The script could have been from Franz Kafka’s “The Trial“. It could have also been a page from the story of the Stalinist trials of the Old Bolsheviks. It is a sad reflection of what the CPI(M) could do, if the CPI(M) gets stuck in a bureaucratic miasma. How else could one describe the “trial” and “purge” of a series of activists from the CPI(M) in Delhi for endorsing and supporting the “rebel” positions of the SFI-JNU.
Three former student activists, all of whom were associated with the student movement in the Jawaharlal Nehru University in prominent positions – two of them former JNUSU presidents, Dhananjay Tripathi and Rohit, and the other a secretary of the SFI unit in the campus, Anubhuti Maurya – were expelled from the Delhi CPI(M) recently. Their guilt – to oppose the disastrous decision to dissolve the student outfit in the campus for having taken a rebel position – on the CPI(M)’s flawed decision in the presidential elections.
This decision, like many others, clearly establishes the Kafkaesque nature of party functioning. It would be difficult to find an adherent, a sympathiser or a supporter or a state leader of the CPI(M) within Delhi who would consciously support or endorse the decision of the party in the presidential elections. Or indeed, to find someone who would endorse the mistakes and direction of the party in West Bengal of late. Yet, the most vocal of the activists who did so – amounting to no difference with the positions of their comrades – have been expelled in a “purging drive”. Why?
The “purged” activists had, as a collective, replied to a show cause issued to them. In their reply (appended below), they presented the case for their actions and that they believe that they were only adhering to Left politics which the CPI(M) is expected to adhere to. Yet, we come to know, that the response to their reply was expulsion, communicated via telephone, without any discussion with them. Kafka’s Joseph K. would have empathised.
Letter written by the “expelled” –
This is in response to the show cause notices that were served to the undersigned.
We have been charged with indulging in anti-party activities, by showing our solidarity with SFI – JNU. We reject this charge completely and reiterate that our support for SFI – JNU is not against the politics of the CPI (M).
We believe that the decision to dissolve the JNU unit of the SFI and to expel the four members of the SFI Delhi State Committee was undemocratic and unwarranted. We registered our protest against this act by signing the open appeal against the dissolution of the JNU Unit of the SFI, addressed to the All India President of the SFI. The questions raised by the members of the JNU unit, even if read as dissent against the party line, needed political response and engagement. Instead, the party worked hard to suppress the questions asked by its student members. It responded to questions of ideology in the language of discipline.
The single thread that binds the response of the party to the issues raised by the Comrades in JNU has been to stifle any sign of dissent. One of the tools used in this has been a campaign of vilification, based entirely on lies and untruths. One example of this is the expulsion of Com. Albeena Shakil. Com. Albeena was a state committee member of the Delhi CPI (M). She was expelled from the Party in a manner that was most undemocratic. Her expulsion came at the end of a campaign, through which she was denied all agency for her own political convictions and actions and made suspect because she was married to a comrade who had resigned from the CPI(M). This is evident from the fact that the Party State Secretary had, in certain instances, taken to referring to Com. Albeena as the wife of Mr. Prasenjit Bose, more precisely as ‘Mrs. Bose’. A comrade, who has been the President of the JNUSU, Secretary of Delhi State SFI, a national level leader of the SFI, active member of the Delhi State Secretariat of JMS was thus rendered invisible. We condemn this patriarchal attitude of the Party leadership.
Further, the manner in which this show cause notice was issued to two of us, Dhananjay and Rohit, also displays a prejudicial attitude. Both of us were members of the research branch under CC units. We have been informed through the show cause notice that our membership stands transferred to the Delhi State Committee. The fact that this step was taken without any consultation with or intimation to us indicates that its only purpose was to initiate disciplinary action against us, whilst denying us the platform of our branch to have our say.
The dissent that is coming to fore now is not the first time that questions have been raised about the decisions and policies of the CPI (M). At least since 2007, serious questions have been raised about the political direction of the CPI (M). Our expectation from the leadership, especially when the party is in severe crisis, has been that it will undertake serious engagement with political – ideological debates, including that of Party’s support to Pranab Mukherjee in the Presidential elections.
All of us joined the party not because of individual Party leaders but because of the Party’s steadfast ideological-political positions against imperialism, neoliberalism and communalism in the 1990s. Our allegiance was and remains towards the basic ideological-political positions. The issues and events that have surfaced in JNU are intricately linked to the developments in West Bengal, where our Party’s politics in the past few years has been questioned to its fundamentals because of serious right-wing deviations, arising from the compromises with the neoliberal model of “development”. We firmly believe that the positions adopted on several issues in West Bengal go against the politics and interests of the Party, and have already done enormous damage to the Party.
SFI has faced fierce attacks in JNU since 2007 on a host of issues related to the CPI(M) and the Left Front government in West Bengal (WB): (a) The industrialisation and land acquisition policy, which led to Singur and finally to the Nandigram firing; (b) passage of the SEZ Act in the WB state assembly to attract private capital; (c) the then WB CM’s public utterances (i) arguing that Left intellectuals like Prof. Prabhat Patnaik “are not in touch with reality” (ii) expressing his shame for belonging to a political party which supports workers’ strikes from a Confederation of Indian Industry platform (iii) conversations with US diplomats revealed by the Wikileaks where he supported liberalisation on the lines of China and Vietnam, invited Dow Chemicals to WB, and expressed concerns over madarsas being the breeding ground for ‘Islamic radicals’; (d) the condition of the Muslim minority in West Bengal; (e) Gender-insensitive comments of some of the prominent leaders of the Party, etc. In the name of democratic centralism, which is notan organisational principle of the SFI, debates over all these issues have been scuttled. SFI comrades in JNU were expected to defend these indefensible follies in public but when they have asked questions within the Party fora, they have been admonished and rebuked. In this backdrop, we find their public criticism of the Party’s stand vis-à-vis the Presidential elections to be reasonable and politically correct.Having said this, we don’t believe that these problems are merely restricted to JNU. Rather these are symptomatic of what our Party as a whole is plagued with. There are a few major ideological issues, which we believe requires serious rethinking to counter the right-wing deviation in the Party.
- Emulating the Chinese path: Despite the understanding of the party that socialism in India would be built under “Indian conditions”, the positions publicly articulated by several Party leaders, including Polit Bureau members like Com. Buddhadeb, clearly favour an emulation of the Chinese path. The current model of development in China is based on the notion that in order to build socialism in an underdeveloped country, the productive forces have to be first developed under capitalist conditions in the “primary stage of socialism”. This has led China to not only implement several neoliberal policies like privatisation, relaxation of labour laws, providing concessions to foreign and domestic big capital etc. but has also caused widening inequalities, rising corruption, large scale displacement of peasants and exploitation of the workers. No serious Marxist believes that it is socialism that is being built in China today. Our Party, however, continues to hold contradictory theoretical positions on China as can be seen in the Ideological Resolution adopted by the 20th Congress. This is a major source of ideological-political confusion within the Party. It is indeed stunning to find Narendra Modi and certain Party leaders showering similar praises on the Chinese model of development and invoking it to build consensus on “development”.
- Clinging to Dogmatism: The Party leadership continues to consider North Korea as a socialist regime. This is ridiculous to say the least, given the dynastic military rule continuing in that country. Such an outdated and distorted notion of socialism affects the credibility of the Party and discredits the socialist ideology. Rather than holding on to such dogmatic beliefs, the Party should seriously engage with the progressive and socialist forces which have emerged in Latin America and Europe in recent times, who are advocating a more democratic and participatory form of socialism.
- Warped Implementation of Democratic Centralism: The principle of democratic centralism is followed by the Party leadership in a hypocritical, one-sided and opportunistic manner to silence the voices from the left like that of Comrade V.S Achuthanandan in Kerala, even as rightwing opinions expressed by Party leaders like Com. Buddhadeb, Com. Gautam Deb etc. are accommodated and defended. The undemocratic disciplinary actions against the JNU comrades or the show cause notices issued against us also follow the same pattern. Those who have expressed dissent on the Party’s decision to support Pranab Mukherjee or the dissolution of the SFI unit in JNU are to be punished; but nobody is to be held accountable either for the gross miscalculation and opportunism underlying the support to Pranab Mukherjee in the Presidential elections or for the disastrous electoral consequences (for the ‘official’ SFI) of the undemocratic decisions taken by the Party vis-à-vis the SFI unit in JNU.
In the light of the points made above, we believe that our positions in the recent past have been driven by honest and principled Left politics. The CPI (M) leadership needs to reconsider its high-handed approach towards legitimate political-ideological concerns brewing within its own ranks.
It is extremely difficult for us, who joined the CPI (M) for its principled politics, to motivate ourselves to defend the above-mentioned deviations of the leadership. We categorically reject the charges made against us. We strongly urge upon the Party to democratically engage with dissent instead of stifling it. To do otherwise would only breed ‘yes-men’, not communists.
Anubhuti Maurya, Dhananjay Tripathi and Rohit