ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Getting to the Roots of Failure

The Left may be down, but it is certainly not out. How may it renew itself?

There are those who say that the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] and the Left Front (LF) it headed would not have suffered the electoral debacle in West Bengal that it did if a Harkishan Singh Surjeet and a Jyoti Basu were at the helm, the former in A K Gopalan Bhavan in New Delhi and the latter in Writers’ Building in Kolkata. A deft handling of the Congress Party – more persuasion, less intimidation – by the former would have checkmated an electoral alliance of that party with the Trinamool Congress, while a skilful combination of coercion and consent by the latter in the acquisition of agricultural lands for the moneybags, and the attraction of private investment more through his image of a “comrade” of big business than by having to dole out further fiscal concessions, would have kept the party’s social contract with the people intact. In other words, the inexperience or incompetence of the CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat and of the LF government Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee along with that of West Bengal CPI(M) State Secretary Biman Basu did the party in. But that would be a shallow analysis of the debacle, and would merely call for a change of leadership with the core of the party’s programme of 1964 intact. Surely deeper criticism and self-criticism would be in order.

Going by the CPI(M)’s 1964 programme, did the conduct of the party and the government it headed for 34 years in West Bengal promote the maturing of the conditions for the “people’s democratic revolution” (PDR), the party’s immediate goal? Did LF governance bring the desired “immediate relief to the people” in the last decade of that period of governance? Did it “strengthen the mass movement” as the party’s programme thought it would? Did it “educate the people on the need for replacing the present bourgeois-landlord state and government headed by the big bourgeoisie”? Tragically, instead the people rejected the CPI(M). To put it bluntly, the LF’s electoral defeat reflects the public’s rejection of the CPI(M)’s promotion of the process of “primitive accumulation” of capital – for instance, in the conversion of agricultural lands to real estate through coercion, benefiting capital. Wonder what Marx would have had to say, for the party did this in his name! Surely, the party’s theory and practice calls for ruthless criticism and selfcriticism. In this, and in these columns, we can at most lay out the canvas and begin to sketch a few strokes, hopefully not wild ones.

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