Quo Vadis Bengal CPI(M)

Sankar Ray

The CPI(M-L) Liberation general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya holds aloft the flag of Georgi Mikhailov Dimitrov, secretary-general of the Communist International, who scripted a theoretical armament for the Popular Front against Fascism on 2 August 1935. He made an eight hour speech, presenting a ‘Marxian analysis of Fascism and tried to explain the appeal of Fascism to certain social strata. He suggested co-operation with right-wing socialists, reformists, and religious and democratic groups’, according to declassified CIA report, ‘Dimitrov’s Relation to Popular Front  Policy’. The CIA disclosure,  made in 1952 when Iosif (TIMIR- PL DON’T change it to Joseph) Stalin was alive, states that the historic speech marked a ‘swing towards Popular Front.’ The CIA Report seems essentially factual, as it was a rejection of Stalin’s disastrous and destructive characterisation of social democrats as ‘social fascists’ that caused a breach between communists, cashing on which only Hitler grabbed power on 30 January 1933. The irony of history is that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi embraced martyrdom in the battle against communalism exactly 15 years thereafter. 

The CPI(ML) Lib leader’s three-point vision is clear: ‘To save the country from the catastrophe called BJP. To build the dream country of freedom movement and martyrs. To change the country and society’.  That’s his crisp formulation towards the battle for reversing the nightmarish drift towards Fascism that Indian polity is presently in. The single sentence that encapsulates the theme of Popular Front was unity on a single point: opposition to Fascism. To elaborate the point, Dimitrov’s call was this: Are you opposed to Fascism? If yes, come and join us to walk hand in hand to defeat Fascism. Bhattacharya adopts this in the Indian context. The Left whose numerical strength has weakened beyond recognition has an opportunity to come back although it is not mandatory that the Left has to lead the path. The question of leadership is not on the agenda now, nor it is relevant.  

Bhattacharya, emboldened by the spectacular success of his party in Bihar state assembly elections in October-November this year, winning 12 out of 19 seats it contested, asks the Left leaders to learn lessons. The alliance, Mahagathbandhan comprising the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Indian National Congress and three Left parties – CPI(ML) Lib, CPI(M) and CPI had the semblance of Popular Front against the National Democratic Front, led by the BJP which is characterized by CPI(ML) Lib and CPI as Fascist although. CPI(M) calls it ‘fascistic’. The CPI won two out of six seats while CPI(M) bagged got two out of four.

in a television interview, the CPI(ML) Lib leader questioned the CPI(M) electoral strategy in West Bengal in the ensuing state assembly elections in 2021, prominently spelt out in CPI(M)’s Bengali morninger in West Bengal, Ganashakti. The party’s general secretary Sitaram Yechury said, ‘in order to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party Trinamul Congress must be defeated’. It means that the first condition of defeating the BJP is to defeat the TMC first. Bhattacharyya differs. “So far, many in the Left have been treating Trinamul as the Number One target because it is in power. But the BJP is the growing danger in Bengal. Rather than competing with the BJP in opposing Trinamul, it should be the other way round”. He reminded the fellow travellers of CPI(M) and Left Front sympathisers that, ‘BJP has to be recognised as the biggest threat to democracy across the country and in Bengal. One of the problems in Bengal is that many of our comrades there are not viewing state politics in the context of national politics.’ 

But CPI(M) leaders' obsession with the imaginary and dangerous perception is irritating. One of the senior most polit bureau members of the party, Biman Bose said: ' There is no question of replicating the Bihar model in Bengal. Bengal has its own model.  Here the reality is different. 'He rejected Bhattacharya's perception that both in West Bengal and Assam BJP is enemy no 1. (Times of India, Kolkata edition, 12 Nov 20). Yechury has an alibi of backing up his Bengal comrades. 'Main political enemy is BJP, not only in Bengal but in the whole of India. The moot question is to how you can defeat this enemy. As I told already, if you don’t campaign against TMC, don’t fight them anti-incumbency will favour the opposition, that is BJP. The objective of defeating BJP will be defeated. Such a tactics will only help BJP.’ (Peoples’ Democracy, 22 November 20). One is reminded of Orwell who once told of hoary-headed Stalinists that it’s futile to ‘try to teach a parrot a new line’.

Bantering this line of targeting TMC first, Bhattacharya in an interview to Bengali daily Eisamay that the CPI(M) undermines the task of defeating the BJP (read RSS) by pushing it down to foot notes while stressing principally the aim of branding the TMC as the main enemy. There is no denying that Left leaders in Bengal indirectly helped BJP by going after Mamata Banerjee and TMC. 

Social scientist Aditya Nigam who was one of the top leaders of  Student Federation, CPI(M)’s student front, reminds us timely of Ernst Thalman, general secretary of  Communist Party of Germany (KPD) during the period of Hitler’s ascendancy. He cautioned the KPD central committee against ‘opportunistically overestimating Hitler’, helping the latter be appointed Chancellor. Nigam quoted Michael Burleigh who referred to the Nazi’s committed contempt for the law. Burleigh wrote ‘by 1932 were vowing to intern Communists and Social Democrat opponents in concentration camps.’ (p. 149). Thalman, Nigam recalled, was dumped behind the bar, and in the Buchenwald concentration camp in August 1944, paying the price of underestimating ‘Hitler-fascism’. 

Mandarins of A K G Bhavan, the seat of national leadership continue to caress their dogmatically Stalinist line. Inaugurating the 18th congress of All Union Communist Party (rechristened as the Communist Party of Soviet Union at the 19th Congress in 1952), even before the Molotov –Rubentrop Non-Aggression Treaty, Stalin saying that Britain and the USA’ sow discord between Soviet Union and Germany’. His speech was published in Pravda (Victor Serge: Memoirs of A Revolutionary, 2012, New York, paperback edition, p 409).  

If the CPI(M) and Congress leaders in West Bengal think they have a chance to emerge as the single largest bloc in the 17th West Bengal Legislative Assembly, they are day-dreamers. The state BJP brass after meeting with the central observers took a strategic decision to spearhead their campaign against the TMC and ignore the CPI(M) and Congress. ‘Voters have to choose between the BJP and TMC. Others are not to be counted’, a BJP state committee member told in anonymity. 

Nov 28, 2020

Sankar Ray

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