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Mainstream, VOL L, No 28, June 30, 2012

Red Salute to a Young Communist

Wednesday 4 July 2012, by M K Bhadrakumar

Hailing from a “communist family” in the “red rain land” of Kerala, growing up in an environment where Communist stalwarts would all of a sudden drop by at home— iconic figures such as AKG, E.K. Nayanar, K.R. Gowri, M.N. Govindan Nair, C. Achutha Menon, T.V. Thomas—and as an inquisitive school boy with intellectual pretensions at a highly impression-able age eavesdropping on their animated conversations with my late father, and then in the privacy of the mind co-relating those poig-nant impressions with my own readings from my father’s vast library (and the Indian realities as I saw them around me in the 1950s and early 1960s)—it won’t come easy for me in this lifetime at least to criticise India’s communist leadership.

Somehow the conviction got deeply embedded that if India didn’t have a communist movement, it surely needed one. That conviction got battering many a time over the recent decades as one could see the decline of the movement and kept agonising why it had to be so when the historical need of the party for the country at a defining point of transition in its history was only becoming more than ever as India began bifurcating into a “shining” part with iron in its soul.
A rare moment when that conviction lingering from childhood got reinforced and reinvigorated was in late 2005 when I came across a young Communist by the name of Pransenjit Bose.

Communists neither expect nor accept personal compliments, therefore, I refrained from ever articulating my sense of admiration for him. That admiration steadily grew when I began working under his inspiring leadership of the research unit of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India-Marxist. Prasenjit combined a brilliant mind to total 24x 7-hr dedication as a committed Communist. His austere life, his integrity, his hard work, his precocious intellect, his child-like intensity and his great sensitivity as a humanist—I’ve seldom come across such optimal combination in a single personality.

THUS, I am stunned to read in the newspapers today that Prasenjit has resigned from his primary membership of the CPM. Let me put it starkly: The party has lost one of its best comrades. Prasenjit belongs to a fast-dwindling tribe of Communists and he is hard to replace. In true Marxist-Leninist jargon, CPM might claim sometime today in a statement that the party will carry on regardless and no individual is indispensable. But I hope the CPM will instead keep a vow of silence and introspect deeply why such a calamity took place.

The painful truth is that the CPM is at a crossroads. It is no more having ideological clarity and it is in the very same boat as the Bharatiya Janata Party—and that’s not a good thing to happen for the country when the Opposition gets disoriented and begins to meander at a crucial juncture in our national life.

This is the third time that I know of that the CPM took a party line to accommodate the exigencies of “bourgeois politics” in West Bengal. The other two were in not sensing the great contradiction in the party’s stance on Singur and Nandigram and the heavy toll it was going to take, and, second, the fatal mistake of delaying the withdrawal of support to the UPA-I over the US-India nuclear deal by close to an year before the horse bolted away from the stable because the local elections in West Bengal were the priority.

As I wrote yesterday, the fateful decision taken by the CPM leadership on Thursday (June 21) to extend support to the candidacy of Pranab Mukherjee cannot be justified except as one of rank opportunism. The CPM is once again—as it happened over the nuclear deal fiasco—going to fall between two stools. For ever will the Congress string the Trinamul and CPM. The Grand Old Party is unbeatable in the art of politicking, and, ironically, Pranab Mukherjee has been one of its ablest tacticians (including, paradoxically, in steering the nuclear deal to safety across the choppy waters of the UPA-I politics during the 2007-2008 period).

Any comeback by the CPM in West Bengal should be on the basis of a rediscovery of the party’s ideological moorings as a movement of the poor people and it should not be predicated on the palace intrigues in Delhi with the Congress leadership.
Above all, the CPM should have shown sensitivity to what appears to have been a robust opposition by the leaders from Kerala to identifying with the Congress even remotely at this juncture—especially when the party unit in Kerala is facing a crisis and at the same time locked in a “deathly” fight with the Congress.

Given the overall scenario, Prasenjit is right: the only principled (and tactical) course available for the CPM was to follow the lead of the CPI and abstain in the presidential election. Lal salaam, Comrade Prasenjit!

(June 23, 2012)

Ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey. Now retired from service, he is close to the Left and is a noted non-party Left intellectual.

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