Thursday, April 19, 2007

Report from The Statesman

It’s back to the classroom for cadres

Tanmay Chatterjee

KOLKATA, April 18: Having realised that its organisation may have suffered a blow in the aftermath of Singur and Nandigram, the CPI-M has now decided to send its cadres back to the classroom to take fresh lessons in Marxism, do some soul searching and, significantly, identify the role of the “bourgeois media” in tarnishing the party’s image.
The CPI-M has published three new booklets in English and several regional languages, including Bengali. These books are being widely distributed among members entrusted with imparting lessons in dialectical materialism, Marxism, and socialist thought. Two more booklets will be published by June. The introduction to each booklet tries to explain why members need to go through some introspection at this time, without however getting into the details of any specific incident.
The party has 2.75 lakh registered members. Till two years ago, only 65 to 70 per cent of the members had come under the ambit of the party’s political education programme. Their numbers have not gone up significantly but the programme has become necessary, a CPI-M state committee member said.
Former state secretary Anil Biswas played a significant role in imparting political education to party members, he said. Not only did he edit and publish several books, Mr Biswas also oversaw the proceedings of a meeting of the CPI-M state committee in 2004 that clearly marked out the “dos and don’ts” for members and cadres.
Part of a document, that was drafted in the presence of party general secretary Mr Prakash Karat, said: “Stay away from personal luxuries that do not conform to Marxist ideology or your source of income. Don’t patronise unwanted elements within or outside the party. Maintain discipline inside the party organisation”.
In less than a year since the death of Biswas, the controversy over acquisition of farm land has apparently forced the party to start a damage-control exercise.
“In many areas unwanted people have been patronised by a section of party leaders. Cells have been set up at state and district levels to look into these aspects”, a secretariat member said.
The state leadership has also decided to probe into alleged intra-party activities that go against the CPI-M’s interest. Apparently, the CPI-M is trying to gain lost ground before the next panchayat election when the Opposition is likely to dig into its vote bank like never before. The party also recognises the Jalait Ulema-e-Hind as a formidable force in areas dominated by minority voters.
In the last Assembly election, the Left Front got 50.24 per cent of the total votes polled. Although this was better than 1977 when it came to power with just 45.87 per cent votes or even 2001 when the tally stopped at 48.99 per cent, statistics showed that its performance was worse than in 1982 and 1987. Last year’s results made it clear that almost half of the voters don’t support the Left.
Senior CPI-M leaders feel that although the Left parties won the confidence of a sizable section of first-time voters in the age group of 18-21 in the suburbs as well as Kolkata where anti-establishment feeling is prominent in the educated middle class, incidents like the Nandigram killings could prove counter-productive in the panchayat polls, especially in districts where farmers have benefited from land reforms and irrigation.
While the new trend in the party indicates that the CPI-M will continue to follow the orthodox Marxist-Leninist ideology, there will be pressure on the leadership to be more vocal in backing the industrial reforms undertaken by chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and industry and commerce minister Mr Nirupam Sen.