CPI(M)'s Smokescreen of the 'Compulsions' of Capitalism

On the occasion of the foundation day celebrations of Ganashakti, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya took the opportunity to air his favourite maxims about there being no alternative to capitalism in the present phase. In this context he defended his Government's policies of land-acquisition for industry, saying that the existing land-use patterns could not be the 'end of history' as imagined by the Opposition. This time Buddha's oft-repeated views have received the blessings of CPI(M) veteran Jyoti Basu and explicit theoretical legitimisation by none less than the party General Secretary Prakash Karat. Predictably, Buddha's and Basu's statements were greeted gleefully and gloatingly by the corporate media.

At this point Prakash Karat stepped in with a clarification, in the form of a lecture of sorts on the CPI(M)'s programmatic understanding of socialism, capitalism, democratic revolution, and the role of communist state governments in a federal set-up.

Karat said that for BJP and Congress, "socialism is a smokescreen for promoting the interests of big capitalists and foreign capital". Granted. But is CPI(M)'s talk of the capitalist character of democratic revolution any less of a smokescreen for promoting the interests of the Tatas and Salems? What Buddha, Basu and Karat are aiming to do is to equate the task of democratic revolution with the West Bengal Government's industrial policy and with corporate land grab, in a mockery of Marxist theory.

Let's examine some of these propositions more closely. What are these statements really saying, beyond the banal assertion that it is impossible for state governments to usher in socialism in Bengal, Kerala or Tripura?

Buddhadeb had remarked that inviting corporate investment and MNCs is inevitable for industrial development in Bengal; since “We have to accept capitalism…This is being realistic in a situation where there is no alternative.” In an earlier statement, soon after his re-election as Chief Minister, Buddhadeb had said, "Without capitalism, you cannot bring socialism in a feudal society." Buddhadeb is saying that 'there is no alternative' but to embrace the policies of imperialist globalisation - but he is dressing up this surrender as a heroic revolutionary act of ushering in capitalism which will sweep away feudal remnants!

When Buddhadeb asserts that existing land-use patterns cannot be the 'end of history'; what he is saying is that land reforms and Operation Barga cannot be the end of CPI(M)'s history in Bengal - now the inexorable forward march of history must inevitably bring SEZs, forced land grab, reversal of land ceiling laws and dispossession and bullets for sharecroppers who stand in the way of this march of history.

Karat's clarification highlighted some key points of the CPI(M) party programme; let us examine them. First is the assertion that Left state governments "cannot build socialism but undertake alternative policies within the capitalist system." But exactly what alternative path or policy is the West Bengal Government offering? Far from an alternative, we have the Marxist CM peddling the 'TINA' logic in so many words.

Karat explains that state governments have "limited powers within the Constitution", so in a situation where the "Centre imposes neo-liberal policies", Left state governments have to undertake industrialisation and economic development "while protecting interests of workers and the poor." Unfortunately for Karat's argument, there is nothing but seamless unity between CPI(M)-ruled state governments and the UPA Govt, with CPI(M) being a key ally of the UPA Govt at the Centre. Far from struggling to pursue alternative policies in the teeth of a hostile Centre, or being compelled to adopt neo-liberal policies imposed by the Centre, we have Buddha's Bengal boasting to the corporates that it pioneered the SEZ policy - passing the WB SEZ Act in 2003 long before the Central SEZ Act 2005 was passed!

Now the CPI(M) no longer promises that its state governments will provide "relief" for the poor - just that it will "protect the interests of workers and the poor". But what's the fate of even this minimal promise? We find the CPI(M) Govt pampering the corporates, pouring out sops for the Tatas, branding the poor peasants who resist land grab as 'enemies of development' and brandishing batons and bullets against them. Even on the score of implementation of bourgeois reform measures like NREGS, W Bengal has one of the most dismal track records in the whole country, providing a token two days of employment instead of the promised 100 days in the whole year! Buddhadeb's remarks on capitalism are part of a package where he routinely advises restraint on part of trade unions and regrets trade union militancy as a 'mistake'.

Can we accept Buddhadeb's proposition that the "interests of the working class and the poor" in times of democratic revolution coincide with that of the Tatas and other corporates? For revolutionary communists, it is not enough to say that democratic revolution has a capitalist character; Lenin had distinguished between the bourgeois path and the peasant path to capitalist development. In contrast to the social democratic Mensheviks who advised the working class to take a back-seat and leave the driving seat to the bourgeoisie, Lenin insisted on worker-peasant leadership in the democratic revolution. He identified the peasantry as the progressive section of the bourgeoisie and natural ally of the working class against big capital. Thus, in the very struggle for democratic revolution, Lenin stressed the need to nurture the seeds of socialist revolution by maintaining the independence and class leadership of the proletariat.

What is furthering the struggle for democratic revolution; the struggle to throw off the feudal stranglehold and resist imperialism - the peasantry on the warpath against SEZs and land grab, or the capitalism led by Tatas and Salems? The CPI(M) is free to claim its sops to corporates and suppression of workers' and peasants' militancy as its contribution to the democratic revolution; but it failed to fool the sharecroppers of Singur and its own mass base among Nandigram's peasantry, and it cannot fool the Left ranks and the working people of this country.

Liberation Archive