Sunday, July 19, 2009

The CPM’s Last Hurrah


Perhaps we need not be surprised that the CPM is being driven by a death-wish. Perhaps the CPM should die away so that a genuine, progressive Left movement can take shape in India. It is written that destruction precedes creation.

Kerala, more than West Bengal, demonstrates the lethal certainty of the death-wish. For it is in Kerala that the CPM has turned against itself with devastating effect. In Bengal it is the people who turned against the CPM – the result of three decades of terror rule. That it was indeed rule by terror, the world is only now beginning to learn. Not only was the police, the schools, the civic services filled with party cadres, the CPM had set up armed squads of its own in the rural areas to ensure that not a mouse moved without their permission.

In Bengal, clearly, it was arrogance of power that undid the CPM. In Kerala it was the greed for power. Party boss Pinarayi Vijayan (PV) saw himself as a Vladimir Putin whose writ would run even if another man sat in the President’s chair naam ke vastay. Veteran V.S. Achutanandan (VS) was a stumbling block. The entire history of Kerala in recent years can be seen in terms of PV’s manoeuvres to make mincemeat of VS.

Unfortunately for PV, VS has the reputation of a clean man who lives a simple life. He is therefore immensely popular with the people. By contrast, PV’s image is that of a jet-setter with interests in Dubai and Singapore. Under him the CPM in Kerala has become a successful corporate enterprise with big buildings and businesses. He is feared as a tough nut who will stop at nothing to have his way. When he was chargesheeted by the CBI recently in a corruption case, public opinion hardened against him.

Who cares about public opinion? Not Vladimir Putin. What matters is opinion in the CPM Politburo. And that buro is obviously amenable to pressure. It is widely known that the CPM lost the parliamentary elections in May (the Left Front got only four seats out of 20 as against 18 in 2004) largely because of PV’s unilateral decisions, from alienating alliance partners to sharing platforms with known communal leaders. But PV succeeded in giving the impression to the Politburo that it was all due to VS’s anti-party activities.

In a final showdown in the party’s highest forums in Delhi, PV clinched his Pyrrhic victory. Powerful voices were raised within the party that both PV and VS deserved to be punished for the party’s miserable showing in Kerala. But the Secretary General, the equivalent of Josef Stalin, stood firmly on the side of PV and insisted that only VS should be punished. Since communist tradition is to yield to Stalin’s wishes, VS was ousted from the Politburo. In an extra-judicial pronouncement, the Karat group also proclaimed that PV was not guilty in the corruption case. (What can the courts do now!)

The immediate effect of these decisions was to increase VS’s popularity and further alienate the CPM and its victorious Vijayan. The likely consequences of the party’s actions were best summed up by Justice Krishna Iyer (who, let it be remembered, was a minister in Kerala’s first communist government in the 1950s). Said the eminent jurist-politician: “The ultimate result of the Politburo’s decisions will be to wipe out the Left from Kerala. If factionalism continues as now, the next elections will mark the end of the CPM”.

So be it. The old must be destroyed to make way for the new. Destruction is redemption. Inquilab zindabad!