It is a delicious irony that SEZ and ADB should become the bugbear for the neo-bourgeois CPM. The party'sagony is best illustrated in a laborious piece written by its general secretary Prakash Karat in the party organ People'sDemocracy, to convince the cadre that after all the comrade brand of capitalism is slightly different from the common place capitalism being practiced by the mainstream political formations.
For its allies and the hardcore communists, there is something more than meets the eye with the recent revisionist adventures undertaken by the CPM top brass. The CPM'sfirst brush with power at the centre has embarrassingly exposed the Surjit brand of pragmatic power play, which his disciples now at the helm are pursuing with gusto. But this has taken a tragic toll on the public image and morale of the party.
That this was brought to a disturbingly sharp focus by the 25-day-long fast by Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata is only a part of the story. The open and acrimonious internecine war in the Kerala CPM between its own Chief Minister V.S. Achutanandan and the organisational wing led by Pinaray Vijayan has now become the most entertaining political cock fight in Kerala history.
Kerala has for long been considered arguably the laboratory of the proletarian democracy. Here the party and its partners are divided into two rival camps right up to the local committee level. There is an intriguing court case being fought by the party for the ownership of EMS Namboodiripad'sancestral property, particularly his family temple. In another instance, according to a report in Indian Express, E.K. Nayanar'sdaughter, who is a senior employee with the party daily Deshabhimani, found the atmosphere so unbearable that she went on a long leave with the intention of quitting the job. Later she was persuaded to rejoin duties, in the face of widespread commotion the report generated. These are trivial compared to the public sparrings between the CM and the party secretary on Lavlin kickback inquiry, ADB loan, waste of public money for furnishing ministers? bungalows and interference in police administration.
In Kerala, Vijayan is considered the darling of the elitist globalisation lobby, like Buddhadeb Bhattacharya is the poster boy of pro-reform comrades of West Bengal. The party may not admit this, but the truth is the leadership has turned Marxism on its head. The unqualified encomiums the so-called capitalist media is showering on Marxian'sBuddhist make-over is proof enough, if anybody was in doubt. Consequently the party is inviting criticism from its own allies. The West Bengal partners of the CPM are one with Mamata when she exposes the banality of the Chief Minister'sclaims. According to a report in The Pioneer only 60 per cent land could be acquired in Singur, though the Chief Minister had claimed with a flourish that he was ready to hand over the entire 997 acre to the Tatas in the first week of January 2007. And the Chief Minister'sother pet mega projects like two SEZ by Salim Group, which need an acquisition of 10,000 acres of land have sparked off a new wave of protest. The question is, why should the government take upon itself the job of acquiring agricultural land for private sector industrialisation? Conventional Marxian wisdom should have been that if somebody wants to set up industry, he should be asked to buy the land at market rate. There is no public cause involved in a private sector company setting up units for making profit, for the government to forcefully acquire and hand over multi-crop farm land. Perhaps the CPM is atoning for its dubious anti-development politics of the past. Only two years ago, Kerala witnessed a CPM putsch when thousands of acres of cash crops owned by poor farmers were forcibly destroyed by CPM lumpens, under the leadership of Achutanandan, as a punishment for shifting from paddy cultivation to cash crops.
The Kerala factional feud on the ADB loan issue is equally gripping. The party was all along opposed to the ADB loan, but, the minister in the Left Front government, loyal to Vijayan, signed the deal, without getting a clearance from the Chief Minister, who is openly opposed to ADB loan. The minister did not take cabinet approval, but Vijayan is insisting that the dollar 221.2 million loan for urban infrastructure was cleared after discussing with the Chief Minister. In fact, the Chief Minister has practically no control over his own ministers who are taking orders from party headquarters.
The CPM dilemma is both exciting and understandable. It is the only party that in the past was largely successful in ingraining its political manifesto into grassroots governance. In the normal circumstances they would have found common cause with Mamata Banerjee. The party has tripped and is slipping in the company of IMF, ADB votaries in the UPA, in the early sight of power on the national theatre. And the regular pilgrimages of Mumbai tycoons and western diplomats to the AKG Bhavan have clearly swept the comrades off their feet. The wisdom of the Gita: that it is glorious to go down fighting for one'sconvictions, rather than embracing alien thoughts which would only bring infamy, would be of some help to the comrades, in their agonising hour of ideological tailspin.