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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 1, December 26, 2009 - Annual Number 2009

West Bengal: On the Degeneracy of a Political Party

Saturday 26 December 2009, by D. Bandyopadhyay

It was indeed an inspired canard of the radical Right to call the Communists in India as anti-national and pro-imperialist.

That the Indian Communists called Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose as the “running dog of General Tojo” and a “Quisling” in the early forties of the last century when he organised the Indian National Army for the liberation of India from the imperialist yoke of Great Britain is now recognised by them as a minor aberration while evaluating the then historical situation. That the CPI leadership helped the Indian Muslim League in drafting the Lahore Resolution of 1940 for the partition of India and provided the theoretical underpinning on the basis of the Stalin-Adhikari thesis on the right of self-determination of sub-nationalities, was nothing other than an innocuous exercise of the tbeory and practice of “praxis” so lauded by Karl Marx. That in the late forties and early fifties after the independence of India the streets of Calcutta were rent by the raucus cacophony of the CPI cadres shouting “Forget not, forget not, this freedom is fake” was just a reminder that free India should not be treated as a bonded market of global capital. That in 1962 the Indian Communists refrained from calling China an aggressor was only because of the very old Communist practice of interpreting history strictly according to the party’s convenience. For all these actions of theirs one just cannot slander them as anti-national.

That they have shown themselves as ultra-nationalist, notwithstanding their studied silence on the current tension in the India-China relationship, would be evident from the fact that at the recent international communist jamboree in New Delhi they kept the flag of Shining India flying high. They prevented their foreign comrades from injuring their eyesight due to the ugly and obscene picture of poverty and destitution in and around the Capital. For that purpose they held the event in a highly sanitised five-star hotel in New Delhi. It is rumoured they spent a sum of Rs 75 lakhs for the ease and comfort of the delegates. It is a small price to pay to keep their nationalist face shining. Moreover, since their vassal States of Kerala and West Bengal have avidly accepted the neo-liberal economic reforms and have been practicing the same with zeal, they could not besmirch their newly adopted doctrine by exposing to the delegates the deprivation and indigence of the Capital’s populace that are the inevitable consequence of the neo-liberal economic policies.

Today the Communists are the only torch-bearers of the Shining India slogan of the last NDA Government. The main partner of the NDA, the BJP, was their friend in need in the 15th Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal. The BJP allowed the CPI-M to win five Lok Sabha seats by significantly splitting the Opposition votes. With the Maoists, against whom they carry on verbal duels, the CPI-M leaders have a non-antagonistic relationship. It was the vote boycott call of the Maoists in the districts of West Midnapore, Banukura and Purulia that helped the CPI-M to gain five Lok Sabha seats (they won a total of nine in West Bengal). In these three districts the alleged friend of the Maoists, the Trinamul Congress (TMC), didn’t get a single seat.

II

The author begs to be excused for this slight digression. Now what did this Papal conclave achieve? Did it revise The Manifesto of the Communist Party written by Karl Marx and Frederic Engels in 1848? Did they reject the Manifesto because it did not reflect the objective realities 161 years after its first publication? In any case that would have been appropriate because “communism” in West Bengal had been laid to rest with Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee performing the last rites. It was only proper and fair that the funeral ceremony of such a noble, though obsolete, idea should have been performed only by an accredited Brahmin priest of the stature and calibre of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

It would be a fair question to ask as to when communism died in West Bengal. In this case one has to appreciate that a thought is not an organism. So it cannot be asserted that this philosophy died when its brain stopped functioning. An idea has to be consciously and deliberately rejected. It happens not in a fraction of time. It takes place in a “span” of time. We shall now try to explore that “span”.

Around the time of the CPI-M’s resounding victory in the West Bengal Assembly elections in 2006 where they secured 234 seats in a House of 294 with a mere 0.32 per cent margin of votes, the rejuvenated Buddh Babu started propounding his new economic theory rather too loudly to the utter discomfort of liberal elements among the intellectuals of the State. To their utter horror they heard him say: “What we are practising here is capitalism. Socialism cannot be created in the given situation even if we preach it. I am a realist and not a fool.” (The Statesman, Kolkata, April 13, 2006) One thought he would stop after making this profound non-philosophical statement, No, he was bitten by an oratorical bug. He went on to clarify further. Emphasising that he was not “embarrassed” by his government’s befriending of corporate houses and advocating “harmonious relations between labour and capital”, he went on to remark:

I know Marxism teaches us that contradiction between labour and capital is irreconcilable… (but) we are no more in Opposition and our responsibility to govern makes it imperative that we cooperate with the captains of industry to maintain the momentum of the flow of investment in West Bengal. (Ibid.)

A pause is called for a brief analysis. In the first place by describing himself a “realist” and not a “fool”, he made Marx appear to be a wooly-headed ideologue and a dimwit. Secondly, he made a profound observation that Marxism was only for the Opposition. The moment one comes to power one has to fall in line with capitalist thinking! He did not realise that by saying so, he only exposed the devious and unscrupulous opportunism that he and his party always follow to cling on to power. Thirdly, by accepting the servility of labour to capital, he neatly and smoothly sought to resolve the eternal conflict between the exploiter and the exploited. He simply, without any philosophical reasoning, negated that evocative and stirring message of the Manifesto

…in a word, oppressor and oppressed stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large or in the common ruin of contending classes.

Hard headed as he described himself, Buddhadeb thought that it was not worth the risk to fight either openly or clandestinely to face the “common ruin”. It was much better for him to avoid any problem by capitulating before the fight and to meekly accept the hegemony of the bourgeoisie and live at least “unhappily” ever after. Wasn’t it the acme of pragmatism? Three cheers for Buddhadeb!

He was so convinced about his new role as the Mahdi of neo-liberalism that he went on repeating his strident call in favour of capitalism over and over again. On January 13, 2008, he said: “Capital is my mantra.” One felt rather assured that everything was not lost in him. He used his priestly professional idiom of “mantra” while declaring his commitment to “capitalism”. He went on to say that his concern was “capital no matter who provides it, the Tatas, the Jindals, the USA, China or Japan”. He also remarked: “Socialism is a far cry. We cannot tell lies to the people by promising that we can achieve it. We have to depend on capitalism for economic progress.” (The Statesman, Kolkata, January 14, 2008) Such transparency is highly laudable.

The only point he could not appreciate was that by calling his party the CPI-M, he was committing a persisting fraud. He could, perhaps, counter this charge by asserting that he had kept the acronym “CPI-M” only as an electoral “brand”, because voters were accustomed to cast their votes for their “brand”. But, in reality that acronym merely meant the “Capitalist Party of India-Market-ist”. Did not the acronym fit snugly into it? So he did not tell a lie. Except that the other fools misunderstood it.

He was not alone in denigrating that Marxist thought. The patriarch of the party, Jyoti Basu, spoke in support of Buddhadeb with the same lingo and idiom. He said: “We want capital, both foreign and domestic. After all, we are working in a capitalist system. Socialism is not possible.” He repeated himself to observe: “Capitalists have a role too. We want capital… What is the objection to it and why is it being objected to? I simply fail to understand.” (The Statesman, Kolkata, January 6, 2008) The Prophet had spoken. It must be his voice. It would be better not to prolong the discussion by asking a simple question: who is the traitor to the cause? The matter should end there.

Prof Randhir Singh made a very perceptive observation in this connection. He said: “CPM leaders no longer speak in the language of socialism or class politics, not in public at least, not even when bourgeois ideologues or TV anchors get provocatively aggressive. And that on rare occasions they refer to Marxism, only to vulgarise it. Here is a gem of vulgarisation from Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal:

From agriculture to industry, from villages to cities, this is civilisation. We Marxists do not deny this aim. We too want this to happen.

“One again recalls Hans Magnus Enzensberger. This time his moving short poem Karl Heinrich Marx:

I see you betrayed

by your disciples

only your enemies

remained what they were.”

(Randhir Singh: Future of Socialism, Marx Series No. 5 mimeo)

With this Randhir Singh cut short his dismal story of the degeneracy of the “CPI-M” party.

III

The story of the degeneracy of the CPI-M (the party) cannot end unless we give a short glimpse of the horrendous crimes committed by it in West Bengal in the last three decades or so that they have been in power. They do not believe in or recognise any system of ethics. The tenets of socialist ethics are very rigorous. The ethical values on which the free market system runs may not be that exacting, nonetheless they are no less severe. The party has given up socialism. Hence its leaders and cadres are not bound by its ethics. They are not capitalists. Therefore, they feel free to be free booters. Only the issues of personal and partisan gains matter to them. In other words, they are rapacious opportunists devoid of any moral code or standards of civilised behaviour. A brief litany of their evil acts would clarify the point.

Soon after the assumption of office in 1977 the party withdrew roughly 33,000 criminal cases pending in different courts of the State where its members and supporters were involved. It was estimated that about one lakh potential criminals were let out. That created the ambience of lawlessness from which the State is still suffering.

In March 1970, the day after President’s Rule was promulgated (March 17, 1970), CPI-M gangsters murdered two Sain brothers and three others at their own residence in Burdwan town as political reprisal. Eight CPI-M members involved in the case were sentenced to life term. In early 1978, the CPI-M let out these criminals presumably on parole. Some of them are important functionaries in both the party and government. The matter is now before the Supreme Court under a PIL under Article 32 of the Constitution.

They had shown scant regard for human life. The first act of massacre took place in the Marchjhanpi island in the Sunderbans in 1978. It is common perception that between 350 and 450 men, women and children perished in various stages of the police operation to drive them out from the island—the bulk of them died of drowning. All these refugees had come to the island at the instigation of the CPI-M leaders including Jyoti Basu.

In early 1982, 17 monks (including a lady) of the Anand Margi order were beaten and burnt to death in broad daylight on Bijon Setu near the Ballygune Station in South Kolkata. This was done because the party felt that Jyoti Basu’s life was threatened by the Anand Margis. Nothing happened to the criminals though their identities were well known.

In the mid-eighties CPI-M goondas attacked, raped and murdered one senior lady officer of the UNICEF and raped and severely injured another officer of the Government of India, at a place called Bantala adjoining Kolkata city. The reason was that these two lady officers had detected huge embezzlement of UNICEF funds and relief materials by CPI-M functionaries. When the matter was reported to the then Chief Minister Jyoti Basu, he reacted saying: “Such incidents happen, don’t they?” And that was the end of the matter. (This incident was brought to the focus of national attention through an article in a largely circulated Bengali daily and thereafter in the media in the Capital by one person, founder of Mainstream and eminent journalist Nikhil Chakravartty, for which he invited the ire of the present West Bengal CM.)

The next major event of mass killing took place at Nanoor in Birbhum district where 11 agricultural workers—all belonging to the minority community —were murdered because they demanded the legally fixed minimum wages from their landlords who were all CPI-M members/supporters. This was deliberately done to terrorise agricultural workers to prevent them from forming a union to demand higher wages. No one has yet been punished for this killing.

Meanwhile learning from the policy of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in the Balkans, the CPI-M started a concerted campaign of ‘political cleansing’. In January 2001, party thugs attacked the village of Chhoto Angaria in West Midnapore district which was a Congress/TMC stronghold. They killed seven Congress/TMC supporters and burnt their bodies to erase the evidence of murder by setting fire to their residential huts. Subsequently the party threatened the prosecution witnesses in such a manner that all of them turned hostile and the accused persons were let off.

Chhoto Angaria was followed by the cleansing of the Keshpur P.S. area. Congress and TMC supporters were hounded out systematically from almost all the villages under the Police Station. The ousted families took shelter in Midnapore town where many of them are still living in camps.

In the Keshpur Assembly segment of the Ghatal parliamentary constituency, Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) stood as the Left Front candidate in the 15th Lok Sabha elections this year. Justice Noorul Alam Chaudhury (a former Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court) stood for the TMC. The latter could not campaign in the area. Gurudas Dasgupta secured 1,04,000 votes as against only 20,000 polled by Justice Chaudhury. Figures tell their own tale.

In all the TMC/Congress strongholds of Pingla, Sabong, Garbeta, Chandrakona P.S. areas of West Midnapore district, the CPI-M applied the “Keshpur model of terror” to carry out ethnic cleansing and ensure their electoral victory. It is well known that a CPI-M Minister who comes from that area was personally involved both in gun-running and the cleansing operation.

Manik Ray, one of the accused in the Sain brothers murder case, was shown as absconding in police records. Popular belief is that the person changed his name several times and reappeared in public as a prominent leader of the CPI-M in Arambagh. He got elected to the Lok Sabha with record votes which he secured through terror and rigging. Since the Opposition parties have started penetrating his political constituency, he has let loose a reign of terror in Khanakul, Goghat and Arambagh areas.

The most dangerous point about the CPI-M rule in West Bengal is the gun-running by the party with the help of the government. It is well known that CPI-M cadres and thugs have sophisticated firearms and abundant supply of costly ammunition. For one year from January to November in 2007, CPI-M goondas continually fired at the inhabitants of Nandigram in East Midnapore every night from Khejuri across the Talpatti canal. The CRPF later on recovered a huge caché of firearms and ammunition from a brick kiln called Janani Bhatia in Khejuri and arrested 10 criminals owing allegiance to the party. They handed over the arrested persons to the State Police who promptly let them off and the seized arms, it is rumoured, vanished into thin air. Large cachés of arms were also recovered from several other places in the State. The existence of such arms in the hands of the cadres of a political party and that too of a party like the CPI-M is a grave threat to the security of the country. (A memorandum containing these facts was submitted on December 2, 2009 to the Central team which came to assess the law and order situation in West Bengal.)

IV

Earlier in this article we raised the question as to what happened at the international communist jamboree at New Delhi. If one believes in the validity of the old English adage “he who pays the piper calls the tune”, one would expect a full endorsement of the Jyoti-Buddha line of economic development through the capitalist path. As far as our knowledge goes, the CPI-M has no equity in the Government of India’s currency note printing press at Nashik. Hence it must be West Bengal which would foot the bill. And they would do so by the well-known methods of extortion, blackmail, coercion and embezzlement of Central funds. Inhabitants of West Bengal know that too well to their utter distress.

CPI-M’s Rejoinder: A Clarification

As we go to press D. Bandyopadhyay has sent the following note:

“After the exposure in the media in Kolkata and in this journal about the Sain murder case the CPI-M reacted in a muted manner. Initially, one member of the Calcutta District Committee stated that the exposé was entirely false as none of the accused persons of the Sain brothers’ murder case was released on parole. This statement was contrary to the general perception that several of them had been convicted and later released on parole by the CPI-M Government when they came to power in 1977. The other point he made was that they (the party) had all the necessary court papers and documents. In the end he generally threatened everyone with legal action. Then a practising lawyer from Burdwan who was an accused in the Sain murder case wrote a letter to the editor of Ganashakti, the party newspaper. It carried the letter with the usual disclaimer that the editor was not responsible for the views expressed.

“In that letter the correspondent narrated that in the Sain brother murder case Benoy Konar, Khokan alias Nirupam Sen, Manik Roy (absconder) and others were named in the FIR and the chargesheet. But in 1973 the defendants approached the Calcutta High Court to transfer the case to Alipore in 24 Parganas. The High Court allowed the transfer. The correspondent did not mention what happened for such a long time from 1973-74 to 1977. He was silent whether the trial was concluded or not. Generally, sessions cases involving murder do not pend for a long time in the court. Delay in such cases casts aspersion on the efficiency of the judge. The correspondent deliberately omitted mentioning what happened during these three-to-four years. Then he mentioned that after the CPI-M Government came to power in June 1977, they started the process of withdrawing this case against the accused by dubbing the incident as one of “political” murder. Under the Penal Code a murder is a murder. No differentiation is made in the IPC regarding murder, whether personal, social or political. Anyway, the government of the day released them withdrawing the case under Section 321 of the Criminal Procedure Code. But the CPI(M) being very adept in spreading disinformation, misinformation and simple lies, one could not place much trust on the report cited above because the correspondent himself was an accused in the said case and beneficiary of the improper government order releasing him.

“Meanwhile, an advocate filed a PIL before the Supreme Court regarding the present status of the Sain brothers’ murder case. The petition was admitted and a notice has been issued to the West Bengal Government. One has to await the affidavit embodying the reply of the government to know at least the basic facts.

“The general legal opinion is that it is highly improper to withdraw any case under Section 321 Cr.P.C. where murders were involved. Since the matter is sub-judice in the Supreme Court, one has to await the unfolding of the issue before the Supreme Court.”

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