Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2011 > CPM Abrogated the Regime of People’s Rights

Mainstream, Vol. XLIX, No 14, March 26, 2011

CPM Abrogated the Regime of People’s Rights

Monday 28 March 2011, by Barun Das Gupta

In a recent article, eminent economist and CPI-M ideologue Prabhat Patnaik has contended that Nandigram and Singur were just “tragic episodes” that “do not represent an iota of shift on the part of the Left to any alternative, abridged, regime of rights”. (Italics in original) He also asserts that “the Left, in short, is the only consistent force that works in the direction of carrying forward the long democratic revolution in our country. The Left is different from all of them because it can visualise going beyond the boundaries of capitalism.” (Italics in original)

He also claims that “however mistaken one may think the handling of those two cases (Singur and Nandigram—B.D.G.) by the Left Front Government was, one cannot say that they represented an attempt by the Left to dilute or abrogate the regime of democratic rights of the people”. (Italics mine—B.D.G.) Patnaik has also claimed that “The Left is different from all of them because it can visualise going beyond the boundaries of capitalism.”

These statements and claims cannot be allowed to go uncontradicted and unchallenged. Before going into the question of the democratic credentials of the CPI-M as seen in its methods of governance and dealing with its political opponents in West Bengal for nearly three-and-a-half decades, let us examine the claim that the Left—that is, the Left of the CPI-M genre—visualises going beyond the boundaries of capitalism.

In an interview to The Telegraph of Kolkata on February 28, 2007, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said:

“As Communists, we are changing all over the world. We are seriously thinking … why did the Soviet Union fail? … If it is only a state-owned economy, it will not work. We need all: state-owned companies, cooperatives, joint sector, private sector and foreign investors.” (Italics mine—B.D.G.) So, according to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, inviting the private sector and foreign investors is “going beyond the boundaries of capitalism”.

But this is not all. The piece de resistance comes later: “We were Communists some fifty years back. We believe in some basic tenets of Marxism. We are realists. I don’t like the word pragmatism; it smacks of opportunism. I prefer (the word) realist.” (Italics mine—B.D.G.) Yes, Bhattacharjee is a realist. The realist in him urges him to make hay while the sun shines. He unrolls the red carpet for the Tatas and the Ambanis, for the Dhoots and the Salims of Indonesia.

He orders acquisition of thousands of acres of fertile, multi-crop land and hands over this land on a platter to the desi and foreign industrialists for a song. If the peasants try to organise resistance to eviction, he issues a curt order to the police: “Blow them up.” The political parties organising the resistance of the peasantry are accused of conspiring to shut the door of industrialisation and industrial regeneration of Bengal for good. They are accused of being in cahoots with the hated and dreaded Maoists. An intense propaganda barrage is let loose through the print and electronic media. If the Tatas are made to abandon the Singur project, the people are told, then Bengal is doomed. The interest of the Tatas has become coterminous with that of Bengal. Neo-liberalism is the way to development, to creation of employment, to a surge of industrial activity. Forget old Marx. Capitalism does no longer retrench workers and reduce employment by automation. It generates employment. It has become people’s capitalism that the Yankees have been telling us for a long time.

Now juxtapose this view to what Patnaik says: “Through a myriad means in other words, involving in particular the use of corporate media, a propaganda barrage is unleashed that identifies the interests of the corporate and financial magnates as the ‘nation’s interest’.”

It will require all the sophistry and casuistry of a Prabhat Patnaik to reconcile the two views, to convince his readers that the Left (that is, the CPI-M) is the only political formation that “visualises going beyond the boundaries of capitalism” if we are to accept the statement of Bhattacharjee as the official position of the
CPI-M. The party has not disowned or distanced itself from the Bengal Chief Minister’s views. On his own confession, Bhattacharjee and his comrades abandoned communism “some fifty years back”.

Bhattacharjee raises the question: “Why did the Soviet Union fail?” Implicit in the question lies the answer: the Soviet Union failed precisely because it remained a purely state-owned economy, because it liquidated indigenous capitalism and because it did not invite the foreign monopoly capitalists. The party that split the undivided CPI together with all its mass organisations at the instigation of the Communist Party of China (CCP) four-and-a-half decades ago and accused the Soviet Communist Party of being revisionist and the Soviet state of being social-imperialist, today finds fault with the Soviet leadership for not going the whole hog the capitalist way! The Soviet Union failed not because it did not become capitalist but for a whole host of other socio-political and socio-economic reasons which are outside the purview of this article.

LET us now turn to the main (and totally prepos-terous) claim of Patnaik that barring Singur and Nandigram (only Singur and Nandigram, mind you, not anything else like Suchpur, Sainbari, Marichjhapi, Bantala, Dhantala, the burning alive of Ananda-margis in Kolkata and scores and dozens of other incidents, the latest being Netai in Medinipur), the Left has never attempted “to dilute or abrogate the regime of the rights of the people”.

Anyone acquainted with the social and political life of Bengal since the mid-1980s knows how democratic the regime of the CPI-M has been. The democratic sentiment of the CPI-M has been expressed again and again through the statements of its top leaders. Here are some random samples: “We will make hell the life of the people of Nandigram” (Benoy Konar, Central Committee member). “Let no Bengali mother name her daughter after Mamata” (Shyamal Chakraborty, ex-Minister). “I can drag her by the hair from here (Arambagh) to Kalighat” (Anil Basu, ex-MP). “Elections will come and go, then you will have a lot to answer for” (Ganashakti, the CPI-M daily, in a warning to non-CPI-M Left intellectuals). Then there are indecent and vulgar threats that cannot be quoted. (This writer’s article “CPI-M’s Downhill Journey in Bengal”, published in the Mainstream of July 11, 2009, gives an account of the terror tactics applied by the CPI-M.)

The party does not even try to conceal its intention of “abrogating the regime of the rights of the people”. The latest weapon of terror added to the arsenal of the CPI-M is the so-called Harmad Vahini or armed goons. They can be likened to the Storm Troopers of the Nazi Party in the Germany of the 1930s. Their job is to “capture” areas under the influence of the Opposition parties, kill or drive away their workers and supporters and consolidate the rule of the party. The Harmad Vahini was formed after the people started shedding their fear and organising resistance to foil the CPI-M’s deter-mined bid to abrogate the regime of the rights of the people.

In their present state of mind, the CPI-M leaders have also failed to identify their main adversary. They are concentrating all their fire—figuratively and literally—on the Trinamul Congress and its leader. They have refused to come face to face with the grim reality that their principal adversary is not a political party or its leader but the people of West Bengal. It is the people of West Bengal they are up against. It is the people of West Bengal from whom they have totally isolated themselves. It is the people of West Bengal who are determined this time to throw them out.

What happens when a Communist Party gets isolated from the people? Josef Stalin, the CPI-M’s ideological guru, was quoted in the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks), Short Course thus: “A party perishes if it shuts itself up in its narrow party shell, if it severs itself from the masses, if it allows itself to be covered with bureaucratic rust. ….. As long as the Bolsheviks maintain connexion with the broad masses of the people, they will be invincible. And, on the contrary, as soon as the Bolsheviks sever themselves from the masses and lose their connexion with them, as soon as they become covered with bureaucratic rust, they will lose all their strength and become a mere cipher.”

Let the CPI-M see its own face in the mirror of this prognostication of Stalin.

The author was a correspondent of The Hindu in Assam. He also worked in Patriot, Compass (Bengali), Mainstream. A veteran journalist, he comes from a Gandhian family and was intimately associated with the RCPI leader, Pannalal Dasgupta.

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