Eyes Open Wide Shut

Unlike in the past, this was one moment of historical and epistemological rupture which a discredited CPM-led Left Front would have clearly anticipated. Their body language, as much as the fascinating graffiti on the walls of Kolkata, was a poignant pointer, that not even a failed fantasy of imagined victory was a luxury they could anymore afford. If they even thought of making a remarkable recovery, it could only be in the realm of sleepwalking. Indeed, they could see the signs of the times. And yet, even in their wildest nightmares, they could never believe that their chief minister and other top CPM stalwarts would rub their nose in the dust, and that too with such humiliating margins, in their own inherited muscle-flexing bastions. 

This sense of inevitability did not need prophetic insight. This was not a mystery thriller with a twisted end. Truly, the parliamentary Left in India has almost never anticipated great historical events. It had no clue of Soviet Union's disintegration, or the East European revolutions and the fall of the Berlin Wall, it lauded the Tiananmen Square massacre, it missed its own party heartbeats before the Naxalbari uprising, and then backed the bloody repression, it refused to connect with all forms of people's movements in contemporary India, it continued to wallow in the quagmires of Stalinism, defending the purges, and rejected all new streams of consciousness in European communism and elsewhere. 

This has to do with its slow stagnation into an arrogant, sectarian, shallow Stalinist outfit, operating on redundant methodology, as much as floating on the wings of addictive lethargy, opportunism, and a total disconnect with the 'mythical masses'.  The Bengal unit of the CPM exemplified all these traits in an eminent manner, most transparently expressed during the killings and rapes in Nandigram, the unleashing of State repression in Singur and Lalgarh, even as subsidised capitalists became the neo-prophets of CPM's neoliberalism. The stagnation of Operation Barga, and the relentless terror of new landlords - the 'red jotdars' - in the extra-constitutional structures of the State and party apparatus, did not really make the red flag revolutionary. 

Hopefully, now they will learn to unlearn the narcissism. Hopefully, because this is asking too much from a Eyes Open Wide Shut party which has lost its ideological origins, its connect with struggles and resistances, its commitment to radical grassroots social transformation, and indeed, its stated textual and metaphorical dialectic of communism and Marxism-Leninism. 

History is testimony that even if it repeats itself as a farce or a tragedy, those who don't change with the times are bound to become extinct. In this dilemma between interpreting the world and the point that it must be changed, the parliamentary Left in India has betrayed its own mandate. Almost born at the same time in the 1920s, compare the journey of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the (un)divided Communist Party of India. While the CPC did a long march and a 'Maoist' peasant revolution, made big gains and fatal mistakes (including the Cultural Revolution), China has now emerged as a superpower, a totalitarian capitalist empire with not an iota of democracy or freedom. And the CPM and CPI? Where are they at this point on the map?

Except in Tripura, they are now floating in a sinking quagmire. Even their fourth 'bastion', JNU, has been rendered rudderless with no elections in nearly four years. Truly, the current stick-in-the-mud leadership, which has pushed the party into this tragic cesspool, must do some serious self-criticism. That is, if they still want to stay relevant in this era of ruthless globalisation.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: JUNE 2011