It has been a decade since Professor M.N. Vijayan—a Leftist scholar of great repute, an incisive writer and orator, a social critic and an unyielding political activist which Kerala has ever seen—collapsed and died in the middle of a press conference in Trissur, Kerala.
Born in 1930, M.N.Vijayan had his early education in Thrissur and Ernakulam. His acquaintance with the freedom movement began in his early life. At the beginning he was a Leftwing sympathiser within Indian National Congress like other Communists. He became an inevitable part of the progressive movement in Kerala after its formation. Vijayan took his MA from the University of Madras and became a teacher in Madras New College. After his return to Kerala to take up the teaching profession in the Brennen College, Thalassery—where he spent a considerable part of his life—he had been a fellow traveller of communism. For over five decades M.N.Vijayan wrote and spoke extensively on art, literature, politics, philosophy and psychology. His powerful voice against fascism and communalism earned quite a lot of enemies for him. Vijayan’s oratory was so amazing that he could sustain his audience across broad sections of Kerala society till his last breath. His early passion for Freudian psychology brought forth a number of articles and books. Vijayan’s modesty did not permit to receive the Sahitya Academy award. The ‘neocultural-materialism’ of Vijayan had a unique style and expression with simple anecdotes and metaphors constituting an important part of his public-speeches.
Vijayan was associated with CPI-M for long and left the party due to ideological differences regarding the economic policies related to globalization. The triggering point of the differences was when he started questioning the very rationale and purpose of foreign funding in the background of the ‘People’s Planning’ the LDF Government had launched in 1996. Unfortunately, M.N. Vijayan who devoted a considerable part of his life to the Left cause in Kerala was under siege for some time and he had to encounter a whole lot of intellectual attacks paraded by the CPI-M. He had held the post of the chief editor of Deshabhimani (cultural mouthpiece of CPI-M) and headed Purogamana Kala Sahithya Sangham (Society for Progressive Art and Literature) while in the Party. After parting ways with the Party his activism focused on movements against the heightened neo-liberal interventions and policy shifts of the government. His vision and activism had led to the formation of the Adhinivesha Prathirodha Samiti (Association for Resistance Against Imperialism) in Kerala.
M.N. Vijayan was exhorting the people to be conscious about the booming ‘consumerist self-selling culture’ that capitalism has been diffusing across the world in the name of globalisation. “This is degradation, and under neoliberalism it has assumed the character of greater individualism and vulgar depoliticisation.” Vijayan warned that neo-liberalism was determined to end the political influence in society.
In his numerous public speeches Vijayan spelled out his forebodings of the various manifestations of authoritarianism and the advent of oligarchy in political organizations. The role of media in manufacturing tastes and preferences, predilection for fascism as a media construct etc. along with his other themes compose the political and cultural dimensions of his interventions.
In his last press conference on October 3, 2007, in Thrissur, where he collapsed (and died) after speaking a few words, he called upon the people to be vigilant, as the ‘bus’ is already running on the wrong track. He fumbled as he proceeded to speak further about what the people should do. The media room was literally shaken when a towering personality of his stature chose the last moments of his life with fellow journalists.
Before a decade, Professor Vijayan was appealing to the Kerala society to be vigilant and resistant at a time when neo-liberal capitalism was devouring our lives. The society has been spellbound by the mirages offered by the credit economy and capitalist aspirations. Vijayan was cautioning against the false contentment created by neo-liberalism. He started crtiquing the mainstream Left when he felt that even the Left parties had fallen prey to the neo-liberal hallucinations. Thus he proved himself to be a ‘dissenter-extraordinary’ which not many people of his generation or his successors could accept because of the powerful nature of his penetrating analysis.