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We Are Where We Know Not What Befalls Us… in Bengal!

May 13, 2011
Kahan le Chale ho... (image courtesy Small Strokes)

Kahan le Chale ho... (image courtesy Small Strokes)

Ham wahaan hain jahaan se hamko bhee
kuchch hamaaree khabar naheen aatee

Roughly translated literally, this famous couplet of Ghalib’s would mean: “We are at that place from where we do not get any news about ourselves”. A somewhat surreal place to be in! It is not just that you are holed in, a place where you are cut off from the world and no longer get any news of the outside – say Plato’s Cave. This descent is into a Cave from where you get no news about yourself! You are in a state of incommunicability with your own self. Clearly, a Self that is deeply at odds with itself.

This is clearly the place where the Bengal communists have descended. Else, who could not have seen the avalanche coming? Even when they lost the 2009 parliamentary elections, they thought that they lost because those sitting in Delhi’s AK Gopalan Bhawan chased the chimera of the Third Front (and they have been repeating this till yesterday, everyone from Buddhadeb to Gautam Deb)! Of course that was a chimera but to delude yourselves that your defeat had nothing to do with your own doings, that ‘the people’ oh love you soo – that is only possible when you have descended into that surreal space.  The interesting thing is that apart from the self deluding communists of the CPM brand, even the ordinary person on the street knew what was coming.

The Brigade of the Gullible

Frankly speaking, even some of the leaders suspected that what they were saying was possibly wishful thinking. The ones really to be deluded, misled, made fools of repeatedly in history are the ‘cadre’. The cadre at the village level in West Bengal, certainly, because people stopped expresssing to them what they were planning to do, quite some time back. But more pathetic is the historical fate of the middle class cadre, the one’s about whom one can only say: ‘Theirs not to reason why/ Theirs but to do and die” (though these days you cannot even expect them to court the slightest danger for ‘the cause’, let alone death!). It was this cadre that alone was surprised when socialism disappeared from the face of this earth. Nobody else was fooled. Why I say it is their historical destiny to be fooled time and time again, is because, like the followers of a blind religious sect, they have only  learnt to train their guns at anyone who dares to differ from them. So, there you go: ‘CIA agents’, ‘paid agents’ ‘disillusioned communist in the service of the enemy’, ‘cut off from the masses’  blah blah blah…

The sheer scale of the LF’s defeat is stunning. At the time of writing this post, all the gatekeepers of the Executive Club of History are trailing: Buddhadeb, Gautam Deb, Nirupam Sen…So far they alone have certified who is ‘rooted in mass movements’ and their gullible faithfuls have parroted it ad nauseam. History seems to have played a cruel trick on them.

I once narrated this lovely story elsewhere but it bears repeating for those who may have missed it, for it tells us of the mindset of this ‘theirs-not-to-reason-why-brigade’:

Sitaram Yechury had just returned from Romania after attending its party congress. The last, it turned out. The swan song of ‘state socialism’. As it happened, in the party congress the entire Ceausescu leadership of the Romanian Communist Party was elected unanimously. An excited and inspired Sitaram wrote a report in the People’s Democracy. By the cruel irony of fate that issue appeared in public in the same week that ‘socialist Romania’ collapsed. Shortly after that there was meeting of the SFI central executive committee and as per tradition, that was also the occasion for holding the student party fraction meeting. (Pardon me for sounding a bit esoteric here, but I request you to bear with me for a minute more!). I had already moved from the ‘student front’ to the trade union front by then so the story that I am about to narrate was narrated to me by an SFI leader who is now a CC member. In that fraction meeting conducted by M Basavapunnaiah (Sitaram was his trainee then), an agitated comrade from Assam charged: Why did comrade Sitaram lie to us, lie to the party? Sitaram was visibly upset as the tirade at being misled continued. Sitaram got up to throw back the question at his tormentor: Are you saying I lied to the party? At that point, Basavapunnaiah apparently caught hold of Sitaram’s sleeve and pulled him back saying the following golden words: No my dear Sitaram, neither you lied to the party, nor the Romanian party lied to you; the people of Romania lied to their party!

One would have thought after this at least people would have learnt their lesson? But no…

So, to illustrate what I mean, just a sample of quotes from some such cadres who have advised us on various things, on Kafila, in the recent past (the extracts are in reverse chronological order):

(i) “We know that (sic) where Adithya Nigam stands in the working class movements in this country (he selectively unaware of massive trade union rally held by left unions and its relevance), and why you are writing this kind of paid essays or unpaid [an afterthought, thank God! AN], it is to satisfy your petty bourgosie thirst for some fashionable academic circus. (A comment from one Abraham on Sankar Ray’s post)

(ii) [T]hose who are arguing to vote-out the Left from Bengal even at the cost of making a reactionary alliance of Trinamool-Congress to power, does not at all introspect that why they have not been able to give a better ‘alternative Left’ than the largest communist party in India?…Either they are a lazy tad, not to work hard for building a real/actual Left or they are simply jealous of the CPI(M) because of its large mass base or they can be simply anti-Left in the garb of some Marxist jargons to hide their masks of ideological opportunism. What an ideological degeneration of these petty bourgeois radicalism? (One Maidul Islam, on Sankar Ray’s post above)

(iii) “I suggest you wait till 13th May when you will realize that withdrawal from mass movements and political activities also leads to isolation from the masses and the way they approach the political realm. ” (A comment from Upal Chakraborty (the advise directed at me) on the same post)

(iv) “What a load of bullshit! What happened at Singur was conducted by outsiders. The local people of Singur did not participate in the ” mass struggle” against the Tata factory. If they had done so, the factory could not be constructed. The construction is going on-and with full support of the local population. Nandigram was a public relations failure of the WB government… The Left Front will remain in power for the next 30 years (Arnab, on my post on the food riots in October 2007)

(v) “Rather than bother you with a reminder that all the ‘independent’ ‘fact-finding’ groups at Nandigram and Singur started with an anti-Communist specifically anti-CPI (M), mindset [NB: these include the one by Prof Sumit and Tanika Sarkar - AN], (and here they have had happy meetings of the mind with the right-reactionary Trinamul Congress, the ultra left, and the religious fundamentalists of both persuasions)…” (This comment is by no less a person than a correspondent of People’s Democracy, B Prashant in response to Monobina Gupta’s post on the CPM press conference in Delhi white-washing the massacre in Nandigram).

(vi) And last but not the least, how can we forget to recall the Sage Prabhat Patnaik’s unforgettable words: “The revolt against the CPI(M) is simultaneously a revolt against politics. The combination of anti-communism with a rejection of politics in general gives this revolt that added edge, that special anger. It is the anger of the morality of the “anti-political” against the morality of the “political”, for Communism, notwithstanding its substitution of the “political” for the “moral”, has nonetheless a moral appeal. The venom in the anti-Left intellectuals’ attack on the Left comes from the fact that this struggle, of the “morality of the anti-political” against the “morality of the political”, takes on the character of a desperate last struggle, a final push to destroy the latter, since “our day has come at last!”. (The famous tirade, to which we had responded – both the original and our response available here.)

So, this is world that the ‘theirs-not-to-reason-why-brigade’ lives in – a delusional world where, as Ghalib so aptly puts it, we are oblivious of what befalls us, out of touch with our own selves!

And just to underline once again: Every one who could have  given them the news of the impending disaster, every one who tried to, was dubbed anti-Left. So, here I celebrate the death of arrogance!

A Difficult Sentiment: The Non-LF Left

And yet, let it be reiterated once more – for whatever it is worth – that the world, even today in West Bengal is not quite so simple and neatly divided into ‘us’ and ‘them’ (that is, in Patnaik’s definition, all those who are ‘not-us’).  A whole range of complex emotions have been visible over the last decade or more where, increasingly, Left supporters moved away from the Left Front (but not the Left ideal). Their numbers have been swelling and there was already a massive erosion of the LF base in the 1999 elections. But most of those whom Patnaik called ‘venomous anti-Left intellectuals’, never managed to bring themselves to vote against the LF – for that would have meant voting for the Trinamool Congress which since 1999 had struck an allaince with the BJP. Indeed, it was the rise of the BJP led-NDA to power at the Centre that prevented further erosion of the LF’s base as many – especially the minorities – trooped back to the LF. The rise of Hindutva gave the CPM and LF a new lease of life. And this was LF’s trump card, its final blackmail to anyone who dared turn away from it: so you are supporting the Trinamool Congress?

Of course, it should also be added right here that not always was the disdain of Mamata Banerjee political: there was always a deep discomfort of the bhadralok intelligentsia with her crude, non-bhadralok manners. And her alliance with the BJP sealed her fate for a long time. Then two thing happened. Her alliance with the BJP broke and Singur/Nandigram erupted. The LF’s and CPMs conduct in that period was the real trigger that led people to cross the Rubicon. That is where the LF gamble failed to pay off this time. And even today, in this very election whose results we are witnessing right now, there are a large number of people who voted the LF out (which is not necessarily the same thing as voting the TMC in) because they believe that that is the last chance of its renewal; that a stint out of power will probably help some rethinking and renewal. This is not as far-fetched as it may seem for way back in the mid-1980s, a powerful section within the West Bengal CPM had argued for the deletion of para 112 from its programme (this being the para that provides for the possibility of forming state governments). This section too thought that the party was becoming glued to power and the only way to prevent its downward slide was to delete para 112 from the Programme. Personally, I do not believe that there is any possibility of renewal of this Left because every step it takes out of the marxist dogma, takes it one more step into neo-liberal capitalism straight, with no further thought. But since there are a large number of people, left sympathizers who do believe that, it is a point that needs to be registered, if only to underline how complex the political terrain is, even now.

A New Kind of Power

It is important to study the entire  period of the LF’s rule if we are to understand what went wrong and where. As of now we do not have many thick descriptions of this entire period. However, on the basis of available studies and experience, it is possible to discern two distinct phases (at least) in the LF’s rule. The first, from 1977 to roughly  1987-89 where a lot of important measures were taken in restoring normal life in the state: examinations began being held on schedule; the abysmal power situation improved drastically and West Bengal became a power-surplus state; Operation Barga altered the face of rural Bengal in terms of putting an end to endless routine bloodshed when cultivation and harvesting began; the rural poor stood up with the backs straight as elected panchayats broke the power of the rural jotedars. Rural migration into the city was halted and at least in some parts some bit of rural prosperity was visible.

Over time, a new form of all-pervasive power seems to have taken shape. The combination of the panchayat (where very soon elections started becoming a farce with opponents not being allowed to contest), the local police, the civil administration and the fearful machinery of the party produced something unparalleled anywhere in the world: a virtually totalitarian power blended with and managed through the mechanism of electoral democracy. It was possibly a kind of benevolent totalitarianism for some time but increasingly, the control of the machinery passed on to the hands of land mafias, builders, property dealers etc. Extortion too became, gradually, an everyday phenomenon. Everywhere you had to pay ‘chanda’ to some party front or the other. The form that this took in rural Bengal is much more malign because, unlike urban areas, party surveillance and control can be completely suffocating in villages.

The crucial turning point seems to have come with the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was at that point that the CPM leaders decided to make peace with the neo-liberal dispensation. The ground was already there insofar as the early moves in the neo-liberal direction (at the Centre) led to the removal of a whole host of obstacles to Bengal’s industrialization: the ending of the licence-permit raj, the ending of the discriminatory freight equalization policy, and so on. No longer would the chief minister have to go and knock at the Delhi durbar for getting the files cleared. He simply had to sit with whoever was willing to invest. What the collapse of the Soviet Union did was to remove the ideological barrier for those who were pushing in the neo-liberal direction. They could now tell themselves that this was now the only way available – look even China and Vietnam were going in that direction. They were now in a truly post-ideological world. Ideology, henceforth, was only for the gullible cadre.

But this is not all. Somewhere along the line, the CPM and the LF figured out that now all they needed was to get the private sector to come and invest and take over their task – that of governance. That was the new mantra: investment.  Your task was over. So public health was a mess and it remained so. Primary education is another mess and no need was ever felt to address it. And higher education institutions became a party fiefdom, controlled through students’ and teachers’ unions and the Senates etc. Intellectual and cultural life in West Bengal reached its lowest ebb in history. After all, the dark period of Congress rule was also the period of a radicalization of intellectual and cultural life, of the rise of the Left and of a critical culture alongside. Those artist/es and intellectuals who managed to do something in those days, could do so only by struggling against all odds. Now party loyalty alone was to be rewarded. Mediocrity ruled.

Now, as the monolith collapses, the question of violence is being posed by the CPM and its allies. Already, in the last couple of weeks this campaign has been building up that there will be post-poll violence by the TMC against the CPM. The problem is misleadingly posed. Violent retribution by those who have been at the receiving end of endless CPM violence, particularly over the last two decades or so (on which the national media has so far maintained stoic silence) cannot be ruled out. But to call it Trinamool’s violence is to ingore the fact that CPM harmad vahinis have amassed weapons and fire-arms in different parts of rural Bengal and have used them often enough to establish their political supremacy – sometimes even against other LF partners. A kind of subtle terror backed by these arms and the harmads has been a feature of rural life in the state for quite sometime now. At this point we can do little more than to refer the reader to the piece we had posted in June 2009 in the wake of large-scale violence in Khejuri and other areas, following the CPM’s defeat in those areas. That was nothing short of popular insurgency against the crumbling power of the despots who ruled over people’s lives for decades.

And to conclude: Ghalib, ends the ghazal above on a self-deprecatory note thus:

Ka’aba kis munh se jaoge ‘Ghalib’
Sharm tumko magar nahin aati

Can we expect these Marxists who have reduced ‘self-criticism’ to a joke to, at least now, begin to reflect?

36 Comments leave one →
  1. Garga Chatterjee permalink
    May 13, 2011 11:52 AM

    Well written. Good riddance. Lots of work ahead.

  2. May 13, 2011 12:05 PM

    I do want to read all of this and comment properly, but I do think, apropos the initial third, that using this election result to say I-told-you-so to random commenters is a little petty. Particularly when some of them were making valid points about Singur. I find it a little disingenuous to claim that that movement was not hijacked in a direction with which the people of Singur are uncomfortable.

  3. May 13, 2011 12:11 PM

    I’ve read the rest now. This is a wonderfully middle-class perspective, in which the reason the Left lost is reduced to an intellectual argument won by anti-Left intellectuals, with the words suitably bolded. Thirty seconds talking to anyone who voted Trinamool should show that up for the nonsense it is. I also love it when there is a section that starts by complaining about corporatisation and ends with “mediocrity rules”. Funny.
    On violence, yes, some of it was and will be targeted at long-time oppressors. In your worldview, that makes it OK, of course. Even so, a lot of it was not, and will not be. But that will be ignored, no doubt.

    • Ramon Ray permalink
      May 16, 2011 1:02 PM

      I don’t understand what you are sneering at. What is a ‘middle class perspective’, anyway? Generalisations should be best avoided by anybody who claims to be politically sensitive. And, yes, it might be in your face, but all of Bengal is not urban and peri-urban landscape bustling with white-collar workers. So, if you look at the election results one more time, you would realise that significant parts of the rural populace of the state voted AGAINST the Left. Endorsing leftist ideals doesn’t mean rabidly supporting the Left political parties.

  4. Aditi permalink
    May 13, 2011 12:23 PM

    Ironically, your I -Told-You-So tone sounds very much like what the CPI(M) would have sounded like had they made it in these elections!

  5. anandaroopsen permalink
    May 13, 2011 1:02 PM

    The death of arrogance, if it dies, will be cherished. Just heard Guatam Deb on television , drunk, saying “we will do to Mamata what she has done to us. Bengali CPM has survived the fall of the Soviet Union, so it can weather any conceivable/ inconceivable storm.” Not good advertisement for arrogance annihilation.
    An observation: The distinction between two phases of communist rule in Bengal is little too facile. Marichjhapi happened in 1979; Barga was a selective set of half measures that had more froth and less substance. Violence always played a significant part in governance structured by CPM. It was the ability of CPM to perform itself, conjure a sense of omnipotence via myriad levels of a complex beneficiary structure, thats sustained its rural vote back and consequently kept the system in place, rather than purported dozes of dignity of the rural poor accrued through periods of stabilization and good work. CPI M as a party since 1964, has shown acute intelligence and tenacity to be on the right side of a compromise. It is perhaps ironical that , only now, questions of disillusionment fly thick. The sinking ship and the rat story. Good riddance both.

    • Ritaja Basu Mullick permalink
      May 14, 2011 7:39 PM

      How do you that Gautam Deb was ‘drunk’ when he addressed the media? And Gautam babu did not talk about non-cooperation at all – he actually wished well to mamata and even mentioned about having a cup of tea with her. Let us not resort to Sankar Ray style of personal villification.

      • May 15, 2011 9:19 PM

        Aditya

        You should have mentioned that he had imbibed a fermented philosophic stance. Bengali CPM wallahs with beer and jeans dont like their vanguards like that. And how dare you conclude that he was drunk? Did you do a breath analysis test? Shame on you. You shall be banned from getting membership in the CPM if you reapply.

        • Ritaja Basu Mullick permalink
          May 16, 2011 1:38 PM

          @ drgarga – you missed 2 more posts which were critical of Aditya – please go ahead and attack them personally – habit is somebody’s second nature even when misquotes are exposed!

        • June 1, 2011 12:13 PM

          There was a short note in the Sunday Humor section of ABP that people who love to watch dance used to watch Gautam Deb turning the TV on mute. The point is not whether this kind of personal attacks should be endorsed, but the hysterical reaction of the same people who expect others to appreciate when they used to (or still continue to) call the current CM of WB “Maomata”.

  6. May 13, 2011 4:45 PM

    “The combination of the panchayat (where very soon elections started becoming a farce with opponents not being allowed to contest), the local police, the civil administration and the fearful machinery of the party produced something unparalleled anywhere in the world: a virtually totalitarian power blended with and managed through the mechanism of electoral democracy”: Interesting piece but was this kind of ‘machinary’ really so unique in India let alone in the world? And is it really best described as ‘totalitarian’? I’m sympathetic to the general argument but I’m a bit sceptical of these bits. If one goes to Bihar or even, that symbol of modernity, Mumbai, at certain points, I’m not sure how ‘unique’ this story is. Whats unique perhaps is that it traded under a hammer and sickle.

  7. Ron permalink
    May 13, 2011 7:38 PM

    Excellent piece Mr. Aditya.
    This election defeat of left in west bengal is a defeat of Authoritarianism- a belief that “party-knows-everything” ,” party-is-the-truth” and “YOU-better-follow-us or else….” philosophy….

    And , just like Hindutva brigade , the LF’s internet supporters are a despicable lot…..the arrogance, “we-know-everything” , conspiracy theories are their bread and butter just like hindu right…..

    Lastly , we need to defeat Authoritarianism everywhere be it LF, Hindutva, Islamist or the Maoists…..they are mostly interested in seizing power and then interfering in people’s lives through various ways and means….

  8. May 13, 2011 8:18 PM

    Ok, CPI(M) wasn’t doing any good to bengal. I hope and pray that good sense prevails in Didi’s TMC, and she does whatever it takes to resurrect the sinking state. I’ve never understood what ideological standpoint TMC stands for, probably “reactionism”. Maybe, the lack of a rigid ideology (which the CPI(M) disgraced so blatantly), is not such a bad thing after all. Good luck to peoples’ movement, irrespective of “ideologies”.
    After all, even historical materialism says rigid ideologies will ultimately breakdown… if they stand in the way of development of forces of production.
    The feverish worshippers of CPI(M) surrounding the leaders probably obscured the vision of the chiefs… wake up call for them!

  9. May 13, 2011 8:40 PM

    I guess my worry is that in the political turmoil on the left sure to follow, such language runs the risk of presenting unnecessary barriers for many members of the organisation, both inside and outside Bengal, by now surely sick at heart about all of this. This relates to the complexities referred to by Aditya Nigam in his article, complexities which are quite important in terms of the future of the whole left. On a much less important level, at some point the whistle is going to be blown on the international left, such as it is. I think its important that the whistle is blown, but I’m not convinced that an argument which implicitly suggests that the CPI(M) was in some sense worse then forces we all campaign against is really very useful in this context. The truth is surely more prosaic. Those attempting to parade themselves as radicals were actually adapting themselves to the worst aspects of an already existing venal system. Thats certainly the way I will argue it as these issues come up. Not that it matters much naturally!

  10. May 14, 2011 2:04 AM

    well written…this is time for cpm introspection and i hope they dont want to miss it in arogance…

  11. upal Chakraborty permalink
    May 14, 2011 2:29 AM

    Well written, Aditya. While you have humbled us, we only hope that you stand up equally against the White terror that is sure to follow. For those of us who have seen the 70′s , perhaps this was the reason we wanted the LF to win which blinded us to the Party Society that was created. We look forward to a phase of introspection and rectification to lead to a United Left movement in the years to come.

    Upal

    • May 15, 2011 9:13 PM

      Aditya, let me translate in present day speak what Upal means – “Menshevik!” , “Kornilovist!” :) :)

  12. Clearly Confused permalink
    May 14, 2011 3:37 AM

    @MS:
    “[W]onderfully middle-class perspective,” you say? But do you not think that the party-Left’s anathema about Mamata Bannerjee is precisely reflective of a middle-class anxiety, an anxiety that has been articulated through techniques of character-assasination that party-Marxist moralism has taken to a fine-art? Do you seriously believe that comments made by the likes of Anil Basu and Gauram Deb in the course of the campaign are simply aberrant and not mediated by the Bhadralok middle-class mentality, by what it considers to culturally ‘proper’? Do you seriously not see that it is during the party-Left rule is Bengal that the project of Hindu upper-caste Bhadralok hegemony–begun with the so-called ‘Bengal Renaissance’–actually reached its fruition? Are you really blind to the fact that a silent Hindu majoritarian communal consensus has been sealed in Bengal during the regime of the party-Left? Or, are you really naive enough to buy into the argument of Bengali–read upper-caste, Bhadralok–exceptionalism, voiced since the nineteenth century into the present, with Brahmoism to Communism held up as its illustrative exemplars? Please open your eyes, for politics’ sake.

    It would be interesting to do a class analysis of the 41% vote-share that the party-Left has managed. If it were done, I suspect that we would find that a sizeable section of the hegemonic Bhadralok class actually voted for the Left Front in this election, that TMCs’ sweep actually marks the electoral consolidation of the under-class, caste, and religious formations. And if this is indeed the case then one needs to recognize that CPM is the historical condition of possibility for a figure like Mamata to emerge. One has to take seriously the notion that Mamata’s campaing marks a certain vernacularization of Marxist discourse.

    Also, it might suit your bruised political ego to label all, intellectuals included, those who voted for Mamata as de facto anti-Left. But sober reflection, hopefully, will make you see that anti-PARTY-Left is NOT equivalent to anti-Left, that Leftists who so far voted the Left Front to power did not overnight turn into ‘reactionary right-wingers,’ that there are shades of Red that are deeper than the one daubed on the CPM flag.

    And while I am at it, can I also make a request to CPM-apologists like you? Please, please, let go of the “Communist” and “Marxist” in your party’s name. It does us who still hold notions of a Marxist-Leninist communism dear to our politics a real disservice. Maybe Neo-Liberal Social Democratic Party of India is a more accurate appelation for a formation that represents your political disposition. Though you might also want to reflect on what ‘democracy’ means to you.

    @Anandaroop Sen: excellent analysis, Antu!

    • Priti permalink
      May 14, 2011 3:55 PM

      “It does us who still hold notions of a Marxist-Leninist communism dear to our politics a real disservice. ”

      Wow! Are there still real, normal people who hold Marxist-Leninist communism dear?? Soviet Union collapsed, North Korea is not exactly the ideal that anyone in their right minds would aspire to and Cuba is in crisis!!!

      It is always an abiding mystery to me why would any intelligent person think that communism works! Its ideology is of a totalitarian society and anti-human nature. No human being is going to work for the common good unless there is some incentive in it for him. That is as basic as can be. Marxist ideology goes against this fundamental principle and no wonder it has been a disaster in every single place it has been tried.

      Just look at the examples: North Korea vs South Korea, West Germany vs East Germany, USA vs USSR. Need I say more???

    • May 15, 2011 9:11 PM

      “It would be interesting to do a class analysis of the 41% vote-share that the party-Left has managed. If it were done, I suspect that we would find that a sizeable section of the hegemonic Bhadralok class actually voted for the Left Front in this election, that TMCs’ sweep actually marks the electoral consolidation of the under-class, caste, and religious formations.”

      At the cost of sounding like a CPM apologist, which I hope I am not, exit polls do not point to a “Bhadralok” preponderance in the CPM’s vote share. By the way, suspecting and inferring about broad swathes of people’s behaviour without grassroot touch or empirical basis is a classic ‘bhadralok’ characteristic :).Some of them really love top-down theories of everything.

    • May 16, 2011 5:52 PM

      Clearly Confused: Thank you for your comment, which is RICH. CPM is essentially a varna Bengali sub-nationalist chauvinist party. I hope this election result brings about a de-babufication and de-brahminisation of the party.

    • May 21, 2011 7:51 PM

      Clearly Confused:

      You’ve missed the point completely. I meant *this post* was a middle-class perspective, that reduced real politics to a insider’s rant against fellow-’intellectuals’ who disagreed with him.

      I’ll ignore your broadside at ‘bhadralok’. The caste-class composition of the CPM’s leadership is so well-known, but it might be a bit silly to link it to the victory of the bhadralok as opposed to the standard vanguardist approach to Left politics that we all at some point submit to. Including in this post and on this blog.

      And the anti-PARTY left is best not represented by those who cheer on the Trinamool, no?

  13. Lipi permalink
    May 14, 2011 5:24 AM

    Dear Adityaji,
    As much as I respect you as a scholar and applaud you for voicing your honest opinions about the current WB elections, I cannot but help noticing certain things in this post that seemed unseemly:

    1. Any post voicing an opinion receives comments from different readers, and obviously some of them differ from what the blogger tries to argue. Yet, I have never seen a blogger ‘getting back’ to the commentators personally–singling out their names and comments in bold–in his next blog post! Usually the discussion continues in the comments section, with both the commentators and the blogger engaging in a healthy debate without using the next blog as a space for retaliation. I am really disappointed to see you attacking your commentators like this in your post–is it that you take these comments personally or that you believe your blog is your personal space and nobody should dissent against it!!

    2. The rhetoric you use to retaliate against the criticisms is also condescending–you seem to get back at some “one Abraham” and some “one Maidul”!! Can’t the commentators expect some respect from the blogger and a right to criticize?

    3. Your comment on the possible post-election retaliatory violence is extremely disturbing:

    “Violent retribution by those who have been at the receiving end of endless CPM violence, particularly over the last two decades or so (on which the national media has so far maintained stoic silence) cannot be ruled out. But to call it Trinamool’s violence is to ingore the fact that CPM harmad vahinis have amassed weapons and fire-arms in different parts of rural Bengal and have used them often enough to establish their political supremacy – sometimes even against other LF partners. ”

    So are you justifying the violence that might ensue? We all condemn often-autocratic rule of CPM, but the last thing we want in the state is a bloodbath initiated by people taking up the law in their hand. This is a democratic change of govt and violence under any pretext should be condemned—not justified as the people’s call against oppression!

    4. Finally, as much as we celebrate the end of a stagnant regime and feel it was much required for the Left Front, we cannot evade responsibility of not knowing “what befalls us”!! If people have participated in the drive for change–and we as critical thinkers have often encouraged it–we should also know what lies ahead of us. We cannot just be responsible for the ‘revolution’ and say we are baffled in post-revolution. What scares me is TMC’s extremely vague ideological stand. I have tried to do a close reading of its mission statement and its vision for the next 5 years (both available on the TMC offcial website) and am still very, very confused as to where it stands as an ideology.

    All I can see is a confused manifesto, 90% of which narrates the failures of the Left Front Govt and 10% roughly tries to sum up a concoction of a vague vision for a new utopic state, that would satisfy the rich and the rabble alike.

    My two cents, from “one Lipi”. :)

    • Ron permalink
      May 14, 2011 1:05 PM

      “very confused as to where it stands as an ideology.”

      Dear Lipi

      TMC’s “ideology”(if you want to call it that!) is the typical Congressi “ideology” of the middle path-both left and right-wing elements co-existing(not always peacefully) without going to any extremes. Also most bengalis (and indeed most Indians) live in the “middle” . Most people cannot be boxed into “left” or “right” categories.

      i know left-wing professors/activists will not be satisfied by TMC but please remember left in India has failed to provide any credible alternative. “Left” or the “Alternative Left” needs to come up with workable alternative models of development…

      Also i want to point out the fact that after 34 years of left’s constant “ideology peddling” in bengal…what has bengal achieved?? Very curious you talked about TMC’s “new utopic state” forgetting that its the so called communists who have been selling the dream of a “communist utopia” for centuries….

  14. otm permalink
    May 14, 2011 6:02 AM

    Should it not be “student party faction” and not “student party fraction”? Unless of course you are alluding to the Party as a whole and students as its part, in which case students become a fraction of the whole, I guess.

  15. Aditya Nigam permalink*
    May 14, 2011 8:11 AM

    Lipi,
    The reference to individual commenters was not done with any other purpose but to ilustrate the point being made about the worldview of a certain kind of ‘communist’ mindset. Since I do not know any of them people cited personally, I used this ‘one’ (I should probably have said ‘a certain X’ or ‘someone called X’). A shorthand in other words. But if it hurts, I am ready to apologize for that. However, it is a bit surprising that uyou do not find anything objectionable in the tone of the comments cited. They are apparently full of respect to those they address! After reading Upal’s comment above though, I think I may have erred in putting them all together but as I said, I was going only by what was written in the comments and not on the basis of any personal knowledge about specific individuals.
    Otm, the term is ‘student party fraction’ – which in party lingo means all those SFI leaders who are also party members. Usually at the level of the central leadership that would mean everyone. It is the party fraction within the mass organization, on other words.

  16. Lipi permalink
    May 14, 2011 8:52 AM

    Yes, some of the other comments were attacking and angry, but I do think a good blog does incite responses from a wide variety of people, and often with varying tones and ideas. But what struck me was your stance as a blogger—usually the blogger responds to the commentators by counter-commenting in the comments section itself. I had rarely seen a blogger lashing back at his commentators in his next post. I hope you understand that as a blogger you have a priority over the blog space than your commentators. Hence my concern.

    Btw, I would like to know your thoughts on the 2nd and 3rd points I raised.

  17. otm permalink
    May 14, 2011 9:15 AM

    Thanks for the clarification. I was not aware of this in spite of having Communist Party (I) members as relatives .

  18. Debraj Bhattacharya permalink
    May 14, 2011 8:01 PM

    In 2006-07 under the Strengthening Rural Decentralisation programme of Government of West Bengal 8 studies were carried out on various aspects of rural West Bengal. I was the coordinator of the research programme. All the studies pointed towards a grave situation in rural West Bengal. The studies were accepted by Surya Kanta Mishra and the file was duly signed by him. we started to prepare for making the researches public. Then came the result of the Parliamentary elections. Following this the file was put in the back burner and although the file had the Minister’s signature approving publication, the studies never got published. Surya Kanta Mishra was removed ostensibly with the excuse that he has too much load on his shoulders. What is worse is that the high and mighty never bothered to read the content of the studies. They are still rotting in the Panchayat Department. If they did then they would have got a signal that things were not going right. But who has time to read boring voluminous studies? Isn’t it better to just rely on the word of the sycophantic district leaders?

    • June 2, 2011 1:32 AM

      Debraj,
      Just release on the net if there was no legal obstacle. We deserve to read the findings.

  19. Manash permalink
    May 14, 2011 8:33 PM

    Aditya,

    Khabar to ruswai ki hi hogi, na aye behtar hai… Waise bhi, unke liye yeh khabar munasib nahi hogi , kyunki woh to iss sher ka haqdar hai aur shikar bhi –

    Sach kahte ho khudbin-o-khudara hun na kyon hun,
    Baitha hai buut-e-aina seema mere aage.

  20. ishwar dost permalink
    May 15, 2011 7:46 PM

    An in-depth, excellent and passionate analysis. Especially, how CPM reached to neo-liberal “solutions” and equilibrium of subtle terror. Thanks for these brilliant lines: “…because every step it takes out of the marxist dogma, takes it one more step into neo-liberal capitalism straight, with no further thought…” I agree that there is hardly any possibility of renewal (however party may come to power again without renewal depending on the act and omissions of new rulers), because stalinism has been reinforced by pragmatism and neo-liberalism. It is a rare combination not easy to crack.

  21. 0x101 permalink
    May 16, 2011 10:47 AM

    Left parties ruled Bengal since 1977 due to the land reforms they implemented.
    In India’s dummy democracy, land reforms and industrialization cannot go together.
    Mamata aptly utilized the opportunity via Nandigram & Singur agitations.
    Mamata will be a disaster for WB.

  22. 0x101 permalink
    May 22, 2011 10:57 PM

    Mamata will be a disaster for WB.
    But she’ll blame Congress for it.
    In 2001 she blamed BJP for her failures.

  23. June 1, 2011 12:05 PM

    If you think that before the collapse of the USSR (more specifically 1977 – 1987) Primary education, Public health system or the Public distribution system in West Bengal under LF was an Oasis , an exclusive ‘garden of Eden’ in a feudal sham democracy like India, then you are no different then people who say: “…What happened at Singur was conducted by outsiders. The local people of Singur did not participate in the ” mass struggle” against the Tata factory. If they had done so, the factory could not be constructed.” and “Nandigram was a CIA conspiracy to destabilize the Left Front government in West Bengal”.

  24. July 7, 2011 8:22 PM

    The picture accompanying the article, of a rickshaw+puller in front of the CPM flags – is ironic and also telling. In 2005, Chief Minister Buddhadev decided that hand-pulled rickshwas must go, as they were “inhuman” and sullied the “image” of Calcutta. But that was decided upon without any thought for the (principally non-Bengali, Bihari) pullers’ livelihood. Babu Bengali’s image fetish at the expense of Bihari labourers’ stomach. That’s Bengali communism. Thankfully, the rickshaw-pullers hung on, they are still in use, and they have appealed to CM Didi to come to their aid.

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