Dogma and Reform
By Shyam Khosla
Communist Chief Minister of West Bengal Buddhadeb Bhatta-charjee is at war with the dogmatic followers of the failed ideology. His recent visit to Jakarta and Singapore to attract FDI during which he struck a deal with a controversial MNC has evoked sharp reaction among comrades back home. Whether the CPM likes it or not, the Chief Minister is the Prime Minister'sposter boy. And why not? He is doing things in a CPM-dominated State what the Congress-led UPA Government dares not touch even with a barge pole. The ?reformed? communist'snew slogan is: Reform, perform or perish. He has junked the dogma. He dares the hardliners in the Left alliance by inking an agreement with the controversial Indonesian giant Salim group that has a political past. The MNC was in the news for its collaboration with the Suharto regime that was accused of persecuting millions of citizens, including communists. For Buddha, it is a non-issue. It is nonsense, he says, to rake up the past and cites the example of China and Vietnam that fought a bitter war with United States but are now inviting American capital. The argument is that if communist countries can live with American capital, why not an Indian State run by Leftists. The ?reformed Marxist? refuses to see the colour of the capital. It need not be ?red? but shouldn'tbe ?black?. What he says and insists on doing is a clear indication of his desire to get over the dogma and reform Marxism. It is clever of him to say Marxism is not a dogma but a science. He wants communists to learn truth from facts and not from dogma. He wants the communists to learn to live with reality and reform their ideas in the light of the changing world order.
CPM leaders of West Bengal are restive. There is an under-current of resentment against Buddhadeb's?capitalist? policies and approach. There are murmurs that people expect communists to behave like communists. Is the CM behaving like a capitalist? The new avatar of reformed Marxism will have a lot to explain about his East Asian trip and signing MoU with the ?notorious? MNC. He may be dragged over coals in the forthcoming meeting of the CPM politburo. The cadres want to review and discuss threadbare the agreement arrived at between the West Bengal government and Salim group. They are excited by the ?massive? financial investment promised but are apprehensive about the political fallout. Communist are unable to digest the bitter truth that their government has entered into a deal with a collaborator of an anti-communist government that persecuted communists in Indonesia to no end.
Electoral considerations are uppermost in the minds of the hardliners. CPM-dominated farmers? lobby accuses the government of creating a rural-urban divide under the garb of modernisation and development and points out that it is the rural masses that vote the party to power and not the city dwellers that would be benefited by the service sector projects. Krishak Sabha – a CPM front outfit – is outraged by the ?suicidal? policies of the State government and regrets that the MNC that helped Suharto regime kill millions of people is now forcing the communist government in West Bengal to uproot a million farmers. This is with reference of 5000-odd acres of land the government has promised to the MNC for development of infrastructure and urban centres. The government is also under attack for being soft on the MNC'sdemand for fertile land around Kolkata. That will involve uprooting a large number of farmers and may have disastrous consequences for the ruling alliance.
CPM'sallies are more vocal. CPI State Secretary Manju Majumdar'sstartling confession that ?Even after 29 years of Left party'srule in West Bengal, the poor continue to remain poor? will come handy to the Opposition in West Bengal. The confession apart, the CPI doesn'tthink there is any need to change the alliance'smorbid mindset on economy. It thrashes the ?shopping mall culture? and questions the CM'sobsession with the service sector. Malls, health cities and townships will not serve the poor whom the Left parties ?represent?, asserts CPI and insists that only the manufacturing sector and agro-based industries generate employment and not the service sector. The Big Brother hegemony of CPM is also under attack. RSP and Forward Bloc ministers have taken strong exception to the Chief Minister not consulting the Cabinet before signing the MoU with Salim group. Also under attack is the decision to convert land use of mono-crop land for setting up townships as it would destabilise food security.
The Left is in a flap. Its doublespeak is telling. It is wooing foreign capital with fervour in West Bengal but in Delhi it rails against foreign capital for airports and disinvestment in public sector enterprises. Buddha'sreforms run against ideological purity, or should one say, Marxist dogma. Will the West Bengal Chief Minister be able to carry the party and allies along on the path of open economy? Or will the dogmatic fringe take the country back to State economy that has failed all over the world.