Sunday, May 29, 2011

The "Undefeated Left"

A statement issued under the signature of five “Left” figures is making the rounds of e.mail lists. It seeks to garner support for the sentiment that the recent electoral defeat of the communist-led coalitions in Kerala and West Bengal does not mean “the end of the Left in India.” The five – Dilip Simeon, Jairus Banaji, Sukumar Muralidharan, Satya Sivaraman, Rohini Hensman – argue that “the Left in India is not the Left parties alone and therefore the defeat of the Left parties does not mean the defeat of the Left.” They say that there “are many cultural and political groups ... that have never identified or associated with the politics and the peculiar left traditions of the CPI(M) that are still largely moulded by the discredited legacies of Stalinism.” In their view there is an undefeated “Left” of “organisations, movements and forms of struggle” ranging from “hundreds of left-wing trade unions ... that are essentially independent of party control” to “dozens of popular campaigns and the organisations connected with them.”  
They credit this unstructured and ad hoc “Left” with a range of accomplishments:
·         “fighting the displacement of people by large scale government and corporate projects (the Hirakud and Koel Karo dams, the Baliapal missile range, the Sardar Sarover scheme, mining and industrial ventures by POSCO, Vedanta, Jindals, the Tatas, Ambanis, and so on).
·         the “grassroots campaigns for the Right to Information (RTI) and for rural employment schemes.”
·         campaigning “against communal violence and for justice for the victims of the violence that politicians have repeatedly instigated, notably, the horrific massacres in1984 (Delhi), 2002 (Gujarat) and 2008 (Kandhamal in Orissa).”
·         and fostering “movements of resistance to the hideous injustices and violence of the caste system; to the oppression of women; to homophobia; and against the forcing of millions of children into wage-slavery.”
Even if we overlook the fact that the courts, the government, and even political parties (the Trinamool C in Bengal), have been prime movers in some of these so-called “Left” achievements, the whole proposition reeks of clutching at straws. The statement indicates more clearly than the electoral defeat of the communists the intellectual bankruptcy of the “Left” in India. The concept of a political  "Left," originally borrowed from 19th Century Europe, has never taken root Indian soil, and it is now like a crude Mumbai knock-off of a Hollywood film, embarrassing not only in its lack of cultural originality but in its display of technical incompetence. Just as the denizens of the world’s largest film industry are content to be described as “Bollywood,” "Tollywood," "Kollywood" and so on, members of the Indian “Left” seem to be completely unaware that their imitative imported conceptualization and terminology put on display a fundamental lack of self respect. There is no inkling in it that the granddaddy of all “Left” politicians was Mahatma Gandhi, who rang down the curtain on the colonial era and initiated the global movements for racial equality, universal human rights, and rural development.

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