Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Tariq Ali: The Seductions of Stalinism
Once more, Stalinism’s seductions have taken over even libertarian Leftists and Trotskyists, who, one would imagine, should know better about the methods of this devious ideological machine. Leading intellectuals like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn have issued a statement addressed to “Our Friends in Bengal”, which you can read here. The statement offers the solemn advice that in the face of Iraq and the impending attack on Iran, ‘it would be impetuous to split the Left’. Suddenly, as if by magic, ‘all Leftists’ from anarcho-communist Chomsky, Trotskyist Tariq Ali, and many many Liberal Leftists – all become ONE with Stalinism (‘The Yet-Unsplit Left’). For it will be apparent to any one who reads the statement that the appeal not to split the Left is made not to the CPM, but to those who oppose its crypto- capitalist policies.
Sometime ago, we had written in Kafila on the ‘Silence of the Lambs‘ – i.e. of the Left liberal intellectuals who we had suspected, (and it appears, rightly so), would rapidly fall in line with the CPM, thanks to the ‘exigencies of the situation’. One of our Kafila colleagues, Aarti Sethi, had referred to this as the ‘secularism-in-the-last-instance’ syndrome. Many luminaries have – some for the cause of ‘secularism’ and some because they want to ‘use’ the CPM’s clout and parliamentary presence for their own movements – decided to throw their lot with the CPM. Now this is anti-imperialism in the last instance ['in the last instance, we are all anti-imperialists and therefore Leftists], that has been thrust upon us – pathetic third worldies who do not understand global politics and are so bogged down in their own Nandigram – so that we may fall in line. Kunal Chattopadhyay has already written this open letter to fellow Fourth Internationalist, Tariq Ali where he is forthright we quote from it below:
” I read, and re-read, with a growing sense of wonder, shame and above all anger, the statement that some of you have signed. If you are uninformed, what gave you the authority to issue a pompous statement based on that lack of information?”[emphasis added].
The signatories to the statement have no difficulty in giving out advice even when all they have by way of information is this (in their own words):
“We hear from people on both sides of this chasm, and we are trying to make some sense of the events and the dynamics. Obviously, our distance prevents us from saying anything definitive.”
And yet, we are told that:
“We send our fullest solidarity to the peasants who have been forcibly dispossessed. We understand that the government has promised not to build a chemical hub in the area around Nandigram. We understand that those who had been dispossessed by the violence are now being allowed back to their homes, without recrimination. We understand that there is now talk of reconciliation. This is what we favour.”
For seasoned Leftists like them, is it very difficult to understand why ‘promises not to build a chemical hub’ in Nandigram are like a bad joke to the people who have seen Singur peasants lose their land at gun point? Our worthies ‘understand’ that those who had been dispossessed ‘are now being allowed to return’ – and they must believe it simply because it is the CPM and not Modi who is saying this? In Gujarat too, Modi is telling the Muslims precisely this: ‘forget and return'; the terms of their return are of course not of any consequence to our luminaries.
We are pained to write this piece because among the signatories are friends and respected intellectuals who have stood up for all kinds of just causes across the world. And yet, we cannot help feeling that in these days of the internet, no one can claim that all they have by way of information is ‘hearsay’ – ‘from people on both sides’.
The most surprising and amazing part of the statement of course is the following:
“We are concerned about the rancour that has divided the public space, created what appear to be unbridgeable gaps between people who share similar values. It is this that distresses us. “
What would you think of the ‘unbridgeable gaps’ between those who faced Stalin’s firing squads – members of Lenin’s Central Committee – and Stalin himself: Did they share the same values? And what are these values, by the way? Simply that ‘all’ these people claim to be ‘Leftists’? Consider this:
* The CPM today wants to hand over large tracts of land to private capital, dispossessing the peasantry? A shared value, would you say?
* Its industrialization programme is indiscriminate – from automobiles to nuclear plants. By the way, the Haripur nuclear plant will entail a dispossession of peasants on a scale that will make Nandigram look like child’s play. A value you share, Mr Chomsky, Ali and others?
*The environmental effects of many of the programmes that the CPM government seeks to undertake are expected to be disastrous – which includes clearing of precious mangrove forests. By the way, a study in the Lancet, a couple of years ago, based on satellite pictures, showed that the places where mangrove forests had been cleared had faced the worst impact of the tsunami, mangroves being a natural protection from such disasters. The CPM thinks this is anti-development fantasy of ‘foreign-funded NGOs’. Do you share this value with them? Do you expect us to share it with the CPM?
*In urban West Bengal, the CPM is a party of the Marwari businessmen and a whole nexus of promoters and land mafias. We would challenge any of the signatories to sit and spend even ten minutes with these mafia character and then tell us what they have common with them.
We could of course go on with the list of ‘shared common values’ but this should be enough for starters. Let us simply state in conclusion that the unsought advice (“it would be impetuous to split the Left”) is misconceived. If you have any illusion that the Left in India was or has been united till this moment, you are sadly mistaken. The ‘Left’ such that it is, is already split in scores of factions and groups. In Kerala, two factions of the CPM have lately been having it with each other out in street brawls. All over whether and who should take the Asian Development Bank loan; over land and real estate and such other sundry matters!!