toxicity. These books – by A.G. Noorani (The RSS: A Menace to India) and Raosaheb Kasbe (Decoding the RSS: Its Tradition and Politics) – offer a firm rejoinder to the views of the RSS and its political arm, the BJP. The lynchings by groups such as the 'gau rakshaks' are not the work of random, murderous gangsters, but emanate from the philosophy of the RSS. This is political violence, not criminality alone.
It was this violence that has turned its machetes against writers and publishers – including our own LeftWord Books author (of Who Was Shivaji?) and Communist leader Govind Pansare (1933-2015).
Last year, we – at LeftWord Books – began a conversation about how to raise awareness about the attack on writers and reason, and how to galvanise people around the world to stand with writers and reason. We came up with the idea of Red Books Day.
On 21 February 1848, a very young Marx and Engels published the first edition of the Communist Manifesto. We have decided to hold Red Books Day on that day, with global readings of the Manifesto from Japan to Chile. Thus far, we have about twenty-five international partners for Red Books Day, and six partners within India. The Indian partners include Bharathi Puthakalayam (Tamil Nadu), Chintha (Kerala), Desher Katha (Tripura), National Book Agency (West Bengal), Nava Telangana (Telangana), and Prajasakti (Andhra Pradesh). Our foreign partners run the gamut from Second Thesis (South Korea) to Livraria Expressão Popular (Brazil). Each of these publishing houses – alongside bookstores and political movements – will host a public reading of the Manifesto in their own languages on Red Books Day.
As part of the campaign, Bharathi Puthakalayam held a two-day workshop on the Manifesto and on Red Books Day in Ooty in Tamil Nadu on 27 and 28 July. Communist Party of India (Marxist) Politburo Member M.A. Baby addressed the workshop, talking about the importance of the text, its impact on the world, and the need to return to the Manifesto and its tradition in order to deepen the movement of workers and peasants. The workshop was also addressed by G. Ramakrishnan and N. Gunasekaran, leaders of CPI (M) in the state, and M. Sivalingam, whose new translation of the Manifesto into Tamil was recently published by Bharathi Puthakalayam.
K. Nagarajan (publisher) and P.K. Rajan (editor) of Bharathi Puthakalayam are working hard to ensure that there are a remarkable 10,000 public readings of the book on 21 February 2020 (and that there are sales of a 100,000 copies of the new Tamil edition). Such numbers plainly make our heads spin.
At LeftWord, we are very proud of our new edition of the Communist Manifesto. Our volume is a bilingual edition. The Manifesto has been newly translated into Hindi by CPI (M) Politburo member Subhashini Ali. Her translation is fresh and lyrical – a window into the youthful and hopeful prose of Marx and Engels. In the Hindi belt of India, we shall be reading this new Hindi translation on Red Books Day.
To join the Red Books Day festival, please write to [email protected]. Souradeep Roy – our Red Books Day organiser – will sign you up.
We hope that all our LeftWord Book Club members will join us on Red Books Day. We are going to try and connect you to each other if you live in the same town, and perhaps you could either become integral to the events at a bookstore or try and arrange your own event. More details on this will come to you soon.
We hope that Red Books Day will become a core part of the culture of the international left. Please become a part of it.
Sudhanva Deshpande & Vijay Prashad
Editors, LeftWord Books