Monday, January 15, 2007

Cadre vs people

I also reproduce a recent editorial in The Indian Express, on the subject of the CPI(M)'s cadre machine.

Look carefully at the battlelines drawn at Nandigram. Look at the lines, and questions on the CPM’s political future suggest themselves. For five days — with the count still on — local villagers barricaded themselves against entry of the West Bengal administration as well as CPM cadres. Restive upon rumours that land was to be acquired by the state for a proposed SEZ, the villagers turned upon the cadres. And in the smouldering remains of the local CPM office can be found the perverse distortions in the way the party operates. That the villagers chose to take up arms against cadres — once unthinkable — is proof of how completely public perception conflates party and state. That they vented their anxiety on the cadres shows how the party machinery is felt to be the coercive arm of government.

Can such a party recast itself, as our columnist today asks, so that its governments can harness the opportunities of globalisation and privatisation? Can it, in essence, reform itself into an internally democratised and accountable version of the European Social Democrats? The need is evident. It will not be enough for the party’s leaders, as Biman Bose, chairman of the Left Front committee, has tried, to put down the tension to a conspiracy by “outsiders”. As Sumit Sarkar, a fellow traveller of the Left, complained in an article in The Indian Express, “cadres” has become a term of abuse today. The point, however, is this. These cadres are not — if they even ever were — the committed footsoldiers of a proletarian revolution, rolling up their sleeves and stirring the countryside toward awareness and empowerment. They are the muscle power the party has at the ready to assert its diktat.

Which is why we do not recommend Professor Sarkar’s advice that the party revert to studied opposition to private investment and initiative. The reality of the brute power used by its cadres to sustain the genteel rhetoric in Calcutta has in any case been exposed. The CPM has the choice to reform itself to the changed political economy of India and become a modern party of the Left. The violence at Nandigram has laid bare the limits of its Stalinist mode of political mobilisation.

No comments: