Patibandla Srikant responds to the resignation of Comrade Prasenjit Bose from Communist Party of India (Marxist). Srikant did his Masters in Politics & International Relations from Pondicherry University and has M. Phil in international relations from JNU, New Delhi. After a brief stint in teaching at the Department of Political Science, Pondicherry University, he did his Ph.D from Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore. His doctoral thesis is on social movements and rights. His area of interest includes the cusp of development, grassroots movements and rights. At present, he is working with a voluntary organization in Bangalore. He can be contacted at psrik21[at]gmail.com.
Dear Comrade Bose,
With your resignation from the party primary membership, you have proved that you are not anymore Comrade of the Bosses, but Boss of the Comrades! Let me first congratulate you on your resignation. I dont know if anybody has congratulated you on this occasion. In a way your resignation cleared of many confusions in my mind that I have been contemplating for some time now. And your resignation has finally come, albeit little late.
I have learnt about CPI(M) in an in-depth manner only from you. Going back to the JNU days, your analysis and understanding of various issues of contemporary relevance enchanted me. Your approach to challenges, your leadership skills, and many other things, I have learnt a lot from you. In a way I was indebted to you and your teachings. What troubled me was the period after JNU stint — you know I moved out of New Delhi for being close to home in south. Sitting here I noticed CPI (M) has been committing mistake after mistakes.
In 2004 elections, it got massive mandate from the people of this country and still the CPI (M) leadership failed to consolidate that base. I was troubled by this. Later on when I started work on my thesis, I encountered so many grassroots social movements fighting against various developmental projects like dams, industries, nuclear power plants, mining, etc. CPI(M), interestingly was not present in the discourse of these movements.
Changing Context of Development
A people’s party missing from action. It left a deep scar on my thinking about the party. CPI(M) was not even open to the idea of changing context of development. Yes, as the party says, there is globalisation, there is US imperialism and there is exploitation. I do agree with all that. But on the other hand the party did not look at the grassroots issues and blamed movements like the NBA as funded by foreign agencies. Adding to this party did not take any position whatsoever with regard to environmental issues.
The party may not like these issues as they are termed as environmental issues. This is where the party failed to recognise the peoples aspirations. They are not environmental issues, they are movements to protect the livelihoods and lifestyles of the people of the communities. This party recognised as green issues and stayed away from these movements.
One exception is the Plachimada movement against the Coca Cola industry in Kerala. It was the CPI(M) government which gave the permission to set the plant. Later due to loss of ground water, when people agitated against the plant during the Congress regime, then CPI(M) joined the movement mid-way. Why is not the party not rethinking about the present development pattern. Much of these livelihoods movements actually are similar to the CPI(M) agenda. The discourse of these movements largely is in line with the CPI(M) line itself.
There are dwindling resources and increasing demands and aspirations. As a result there are increasing conflicts for resources. Since in contemporary India, most of the resources are land based and water based — and since they are in the hands of Dalits and Tribals and other subaltern classes, we often see conflicts. The trouble is that the Indian state is strong than ever with the support from international capitalist and imperialist forces. Never before such alignment was knitted so well. As a result the subalterns are losing out. Further, they dont have any other skills other than their livelihood to survive in the globalised world.
The capitalist class of India and other parts of the world have aligned so well along with the aspirations of the reactionary middle class in India. The middle class (its no more a middle class, but its the neo-consumption class) was so happy today. But the middle class is also undergoing social and cultural crisis resulting in suicides, deaths, and perverted forms of lifestyles. However, the middle class in spite of the crisis in its lifestyle is extremely pretentious in projecting happiness particular through modes of consumption. The increase in consumption by the middle class is leading to severe crisis within the current development pattern. The global capital forces along with the Indian state are happy encouraging this neo-consumer class as it reflects on their targeted growth rates.
So the global market forces are doing what so ever they can do to keep this class happy. In the process the Indian state is only happy brokering the relationship between global market forces and the new consuming middle class. That is why we find that today somebody like Narendera Modi or Narayana Murthy of Infosys have become the role models of such market forces and the middle class.
Many a times frustration and disappointment often forces me to go against the party line. But the learnings from you provide a sense of guilt for moving away from the party. Though I was not actively participating in day-to-day affairs of the party. I was doing whatever little within my own limitations. But still that was a huge burden to carry on one’s shoulders in a society where everyone is against the party or communists.
In such circumstances its hard to find solace. The middle class, at least has some sympathy for naxalites (due to the adventurism nature of the naxalites), but not for the CPI(M). Particularly the recent examples of Singur and Nandigram have dealt the final blow — to use your words, nail in the coffin. The party should come out with a proper industrial policy it would be same like what Modi is doing Gujarat. In the name of development, is it correct to displace and dislocate people from their livelihoods without even giving them the basic skills.
Obsession with Imperialism
The obsession with US needs some serious rethinking. By the conventional definition of imperialism today countries like China and India too have become imperial countries. Look at the way our own industrialists have bought up and set up industries all over the world. You name it we are there in Europe, Africa (in a big way), Latin America, North America, Asia, Russia, Australia and where not. Our own bourgeoisie have acquired various companies all over the world. So how do we place ourselves?
Internally when the party succumbs to the hegemony of the BJP or Congress or some other regional party in the name of not having enough strength, what is the difference between the US hegemony and the party accepting Congress hegemony within the country? Always there is a trade-off in the name of not having strength. Instead following in the footsteps of some other party, the same resources and thinking can be invested in building up and strengthening the party.
Overhauling the Party
I was thinking that somebody need to shake the party completely and wake everyone from deep slumber. Given the current state of affairs, the party has lost relevance within the Indian politics. Only some hard shaking like somebody like you resigning would help. But then alas, I read Prakash Karat’s reply to your letter, it was not exactly addressing you, but addressed all the issues raised by you. So it looks like the party has not bothered…really a sad state of affairs.
CPI(M) should use its good offices to bring broad left unity. Its urgent. It should rethink its understanding of development — because today’s India is semi-feudal, semi-colonial and semi-imperialist too. It has everything. It needs a sharp rethinking on development alone, where livelihoods and discourse of the contemporary movements are given space. A huge cadre should be sent to villages and small towns of India on party’s pay scale to work and build the party’s base. Only such things can help CPI(M) in the long run. The fact is that currently CPI(M) is in ICU and any moment if the life supporting system is removed it will die its natural death.
While all the other parties are being led by leaders of our generation, only the left parties are being led by erstwhile generation. Does it mean that we have to wait one more generation to consistently show that we are irrelevant to the current trends. Where is our policy towards IT industry that is single handedly plaguing the society. Real estate, children’s education, health, lok pal, what is our stance? what are we doing? who is listening to us? We have our policies and stance, but the point is they are all useless because nobody is listening to us.
We need to bring in alternative politics and push that into the mainstream polity. By alternative politics I mean bringing back politics into development, which actually means bringing back people back into development and politics. There are many movements in the country that are sympathetic towards the party, but it is the party that is ignoring all those movements.
Your resignation from the party in a way set me free. In the name of democratic centralism, the party big bosses decide something without even knowing the grassroots realities and the entire party is forced to follow the line. How long can we survive on others’ strengths? When was the last time that the party had actually taken a proper and meaningful stance. For some time now CPI(M) in Andhra Pradesh has been acting as if it has spine. Its a good sign, but then its only a one time spine showing act. In the recent by-elections CPI(M) in Andhra went alone for elections. This way we will know how much of support is getting translated into actual votes. This would help the party to strengthen and work on those lines.
Brinda Karat has been taking up issues pertaining to Andhra for some time. Some have seen the light, but we never got the credit and many other issues are still going on. The promise of struggling and leading the struggle has become empty. How many struggles is CPI(M) doing today?
Just some random thoughts from an erstwhile comrade to another former comrade!
With revolutionary greetings