Khondker Mohammad Elias, Mujibbad. Dhaka: National Publications, 1972 (hardback). Pp.687.

Jun 22, 2020

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Mujibism, constituting the core principles which had evolved in Sheikh Mujibur Rahman throughout his tumultuous political career, turned out to be the guiding philosophy for a newly independent nation in despair. This particular political thought incorporated the values of secularism, nationalism, democracy and socialism. Mujibism had brought the wave of a new ‘ism’ in the course of global political development[1] in the early 1970s. At the time of grave strains between the nuclear superpowers, menacing strides of their mutually incompatible ideologies, proxy wars and propagandist manoeuvres – Mujibism gave the Bengali nation a cognitive stronghold to cling on to, a middle-ground for peace, neutrality and stability. Khondker Mohammad Elias’s magnum opus Mujibbad henceforth gives a structural and scientific framework to Mujib’s philosophy. Mujibbad was published under the supervision of Majeda Khondker from National Publications in North Shahjahanpur, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Written in 687 pages, it was published on 16 December 1972. Supposedly, no further editions of the book were produced. In this chef-d’œuvre, Elias critically introduces the readers to the very essence of Mujib’s complex political perspective by taking the route of an argumentative historian. In doing so, he argues that Mujib's ideology is not only rooted in the contemporary world of powerful anti-imperialist ideas but also the prehistoric folklores and values of Bengal. Elias pulls out the subtleties in the evolution of Bengali nationhood, going back to the ancient Aryans and Dravidians. He then carefully merges the class-consciousness and the socio-scientific construct behind the four guiding principles, especially from the Marxist-Leninist perspective.

Synopsis and Perspective 

Mujibbad is laid out in four parts and thirty-five chapters, along with an introduction and an elegant interview of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by the author himself at the beginning of it. The book stands in somewhat of a politico-historical narrative nonfiction genre in the realm of literary works. Since the author was affiliated with the leftist politics of the National Awami Party (NAP) in Pakistan and Bangladesh, the readers of the text will find his firm intellectual inclination towards the Marxist-Leninist ideals and their subtle amalgamation with the principles of Mujibism, especially that of socialism. The success and utmost necessity of leftist principles in the newly formed Bangladesh is what he reiterates throughout the book. He believes that a socialist way through the ideals of Sheikh Mujib – along with the essential defeat of the Western capitalist and imperialist forces – would create a democratic, oppression-free, and progressive society, a true golden Bengal. The author views the aggression of the Western capitalist and imperialist forces as a threat which must be defeated by democratic and socialist forces.

The book begins with an intriguing tête-à-tête between Bangabandhu and the author. It offers a deeper insight into the thoughts of Bangabandhu regarding how communalism had “plagued” the soul of Bangladesh; fanatic nationalism, internationalism, and the curious blend of his philosophy in regards to the political reality in the war-torn country. Regarding the “plague of communalism”, which was established by the colonial and neocolonial exploiters of Bengal, the Elias proclaims that the ones who are against the ideals of Marxism-Leninism are certainly against Mujibism in the same way as opposing the principles of Mujibism would imply opposing the Marxist-Leninist way.

Part I of the book, ‘Mujibbader Darshonik Patobhumi O Boigganik Bhitti’ (The Philosophical and Scientific Rationale for Mujibism), starts with Karl Marx’s famous statement from Das Capital: ‘workers of the world, unite!’. The preface shares a brief insight into the historical evolution of Marxism, Leninism, scientific socialism, and their entanglement. Part I consists of 19 chapters involving the evaluation of ideologies from all over the world – from the socialist perspective. In the chapters concerning the scientific and materialistic evolution of Marxism, the author states the power of the working people when they unite, as the revolutionary Marxist way of achieving egalitarian freedom. The author paraphrases the prophecy of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in establishing a communist society, through the materialistic dialect of history, suggesting the inevitability of establishing a socialist society in Bangladesh and the need for international assistance by the workers while doing so. He then evaluates the revolutionary ideology of Lenin, reiterating the words of Nadezhda Krupskaya[2] and Joseph Stalin[3] – as the extended and revised form of the Engelsian-Marxist ideals. The author then moves on to evaluate the principles of Mao Tse-tung, despising the involvement of Maoist China against the liberation movement of Bangladesh in 1971, when they had once picked up weapons to fight against oppression. The shelters of the Bangladeshi guerrillas were burnt thanks to Chinese advisors, who were the pioneers of the art of rural guerrilla warfare. The author then speaks of the four revolutions that shaped modern China. He quotes Lin Biao[4] as he writes of Maoism as the updated form of Marxist and Leninist philosophy. The author writes about Gandhism and the rise of the bourgeois politicians against the British Raj in the Indian subcontinent, as an influence of European liberal-democratic ideals. He reflects on the irony of Gandhism, in the assassination of Gandhi by the Hindu nationalist Nathuram Godse. He also criticizes the ideology of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, or Jinnahism, comparing Jinnah’s communal ‘Islamic Socialism’ in Pakistan with the fascist nationalism promoted in Adolf Hitler’s Germany. Then he reflects on Zionism with a similar perspective and makes a clear demarcation between Zionism and the Jewish State. He argues that the oppressive stance of Zionism has latched on to the tails of imperialism and monopolistic capitalism, spreading its network across the leadership Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and even Pakistan – under the wings of American imperialism. The author then analyzes the revolutionary philosophy of Gamal Abdel Nasser and how Muslim brotherhood obstructed the growth of scientific socialism. He critiques the ideals of Marshal Josip Broz Tito of former Yugoslavia. He analyzes the feature of Tito’s national neo-democratic government which was comprised of the patriotic bourgeoisie, the petite bourgeoisie, intellectuals, peasants and workers. He mentions that 92% of the industries, 87% of metal engineering and 95% of railway engineering belonged to the state, where 95% of the land belongs to the peasants. The remaining chapters deal in the scientific and philosophical mechanism of Mujibism, democratic revolution, economy and the dream of a golden Bengal. As the author writes: ‘Mujibism is the philosophy of a socialist revolution in Bangladesh. Throughout the prolonged history of the national struggle of Bengalis, Mujibism is the historic eventuality of Bengali revolutionism – its scientific manifestation’. The ‘Mujibist Revolution’, as the author states, would occur in two phases: a) evolution of Bengali nationalism, a successful movement for independence and a national democratic revolution; b) construction of scientific socialism in Bangladesh, to build an oppression-free social system, and to materialize the dream of Sonar Bangla. The very first instances of ‘national’ struggle were the confrontations between the local Dravidians and the gipsy Central Asians called the Aryans. Throughput the course of history, the author claims, Bangabandhu transformed the scientific revolutionism of the people into the ‘socialist revolutionism’. This scientific revolutionism is the philosophy of Mujibism. At one point, the author goes as far as making a critical comparison of Bangabandhu with his mentor and political rival, Moulana Bhasani. He states that at the election phase of November 1970, Moulana Bhasani demanded an ‘independent East Pakistan’, not an ‘independent Bangladesh’. With the same rhetoric of a Marxist-Leninist revolution over and over again, the author argues that only the principles of Mujibism can lead to the growth of revolutionary ideas, which in turn will materialize the dream of a golden Bengal.

Part II, ‘The Evolution of Mujibism’, consists of 10 chapters. It begins with the evolution of the class-consciousness and national struggle of ancient Bengalis. The author writes that for thousands of years the Bengali people have fought for the preservation of their cultural uniqueness, which has developed revolutionary elements in their nationhood. He speaks of the amalgamation of ancient Bengali and Aryan faith, which gave birth to the orthodox Hinduism and its concrete deities. He mentions the evolution of the Bengali language in the course of civilization. He speaks of three ethnic branches related to the blood and language of modern Bengalis, namely the Austric, the Vedda and the Mongolian people. The author then takes an analytical dive into the course of historical events that led to the present state of the Bengalis, speaking of the impacts of British imperialism and their Machiavellian ‘divide and rule’ stratagem in the name of establishing order in the subcontinent. This, in turn, gave birth to the unending plague of communal hatred among the Hindus and Muslims of the region, states the author. Then came the era of ‘terrorism’ – as a manifestation of Bengali revolutionism. In this context, the author notes that Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s ‘Anandamoth’ and swami Vivekananda’s ‘Hindu Renaissance’ played crucial roles. The author also speaks of Khudiram Bose, Prafulla Chaki and numerous other revolutionaries. Then he focuses on the development of neocolonialism in Pakistan, where the author produces statistics of disparities in the region. He harshly criticizes the American capitalist policies in this regard. On Bangladesh’s geopolitics, the author reflects on the theory of ‘lebensraum’ or ‘living space’ by the German geologist Friedrich Ratzel who advocated the right to forcefully confiscate a foreign territory as a part of the national interest. He focuses on the defeat of the imperial force in Washington and its neocolonial ally in Karachi by the iron-fist of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his Marxist-Leninist-Gandhist allies. He mentions seven forces which gave birth to and looked after the Pakistani ruling elites, namely – feudalism, monopolistic capitalism, bureaucratism, militancy, colonialism, neocolonialism, and imperialism. The Awami League fought against the combined effort of these forces. The author mentions the historical 6-points laid out by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as the charter of independence for the Bengali nation. Throughout the flow of events, the author reveals that he was once called by Bangabandhu, who was anxious that the imperial forces might conspire to turn Bangladesh into another blood-soaked Indonesia or Vietnam. Bangabandhu wanted to save Bangladesh, and independence was the only way.

Part III, ‘The Basic Principles of Mujibism’, comprises of 5 chapters. The author believes that the experiences of class struggle and national struggle had given rise to a pluralist national unity. The principles of Mujibism – secularism, nationalism, democracy and socialism – are the nuts and bolts to the statecraft and Bengali nationhood. Along with these ideals, a national democratic and economic revolution are prerequisites for the establishment of socialism in the country. The Mujibist ‘secularism’ does not imply atheism or faithlessness, rather tolerance. Humanity is the greatest treasure in the Sonar Bangla dreamt by Mujib. After the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte, the rise of the Russian Tsars, Austro-Hungarian Empire, British Colonial power, and the fall of King Louis after the French Revolution – all had culminated in the creation of the concept of extreme-right nationalism in European. But the author argues that the Mujibist form of ‘nationalism’ is progressive, left-wing and projected towards the poor working-class people of the country. Out of the thirteen types of democracies stated by the author, he proposes the ‘socialist democracy’ as the best method which can ensure a classless and free social system. Dissecting furthermore, he classifies socialism into a) utopian socialism, b) guild socialism, c) state socialism, d) Fabian socialism, e) Christian socialism, f) Islamic socialism, g) national socialism, and h) democratic socialism. He states that socialism can be established either through a parliamentary democracy or a revolution, but it is an internationalist movement of the workers and peasants against the exploiters.

Part IV, ‘The limitations of Mujibism’, is where the author sums up the entire text with a critical analysis of the limitations in Mujibism. In general, this part of the book warns the Awami league so that its leaders may learn from the Bolsheviks of Russia and guard Mujibism against the corrupt officials and foreign perpetrators.  

The Critique 

The famous French absurdist philosopher Albert Camus once responded to a question regarding why he despised the communists, saying that they were running towards something which does not exist – a prophecy.[5] The author of Mujibbad, Khondker Mohammed Elias, seems to have a strong inclination towards the idea of communism via a socialist revolution, throughout the book. Each of the thirty-five chapters reiterates the importance of the establishment of scientific socialism through the teachings of Engelsian-Marxism and Leninism. Even the four guiding principles of Mujibism have been explained keeping in mind the one true dream of the author – a socialist political system. Despite ‘socialism’ being a major pillar in the political philosophy of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, arguably it was not the most important one. An interview back in 1964 asserts his unequivocal attachment towards socialism, but it was nonetheless a diplomatic option to keep the leftists content.[6] If there were one principle to choose for the betterment of Bangladesh, it would be ‘secularism’ – to cleanse the nation from the curse of communal hatred. The interviews and books authored by Mujib indicate the chronology of his principles. After secularism, he chose his version of ‘progressive nationalism’, which would establish a sense of solidarity among the workers, intellectuals, students and the general mass. Democracy would stand next, as a custodian of civil rights. Finally, a set of socialist policies would govern the statecraft to prevent the inclusion of imperial conspirators, and ensure and stable economy. Henceforth, contrary to what the author thinks – opposition against Marxism-Leninism would not necessarily mean a stand against Mujibism under normal circumstance. This unusual bias is perhaps the only major limitation or conflict of interest in the entire book. Nonetheless, Mujibbad is a provocative and authentic book regarding the life and philosophy of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. It is partly because of the great friendship that the two had held, which was obvious in the tone of their conversation and the pictures within the book. Therefore, despite a few errors here and there, Khondker Mohammad Elias kept an overall scholarly and authoritative tone regarding the explanation of minor details of Bengali cultural history, and the factual authenticity of the events and numbers that are included in the book. All in all, Mujibbad has earned its place as a historical artefact and a work of great value – for a greater understanding of the man who had once single-handedly guarded the fragile psyche of an entire nation, as once did the great Horatius of Rome:

“Then out spoke brave Horatius, the Captain of the Gate:

To every man upon this earth, death cometh soon or late;

And how can man die better than facing fearful odds,

For the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods”[7]


[1] “‘Father’ of Bangladesh” The New York Times <https://www.nytimes.com/1975/01/27/archives/father-of-bangladesh-mujibur-rahman.html> accessed 13 February 2020.

[2] Nadezhda Krupskaya is the wife of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, or Lenin.

[3] Joseph Stalin is the Leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from the mid-1920s till 1953.

[4] Lin Biao is Mao’s successor, who played vital roles in the communist victory in the Chinese civil war (1927-1950).

[5] Albert Camus, The Stranger (India: Vintage Books, 1989).

[6] Muniruzzaman, ‘Bangabandhu’s flambeau’ (in Bangla) Sangbad (Dhaka, 13 January 2020) <http://print.thesangbad.net/opinion/post-editorial/%E0%A6%AC%E0%A6%99%E0%A7%8D%E0%A6%97%E0%A6%AC%E0%A6%A8%E0%A7%8D%E0%A6%A7%E0%A7%81%E0%A6%B0%2B%E0%A6%AE%E0%A6%B6%E0%A6%BE%E0%A6%B2-69176/> accessed 17 June 2020.

[7] Thomas Babington Macaulay, Lays of Ancient Rome (London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, Paternoster-Row 1847).

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Ahnaf Tahmid Arnab is a student at the Department of Government and Politics in Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh.