Monday, January 15, 2007

The party machine

I reproduce below extracts from Saubhik Chakrabarti's recent article in The Indian Express. Finally someone is beginning to talk about such things.

… Bengalis took to communism for some very non-revolutionary reasons. Communist political activity was a means to asserting regional identity. This search for identity was inspired in part by Bengali gentlemanly classes — bhadralok —feeling that they had lost out in independent India to the Hindi heartland’s elite in the competition for the pole position in the national mainstream. And communism was internalised by these educated classes mostly as an ideas package, an attractive, intellectually and morally satisfying alternative to bazaar politics. This kind of communism allowed variegated departures from orthodox praxis. There were and are thousands of “gentleman” communists. The CPM was and is a good host for them. Which is to say, the CPM has never been particularly revolutionary.

… In the CPM of 2006, modernisers and their foes are all prisoners of the machine.

The only area where the CPM in Bengal practised communism has been in electoral politics and institution grabbing. Bolshevik principles of party organisation and mobilisation have been applied for years. In his fine study of Bengal’s contemporary history, Partha Chatterjee estimated that nearly two million CPM cadres were mobilised during an early 1990s election — a staggering number when one considers Bengal’s electorate at that time totaled just over 40 million. And there isn’t a major institution in Bengal — from Calcutta University to Calcutta Police to panchayats — that hasn’t been totally commandeered by the party. The CPM doesn’t practise bourgeois, half-hearted, let’s nominate some of our own chaps strategies favoured by the Congress and the BJP. It remodels institutions to serve the party.

All major leaders — those who support Bhattacharjee, those who don’t, Bhattacharjee himself and those gentleman communists — in the Bengal CPM are implicated in building the machine and are served by it. If the industry issue becomes a critical question in determining the CPM’s future political direction — as agrarian radicalism was in 1967 — can today’s moderates afford to split?

They should. It would be good for Bengal and for India. Bhadralok communists will cheer it. But today’s moderate CPM leaders will confront pure survival questions: will they inherit the machine, can the machine split?

As Uncle Joe, aka Joseph Stalin, would have pointed out, Stalinist structures don’t take well to divisions.

Read responses to this article here and here.


Apoplexy said...

i like the article wih some reservaTIONS. congress/bjp are thoroughly anti-people and malevolent

rama said...

Hullo! "congress/bjp are thoroughly anti-people and malevolent". Well said, and I could not agree more.

I am reminded - when my younger son, Chotu, was 3 and a half years old, and I returned home after being away for a couple of months, he was full of all the things he wanted to tell me. He said "yellow Santro is fantastic." I said to him "You are fantastic." He replied: "we are all fantastic."

Like that - all of them (CPM, Cong, BJP, PQR, XYZ) etc etc are abhorrent.