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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 48, November 16, 2013

Power is Only a Corollary

Tuesday 19 November 2013

by Bishwajit Sen

This, in my view, is the most revealing self-criticism in recent times to have come from a Communist Party (CPI) which is a part of the Left Front that ruled West Bengal just two years back. The self-criticism comes on the heels of the debacle of the Left Front in the recently held Panchayat elections. It was published in the Ananda Bazar Patrika on 13.09.2013.

It narrates a strange story, that is, the story of the Left’s servility to the rural bourgeoisie which ultimately led to a degeneration of the highest order of the Left leadership and ranks. The big landowners, pushed to a corner by the land reforms, took recourse to such a cunning move that it would have put even Kautilya (the author of “Arthashastra”) to shame. They started financing the activities of the Left parties. They began providing buses to the Left parties for bringing people to the Brigade Parade Ground rallies. They even footed the election expenses of the Left.

This gave the Left a great leverage. But as a consequence, they lost their natural allies, poor peasants, agricultural labourers and the rural poor in general. At several places, these “financiers” climbed to the top positions in district level leaderships of the Left parties and that further widened the gulf between the Left and the poor. The “financiers” also cornered the Panchayat contracts and projects to a large extent.

It is this widening gulf which made the Left lose the Panchayats, Panchayat Samitis and Zilla Parishads. This reflected in the Left’s performance in the Assembly elections as well. With the defeat of the Left in the Assembly elections, the “financiers”, true to their nature, started flocking to the TMC, leaving the Left in the lurch. Thus the circle was complete.

The CPI has provided relevant statistics to prove its point. During the 2008 elections, the Left won 13 Zilla Parishads. In the recent elections, the TMC won the same number of Zilla Parishads. During the elections of 2003, the Left Front won six thousand Panchayat seats uncontested. In the recent elections, the TMC has won six thousand and five hundred seats uncontested. The similarity is uncanny and suggests the shifting of a vote-bank, down to the last voter. Then, what happened to the political education the Left had been providing its cadres with all these years?

In the last Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections, the CPI-M, though already under the cloud, still won seats in West Midnapore. But as of today it stands wiped out in the same district, that is, West Midnapore. The TMC is ahead of the Left by six lakh votes in this district presently. Out of the six lakhs, in two blocks of Keshpur and Garbeta alone, the difference is of two lakh seventyfive thousand votes. The difference in Keshpur: 1 lakh 30 thousand and the difference in Garbeta: 1 lakh 45 thousand. The CPI-M won this very Keshpur seat during the 2001 and 2006 elections by margins of one lakh and above.

Once a political grouping loses the confidence of the poor it is very difficult for it to regain the same. Going by the above figures, we feel a grave future awaits the Left Front in West Bengal. It is not that the parties of the Left Front are devoid of any mass base at the moment. But the disenchantment of the general masses with the Left is so great that the Left Front is unable to tide over it. It is unable to make its mass base operative because the organisational structure of the Front stands shattered due to the coming and going of the rural bourgeoisie. Pockets of grievances between the Left parties are too many and that makes them unable to adopt a common programme of struggle in the real sense of the term, though apparently the Front is still united.

The arrows of accusations, as the ground position informs us, are aimed at the CPI-M, in most of the cases. We are sorry to say so, but the CPI assessment does not go sufficiently in depth on this point. It merely says: “Everybody lost. But as the CPI-M was the biggest Left party, its losses were greater.” This is an arithmetical conclusion and does not explain the complex reality as it obtained actually. The CPI-M was in the driver’s seat as far as the Left Front was concerned and its cynicism and opportunism contributed largely to the Front’s debacle. It would not do to absolve the CPI-M of its responsibility in this regard. They have to take the fullest responsibility for the catastrophe and should make a public confession of their guilt. Wasting time by finding holes in the TMC armour and keeping the people’s attention away from its own mistakes (some of them criminal in nature) would not do.

We had been witnesses to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. We have been witnesses to a silent takeover of the Chinese Communist Party by their bourgeoisie too. If we scan the West Bengal scenario during the Left Front tenure, we would find elements of both the phenomena to be present therein. The disarray which was witnessed in the Soviet Union during its last days or the fleecing of the poor which is going on in present-day China, could not be exactly reproduced in Left-ruled West Bengal, because of a much maligned institution called “parliamentary democracy” and a largely hated object called “free media”. Without these two, we do not know what would have happened to West Bengal and whether there could have been a civil war, bloody enough to shame us all for generations.

A few such feeblenesses apart, I feel the CPI’s self-criticism is most significant to have appeared in print in recent times. However, I would have appreciated it more, had it been more candid. It is centred on the Panchayat elections only. But the Panchayats are not the be-all end end-all of Left politics in West Bengal. What happened to the industries, the teaching institutions and the police should also be revealed. Only then the Left, including the CPI-M, would be able to redeem itself. Without a thorough-going self-cleansing there would be no reinstatement of the Left in the people’s mind. That is what is of primary importance. Power is only its corollary.

The author, who is close to the communist movement, is a literary figure based in Patna.

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