There is no truth in the rumour that the headquarters of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) have shifted from Alimuddin Street to a lane in Kalighat. But, if truth be told, one cannot blame those who circulated the rumour and those who stretched their credulity to believe it. The bandh on Thursday made it clear that Mamata Banerjee has a newfound, if closet, ally. West Bengal was brought to a standstill by the CPI(M) on issues against which Ms Banerjee is most vocal and for which she has even withdrawn from the United Progressive Alliance government. Thus the CPI(M)’s unusual performance on Thursday has allowed Ms Banerjee to appear against the culture of bandhs and yet have her anti-reform views championed. She has the unique privilege of having the cake and eating it too. She cannot, of course, publicly thank her arch- enemy but perhaps she is thankful in her private moments. The CPI(M) will rue its decision to hit the streets on issues that are irretrievably linked in the public mind with Ms Banerjee’s pro-poor and anti-reforms campaign. The comrades might even in retrospect cite this as another historic blunder but that will not undo the fact that they scored a same-side goal.
What the CPI(M) will never admit is that mistakes like the one it committed on Thursday flow directly from certain grandiose illusions it has about itself. The CPI(M) sees itself as a Leninist party dedicated to bringing about a revolution in India, if not in the world. This is a pipe dream on the part of a party which has no firm political existence outside of West Bengal and Kerala. It might have party cells elsewhere but they are not worth even a subscription to People’s Democracy. Both in West Bengal and in Kerala it has significant political bases and loyal followings. In West Bengal, in spite of the worst possible reversal, it continues to command more than 40 per cent of the popular vote and substantial chunks of the political and ideological space. It should work to increase this space and to enhance its political clout. It cannot do so by directly or indirectly advocating Ms Banerjee’s agenda. It must work actively against Ms Banerjee and her government. The people of West Bengal must perceive the CPI(M) as being distinctly different from the Trinamul Congress and not as its mirror image.
What is worse is that the non-performance of Ms Banerjee’s government in every conceivable sphere of governance provides the CPI(M) with ample opportunities to fashion a campaign aimed at her and her policies. The CPI(M) could mount a movement demanding more jobs, more investments, a cessation of violence and against attacks on the democratic rights of individuals. It should not shrink from throwing back these stones merely because at one time it lived in a glass house. The enemy of the CPI(M) in West Bengal is Mamata Banerjee. The West Bengal comrades should not allow the smooth-talking general-secretary of the party to convince them that the real enemies are Manmohan Singh and global imperialism. The challenge before Alimuddin Street is to overthrow Ms Banerjee and recapture the Writers’ Buildings. The world revolution can wait as it has been waiting since 1917.