Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Two-Faced Communists


In the last few years, like any other party, the Communist parties have made obvious their two-faced nature as well – their sanctimonious sloganeering and their actions in power.

At the Indian Social Forum in Delhi we heard from the student and trade union wings of the so-called ‘left parties’ opposing Special Economic Zones, resisting displacement, presenting solidarity with farmers – an endless list. We have heard the same slogans from the political leaders of these parties in Delhi as well. We have seen them sit in dharnas against displacement in the Narmada Valley and rally against Coke and its unethical policies. Perhaps they should begin by sloganeering against their own governments where they are in power.

Even as evidence was piling up about Coke’s dumping of chemicals in community land and waterbodies, and even as left party workers outside Bengal were protesting Coke’s water policies, the Bengal government – notably led by veteran Communist leader Buddhadeb Bhattacharhee – awarded the Jalpaiguri unit of Coke with the Environment Excellence Award for 2005. Even in Kerala, the communist party was by then opposing Coke’s policies. All this, even though the Joint Parliamentary Committee had held Coke liable for pesticides in their drinks tested from plants across India – a recommendation widely supported by the national communist leaders.

Again, while the left leadership across India has been opposing economic liberalization policies, the Bengal government has been at the forefront of implementing these policies. The Communist government of Bengal attracts among the most Foreign Investment. It has even feted such globally maligned companies as Walmart.

Yet again, the communist government in Bengal has been perhaps only a mite more sensitive to displacement due to projects than other governments. Implementation may have been more successful and with less corruption. However, the government has been as ruthless in breaking down democratic and non-violent protests using overt and covert means as, for example, the Singur case has pointed out.

On the antiwar sentiment, it has presented it self against wars that affect innocent especially with the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan. However, again this position has presented itself as hollow and perhaps even politically opportunistic when it has ignored China’s human rights violations, occupation of Tibet and repression of its people. It makes no sense to oppose US by saying that people in Iraq have the right to choose their political destiny while at the same time arguing with another face when it comes to Tibet.

Even in terms of treatment of minorities, the Bengal government is perhaps only slightly better off. While there have been few instances of communal violence and even those have been scattered and easily controlled, the socio-economic index of Muslims is at the very bottom of the Bengali demographics vis-à-vis literacy, economic growth or health indices.

These are clear contradictions. Are the political necessities of power such that the party cannot stay true to its ethics? ‘Progressive’ leadership and leadership of grassroots movements seem to align with the ideologies of the left – not so! On every issue of socio-economic and environmental justice, the CPI-M seems nominally better, but in fact as complicit as every other political power bagger. Their methods and processes are as repressive and become more bothersome when conducted under the claim of being pro-people and just.

So given these contradictions, what does one make of the communists in India? That they are perfectly happy to sloganeer and even bring down governments under the guise of principles but when they are in power, they are quite the champions of all the policies they oppose elsewhere?

Perhaps the national leadership of Dr Raja, Comrade Brinda Karat and everyone else should find it more useful to oppose their politburo colleagues from Bengal. Or else, instead of threatening to walk out of the UPA (or any other coalition of which they find themselves a participant) they should consider walking out of their politburo.

- Sanat Mohanty