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Mainstream, Vol. XLVIII, No 38, September 11, 2010

On Sumanta Banerjee’s Open Letter

Friday 17 September 2010, by Dipanjan Rai Chaudhuri


Sumanta Banerjee is shocked at actions by intellectuals of West Bengal which might help the TMC electorally. He thinks a TMC victory will be a disaster for the people of West Bengal, and points to the bad performance of TMC-led panchayats, Mamata Banerjee’s Congress (and Youth Congress) antecedents, including support of the Emergency and closeness to Siddhartha Ray, her political mistakes, her controversial acts of commission and omission as the Railway Minister.

Sumanta Banerjee castigates the CPI-M. He urges the intellectuals to participate in elections on a ‘sadbhavana’ platform and create a third space. Does he really believe that such a platform will impress the people who know that all electoral parties talk morality before the elections? He underestimates the height of popular hatred of the people against the CPI-M. All transgre-ssions of the TMC and its leader will be forgiven and forgotten for the time being, because, the people want to see the end of CPI-M rule (they waited forgivingly 32 years for the CPI-M to change). And, so, in fact, such a platform won’t be popular because the people will see at once that insofar it will have any effect, it will split the anti-CPI-M votes and help the CPI-M. (Such a platform is the need of the day in urban and suburban West Bengal, not to indulge in electoral farce, but to start a movement to mobilise and unite the people against corruption, neo-liberal monopolistic aggression, state terror, and fascist interference, as suggested by Sumanta Banerjee in an earlier intervention. One cannot but agree with Sumanta Banerjee that intellectuals should concentrate on building such a platform. But this should be in preparation for a Nav Nirman-or Sampurna Kranti-like movement and not for fighting elections.)

ONE feels sad that a perceptive and experienced political activist and author like Sumanta Banerjee does not see that a third electoral platform is a non-starter at this point, Is he suggesting this measure as a debating ploy? The only party which can dislodge the CPI-M is the TMC, and to rule out the TMC as the alternative is to accept the continuation of CPI-M rule. Sumanta Banerjee has asked the intellectuals many questions. Only one question for him—Do you prefer the CPI-M to win the next Vidhan Sabha elections or the TMC, if this is the only real choice?

In 1967, the Congress was defeated electorally for the first time in this State, and a UF Government was formed. Jyoti Basu was the Home Minister. As results were declared, we remember covering street lamps with red cellophane and putting up strings of green banana and brinjol to spite the Congress leaders. I am sure Sumanta Banerjee celebrated the Congress defeat. But this UF soon fired on Naxalbari peasants and killed the “Saptakanya, Seven Daughters”. Were we wrong in wanting a Congress defeat?

What’s in a name? Much. Some would say that we were right because the CPI-M was against the Congress. Had the initials heralded the name, “Capitalists’ Running Dogs Party of India (Masked not Marxist!)”, would we have been wrong in wanting a defeat for the Congress?

In 1977, too, we were happy that the party of the Emergency was defeated. Were we wrong again? Coming to 2010 we find that the victorious party of 1977 has surrendered to capital and adopted blindly the Buddha-Nirupam neo-liberal policy of inviting and subsidising big capital for jobless growth. It has the policy and the money and muscle power to keep the urban populace subservient to its local ‘leaders’. To ‘pacify’ the rural masses who, after Singur, are showing an uncharacteristic intransigence in fighting on issues affecting them, the Harmad has been created, with not less than 50 armed camps, as estimated officially, in the Jangal Mahal. None of us has any intention of forgetting what the Harmad did in Nandigram. From Ananda Margis on Bijon Setu to Chhoto Angaria, the CPI-M has clearly demonstrated what it will do to political opponents who have the temerity to enter what it regards as its backyards. Every one of us can narrate experiences similar to, though perhaps a degree or two more or less harrowing than, that of Manik Mondal, who was asked to leave Netajinagar for writing a novel on Nandigram, and whose wife was asked to leave a queue for collecting electoral ID cards. Naba Datta, a prominent human rights worker (with no connection to any Maoist outfit), was arrested and is being harassed with a plethora of false cases, at the behest of the sponge iron lobby, because Naba Datta campaigned against sponge iron pollution.

This is now a party of the money-bags, a party with guns and armies of hoodlums to use them in their task of intimidation, a party with a one-point programme of cornering votes, by hook or by crook, intimidation and booth capture, followed by graft, jobbery, embezzlement, and loot. It meets all the symptoms and characteristics of a fascist party, and the people who are not its cronies will ask Sumanta Banerjee, if you agree with all that has been said about the CPI-M, pray tell us how Mamata will be worse?

SUMANTA BANERJEE might ask in reply: will Mamata be better? Insofar as she does not have any alternative to the neo-liberal programme of relying only on big capital, she will indeed follow sooner or later the same path as the
CPI-M. The question of being ‘better’ doesn’t arise. But, in the beginning, she will be forced by the class composition of her party workers—a considerable part being unemployed youth from the lower middle class and the labouring classes —to take some populist measures, again like the CPI-M, just after 1977, the pressure in their case having come not only from the unemployed youth but also from the sharecroppers and the landless peasants. But, if anyone thinks that the TMC will take a consistently pro-people stand, rude disillusion-ment awaits that person

Trying to choose between two representatives of the ruling classes always generates more heat than light. The real reason for all democratic people to unite against the CPI-M, in struggle and in elections, is not because Mamata is better, but to establish that the people can and will throw out an evil government. This will remind the ruling classes (who have forgotten 1967 and 1977?) to rein in the fascist fringe, in the only language other than gunfire which they understand—an electoral debacle, and will give confidence to the people in their fight for democracy. If the CPI-M wins despite Singur, Nandigram, and the Harmad, many people will conclude in despondence that the struggle for democracy is useless and the only way to survive is through cronyhood. A CPI-M victory will stop the struggle temporarily, a dispirited people cannot fight. A CPI-M defeat will raise the spirits of the people and strengthen the movement for democracy. As the new rulers start falling into the ruts of class rule, people will learn that storming the state is much more than changing a government, but that is a different narrative.

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