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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 22, May 21, 2011

West Bengal - CPM Discredited the Left Movement by its Fascist Deeds

Tuesday 24 May 2011, by Barun Das Gupta

The Trinamul Congress-Congress-SUCI alliance has made a clean sweep of the polls in West Bengal. The alliance or jote has won 227 of the 294 seats (Trinamul Congress 184, Congress 42 and SUCI 1) while the Left tally has nosedived from 235 to 62 (CPI-M 40, Forward Bloc 11, RSP 7, CPI 2, SP 1, DSP 1). As far as the two main contestans, the CPI-M and TMC, are concerned, their fortunes have reversed. In 2006, the CPI-M won 176 seats and the Trinamul 30. This time the CPI-M tally stopped at 40 while Trinamul’s made a quantum jump to 184.

There is a fallacy in this comparison, though. The CPI-M bagged 176 seats in 2006 when its terror machine and rigging machine were working on top gear. This time around, the Election Commission totally neutralised the CPI-M’s terrorising and rigging machinery, except at Garbeta constiutency where the then CPI-M Minister, Sushanta Ghosh, could deploy his armed goons in full strength, with the active collusion and connivance of the District Magistrate and Police Superintendent.

The huge margins by which the Left Front Ministers lost make the people’s pent up anger against the LF Government manifest. Here are some tell-tale figures. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee lost by a margin of 16,777 votes, Industries Minister Nirupam Sen by 36,438 votes, Housing Minister Gautam Deb by 31,562 votes, Labour Minister Anadi Sahu by 31,708 votes, State Minister for Information and Cultural Affars Anjan Bera (who represented the CPI-M’s new generation of leadership) by 31,690 votes. But it was the Forward Bloc’s Agriculture Minister, Naren De, who earned the dubious distinction of losing by the biggest margin— 44,967 votes.

Many people were doubtful till the last moment of counting whether Buddhadeb and Nirupam, the duo that was the architect of the Left Front Government’s industrial policy and therefore of its destruction, would lose. The CPI-M was—in fact had been for a long time—living in a make-believe world of its own. Even on the evening before the day of counting, CPI-M State Secretary and Chairman of the Left Front, Biman Bose, exuded confidence. “Tomorrow, we will take our Press friends from my small chamber on the first floor to the big conference hall on the second floor, as we announce the forming of the eighth Left Front Government in a row,” a beaming Biman told reporters. When the top leadership of a political party loses touch with the ground realities so much and becomes so totally bereft of a modicum of plain commonsense, it deserves the fate that has befallen the CPI-M.

This election campaign saw the CPI-M leaders competing with one another in descending to the lowest levels of obscenity and vulgarity in their personal attack on the main Opposition leader and Railway Minister, Mamata Banerjee. Most of these abuses are just unprintable. But to give the readers an idea of the type of “election campaigning” the CPI-M indulged in, at least one abuse should be put down in cold print. Anil Basu, a seven-time MP of the CPI-M, told a public meeting that Mamata was like a prostitute of Sonagachhi (Calcutta’s biggest red-light area) who has now got a rich customer in her room—the United States.

Universal condemnation from all sections of society made Chief Minister Bhattacharjee say that Anil Basu had committed an “unpardonable crime”. But soon after, the people saw him address an election meeting in which Anil Basu was sitting next to Bhattacharjee on the stage. Later, the two were seen in animated discussion. The party faithfuls drew the necessary conclusion —that the public rebuke of Bhatta-charjee was for public consumption only and not to be taken seriously.

POWER is a heady wine. It not only corrupts but when it goes to the head it makes one bemused. In the CPI-M’s case, 34 years of uninterrupted power has not only made its leaders insufferably arrogant and insensitive, it has also brought about a qualitative change in the character of the party since 1967, when the CPI-M first tasted power as a coaltion partner of the United Front Government headed by Ajoy Mukherjee who had earlier broken away from the Congress to form the Bangla Congress.

It started a process which saw the old generation of devoted party workers and organisers who were imbued with idealism and who built the party through years of hard struggle and sacrifice, gradually getting either marginalised and ignored in decision-making or becoming inactive and disinterested in party work. A new breed of fixers, wheeler-dealers and land-grabbers having close nexus with contractors, developers, realtors and plain underworld dons took over the party apparatus at the district level and down-wards. The top leadership started hobnobbing with the industrialists and big corporate bosses.

Ideology was hardly discussed in party committee meetings. Discussions centred round money-making and keeping the critics and Opposition parties in a state of permanent terror. Newer methods of siphoning off public money into party and private coffers were hit upon. Most of the money given by the Centre by way of subvention or for different Centrally-sponsored rural welfare schemes went to enrich the party and the comrades.

The party, which now goes by the name of Communist Party of India-Marxist, is neither Communist nor Marxist but an out and out fascist party, just as the “National Socialist German Workers’ Party” of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s of the last century was neither socialist nor, by any stretch of imagination, was it a party of “German workers”, but a fascist party that dreamed of a “Thousand Year Reich”, much as the CPI-M dreamed of maintaining its vice-like grip on West Bengal for decades, if not for centuries.

The CPI-M is a self-confessed Stalinist party. And when it comes to dealing with their political opponents, real or imagined, the methods applied by the Stalinists and Fascists are no different. It breeds the mentality of holding people in utter contempt and lording it over them. The following passage from the nineteenth century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky may help us under-stand the mindset of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his colleagues in the top hierarchy of the CPI-M:

Whoever has experienced the power, the complete ability to humiliate another human being... with the most extreme humiliation, willy-nilly loses power over his own sensations. Tyranny is a habit, it has a capacity for development, it develops finally into a disease... The human being and the citizen die within the tyrant for ever; return to humanity, to repentance, to regeneration becomes almost impossible.
- (Dostoyevsky, Notes from the House of the Dead)

SINCE democracy does not permit “the complete ability to humiliate another human being”, democracy has to be given the go-by. Party workers will be replaced by the lumpen elements going by the name of harmad vahini who will keep the people perpetually under terror and be given a free hand behind the democratic façade. The humiliation, it has to be noted, was not restricted to the CPI-M’s political and intellectual critics or to the main Opposition party, the Trinamul Congress, only. It extended to the constituent parties of the Left Front as well.

Kshiti Goswami, PWD Minister in the LF Ministry, told a TV channel three days after the LF was voted out of power that whenever he and his RSP colleagues in the State Cabinet had pointed out to the Chief Minister that his policies were wrong and would harm the government, they were brusquely told by Buddhadeb: “If you do not agree with my policies, you are free to quit the government.”

The question is: why did he and other parties of the Left Front pocket the insult and continue to feather their own nests by being in the government? Why did they not act on the advice of the Chief Minister and quit then and there? The specious argument of the RSP, the Forward Bloc and other parties was that they wanted to preserve the unity of the Left Front like the “apple of their eye” at any cost. They never bothered to explain what was the purpose of unity if it went against the interests of the State and its people.

In the days ahead two different tasks face Mamata Banerjee and the non-Establishment Left. Mamata will have to prove herself as an able administrator and live up to the myriad expectations of the people. The first task will be to improve the financial health of a bankrupt State, restore the rule of law and recover the huge quantities of arms and ammunition stockpiled by the CPI-M. Some have already been recovered but this is only the tip of the iceberg. The CPI-M’s terror machinery has to be completely dismantled.

The task before the non-Establishment Left is to restore the faith of the people in the Left ideology and rebuild the Left movement which has been thoroughly discredited by the CPI-M in West Bengal. Traditionally, the Red Flag has been the symbol of struggle against oppression and exploitation. The CPI-M made it the symbol of oppression and exploitation of tbe toiling people. The responsibility of restoring the prestige and glory of the Red Flag and winning over the trust of the people now devolves on the non-Establishment Left not just in West Bengal but at the national level as well. It will be a long and arduous task.

The author, a distinguished veteran journalist (now retired), worked in Compass (Kolkata), Mainstream (New Delhi) and was the Assam correspondent of The Hindu. He is now associated with the Bengali newsweekly Saptaha.

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