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BAD WINE IN AN OLD BOTTLE

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, in recent times, has been a reticent man. He has much to be reticent about. It was under his leadership that the Communist Party of India (Marxist) fell from the acme of power to the nadir. The CPI(M) has not been so hard-pressed and so demoralized since 1977 as it is today. Mr Bhattacharjee, as the leader of the party, must take responsibility for this pitiful state of affairs and also initiate steps to take his party out of the doldrums. There is no sign of Mr Bhattacharjee doing this. Instead he has retreated into a self-created shell of silence and sullenness. It would be simplistic to suggest that this reaction of Mr Bhattacharjee is related to his personality, to the kind of person that he is. The truth is a little more unpleasant: he is quiet and sulking because he has nothing new to say. His interview to The Telegraph (published on April 3) reveals that he still inhabits an unreal world. Caught in a time warp and trapped within the straitjacket of an antiquated ideology, he is out of touch with reality and thus mouths platitudes and clichés learnt in party classes. It has not dawned on him that the party catechism became irrelevant when the Berlin Wall came down and brought down with it the Humpty Dumpty of communism. As in the nursery rhyme so in history, nothing can put Humpty together again.

Mr Bhattacharjee said in the interview that “the communist party has revolutionary work to perform”. He should be asked what this revolutionary work is and what it aims to achieve. Does he believe that in this day and age it is possible to socialize the means of production and also enable the working class to seize State power through an armed intervention? Mr Bhattacharjee, like other comrades, has been taught to believe that this is possible. This is where his and his party’s disconnect with reality is most apparent. The working class is impossible to define and locate under present conditions. No one, except members of a loony fringe, seriously believes in the socialization of production. The term, communism, thanks to Mr Bhattacharjee’s heroes, V.I. Lenin and Josef Stalin, has come to be ineradicably associated with one of the most oppressive regimes of the 20th century. In India, the CPI(M) exists within the framework of democracy and the Constitution; if it believes in revolutionary work then it aims to overthrow the Constitution. Does it really? Mr Bhattacharjee should clarify.

The CPI(M) claims to be a national party and Mr Bhattacharjee is one of the principal leaders of the party. But it is clear that neither he nor his party has learnt any lessons from the past. The resounding defeat in West Bengal and the party’s minuscule presence in the national scene appear to the comrades as an unfortunate accident. They are still convinced that they are fundamentally on the right path. This makes them comic and pathetic at the same time.