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CPM’s Congress Crutch

The unusual anxiety, bordering on obsession, displayed by the West Bengal unit of the CPI(M) for an electoral understanding / alliance with the Congress calls for a close scrutiny. One point that needs to be emphasized is that the CPI(M) has not made any self-criticism regarding its pro-corporate policy of 'industrialization' and 'development', simply because it remains a firm believer, at least in West Bengal, in corporate-driven development. The way the enthusiasm of the people in the countryside of West Bengal was made to subside after a few years of pro-people reformism in the wake of the CPI(M)'s ascent to power in 1977 is another point. As Ashok Mitra pointed out in a recent interview with a leading Bengali daily, the intial efforts towards making the panchayets an organ of popular will were gradually scuttled and the benefits of limited initial land reform measures gradually evaporated, although there were large scopes of organizing the benefited peasants into various kinds of cooperatives. Instead of invigorating the process of decentralization of power, the panchayets were gradually made subservient to the power of the Alimuddin Street and the misdeeds of the local would-be hegemons were covered up. Before acquiring land in Singur and Nandigram, the government did not consider it necessary to consult local panchayet bodies, even those under the control of the CPI(M) and its Left Front partners. The task of preparing the BPL lists was not given to the panchayets or gram samsads, and was assigned to bureaucracy although in the 73rd amendment to the Constitution, the gram samsads were given the task of removal of poverty. Key appointments in educational institutions, particularly those of principals and vice-chancellors, were dictated not by quality, but by loyalty to the Alimuddin Street and in some cases, to its Left Front partners. Power was combined with pelf; multi-millionaires could easily combine their princely life-styles with leftist pretensions and go happily along with the ruling party, and the CPI(M) leadership never challenged their ideological positions. In rural areas, local landlords who offered money to the CPI(M) were spared the seizure of their surplus lands, and in many cases, the CPI(M) stood on the side of the landlord. Large numbers of CPI(M) functionaries at various levels used their political positions for the betterment of their material status. As the mass base of the party dwindled, it became increasingly reliant on muscle power and police. Of course, the reactions against the activities of the CPI(M) were not always healthy.

For example, the way the Maoists of Jangal mahal, allegedly backed by the Trinamul Congress, killed subaltern people for owing allegiance to the CPI(M) was barbaric, and a large number of these flag-bearers of Maoism later turned to be mercenaries and are now stalking the region with the help of the joint forces, first employed by Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, and the police. Be that as it may, it is this section of the CPI(M) that has already tasted power and learnt the value of power, was in favour of an alliance with the Congress. Many belonging to this section, particularly those who promoted themselves by greasing the palms of the CPI(M) bosses have quickly switched their loyalty, but others, who became important functionaries at various local and district levels, could not. Yet they have won in one sense; the CPI(M) leaders have accepted their ideological position. The concept of class struggle and mass movements has been replaced by the concept of allying with the Congress, although Bengal's leftism has always thrived on mass movements taking place in the face of strong opposition from the Congress. It may be recalled that the CPI (M) withdrew support from the UPA-government at the centre on the issue of the Indo-US nuclear deal, although it remained silent on the Hyde Pact.

The CPI(M)'s withdrawal of support from the UPA-government, however, had little impact on the mode of functioning of Buddha Babu and his comrades-in-arms. Now they have taken it to its logical conclusion, allying with the Congress, which, right now, is blowing hot and cold, and the outcome of the offer of alliance, is still uncertain.

True, the present ruling dispensation is fast establishing itself as a party full of corrupt people and blatant self-seekers. This has been witnessed in the latest panchayet polls, parliamentary polls and municipal polls as well as in various other malpractices and barbaric activities taking place with disconcerting regularity. Yet there is a lingering popular notion that the CPI(M)'s successor regime is doing more overtly only what the predecessor did somewhat subtly. This notion cannot be erased by raising the slogan of 'industrialization' or by having the Congress as an electoral ally. Even if a CPI(M)-Congress alliance succeeds in ousting the present government ‘the possibility of which seems remote’, from power, this does not guarantee that the CPI(M) will work with a real pro-people orientation. Indications are that they will again resort to forcible acquisition of land, hopefully for the Tatas.

19-01-2016

Frontier
Vol. 48, No. 30, Jan 31 - Feb 6, 2016