Monday, November 12, 2007

Time for Alternative Left Platform in W Bengal


Aditya Nigam

The CPM mask is off. Beneath it you can see the face of the totalitarian face of the Biman Boses, Benoy Konars and Brinda Karats. Much more is to come in coming days but one thing seems to be becoming clearer with each passing day: it will be wrong now on, to count the CPM as a Left wing force (at least in West Bengal). Unless we are able to shed this misleading idea, we are likely to misread the situation in the state completely.

The situation in Nandigram is developing rapidly. The area has been ‘liberated’ - which is to say brought under CPM control. Nobody, including journalists and political and civil rights activitsts can enter the area. All you have are marauding criminal gangs of AK 47 (and other assorted weapon) wielding ‘cadres’. They roam about with the red flag and have no compunction in attacking the likes of Medha Patkar and Anuradha Talwar, punching them in the face and tearing at their clothes. This is a political style and culture that we have so far only associated with the fascist right. We have seen glimpses of it in the recent past in the state but now it has assumed a generalized form. And while the armed gangs are at work in Nandigram, the state’s police has started targetting protestors in Kolkata.

Thus, even as Medha Patkar’s hunger strike continued in Kolkata, a march of artistes and intellectuals was stopped as they were walking towards Nandan, the venue of the Kolkata Film Festival. Forty of these intellectuals were arrested under section 151, (apprehension of breach of peace). The situation has reached such a pass, that the LF government is finding it difficult to even face such simple and harmless shows of protest by artistes and intellectuals; after all nobody including the CPM can really believe that these artistes posed any threat to ‘law and order’ or ‘peace’. In fact, for the first time in its history, three important Left Front partners, the RSP, Forward Bloc and the CPI, have come out openly against the CPM, holding it alone responsible for the violence.
The time has indeed come for them to now quit the LF and help in the formation of an alternative Left platform in the state. For, this might be the beginning of the end of LF rule in the state - and if the entire discontent against the CPM is not to be mobilized under a Trinamool Congress type opposition, then it is imperative that efforts be stepped up to present and alternative, democratic Left opposition.

But in the meantime, it is necessary to ask, what exactly is happening in Nandigram? The story that has been dished out over the past nine months - repeated with nauseating regularity by the illiterates in the televisual media - that it is a CPM-Trinamool Congress turf war, is, to say the least, completely off the mark. More, it is deliberately misleading. It is a line that suits the CPM ruling circles no doubt, but it is also something that the news media, drunk on its globalization potion, likes to believe. It like to believe that if only there were no political parties, everything would be hunky dory for the neo-liberal globalizers. It is only ‘politics’ which is holding back the rapid pace of India’s development. ‘Politics’ (which should, as far as the globalization-drunk media lingo is concerned, be read as ‘democracy’) is the the real road block. And here, Buddhadeb’s type of Left-wing capitalism was something they would have rather liked to see. It has unfortunately gone beyond all limits, even for the media to defend.

Let us be clear about one thing: Buddhadeb’s and CPM’s socalled ‘assurances’ that the SEZ and the chemical hub will not be built in Nandigram, that its project has been abandoned, do not mean anything anymore. In the first place nobody trusts him or his party anymore. More importantly, the issue is not whether the SEZ will be made; it is a battle for suzerainty being conducted by the CPM. It is not that CPM supporters could not have returned to their homes in the last few months. But the CPM wanted to come back as rulers, with the area fully under their control. That is where the problem lies. Since large sections of the population have ceased to trust the government and the CPM, the people of the area are suspicious of its intent. The posture of innocence often struck by CPM leaders and supporters that “after all we have said that there will be no chemical hub” is disingenuous, to say the least.

Let us therefore, also be clear about another thing: There is popular discontent in the region and the people have turned to the only available anti-CPM (anti- establishment) forces in the area, which include the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind, the TMC and the Maoists. Just as popular discontent in the state had once turned to the CPM against the ruling Congress, it is now turning against it. Then, in the sixties, during the food movement and later the land struggles, the CPM also made alliances in the United Front with parties like the Bangla Congress and other assorted groups. In other places, the CPM has made common cause with the Jana Sangh/ BJP (the
anti-Emergency struggle, the 1989 elections etc). [In Kerala, even without any mass struggle, the CPM has long had alliances (often legitimately) with the Muslim League.] So, for it to suddenly take this holier-than-thou attitude and dub the Nandigram struggle as a ‘Trinamool- Maoist’-combine-led ‘disturbance’ is not only dishonest, it in fact speaks of a fundamental change in the party’s role and self-perception. From a party of struggle, it has become a party of order and government.

And while this completely illegal and unconstitutional violence is perpetrated on the hapless people of Nandigram, the CPM state leadership and the Polit Bureau have found fault with governor Gopal Gandhi for ‘overstepping his constitutional limits’. Interesting, to say the least. Let the CPM know, that for an increasingly large number of people in the state, it is Gandhi who is becoming the voice of sanity. It is to him that former Chief Justice Krishna Iyer appealed; it is to him that all intellectuals and concerned citizens elsewhere in India
are appealing. It is also to Gandhi that the intellectuals in the state are looking up to for restoring constitutional order. Blinded by its arrogance of power, the CPM refuses to see the writing on the wall - but for how long. Now power, however despotic has lasted for ever. How can this one?