The Battle Lines
By ADITYA SARKAR
On 14 March this year, the state government of West Bengal, headed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) sent several thousand police troops into the rural district of Nandigram in East Midnapur, the scene of a three-month old movement by peasants against the establishment of a Special Economic Zone on their land. The land in question was to be turned over the Indonesian-based Salim group for the establishment of a multi-purpose SEZ comprising chemical and pharmaceutical units, shipbuilding, and real estate. Over 19,000 acres of peasant land in its various forms – cropped land, homestead, schools, mosques and temples – were to be acquired. Peasant resistance ushered in the New Year – at the beginning of January, villagers began digging up and barricading roads, blocking the entry of the police and generally of the state and party apparatus into their land. Clashes between party cadres and villagers broke out several times between January and March, culminating in the decision of the Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, to send in the police on March 14. Whether the Left Front government actually orchestrated the massacre of villagers (official estimates tolled 14 dead, the unofficial count ran into hundreds) or not, it certainly stood by and watched while policemen, CPI(M) cadres, and cadres disguised as policemen ran amok among the villagers, in an orgy of killing, torture and rape. Since March, Nandigram has witnessed further confrontations between party and peasants, the fraying of the livelihoods and networks that held the local economy together, and the slow strangulation of protest by the state government.
Nandigram exposed the horrific possibilities at the heart of the Bengal Left’s embrace of global, ‘neo-liberal’ capital, but this was not unprecedented. The uprising and repression in Nandigram had been foreshadowed at Singur, one of the most fertile and prosperous tracts of agricultural land in the state and in the country. Here the West Bengal government had turned over a thousand acres of cultivated land to the Tatas, India’s biggest industrial house, for the establishment of a motor factory, a takeover that entailed the loss of over 20,000 livelihoods. This had galvanized a movement that had its roots in the villages of Singur, but also sparked off solidarity campaigns in Calcutta, attempts by the chief opposition party, the Trinamul Congress, to climb aboard the bandwagon, initiatives by far-left Naxalite groupings, and protests by left-leaning cultural activists and intellectuals across the country, disgusted by the prolonged deformations of a party and government many of them had once identified with. Singur brought the issue of Special Economic Zones, with their conjoined logics of mass displacement, the right of companies to administer their territory largely independently of state law, the abrogation of constitutionally guaranteed labour rights, and the violation of environmental standards, to the forefront of national politics. During and after the mayhem at Nandigram, these themes were repeated and amplified, and the battle continues.
The paradox of an apparently left-wing administration embracing the most brutal and intrusive contemporary regime of global capitalist expansion threw into relief the antagonism between India’s chosen path of economic development and the livelihoods and aspirations of the majority of its citizens. But this tension was not, it hardly needs to be said, new in itself. SEZs are the flashpoint of this tension, but not its only expression, since land can be grabbed for many purposes – real estate hubs, factories, townships – that may or may not take the form of SEZs. Land grabs have been the source of major confrontations and struggles between local communities, big business and the state in Jharkhand, in Orissa, in Punjab, in Maharashtra, in Gurgaon, in Gujarat, and various other places. Nandigram and Singur, however, catapulted the issue into the national media, and produced a range of publicly visible protest initiatives.
The most important sites of resistance to state-sponsored corporate invasions, though, remain the land and people affected by them. At Kalinganagar in Orissa, where a bauxite plant is planned, fierce resistance continues despite the charming decision of the national government to install anti-personnel landmines against the incursions of resisting tribals. (India, in keeping with its general attitude towards global human rights regulation, is not a signatory to international anti-landmine agreements). At Jagatsinghpur, also in Orissa, the South Korean steel company POSCO has been allotted land for an SEZ, and here the local resistance has taken the form of kidnappings of company officials, who are unharmed but held captive in order to induce the government to take account of the demands of those affected by the project. In Jharkhand, dozens of SEZ projects hang in the balance, unable to get off the ground because of fierce mobilizations against them. At Singur, where the controversy first erupted, villagers still regularly breach the wall separating them from the Tata factory site, despite the heavy presence of punitive state mechanisms. At Haripur, not far from Nandigram, the central government had planned a nuclear power plant. Here, as at Nandigram, local inhabitants have blockaded their villages off from the entry of the state and the police, and set up something akin to an autonomous zone.
The pattern is obvious: in each case, powerful companies and a mammoth state apparatus have negotiated agreements on massive land grabs, but in each case actual construction work has been indefinitely stalled by the strength of local mobilizations. In this sense, the expansion of neo-liberal capitalism in India has finally hit a genuine road-block, and confronts, in its own way, as intense a crisis as the populations affected by its projects do. Given the utter lack of consent, the state and the companies involved have at present only two options. First, to back off entirely. Second, to violently repress resistance. The first option jeopardizes investor confidence, the kickbacks doubtless enjoyed from these agreements by implicated ministers and bureaucrats, and, in more general terms, the future of the strategy of unmandated land acquisition. The second option produces instant crisis, as at Nandigram, where, despite the scale of state and party brutality and the annihilation of an entire local economy, the CPI(M) has been forced to suspend, for the moment, the planned SEZ. In a way, this clear ‘no’ sent out to current economic policy in India parallels the resistance to NAFTA and FTAA in Latin America, though perhaps without the depth of ideological ferment visible in the latter instance. In both cases, the dominant trajectory of capitalist growth has run up against the obstacle of utter, uncompromising popular refusal, and the political actualization of this refusal in acts of resistance. The cosy myth of a consensus around a particular model of economic growth, apparently ‘value-neutral’ but actually deeply ideologically constituted, has been shattered. Nationally and globally, this is a crucial moment in the history of capital.
The new battle lines that are beginning to take shape around land acquisition in India cross and blur the antagonisms of official party politics. Increasingly, the major political formations in India seem united over the legitimacy both of the currently hegemonic national economic policy, and of state repression to enforce this policy. West Bengal, a state run by the organized Left, is at the helm of the SEZ drive. In Maharashtra, the Congress is in charge of actualizing comparably brutal drives of local displacement for the establishment of these zones. In Orissa, a coalition of the Biju Janata Dal and the BJP, India’s major right-wing formation, have been administering, with the aid of the Army, a similar assault upon tribal communities for the purposes of land acquisition, an assault that puts even Bengal in the shade. In Gujarat and Jharkhand, the state-level BJP administrations are the initiators and executors of this drive. In each of these cases, land is acquired for the purposes of corporate takeover without any consultation of local populations and their representative institutions, let alone any democratic mandate for this policy. This is at the heart of the new consensus – the takeover of land that sustains thousands of people, and its transfer to companies that are accountable only to their shareholders, is presented as a fait accompli, something the state has the right to do, regardless of the wishes not only of local populations, but also of their democratically elected local representative bodies, the panchayats, gram sabhas, and district committees. In this matter, the divisions between Left, Right, and centre, real and bitter as they are in other arenas of national politics, have virtually ceased to matter. Conversely, the opposition to this does not run along the lines of party politics either. The CPI(M)’s propaganda machines have been working overtime to convince us that the resistance to the Nandigram and Singur land grabs were machinations of the Trinamul Congress, on the one hand, and the revolutionary left-wing Naxalites, on the other. Nothing could be further from the truth: the uprisings in these places stemmed from the extremely rational desire of local agrarian populations to hold on to their land, and the resistance organized by them cut across party lines, and in Nandigram consisted overwhelmingly of people who had been supporters or even members of the CPI(M).
The real battle being fought here, then, is not principally between rival ideologies, between capitalism and socialism or between Left and Right, though of course we can and usually do assign ‘left-wing’ and ‘right-wing’ valences to the objective positions taken up in this struggle. It is, rather, a direct confrontation between democracy and capital, which are increasingly incommensurate with one another. If democratic accountability is to be taken seriously by those who govern, the policy of corporate land acquisition cannot be conceived of as an inevitable outcome, a matter for policy makers and administrators to formulate and implement as a matter of right: it must, since it entails the disruption of mammoth numbers of lives and livelihoods, pass through established democratic structures and channels, and secure a mandate. But this is plainly impossible, given the consequences such policies have for the people they affect. If this form of capitalist penetration runs up against the road-block of absolute refusal, as it has done, then pushing it through, on the part of the state, necessarily involves the curtailment of democratic procedures and entitlements. But the use of coercion to push such an agenda through invites further, and increasingly more militant, forms of resistance, and the impasse, far from being resolved, grows. Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.
Losing the Left
For most people in West Bengal, the spectacle of the organized Left’s recourse to bloody massacre and authoritarian repression is nothing new. The CPI(M) in this state wins election after election, partly on the strength of land reforms it undertook in the 1980s (and is now abandoning), but also partly on the strength of sustained electoral rigging and intimidation. It cushions corrupt and venal bureaucracies, a trade union culture stripped of its once legendary vitality by utter subservience to party dictates, a politics of patronage and nepotism at all levels, and, across vast parts of the countryside, local networks of party authority that function as armed fiefdoms, with their local bosses. Lakshman Seth, the CPI(M) MP from Tamluk, the constituency in which Nandigram is located, and in many ways the architect of the March 14 massacre, is only one of many cases in point. Thirty years of unbroken Left Front power prove that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and while many on the global Left celebrate the CPI(M)’s achievement as an example of democratically mandated Communist success, they would do well to remember that they speak of a state-level administration that subverts democracy at every point, and is in the process of reinventing itself as a party driven by corporate interests and the aspirations of the upper middle class. The enormous leeway given to real estate speculation, the abysmal state of primary education and health services, and the eagerness with which the government has embraced global capital, are all indicators of this. A poster at a recent demonstration against the massacre gave us an effective, if hysteric, evaluation of the West Bengal government – ‘CPI(M) = Capitalist Party of India (Murderer)’.
This is an evaluation that many on the far Left in India would extend to the organized Left in toto, not only as it operates in West Bengal but also in its larger dimension as a not insignificant force in national politics. They would point out, with truth and reason on their side, that there is a long history of violence, intimidation, and bullying here – that the official Communist movement in India has both blood and compromise on its hands. They would point out, unassailably, that the Party has never repudiated Stalinism – indeed, its annual conferences still contain accolades to the Soviet Union that sound like 1956 never happened. They would point out that the Left Front government in West Bengal was party to the massacre of Bangladeshi settlers in the Sunderbans in 1979, and also that Jyoti Basu, chief minister of the state from 1977 to the end of the twentieth century, superintended the brutal eviction of hawkers (‘Operation Sunshine’) from the pavements of Calcutta in 1994 to make the city look pretty for John Major’s visit. They would point to the organized Left’s assaults upon revolutionary Naxalite and Maoist groups in West Bengal, and perhaps also claim that these latter formations represent the only true, authentic face of left-wing politics in India.
For its part, the CPI(M), nationally, has done more than its fair share of work in giving weight to these accusations. The central party leadership lied through its teeth while citing figures of consensual land acquisition in Singur and Nandigram, it has consistently refused to issue a condemnation of the West Bengal state unit’s repression of popular protest, it has refused to acknowledge the resistance to the SEZ as anything but a conjuration of its political rivals, and it has, unforgivably, done absolutely nothing to restrain the excesses and brutalities of party cadres in Nandigram, which continue today, three months after the massacre, as a matter of course. A large part of this has to do with the nature of political compulsions on the organized Left – the Party is utterly dependent on the units in West Bengal and Kerala, the only major states where it is powerful, for its clout in national politics, and indeed for its continued existence as a serious force. In effect, whatever the compulsions that drive the central leadership’s endorsement, this constitutes a break, perhaps irrevocable, with radical and progressive politics, and more generally with anticapitalism.
At this conjuncture in Indian politics, these failures and betrayals are fatal. There are social movements across the country, most of which share left-wing values and perspectives, that have organized bravely against big dams, corporate takeovers of land, the exploitation of labouring people, the ecological consequences of industrial capitalism, and the continuing erosion and marginalization of the livelihoods of millions as a result of national economic policies. Till Nandigram happened, it was possible for the Left to share a common platform with these movements, as for instance during the World Social Forum and its offshoot, the Indian Social Forum. After Nandigram, it is difficult to see where this shared space is. The organized Left, it is true, has taken up significant issues in Parliament: for instance, in its protests against airline privatization and pension reform. It is true, though also bitter and ironical, that it was this Left that provided a public space for arguments against the course of national economic policy, and in particular – here the ironies grow hideous – the establishment of SEZs. Countless numbers of party loyalists have been shaken to the core by the events in West Bengal, and there are major inner-party struggles within the CPI(M). In Kerala, the Communist Chief Minister, V.S. Achyutanandan, follows a policy trajectory radically at odds with his counterpart in West Bengal (though there have been significant moves within his state unit to oust him and move rightwards). But the dogma of party line, the compulsions of loyalty towards comrades (however erring) and the need not to break rank hold back these tensions, and refuse them meaningful public space. Officially, the CPI(M) is opposed to the current economic policy of the Indian Government, and the track it has been on for over a decade. Equally officially, the CPI(M) nationally endorses the policies and chosen trajectory of its West Bengal unit. These are irreconcilable positions. Perhaps these are dialectical contradictions that will be resolved through some miraculous Aufhebung. But if we are reduced to praying for magic to save the organized Indian Left from itself, we must at least acknowledge how grim things are.
So at a time when the struggles against global capitalism in India are more urgent and relevant than they have ever been, the Left has apparently deserted the battleground. At any rate, after Nandigram the CPI(M) has lost any claim it had upon the trust of movements and mobilizations that actually do the work of resisting the invasions of capital. But it would be a serious mistake to see this, as many on the far Left do, as something inevitably written into the script of the organized Left decades ago, or to see these betrayals as anything but tragic. The official Left in India, for all its Stalinism and all its compromises and blunders, was historically at the forefront of massive mobilizations of workers and peasants, and nowhere more powerfully than in West Bengal, where generations of Communists worked tirelessly for the rights of workers, sharecroppers and poor peasants, and against brutal social inequalities. This was a Left whose power, both in West Bengal and Kerala, was founded on its responsiveness to agrarian discontent, its ability to mobilize politically around it, and its responsibility in leading land and labour struggles. This was the Left that led one of the largest labour movements in history, in Bombay; this was the Left that organized incredibly important peasant movements in Bengal and Telengana in the 40s and 50s; this was the Left that put India’s most progressive land reforms into place in the states it governed. If this Left has been lost, then mourning, rather than celebration or vindication, is the response most appropriate to left-minded people.
More may have been lost, however, than a legacy and a memory of historic struggles, which were fought, after all, by other – and better – men and women, in other times. There is and has been, after all, an active – though far from powerful – official Left outside its regional centres of accumulated power. In Delhi and across North India, in large parts of the south, in Maharashtra, and in various other parts of the country, organizations of women, teachers, students, workers, and social activists affiliated to or allied with the CPI(M) have worked, and continue to work, against the kinds of policies that drive the poor and the marginalized to the wall and embed social injustice within the governing political ethic. As a left-wing student who grew up in Delhi, I have always experienced the official Left, in meetings, in campaigns, and on demonstrations, as a space one could turn to for succour and comfort, for political solidarity, despite the frustrations and differences one may have had with the official line of the Party. The mobilizations against the Hindu Right at the time of BJP rule, mobilizations which many of us either supported or took part in, would have been unthinkable without the presence – indeed, the protective umbrella – of the organized Left. I believe this is also the relationship that many of India’s most serious social movements – the Narmada Bachao Andolan, for instance – have had with the Left: a relationship of simultaneous irritation and gratitude, disappointment and solidarity. At any rate, a shared space used to exist. That may have disappeared after Nandigram, as the political paths of a party that calls itself left-wing, and movements that follow some of the best values of the Left, increasingly diverge, and traverse antagonistic paths. Medha Patkar, India’s most important social activist and arguably the leader of the global movement against big dams, was the most prominent public face of the protests around Nandigram. This is symptomatic of the necessary but deeply tragic constellation of oppositions and fissures within progressive circles after the massacre.
The Tensions of Resistance
The Left’s greatest failure of imagination and nerve comes at a time when the battle against neoliberal capitalism in India is intensely alive and vocal. To make the difficult, but necessary, choice against India’s present economic policies, would have involved more than the airing of platitudes in Parliament and party mouthpieces; it would have involved the serious, responsible attempt to construct alternative paths of development, based on ecological sustainability and social justice. It would have involved the prioritization of human welfare over profit, the deepening of democratic participation as a bulwark against capital, and the formulation of innovative and dynamic models of socio-economic growth and redistribution. This was the choice the organized Left in India failed to make, and Nandigram, horrifically, metamorphosed that failure into an unpardonable crime. But the loss of the organized Left throws the choices and pitfalls of the resistance to global capitalism actually happening in India into sharp relief. It is necessary, then, to briefly consider the forms of this emergent resistance.
First, and most importantly, there are the resistance movements launched from the grassroots, involving those affected directly by the contemporary Indian model of capitalism. The corporate takeover of basic human and natural resources produces, at each step, more or less complete refusal on the part of the local communities who stand to lose. This refusal may or may not crystallize into powerfully organized resistance. Over the issue of land grabs for SEZs, it seems, more often than not, that it does. Political parties and outfits may or may not join in the resistance. If they do, it ensures a certain amount of headline-grabbing mileage for the movements in question, important in itself. But even where the resistance is much less related to party political divisions, as it is in most cases, the threat experienced by communities from the state and from capital produces, inevitably, its own strategies of mobilization and organization, its own internal structures of solidarity and dissent, its own debates and ferment. At Singur, at Nandigram, at Haripur, at Kalinganagar and Jagatsinghpur, and in Maharashtra and Punjab, the immediate, automatic act of refusal has been clarified into structures of resistance, through the formation of committees, the election of representatives, the planning of short-term and long-term strategy. These structural solidifications of resistance, however, need to be situated in their immediate social contexts, which often enough have the shape of deeply divided and hierarchical local community relations, fissured by class, caste and gender. Does the process of resistance to corporate projects, and the partial unity it necessarily engenders, disturb older and deep-rooted patterns of local injustice and exploitation? The answer is still open and unresolved. The incredibly vocal and militant participation of Nandigram’s women in the resistance points in one direction, but the persistence of certain caste divisions and the reluctance of some of the lowest groups in the caste hierarchies to join the movement in Singur points in another. There is no automatic logic that weds the opposition to big capital to a ‘progressive’ political consciousness that calls all sources of injustice and hierarchy into question. But equally, there is no guarantee, in a time of uprising, ferment, and the need to create a consensus around resistance, the existing social orders will maintain their stability and not undergo a process of internal churning. The question that time alone will answer is this: what forms of political consciousness, what attempts to link the immediate struggle to wider and related socio-political tensions, will the experience of resistance produce?
Second, there has been, since Singur and Nandigram, an efflorescence of largely uncoordinated citizens’ initiatives, loosely seen in terms of ‘civil society’. The sudden outburst of protest in Calcutta in the wake of the West Bengal government’s land acquisition policies exemplifies this. Calcutta, a city that for decades has seen virtually no serious progressive oppositional politics, and where the staleness of both the ruling administration and the official opposition (the Trinamul Congress) has produced a crippling sense of cynicism and jadedness, woke up to a frenzy of mobilization and activism that testified both to the residual strength of Bengali nationalism and a deeply entrenched left-wing structure of feeling, a sympathy for the disprivileged that, ironically, the organized Left had in earlier times done much to produce and disseminate. Students’ associations organized protest and relief campaigns, medical teams who visited Nandigram galvanized a sense of active disgust among doctors and nurses, who took to the streets in large numbers, and associations of lawyers, journalists, and artists also joined in the campaigns of solidarity with the resistance. Similar initiatives were set in motion in Delhi, and the symbolic effect of protests in the capital city were, as always, in excess of their immediate practical value – they helped force the issue of land grabs into national media headlines. These citizens’ mobilizations are enormously important, for, while the real battle continues to be fought in villages, tribal belts and local communities affected by the takeover of their land, publicly visible manifestations of solidarity in high-profile metropolitan spaces help sustain the mood of opposition and demonstrate the mythic nature of the neo-liberal policy ‘consensus’. On the other hand, many of these campaigns emanate from an immediate feeling of disgust and betrayal, and it remains to be seen whether they will be able to reproduce the resilience of committed activism, through coordination and organization, over a sustained period of time.
Third, there are the social movements that have been campaigning for social justice and ecological sustainability. Many of these – the campaign against the Narmada dam, the fishworkers’ movement in Madurai, various organizations working for the rights of Dalit, women’s groups, and associations set up to fight for unorganized labour – are clustered under the umbrella of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), which held a month-long protest sit-in in central Delhi shortly after Nandigram. These are groups that vary immensely in size and importance, but demonstrate the range and plurality of progressive initiatives in India. Most of them have no direct links with any political parties, though some of them are on good terms with the movements of the far Left, and others have worked closely with state administrations where they’ve been responsive. There is a continuum between some of the more progressive NGOs and these organizations: the lines often blur, but the tensions between social-welfarist drives and more radical, political forms of mobilization are felt at various levels. SEZs are an issue that a range of social movements and initiatives can unite around, and there are encouraging signs of this unity being forged. But it is too early to say whether these organizations can produce a plausible challenge to the agenda of the Indian state and big business, and whether these largely single-issue campaigns can coalesce around a coherent political platform that seriously disturbs the governing consensus.
Finally, there is the revolutionary far Left, in its various factions and forms. To many, the Naxalites and Maoists represent the authentic vanguard of popular resistance, as the only politically organized and ideologically coherent movements that are genuinely committed simultaneously to fighting against big capital, and to mounting a radical offensive against the state. But this is far too roseate a picture. The far-left in India is a patchwork of deeply divided organizations, all loosely committed to the legitimacy of armed resistance to the state, but some more open to the question of parliamentary participation than others. One of the most disturbing features of their history has been their unwillingness to rethink the need for armed revolutionary violence of the most savage sort. In the context of prolonged state repression of an order of savagery that far exceeds their own, the decision to keep the option of armed resistance open is in a sense understandable. In Nandigram, the counter-violence of villagers against the CPI(M) was clearly produced by a sense that it was either kill or be killed: in such a situation, it is not easy to stand back and pre-judge ‘Naxal’ strategies of resistance. It is possible, however, to ask whether such violence, which breeds its own vicious-cyclical logic, can actually be politically productive. In various parts of India – Bihar, Chattisgarh, and Andhra Pradesh, for instance – the cycle of state repression, exploitation by big landholders, and revolutionary violence has bred situations where we are often left with little more than the machinations, brutality, and terror wreaked by rival mafias. This is not the only form of ‘resistance’ practised by far-left outfits, but it would be fair to say that it has been a dominant trajectory, ever since the tragic foundational episode of Naxalbari, where revolutionary left-wing idealism soon gave way to internecine warfare and bloodshed. Those who celebrate the revolutionary drive of the Maoists and Naxalites against the corruption and degeneration of the organized Left tend to forget something very important. For the longest period of its existence, this organized Left occupied the very ground that the ‘far’ Left does today: it took up issues of deprivation and injustice at levels where none of the mainstream political formations had anything to say, and it drew its legitimacy from that. It was always crippled by its internal authoritarianism, by the blind dogmas of party line, and by its slavishness to the shifts and turns of Soviet policy. But the revolutionary Left today, for all its principled opposition to capital, is usually equally authoritarian in its internal structures (equally committed to ‘democratic centralism’), equally defined by party line, and as blindly worshipful of Mao as Communists used to be of Stalin.
It is difficult to see a progressive and genuinely democratic left-wing politics emerging from such locations, though the real and often heroic resistance offered to capital and the state by many far-left groupings should not be undermined. It is also true that the ‘far’ Left is a complex animal, not only divided into a range of legitimate or underground parties split over tactics, strategies and ideology, but also spread across other spaces – civil and democratic rights campaigns, citizens’ mobilizations against state terror, independent radical trade unions, and social movements of various kinds, where one can usually find both conservative and revolutionary factions. One is left, once again, to hope for internal transformations, or for the emergence within the far Left of strands that valorize not only revolutionary zeal and consistency, but also work towards achieving cross-regional, democratic mandates for their politics. This would, however, mean eschewing both the violent excesses and the righteous vanguardism that permeates so much of their politics today.
It is, in the final analysis, the question of democratic mandate that defines most sharply the dilemmas confronting the resistance to corporate capital in India today. The state, for all practical purposes, is accountable only to itself. The ‘legitimate’ political parties, from Left to Right, are rapidly coming to share a neo-liberal consensus with no foundations in popular consent, and are accountable, increasingly, only to top-down structures of leadership. The corporate companies who have staked out such a powerful claim to the land and the resources of the country are accountable, of course, only to their shareholders. And the various movements and mobilizations that have risen to resist them are accountable mainly to their adherents, and have not been able to formulate a coherent politics that can be called into question democratically: if this is true of the Naxalites, it is also true of the far less ethically problematic rainbow coalition of social movements, which usually organize around limited issues, and have trouble widening their horizons into a politics that can command generalized consent, and establish a real hegemony.
It is here that the loss of the ‘organized’ Left pinches most sharply, for it means the loss of a space, however limited, of constitutionally protected and ‘legitimate’ political opposition, forced to justify its tactics and practices by appealing to more than either revolutionary purism or vague moods of discontent. This is the impasse in which the opposition between capital and progressive resistance finds itself today. There is no democratically accountable location within the ‘legitimate’ political spectrum from which attacks upon the embrace of state and capital, with its disastrous consequences for the whole country, can be mounted. At the same time, the discontent with the chosen paths of national development has never been more sharply pronounced and more visible than it is today, and this has produced a rich harvest of oppositional mobilizations, engaged in the search for a definite political space to anchor themselves to. It is the kind of situation where one finds oneself feeling that something has to give. India is crying out for a real democratic Left, stripped of old dogmas, and able to face up to its role with responsibility, accountability and humility. For that, however, significantly new forms of political radicalism and left-wing practice, a break from the dead past and the stifling present, are needed. Perhaps the clamour of democratic protest in the wake of Nandigram signals a new beginning, a signal towards new directions. Perhaps global capital and the powers of the state simply remain too strong, too resilient, to allow a dent to be made. It is a moment of political impasse that we live through at present, even as tensions mount and boil and break to the surface of our times.
 Mohammed Salim, the Indonesian businessman to whom the land in Nandigram was to be turned over, helped bankroll Suharto’s genocide of Indonesian Communists. The Communist-led government of West Bengal is eager to do business with him. If ever proof was needed of the irony of the current conjuncture of the Indian Left, or of the way capital swallows up and transcends ideological animosities in its expansionary drives, it is here.
 Real estate is at the heart of the new model of development in various parts of India. The township of New Rajarhat in Calcutta, a recently constructed urban space that was built upon the displacement of an agrarian community, is a testament to the physical excision of poor and underprivileged communities for the establishment of luxury apartments, malls and enclaves of leisure, residence and work for the upper middle classes. This logic permeates urban planning in most of India’s major metropolitan cities, most visibly in Bombay, and in Gurgaon near Delhi.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007