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Moral Betrayal of a Leftist Dream

A sense of public anger in West Bengal over Singur and Nandigram has not added up yet to a statewide agitation against the Left Front. The electorate is wise enough to recognise that there is no viable alternative as yet. But if the CPI(M) continues to be obdurate, public outrage may take desperate forms. Reactionary forces like the Trinamool and BJP are waiting in the wings - the first such ominous signs were evident in Singur and Nandigram.

Moral Betrayal of aLeftist Dream

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Economic and Political WeeklyApril 7, 20071241deceit and criminality that were witnessedin Singur and Nandigram. At face value,the Left – primarily the CPI(M) – hadexpanded its base in West Bengal. But ithad been at the expense of ideologicalprinciples. The fibre of morality in the Leftmuscle has withered, and politics in WestBengal has been reduced to an arena forpartisan manipulation.The rot started with the CPI(M)’s usingthe administration to spread and consoli-date its party base by selectively distri-buting largesse, and forcibly doling outplots of land to sections of the farmers andpeasantry, who ultimately became theirapparatchiki and retainers. This privilegedsegment of the rural population has emergedas a tyrannical force in the West Bengalcountryside – bullying the villagers intoaccepting their party dictates, persecutingthose who refuse to toe their line, extortingmoney in the name of collecting partyfunds, and assuming the role of the solearbiter in any village dispute. In severalcases, the landless followers of the partywere settled on plots without any legalsanction, as a result of which the benefi-ciaries did not have any valid papers ofownership. Sharecroppers working on thelands of the CPI(M) farmers, instead ofbeing registered, were promised fringebenefits in lieu of their due share of crops.Today, the disastrous consequences of suchshort-sighted and irresponsible measuresare evident in Singur and Nandigram, wherethese villagers, without any legal docu-ments to claim compensation for their plots,which are about to be taken away forindus-trial purposes, are refusing to part withtheir land and rebelling against the sameparty which had once helped them. Theirlimits of patience broken, the long intimi-dated villagers – both the deprived and theerstwhile beneficiaries – have come to-gether to retaliate against the CPI(M). Theyare paying back the party in the same coinby driving out its cadres, burning theirhouses, and bludgeoning those who refuseto join them. Reports of atrocities sufferedby CPI(M) cadres and of those by itsopponents are being believed or disbelievedsolely on the grounds of political predilec-tion. But while our hearts go out to the poorCPI(M) followers who have been killed ordriven out from their villages by theiropponents, we must ruefully admit that theCPI(M) has to blame itself for meeting thissticky end. By its intimidating method ofestablishing party hegemony in the past,it created the insurmountable dissensionsthat are splitting the rural masses today.It is the same unscrupulous method ofestablishing party hegemony that hascorrupted to the marrow the entire admin-istration and every institution of WestBengal today. Subservience to the localparty apparatchiki (which includes regularpayment of a fixed amount, described underthe euphemism of “contribution”) is thecriterion for the appointment of teachersin schools, obtaining a bed in hospital fortreatment, or gaining access to facilitiesthat should be available to every citizenin the normal course. The Left Front govern-ment has thus racked up a record of corrup-tion and official lies in day-to-day gover-nance, arrant duplicity and muscle powerin politics, and crass partisanship in thedistribution of benefits – a register whichis only second after the score achieved byCongress, BJP, Samajwadi Party or otherruling parties. It is increasingly being feltin public perception that the Left is nodifferent from these parties, when it comesto running the administration.Loss of Moral PhilosophyWhile shelving the ultimate goal of build-ing a socialist society, in its bid for imme-diate political gains in the competitive elec-toral race, the CPI(M) in West Bengal hasabandoned the moral principles that onceunderpinned the philosophy of commu-nism.Establishment of party paramountcythroughrapid aggressive expansionism hasbecome the substitute for patient ideologicaltraining of its cadres and followers.The present malaise can be traced to twopredispositions in the Left movement. Ingeneral, the building of the Communistorganisation has been traditionally basedon the Leninist concept of vanguardism –the discontented and exploited class sup-plying the energy and manpower, and theintellectual vanguard providing the leader-ship for the revolution. In West Bengal,because of the low ideological level of thepresent generation of its leaders and min-isters, its vanguardism took an uncouthform. They simplified Marxism into amilitarist drill of sorts, riding roughshodover political opposition and cultural dis-sent. It gave them the gratifying sense ofsuperiority and fanatical self-confidence,without making them realise that a timewould come when the classes that they ledcould become organised and autonomousenough to resist the dictates of the van-guard (which has happened in Singur andNandigram). The second proclivity isrooted in the birth of the CPI(M) in 1964.It was born as a rather belligerent childwith a persecution complex – its leadersbeing put behind bars soon after its for-mation, its cadres hounded by the state,and forced to operate in secrecy for a longtime. As a result, after coming to powerin the 1967 and again in the1969 stateassembly elections, the party began to putall its might in spreading its base anddevising self-protective mechanisms,which often led to turf-wars with smallerLeft parties (eg, the Communist Party ofIndia, Forward Bloc, and the Revolution-ary Socialist Party). Further, the Naxalbariuprising posed not only an ideologicalchallenge, but drew away from it a largenumber of its younger cadres and follow-ers. Incapable of self-introspection andself-correction – given their inferior intel-lectual calibre – the party leaders resortedto physical violence to eliminate theNaxalite threat. The most shameful inci-dent took place on August 12, 1971 inBaranagar, near Calcutta, when CPI(M)cadres joined the police in hunting out andslaughtering more than 100 young Naxaliteworkers and sympathisers.Although stained by such violent acts ofmuscle power and overbearing arrogance,that past record of the CPI(M) had paledinto insignificance by 1977, in comparisonwith the more brutal atrocities that thepeople of West Bengal had to suffer underthe Congress during the 1975-76 Emer-gency. So, when in the 1977 assemblyelections, the people voted back the CPI(M)to power, they expected it to be morechastened and develop into a more respon-sible party. Alas, after the initial period ofsuccess and sobriety, the party relapsedinto its old mental groove and mode offunctioning! The germs of intolerance,insecurity and pugnacity with which it wascontaminated at its birth, turned into a full-blown aneurysm.Need for an Alternative Left A few words of caution need to beadded. All this sense of public revulsiondoes not add up yet to a statewide agitationagainst the Left Front government in WestBengal. Most of the incidents that haveoutraged us are violent examples of localzealotry – both of the CPI(M) andTrinamool variety. There is no generalreversal of support against the Left gov-ernment, and no wind of a change in favourof the Congress, Trinamool – and least ofall, the Bharatiya Janata Party – which aretrying to fish in the troubled waters. The
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