Finally Martial Law

An Expulsion

[Following is a statement issued by Subhanil Chowdhury on May 23, 2014, after his expulsion from CPM for raising some controversial issues in the party]

This is to inform all concerned that I have been a member of the CPI(M) since the year 2000, which I had joined as an activist of the SFI. I've been the secretary of the Website Branch of the party since 2011, which works under the state centre in West Bengal. I played my due role in the CPI(M)'s campaign for the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections.

For the past few years—since the Nandigram police firing in 2007—I've been raising, along with many more likeminded activists, several questions within the party fora regarding the mistakes being committed by the party leadership. However, I've never allowed my criticisms to come in the way of my responsibilities within the party, which I've discharged with due commitment. Neither have I shared my criticisms outside the party. But I have always been pained by the tendency of the party leadership to deliberately evade the ideological-political questions being raised by the party functionaries in meetinqs and conferences.

After the Loksabha elections, I was shocked and pained like countless other party members at the pathetic result of the CPI(M) and the Left Front, particularly in West Bengal. After hearing the disappointing post-election responses from the party leadership, which is trying to explain away the serious debacle only in terms of violence and rigging, I wanted to share my anguish and concerns regarding the gradual destruction of the communist party with the likeminded people, who were also speaking out against the present state of affairs. Accordingly, I drafted the statement below on May 20, 2014 and circulated it within my friends with the purpose of issuing an appeal.

"We the undersigned activists, supporters and voters of the Left Parties in India are deeply concerned with the electoral debacle faced by the Left Front in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, particularly in its erstwhile stronghold of West Bengal. The weakening of the Left at a time when the communal-fascist forces are on the rise augurs ill for the future of secular democracy in India.

The rise of the BJP in West Bengal—a state which is known for communal peace and amity—is deeply disturbing. The BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate's shrill rhetoric against "infiltrators" from Bangladesh during the election campaign caused communal polarisation. The misdeeds of the corrupt and autocratic TMC government in the state have: also helped the BJP.

We firmly believe that it is only a principled Left which can effectively prevent the resistible rise of the BJP in Bengal. However, the present leadership of the largest Left party, the CPI(M), has lost all credibility among the people because of their political-tactical errors and arrogance. Even after such a comprehensive defeat, they are refusing to take responsibility.

We appeal to the CPI(M) leadership in West Bengal to step down owning responsibility of the electoral debacle and make way for a new leadership from within the ranks, which can explore new ideas on how to take the Left movement forward. We also believe that broad-based unity of all the Left and democratic forces is the need of the hour. We appeal to the millions of leftwing activists and sympathizers in West Bengal and across the country to unite in favour of positive change and organize resistance against the rightwing onslaught."

This appeal received a very positive response from several party workers, who endorsed the draft. However, even before the appeal could be issued publicly, the CPI(M) state secretariat, which had received a copy of the draft appeal, met on May 21, 2014 and decided to take disciplinary action against me.

In a party branch meeting held yesterday—May 22, 2014—attended by a state secretariat member and two state committee members, I was asked to unconditionally withdraw my name from the statement. I sought a political response to the statement from the senior leadership present in the meeting and demanded explanations on the abject failure of the state leadership, which has led to the debacle of the Left. I informed the party leadership that I've already written an article on the Left's electoral debacle containing criticisms of the party leadership and submitted it for publication in the Bengali magazine, Arekrakam. I also circulated the article among the members present in the meeting.

To my dismay, I was told that the political questions that I'd raised will not be discussed in the meeting and I was threatened with summary expulsion if I refused to retract. I was also told to withdraw my article from Arekrakam. Such responses from the leadership convinced me that the space for democratic debate and discussion has been completely stifled within the party, because of which party followers are being forced to speak outside. It is ironical that while acts like drafting critical statements or writing articles are being penalized, corruption and venality of the worst kind continues to be tolerated, or even patronized by the party leadership.
Given the sentiments of the ordinary party workers, who have been valiantly fighting the rightwing onslaught and are exasperated by the apathy, ineptness, ideological deviations, tactical errors, defeatism and sheer arrogance of the leadership, I refused to succumb to their hypocritical diktats. I also pointed out that the strict interpretation of party discipline in the case of this draft appeal stands in sharp contrast to the flagrant violation of party discipline which seniormost leaders, including Polit Bureau members, routinely indulge in. I also asked how the details of the discussions in meetings of the polit bureau, central committee, state secretariat, state committee etc. are regularly being published in the mainstream media.

In the end, I was summarily expelled from the party.

This statement is being issued to sensitise all sections of the left and democratic minded people that the CPI(M) is currently being run by a self-serving clique, who are only interested in protecting their own positions of privilege. While sycophants are being entertained and promoted, party cardholders who raise critical questions out of their dedication for the party, are being purged. I am deeply disturbed by the fact that even after such a political disaster, the CPI(M) leadership is behaving in such a high-handed manner.

I stand in solidarity with all the members and supporters of the CPI(M), who are braving state-sponsored violence to hold aloft the red flag, but whose trust the leadership has thoroughly betrayed. I appeal to all members and supporters of the CPI(M) to endorse the statement above and raise their voice and demand accountability from the leadership, which is once again trying to evade responsibility.

Vol. 46, No. 52, Jul 6 - 12, 2014