India – the Left, rethink or perish

Published on and re-published on ZNet, by Praful Bidwai, December 09, 2007.

The Indian Left survived, even extended its influence, in the aftermath of Soviet-style socialism collapse. Yet in one year it has undone this and seriously damaged its credibility as a force which speaks for the underprivileged, the excluded, and which upholds the values and practices of inclusive democracy …

… Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee presents the violence as a spontaneous clash between two organisations, in which the BUPC was paid back in the same coin. In reality, this was a clear case of abuse of the state police, and its subordination to the CPM. The CPM treated its political adversaries as another country’s enemy population.

This does not argue that the BUPC does not have goons in its ranksIt certainly does. But their power could not have matched the clout of armed CPM cadres backed by the state.
Nandigram-II was a grievous blunder, which betrayed the Front’s own core-constituency. No argument about provocation by the opposition, or a conspiracy between the Right and the Extreme Left, can justify the gunning down of innocent peasants.

Unfortunately, the CPM’s leadership has learnt few lessons from Nandigram. It remains obsessed with GDP-ism and boasts that W Bengal has the highest growth (8.55 percent) of all states. It has ruled out any rethinking on neoliberal policies. Even CPM general secretary Prakash Karat says: we have to adopt industrialisation.we have to compromise. Industrialisation cannot be achieved without the help of capitalists like the Tatas.

This approach is creating a rift, for the first time ever, within the LF and threatens to weaken its greatest collective strength: unity. The approach could eventually turn the Left into an elitist, Social Democratic entity favoured by the rich and middle classes. That cannot be the future of the Left as a viable and relevant plebeian force.

The CPM must decide whether it should fight for radical social change, or merely manage capitalism Chinese-style, however honestly. If it chooses the second option, it will go into historic decline. It must also make a decisive break with the undemocratic organisational culture it has inherited, which punishes dissidence and encourages a �my-party-right-or-wrong� attitude. Unless the Left undertakes ruthless self-criticism, it can�t effect course correction. (full long text).

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