Calcutta Notebook

CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat in an article in party's theoretical quarterly, The Marxist, two years back wrote, arguing in defence of democratic centralism, "The exigencies of class politics require an organisation which is able to change the forms of struggle according to the prevailing situation. This requires a centralised party. Democratic centralism is best suited as the organisational principle for a party based on Marxism and class struggle. Class struggle is a collective act. Democratic centralism promotes collective decision making and collective activity; it allows for freedom of thought and unity in action". But in the same discourse, he contradicted himself. "Democratic centralism is also held responsible for stifling creative thinking and development of Marxist theory. The top bodies of the party set out theory and it becomes a closed system which precludes any fresh thinking or absorbing new developments. Democratic centralism is suited to a structure where theory is interpreted by the leading bodies and it is carried out by the ranks. Theoretical discussions outside the approved framework is frowned upon, or worse seen as 'indiscipline'." Theoretical commitment to democratic centralism—virtually parroting of Lenin's words in a disjointed way - thus conflicts with the ground reality.

Karat snapped fingers at honchos of Muzaffar Ahmed Bhavan for fostering the aberrant party life trampling the culture of democratic centralism by suppressing inner-party democracy . "As far as the CPI(M) is concerned, democratic centralism in practice has been distorted with centralization and commandism in West Bengal with no heed paid to views from below. On a general plane, it is asserted that a mass revolutionary party cannot be built with the Leninist form of organization. Wrong tactical line being formulated can also be attributed to the wrong organizational practice". Facing an unprecedented crisis of identity, the mauled Bengal brass the organizational review report accepted the indictment. "We cannot claim with force that we have been successful in creating the atmosphere of free and frank inner-party discussion fully and at all levels. It cannot be denied that some times a sense of fear prevails about the leadership more than respect or pride. Comrades want to maintain distance. If this situation is not overcome, discontent will increase in the Party. Individuals with dishonest intentions will use this discontent to form factions." There lies the hypocrisy of the Party biggies at both the national HQ, A K Gopalan Bhavan in New Delhi, and MA Bhavan in Kolkata. The Political-Organisational Reports (PORs) at the 18th and and 19th Congresses had no critical or pungent words at all about WB Party organisation. After all M A Bhavan used to bear more than 60 per cent of expenditure in the running of central party establishment at AKG Bhavan until the catastrophic electoral performance in 2009 Lok Sabha and 2011 assembly polls. With over 150 MLAs and 57 MPs plus uninterrupted hegemony over a state government for 34 years, crores of rupees were generated to finance party-functioning through party levies and , liberal release of advertisement from various government departments and state undertakings, the state information and cultural affairs department to party-run publications and souvenirs. The irony of the history is that now M A Bhavan has to depend financially on other states. The West Bengal State Relief Committee, afloat after the catastrophic poll outcomes, got Rs 4,42,77,066 until the Party Congress ostensibly to help "the families of those killed, injured and displaced in the attack after the Assembly elections".

Principles of democratic centralism, based on dialectical linkage between inner-party debate and struggle and central unity at every phase from the CC to branch committee, are violated by CC members. Which is why the POR states in a cautionary tone, "CC members should set the example of democratic centralism. They should ensure inner-party democracy. They should firmly discourage loose talk and criticisms outside Party forums." This is meant for some CCMs who willy-nilly divulge once in a blue moon inside information to journalists or friends of fraternal political parties.

The syndrome of degeneration is manifest even among "a significant section of party members" of Tripura where a Spartan life style, handed down by illustrious communists such as Nripen Chakrabarty and Dasarath Deb, is common among top leaders. Excerpts from the state's POR, incorporated in the 20th Congress document point to 'lack of communist consciousness' as the cause of undesirable trends. Such party members ' are more and more dipped into trends of corruption, financial establishment, nepotism, non-communist behaviors. Religious superstitions etc. Bourgeois and feudal thoughts are infecting directly or indirectly,' infers Tripura POR.

The world's only Stalinist party-in- power (albeit embraced unrestrained embourgeoisment), dislodged after for three and a half decades is suffering from a haemorrhage of confidence. And its manifestation is too explicit to be hoodwinked.

Vol. 45, No. 5, Aug 12-18, 2012