By Rajesh Ramakrishnan (Chomsky etc.’s statement is in italics)
News travels to us that events in West Bengal have overtaken the optimism that some of us have experienced during trips to the state. We are concerned about the rancor that has divided the public space, created what appear to be unbridgeable gaps between people who share similar values. It is this that distresses us. We hear from people on both sides of this chasm, and we are trying to make some sense of the events and the dynamics. Obviously, our distance prevents us from saying anything definitive.
Two points are very striking about this statement. One, for people who are distant from the scene and still trying to make sense of events, they have some pretty definitive conclusions. One of the conclusions is that Nandigram is somehow dividing the Left in the midst of a larger battle against US imperialism. This is nothing but spin, as can be seen from my comments below. The second striking point is that the lone Indian signatory to this statement is anything but distant from the scene. His links to the CPI(M) are well-known, and there is no way he can be equated with the other signatories so far as objectivity and open-mindedness are concerned.
We continue to trust that the people of Bengal will not allow their differences on some issues to tear apart the important experiments undertaken in the state (land reforms, local self-government).
None of these intellectuals know anything much about the reality behind these `experiments’. Indeed some like Chomsky only know of it from the official studies and conducted tours provided by the West Bengal government. Studies of land reforms by the former land reforms commissioner D. Bandopadhyay provide a different picture of land reforms. The partisan functioning of CPI(M)-dominated panchayats is well-known to those familiar with rural Bengal. With the amount of CPI(M)-oriented intellectual gatekeeping in Bengal studies, there is no substitute for primary studies and fieldwork.
We send our fullest solidarity to the peasants who have been forcibly dispossessed. We understand that the government has promised not to build a chemical hub in the area around Nandigram. We understand that those who had been dispossessed by the violence are now being allowed back to their homes, without recrimination.
We understand that there is now talk of reconciliation.
False. The people of Nandigram had expelled about 35 CPI(M) supporters, who were not just blacklegs in the struggle against land acquisition, but actively participated in violent attacks on the BUPC. False propaganda of `thousands of CPI(M) supporters forced to flee’ was used to justify the November attacks where thousands (estimates range from 3000 upwards) of BUPC supporters were forced to abandon their homes. Armed CPI(M) marauders on motorbikes, extortion from BUPC supporters, forcible marches under the CPI(M) flag, these are some of the examples of non-recrimination and reconciliation. Not to speak of the absence of any judicial enquiry, lack of compensation and lack of action against the policemen and criminals involved in the January, March and November attacks.
The balance of forces in the world is such that it would be impetuous to split the Left.
In India, the `Left’ usually refers to the CPI(M) - CPI - RSP - FB. Where is the evidence that they are splitting? If Left is used in a generic sense, then other Left formations like the CPI(ML), SUCI and Maoists have always been opposed to the CPI(M) - CPI - RSP - FB. So what is this bogey about a divided Left? Secondly, is the Left Front in West Bengal really Left? What do the signatories have to say about their policy of inviting foreign investment, including from the US and Israel, and obtaining aid from the DFID to dismantle the public sector, in order to pursue neoliberal growth (dubbed `development’ )? Do they share the `Left’ view that this and this alone is Leftism in the age of imperialist globalisation: to remain in the seat of government, curry favours with the imperialists - capitalists, and talk of socialism?
We are faced with a world power that has demolished one state (Iraq) and is now threatening another (Iran).
What do the signatories have to say about the Left’s continued support to the UPA government even after it strengthens military ties with the US and votes against Iran in the IAEA?
This is not the time for division when the basis of division no longer appears to exist.
On the contrary, division exists because the basis of division exists, in Singur, Nandigram and a host of other places where people’s movements are challenging the `Left’’s support to neoliberalism.
In sum, this statement seems to be a vain attempt to re-assert some legitimacy for the discredited `Left’ in india through half-truths and references to US imperialism, an attempt to move away from a close-up of the CPI(M) as a faithful servant of India’s aspirant capitalists to a misleading long shot of the CPI(M) as an anti-imperialist force. The target seems to be the intellectual community in India and in the world, which has begun to look askance at the `Left’, post-Nandigram.