Lesson of History

From Lal Salam to Jai Sriram

Asis Ranjan Sengupta

The international communist movement, suffered set back globally. Reasons are many and results also are so. But what happened in India, and in the last surviving pockets of Official Communist Parties, is, indeed Unique. In most cases Communists turned into Revisionists, Capitalists, or Imperialists. Some individuals have converted to Saints or mystics. But in case of West Bengal, the erstwhile Comrades, have been found to chant, the favourite Religio-political, Hindi, Hindu, slogan of Jai Sriram, glorifying the concept of one uniform National icon of the projected Hindu Rasthra. Let us trace the road map of the funeral journey of once so called Marxist Party.

Globally, after the dismantling of Soviet Russia, embracing free Market Economy by China, and surrender of Vietnam to US Capital, the other self proclaimed socialist or Communist countries, became insignificant, and went into liquidation. After the end of Cold War, between Capitalist and designated socialist block, the history of civilisation, as per a celebrated US thinker, came to an end. And other exponents of global free market economy declared that, Multinational Capitalism, with Gigantic profit hunting Entities, is the only future of mankind. So Trump, Putin, Balasarano (Brazil), Erdogan (Turkey), Xi Ping (China) are now ruling the world, Modi in India is an incarnation of that global totalitarian regime.  But, in the face of such all round attack on the very word Communism or Communist, Communist Party survived in tiny pockets of Indian states like, Kerala, W Bengal and Tripura. And it needed a tough autocrat like Narendra Modi and an out and out communal, fascist RSS, led by Amit Shah, to demolish it finally. Why and how may be a subject of study?

Communist Party was initially banned in India, during British rule, for their suspicious clandestine activity. But after Soviet Russia joined the Allied Force, during World War II, the ban was lifted. And during those fiery days of Independence movement, the international movement of Socialism fascinated large number of the patriots. After the transfer of power, the influence spread. First successful peasant movement that rocked the feudal rulers was Telengana movement by peasants, which matured into Tebhaga movement of Bengal, Bihar and parts of Assam. Suppressed shortly, those were failures, mainly due to the betrayal of middle class leadership.

After the fifties, Communist leadership, concentrated in cultural front more than the peasant movements. In labour front, Trade Union and workers struggle was growing, and communist party through its organisation provided leadership, achieved significant victories too. But here again, the militant struggle, was replaced by mere formal, collective bargaining mode where benevolent social work for workers became sole activity. The middle class leaders relied more on personal positions and craze for posts, rather than class struggle. The discontent and mass unrest was diverted to the pursuit of power capturing solely in Parliamentary path. The typical revolutionary path of developing secret militant force was abandoned. Meanwhile, in time of Sino Indian war of 1962, some ideological debate took place, and the party broke, but the newly born CPI ( M ) party document had nothing to offer, except incorporation of Peoples' Democratic War, a theory of Chinese Chairman  Mao Ze Dong,for underdeveloped countries, as distinguished from Soviet style Socialist Revolution. But then again it remained on paper. However, when this so called left Party was gaining strength, it pushed the parent party CPI to corner, thereby weakening the communist movement. The sole motto was to gain more seats in legislature to capture power. At the beginning, the idea was to capture political power and help mass movements by not sending police or ordering repression. But that myth was brutally broken, when the spontaneous peasant uprise, in Naxalbari, was ruthlessly suppressed by first left front govt. That was the shattering point of dream and exposed the hypocrisy of middle class dominated leadership. The following decades of left rule in the three border states of W Benagal, Tripura,and Kerala, were but, corrupt, authoritarian, autocratic rule, as usual with conventional parties, nothing new, except a few land reforms programmes that benefitted small and marginal farmers for the time being. West Bengal witnessed the atrocities of left rule, from Marich Jhampi to Nandigram through Singur. And their faulty Industrial policy, toying with education ruined west Bengal. With the opening up of economy in the nineties, CPM led government totally failed to retain existing Industries, or to attract new investments either.

In Parliament, this CPM, the major constituent, at times raised voices in favour of the cause of the people, or protested against anti people bills, but that is all, all vagaries of Parliamentary politics reduced them into slaves of the system,rather than the pioneers of social change. Same power craze, hankering after immediate benefits, and sucking the honey offered by rulers. So, Communist Party it never was, it was only a Sign Board. In the "Pigsty" of Parliament CPM, behaved like a flock of 'different' breed  from the Animal Farm of misconceived socialism.

Thirty years or more so called left rule, saw the extinction of brotherly parties like RSP, Forward Block or SUCI. No mass movement, only party offices all over the state, erection of statue, Bureaucratic handling of everything, under extra constitutional authority of Local Committee Secretary, holding rallies, Brigade Meetings, festivals, ceremonies etc. Communism took the back seat. Only corruption, misuse of Panchayat machinery and funds, distribution of doles and favours to cadres in good book.Nothing less nothing more.

In Parliament also, they played opportunist tricks only, toppling governments, nude bargaining for position and favour. Ruling class kept them loyal by distributing chairs, foreign trips, and awards. They joined the motion to topple first non-Congress Government of Morarji Desai. They prevented Jyoti Basu to head the coalition govt, causing damage to opposition unity. Joined V P singh in Bofors chorus, to defeat Rajiv Gandhi Congress, had no difficulty in holding the hands of Atal Vihari Vajpayee, the champions of communal politics, which emboldened then to initiate Babri demolition, and subsequent riots that they used, and are still using to polarise majoritarian vote Bank. CPI(M) displayed its ugly face, when they collaborated with BJP to topple UPA-I government, on the no confidence motion on the issue of Nuclear Supply bill, and accelerate the capture of power by communal forces. Though it was prevented by the rebel veteran Speaker S N Chattopadhay, he was humiliated badly by his own men. So CPM is and was a grand rightist opportunist party from the start.

In West Bengal, the left front autocratic regime with a communist mask was overthrown by TMC, under leadership of Mamata Banerjee. People initially breathed in relief, she even got support from a section of progressive minded people, but that was short lived. Within years, it proved to be a cruder version of left rule. CPM wanted to reap dividends from Chit fund scam, and Narda sting operation expose, but failed to crack in 2011.But meanwhile RSS with all its' various branch outfits, were mushrooming in remote areas, including the Hindi belt of adjacent districts and North Bengal. Nobody took care. Didi turned blind eyes to the growth of Hindutwa fascist. Even a few planned riots, Basirhat, Dhulagorhi, etc. failed to send alarm signals. The left cadres also remained silent. TMC did some good works in Rural areas, on health care and other pro-people programme implementation. Still the 2019 Panchayat pollschanged the picture. TMC was not confident of the effect of sops fished out among the public, so they unleashed brutal attacks and let loose bloody violence, to win everywhere. This strategy backfired. The left cadres, already detached from their Alimuddin and Nandan brand leaders of comfort zone, now felt deserted and disparate, with no hope of fight back, they decided to hug the enemy of the foe, for mortal survival.

The vacant space, was tactfully occupied by RSS activists, in collaboration with left cadres, with the spreading of fake religious Temples, Monasteries, schools and philanthropic institutes, all hindutwa activism, polarising votes. During the entire campaign, the left leadership and social media activists played the role of Cheer Dancers of BJP propaganda machinery. From Chit Fund, CBI (used as coercive tool for election advantage only, nothing with scam), Rajeev Kumar, the Gold Smuggling by wife of Abhishek, CM Nephew, in everything, they sang to the tune of saffron flute. The result was obvious, even urban and metropolitan minds got inclined in favour of the communal Fascists with a vain hope of justice and from and teaching lesson to TMC.

The problem is of misplaced priorities. Lack of political education from top to bottom, fails to teach the lesson of identifying, real friends and true enemies, immediate target and secondary foes, the tactic of alliance with the stark enemy to fight out more dreadful, for the time being only to take up the earlier after demolition of Demon. The CPM cadres or intermediate leadership, never probably heard of Lenin collaborating Kerensky, the Menshevik leader in Duma (Parliament), or Mao joining arch enemy Chiang Kai Shek, to fight out Japanese invasion, or even Stalin, who signed non aggression pact with the Nazi Germany, only to destroy Fascism finally, by joining the Allied Force. The revolutionary ideology had no place in their activities. The result must be disastrous.

Strategically, arch enemies in UP, Samajvadi Party and BahujanSamaj Party  buried their quarrels, realising the doctrine of  "public calamity is the mighty leveller" (Edmund Burke), joined hands to fight out the communal menace of BJP. They failed no doubt, but displayed their political maturity, which the CPM leadership failed to prove in last poll. Consequently, a handful of CPM intellectual middle class vote remained intact (7%) and the majority rural votes, swung outright to BJP (22%). BJP, whose cadres made no door to door campaign, no interface approach, staged  Glossy public meetings, by top leaders to dazzle the public, rained hard cash, and like a typical Nazi Gestapo style secret link ups and stealthy sabotage inside the ruling party and purchasing  the main opposition, snatched Seats, beyond their estimate. And this was made possible solely by left vote switch over in blocks. Else TMC vote share did not suffer, rather gained by marginal 5%, and Congress vote share did not suffer much loss. The only loss is left vote.

Didi time and again dreamt of opposition free west Bengal, so she concentrated more on left vote, even her grass root level machinery was not strong enough, to give timely signals of this shift. She scoffed at the very existence of left, but the saffron brigade showed her their existence, and ability to decide result. Gain for BJP, but permanent loss for CPM. Those who still believe that left vote will bounce back, after eradication of TMC, are living in fools' paradise, as that never happened  and cannot happen in history. The public anger against Corrupt, arrogant, extortionist rule of TMC, was high, but instead of utilising that opportunity, as the second opposition party, CPM decided to surrender and commit mass suicide. Then again, whether this, clean swing was an expression of their frustration, or concern for safety, is doubtful. The nature of unexpected outcome and from ground reports, the transaction, appears to be, not so transparent. And curiously, Prakash Karat, on record, in one press briefing in course of one and a half month long election said that, BJP had prospects of faring much better in West Bengal. When confronted by his own men, he of course denied and said that he was misinterpreted.

BJP, in central govt failed in all parameters, in last five years, but still voted back by North and Central and of course western India voters, one convenient explanation is that, to them, "there is no alternative" (TINA), as opposition proved to be 'chasing Land Rover of BJP, armed with money, muscle, cunning publicity strength, with old Bicycles, handicapped in all fronts. So, no alternative. The CPM voters were and are might be, in that TINA trap. They were convinced that it was not possible for them to fight back by own might, so better empower the worse enemy and be in their safe(?) trap, but  once in that deadly  Tarantula  trap no way out but to perish. So, no alternative but to forget the past, and Comrades chanting LAL SALAM slogan of class struggle, are and will be shouting the communal fascist slogan of Jai Sri Ram. Such is the destiny and so is the irony of fate. Course of History is curious and cruel comrades, it spares none.

Vol. 51, No. 52, Jun 30 - Jul 6, 2019