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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 28, July 3, 2010

Nehru, Maoism and Bhadralok

Saturday 10 July 2010, by Dipak Malik

Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh’s missive against Chidambaram’s law and order driven Green Hunt Operation has drawn the attention of the entire nation. After a free for all, untramelled journey, scripted by the neo-liberals, this was definitely a timely break which reminds us that the Congress ought to go back to its roots, much of what was crafted out of the Nehru and essentially Gandhi discourse. The Congress party need not take recourse to the long dead agenda of Cold War politics generated by John Foster Dulles and Winston Churchill in the fifties and sixties. The backdrop has completely changed, the former Soviet Union, despite its substantial utility for strengtheing the sovereignty of India the vis-a-vis an almost perennial Anglo-American subversive foreign policy on Kashmir and issues like liberation of Bangladesh, is a matter of the past. East Asia, which typically bubbled under various dictators and cold warriors who took advantage of the onging Cold War to strengthen their autocratic rule, changed by the late seventies and eighties at the end of the Vietnam war. A group of East Asian nations emerged as the tiger economies with the giant Goliath of the People’s Republic of China following them—the centre of world has started shifting to players in the erstwhile Third World away from the hegemonically positioned Anglo-American orbit. Even the US of today looks a bit changed as it seems somewhat chastised under President Obama and the recent emergence of a Conservative-Lib Dem Government in England, which in all likelihood is not going to be a Tory narrative of the past but at the most a new version of “New Labour of Tony Blair” thus merely changing its nomenclature to “New Conservative”.

P. Chidambaram, perhaps as a faithful loyalist to the Western neo-liberal scheme, harks back to those bygone days and plays to the gallery for the domestic Right of the BJP and their ilk and Washington’s much mauled “Neo-Conservative Club” which orchestrated the Bush years of the Iraq imbroglio resulting in a disastrous path of decimation the US economy and its capacity to influence the world. The ideological orthodoxy around neo-liberalism is part of the organic debate in the United States but in the India it is at best a borrowed derivative of the discourse which is ironically followed in almost theological reverence by Chidambaram and Co. Chidambaram tried to do what he did in the Finance Ministry to translate the neo-liberal political economy into the Cold War-Dullesian crusade against the so-called communism of the fifties and sixties in his newly crafted agenda of “Green Hunt” in the Home Ministry.

The complete dismantling of the Nehruvian edifice, so evident from the Narasimha Rao days, was vetted by the then beleaguered Congress leadership, “End of Ideology” having acquired the short term residence consequently to be equipped by Rightwing neo-liberalism in all its gusto. In contrast the above Nehruvian framework was a homegrown policy grid which had emerged after years of freedom struggle and its various phases and had the topicality and appropriate-ness in the world system of decolonised progressive nationhood. But by the nineties the programme of regional development of the underdeveloped areas, protection and further promotion of handicraft, land reforms, public sector acquiring commanding heights appearing in the Nehru era were pushed out of the agenda. Trickle-down economy and market dynamics were substituted in the service to take care of the economy. The public sector was badly and very deliberately demonised to pave the path for disinvestment and divestment, not out of necessity but out of the near theological commitment toward free market by the new ruling class.

International proletarian Maoism is dead since China itself discarded the Maoist paradigm. Though some enthusiasts about China still try to convince the sympathetic captive Left opinion circle that the present phase of ‘state sponsored capitalism’ in China, different from state capitalism, is a kind of “new economic policy” undertaken by Lenin after the revolution to reverse the extremism wrought out by war communism. As a matter of fact China’s fast indices of growth earn appreciation from the most conservative neo-liberal watchers in the West and India as it suites their premise that there is no science of socialist economy.

Deng-Xiaoping was neither a Leninist nor even a Maoist, he actually extricated China from Maoism and created a new structure of authoritarian political economy with a kind of rather heady mixture of state capitalism and Milton Friedmanian free enterprise under the hegemony of a Communist Party in quick transitional mode towards a “neo-capitalism with Chinese characteristics”. He did not even nurture the dream of a well-intended Gorba-chov vision of reconstruction/perestraika. He was plain, simple and a thoroughly unashamed ‘capitalist roader’ in the China of today. China is following his line without any hitch.

HOMEGROWN Maoism in India as well as in neighbouring countries like Nepal, that has acquired the centrestage recently, is very much a local phenomenon and in essence a response which grew up due to the utter neglect and inhuman treatment as well as exploitation of the marginalised tribal population. Though this response is not calibrated enough even according to ‘classical Maoism’. It is more of spasmodic topsy-turvy action and events rather than a cogent mission which has little capacity of sustaining its tempo in the long run. The only thing that it will contribute to is the expanded apparatus of state terror and justification for Chidambarams, who are playing the vintage cards of so-called anti-communism propped up during the Cold War of fifties and sixties rejected firmly by resurgent India under Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Albeit it will also contribute to awareness and rising consciousness, social, political and otherwise, among the marginalised population in the long term. It will in the final analysis facilitate the state to equip it with more repressive instruments thus cracking the very edifice of the Nehruvian democracy of inclusivism which was buried by the current ruling elite itself at least on the turf of political economy with a likely programme for creating a Rightwing class rule. Arundhati Roy may flaunt her recently acquired love for this sort of Maoism out of the urge of a teenagish misplaced bravado which is of no significance. The Maoists have grown because of largely neglect, indifference and upper-class intransigence and contempt for their cause by the new elite.

The tribal population, spread around West Bengal, have also their story to tell. The sheer bhadralok contempt for them in spite of the Left Front regime further accentuated this desperate situation. The Left in Bengal has its Achilles’ Heel, one amongst them being the class composition of its leading cadre and absorp-tion of bhadrolok sneer, contempt masque-rading into radical jargon; thus the declassing process remains incomplete at least in the deeper layers of the mindset. The problem of the local rural entrants lately in the Left Front’s governing appartus through the all-powerful party apparatus in 32 years of Front rule is another cause of concern; this has substan-tially diluted its class appeal, integrity and minimal commitment to democratic functioning, thus damaging the very image of a progressive as well as revolutionary polity. Though very belatedly some steps are being taken to correct these mistakes, it seems these won’t cut much ice with the people as a trust deficit is fast developing. The Left is paying dearly for all this, besides its inability to make a cautious assessment of the situation caught in the trap of the unilaterality about the ‘late industrialisation move’ as an allout panacea under the overarching umbrella of the neo-liberal regime.

The parliamentarianism has gone so heady that frivolous slogans like Third Front, which would constitute of veteran fence-jumpers, crass power-seekers and star opportunists without even minimal political ideological commitments, are projected as the sure path for future intiatives and sturdy coalition partners. The result is a damp squib and a steep decline in the clout of the Left. The local and middle level cadres were always aware of these pitfalls and they kept on protesting, but desperation, insecurity and falsely acquired clout in the power circle created intransigence trapping them all in the routine parliamentary democratic games resulting in dilution and distraction. Parliamentary democracy and intervention of the Left as well as modus operandi for the Left in colonial and Third World countries with incomplete class formation and conscio-usness have its set grammer and history too, which runs right from the Leninist formulations in the Sixth Congress of Comintern about the Indian freedom struggle and Gandhi’s leadership in spite of the emphasis on the sectarian understanding of M.N. Roy to Georgi Dimitrov through anti-fascist coalitions during the Second World War. The Left would be in a quandary if it wants to intervene in the bourgeois game of parliamentarianism through another set of bourgeois instrumentality shorn of class, political angle, assessment of historical juncture and formation of a historic bloc thereby.

The Nehruvian architecture is the historic bloc even today. As a matter of fact when the Chinese Communist Party is experimenting with options like getting down from the centralised command economy to a mixed economy, it is obviously a journey from classical Maoism to somewhat familiar patches of the Nehruvian polity. It is rather intriguing why the powers that be in India should be so eager to build a copy-cat edition of the badly mauled “Milton Friedman model”, which almost in a chorus has been discarded even by the American establishment. It is rather sad to note that one of the most loyal adherents of this line has been Chidambaram and now it has acquired the clout of a somewhat officially accepted perspective. In the loud melee of India and China getting kudos for their ruling elites’ so-called growth rate mania we should not forget this Achilles’ heel too.

Prof Dipak Malik is the Director, Gandhian Institute of Studies.

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