ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Bereft of an Alternative Path

The CPI(M) explores a “third alternative” at its party congress, but what would this alternative be?

The red flags and arches, the posters of Marx, Engels and Lenin, and the banners calling upon the workers of the world to unite were all there in the textile manufacturing town of Coimbatore that was the venue of the 19th Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – the CPI(M) – which concluded on April 3. All the “red’ rituals notwithstanding, there was something so pivotal, so utterly essential that was absent – the articulation of an alternative path of development, a socialist-oriented strategic option that is distinctly different, indeed, in opposition to that espoused by the parties governing on behalf of India’s ruling classes. The CPI(M) has been in power uninterruptedly for 30 years at the head of a left front government in West Bengal. But, sadly, the people of this country do not seem to think that the state government has done things significantly differently or better than the state governments led by the “bourgeois” parties – in healthcare, education, habitat, in turning around the factories that have closed down or have been locked out, in alleviating poverty and hunger, and so on. Indeed, the pursuit of corporate-led industrialisation and special economic zones (SEZs) in West Bengal leading on to the tragic events in Nandigram has resulted in a serious crisis of party politics. But the CPI(M) congress does not seem to have come up with imaginative ways of dealing with the quandary, as also the various challenges confronting the party and the people.

Since May 2004, the CPI(M) has been propping up the Congressled United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in power at the centre, in the bargain slowing the pace of neoliberal economic policies that the latter has sought to implement, and opposing the forging of a strategic partnership with Washington. But even as it has been stalling the worst from happening, the party has pursued pro-big business policies in West Bengal, going to the extent of resorting to violence to suppress peasants apprehending the takeover of their land for a SEZ in Nandigram and protesting such takeover for an automobile manufacturing complex in Singur. Indeed, there is a stark incongruity between the CPI(M)’s espousal of Marxism on the one hand and its role in government in implementing the agenda of big business in West Bengal on the other. Delegates from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh at the congress voiced their differences with the “Buddha line” (political backing for the pursuit of corporate-led industrialisation and SEZs, justified by Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, the state’s chief minister) but the party leaders sought to muffle a polarisation of views, going on to endorse that line. The CPI(M) had after all supported the SEZs legislation in Parliament in 2005.

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