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Yadavji's Anorexia and the Decline of the Left

Call it "revisionism" if you are bold enough to call a spade a spade like Hiren Gohain ("Decline of the Left: A Critical Comment", EPW, 17 September 2011), or "empiricisation" like Prabhat Patnaik ("The Left in Decline", EPW, 16 July 2011) does, there cannot be any doubt that revolutionary change is no more on the agenda of the present leadership of CPI(M). One can only imagine the predicament of dedicated party cadre like Mukeswar Yadav.


Yadavji’s Anorexia and the Decline of the Left

Siddhartha Lahiri

Call it “revisionism” if you are bold enough to call a spade a spade like Hiren Gohain (“Decline of the Left: A Critical Comment”, EPW, 17 September 2011), or “empiricisation” like Prabhat Patnaik (“The Left in Decline”, EPW, 16 July 2011) does, there cannot be any doubt that revolutionary change is no more on the agenda of the present leadership of CPI(M). One can only imagine the predicament of dedicated party cadre like Mukeswar Yadav.

Siddhartha Lahiri ( is with the department of Applied Geology, Dibrugarh University, Assam.

ukeswar Yadav, now around 76, is perhaps the only CPI(M) whole-timer in Dibrugarh town, Assam who has served the party for more than 40 years. Besides organising a few trade unions, he had the job to distribute party literature. He did that sincerely, maintained transparent accountancy and unquestionable integrity. In the 1970s, Yadavji, on behalf of the party, ran a progressive bookstall. A small ten-by-ten feet rented room accommodated a bookstall, party office, trade union office and shelter for the bachelor whole-timer. Located near the only flyover of the town, the symbol of “growth” that distinguishes small and big towns in Assam, the party office had a well-known public identity. During the nationalistic fervour of the 1980s, led by the students’ body All Assam Students Union (AASU), the bookstall was burnt by miscreants. Presently, there is no progressive bookstall in Dibrugarh. As the party could never take a clear stand on the “National Question” and the state unit unable to bring to the fore innovative leaders, the only significant programme the party could organise over the last 15 years was the annual celebration of May Day. Some of the university students among whom Yadavji distributed progressive literature, joined later on as the faculty members and then their days of retirement too came closer – Yadavji, pedalling a cycle slowly, kept on distributing those red stuffs as usual. The only visible and unchangeable face of CPI(M) in the Dibrugarh township was Yadavji.

A Dedicated Party Worker’s Predicament

Very recently Yadavji came with a court order that instructed him to vacate the office immediately. He was visibly shaken to the core. The story that emerged was very simple. With time, the place where the party office was located became prime land. The earlier landlo rd sold it to an

novemBER 19, 2011

industrialist and from the very beginning of the handover, the new landlord tried to get his tenant to vacate the place. A case was filed, the court order challenged, an injunction by the higher court followed, so on and so forth. Usually, these types of cases go on for decades and Yadavji felt

highly assured because the party deputed a high-profile party-affiliated lawyer having a roaring practice. As an obedient cadre (Yadavji could not manage any promotion in the party rung and remained, lifelong, a grass root member), when the matter was referred to the state committee, Yadavji was conveyed a message that he should not bypass the organisational ladder; everything would reach him through the “proper channel”. For the first time, Yadavji was furious, frustrated and defiant.

He conveyed the matter to different camps too and started thinking in every direction so that the office could be retained. Subsequently, it was discovered that the party-assigned lawyer did not attend the case, neither had he bothered to inform Yadavji. As a result, in the absence of the appellant, the high court simply dismissed the case. Even by parliamentary standards, this was a serious offence. The party immediately smelt a “Maoist” in Yadavji – if this was not so, how could a meek cadre question the big stalwarts? Members from different camps were highly sympathetic to Yadavji. The general view was: among the lower level cadres, still some incorruptible honest members were there and Yadavji was one of them. Within no time, a few volunteers came forward to donate the money to take the case to any level. Yadavji’s frustration reduced significantly. He expressed openly the level of corruption the party leadership had immersed into which he never divulged before, thinking these stories were the party’s “internal matter”.

He suspected some underhand dealing. He remembered how in the past, militant programmes from the lower level cadres were countered by some influential members. Over the years, those militant workers had either left the party or became inactive. On the other hand, the opportunists could mange high party positions, tickets during the elections, and petrol pumps after the elections. Yadavji was ready for the Halla Bol. These developments

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gradually percolated into the ears of the top bosses of the party sitting in the Guwahati office. Yadavji was called. For a week the volunteers did not get any news from Yadavji. After a fortnight, Yadavji was seen again with the same duty of distributing party literature. There was only one difference. He complained wherever he went – bhook nahin lagti! Those who were aware of the eviction notice asked him about the party’s stand on the matter. With lots of hesitation he said that the party instructed him to vacate the place in the first place and search for some other rented house and whatever doubts he had with the party members, those things could be raised formally in the local body meeting, subsequently in the higher levels, so on and so forth.

Some of the volunteers did not like Yadavji’s submissive attitude. They rebuked him bluntly – if he was not ready to fight, why did he ask for help and waste their precious time? Yadavji could not answer their questions. Those who did not like to hurt the old man, they knew Yadavji could not do anything within the party and at this ripe age of 76, it was not possible for him to challenge the influential coteries without forgoing the party membership, the most precious thing the man possessed. For the first time perhaps in the last 40 years, Yadavji became highly irregular. He even started to miss some of the interesting numbers. Those who knew Yadavji closely were showing concern towards the deteriorating health condition of the old man.

There are good doctors in the Dibrugarh Medical College who sympathise with the left cause. They asked Yadavji to get admitted and performed a thorough check up. Lots of tests were performed. Nothing was found and Yadavji was discharged. The problem lingered – loss of appetite. There is an old ayurvedic doctor. He administered saline bottles for three consecutive days and forced him to take general food under his own supervision. Yadavji’s condition was showing marginal improvement. Some of the regular subscribers of party literature were worried for the missed numbers as well as Yadavji’s health. In exceptional situations, Yadavji pursues some of his sympathisers to make calls to those persons with whom he feels closer. In his latest call, Yadavji was

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repeating the old complain – bilkool bhook nahin lagti!

Revolution: Not on the CPI(M)’s Agenda

Prabhat Patnaik’s method of dealing with the decline in the contemporary left politics in India (EPW, 16 July 2011) is highly refined and a real treat for those left intellectuals who find different ways and means of prospective areas of further research, particularly in the epistemological domain of praxis. The meaning he assigned to “empiricisation” was questioned by Hiren Gohain (EPW, 17 September 2011). He argues that the categories of deviations observed within the ambit of “empiricisation” can be understood by the clearer term “revisionism”. It is indeed so. However, there is minor shade of difference too. After calling a party revisionist, it is no more possible for a person advocating the concrete possibilities of revolutionary change and subsequent transcendence to socialism, at least at the theoretical level, to share the same platform in public. There cannot be any doubt that revolutionary change is no more in the agenda of the present leadership of CPI(M).

Patnaik has correctly identified the wrong mechanical emphasis given by the parliamentary Left to “stage theory” and then the resolve to bring capitalism first, thereby going against the interest of the “basic classes”, and subsequently jumping the “stage of capitalism” to enter into the “stage of socialism” to win back the interests of the “basic classes”. This somersault theory is definitely not in keeping with a class-based understanding of the history of civilisation. An abstract understanding of “time as the ultimate regulator” and the function of the Left is to keep on listening to the beats and reorient the steps, from waltz to ballet to east-west mix, is fundamentally different from the Marxist understanding of praxis. Moreover, the parliamentary Left’s explanation about the ennui of the “basic classes” due to excessive oppression and its programme to utilise parliamentary means to pump energy inside to make them fit for the coming revolutionary change has already been proved to be a wrong assessment of the strength of the struggling masses. Though there is no such direct correlation but the contemporary reality is replete with many such examples where those who suffer the most strive for revolutionary change much more passionately. The present form of the Indian left is definitely not sustainable against the forceful as well as flexibly tuned shrewdly calibrated neo-liberal mode of functioning of finance capital. Over the last two decades, the CPI(M) has transformed its party infrastructure to have a collaborationist track with finance capital, maintaining simultaneously the slogan mongering of the “golden” past.

Perhaps the majority of the dedicated party cadres could not monitor the changing colour of the flame from multi-shaded fumes. Thumping electoral victories in Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura kept them happy and ignorant. After the resounding debacle, a soul searching has begun but the energy level is too low to expect any quantum jump in the near future. As long as that silver line is not visible, the question at the middle level that can afford to go through the EPW is – can “empiricisation” explain Kyun Yadavjiko bilkool bhook nahin lagti?

May 28, 2011
Global Crises, Welfare Provision and Coping Strategies of Labour in Tiruppur Extending the Coverage of Minimum Wages in India: Simulations from Household Data Labour and Employment under Globalisation: The Case of Gujarat Impact of the Economic Crisis on Workers – M Vijayabaskar – Patrick Belser, Uma Rani – Indira Hirway, Neha Shah

in the Unorganised Sector in Rajasthan – S Mohanakumar, Surjit Singh

For copies write to: Circulation Manager,

Economic and Political Weekly,

320-321, A to Z Industrial Estate, Ganpatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai 400 013. email:

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