Sunday, August 21, 2005

Right about left

Right about left

Sir — S.L. Rao, in his article, “Vision or conspiracy” (Aug 17), offers an interesting analysis of the psyche of the Indian communist. What Rao says about the left’s conspiracy to make everybody poor through its opposition to every sensible economic decision, from privatization of public sector units to the gradual abolition of subsidies, is quite apt. But surprisingly, the author says nothing about the famed hypocrisy of the left. Most of the current office-bearers and national leaders of the communists are English-educated people from relatively affluent upper-caste families who have little or no first-hand experience of how the masses live. Even if it were assumed that they were not born communists, but embraced communist ideals later in life, how does one explain the fact that they have no problems living in five-star comfort or sending their children to elite schools in India and abroad, or vacationing in centres of capitalism like London, Paris and New York? Why don’t our communist leaders holiday in Vietnam, North Korea or Cuba?

They do remember the poorest of the poor every few years when an election is around the corner. Keeping the poor ill-educated, jobless and hungry suits our comrades very well.

Yours faithfully,
Shivaji K. Moitra, Kharagpur

Sir — The study of leftist characteristics in “Vision or conspiracy” is based on what we see around us all the time. But, in spite of the inherent contradictions and the wide gulf between their preachings and practice, leftists are consolidating their support base at the grassroots level. A sizeable section of the intelligentsia subscribe to their views. As with every other party, opportunity-seekers are greater in number among the leftists than those loyal to the ideology. There can be no questions about their being misfits in Indian politics.

Yours faithfully,
A.K. Das, Calcutta

Sir — S.L. Rao’s commentary on the “conspiracies” being hatched by the communists tends to remind one of McCarthyism and the days of mass paranoia about communists. It is preposterous to doubt the loyalty of the communists towards the nation, unless of course, Rao finds the motives of all politicians suspect. I also fail to see how the move to redistribute wealth is against the interests of the country, unless of course, by country, the author means only the big corporations. His suggestion of an ominous conspiracy behind the actions of the communists cannot be taken seriously.

Rao, however, is right in suggesting that many of West Bengal’s economic problems have been caused by militant trade unionism and certain policies of the left government. But to lay the blame solely at the door of the communists would be to do them a grave injustice. We should remember that in a semi-federal set-up like ours where the purse-strings are controlled in effect by the Centre, state governments ideologically opposed to the dispensation at the Centre are not in a comfortable position. Also, each state has its unique problems which require unique solutions, and it would indeed be oversimplifying things to blame a single party for all the ills that have befallen West Bengal.

Rao accuses the communists of simulating law and order problems. It may be noted that West Bengal was one of the few states which were unaffected by the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 and the the pogrom against the Muslims in 2002.

On disinvestment, while the brickbats are reserved for the communists, people forget the allegations of procedural irregularities in the sale of the Centaur hotels when Arun Shourie was disinvestment minister. Rao seems to have forgotten that enterprises are run by labourers, who cannot be robbed of their livelihood with the stroke of a pen and relegated to the background during the process of decision-making. Wouldn’t restructuring of these enterprises be a better solution? We have all witnessed the so-called “human face” of economic reforms since the early Nineties, the tangible benefits of which appear to be confined only to certain strata of urban consumers. Neo- liberal legislations such as the third amendment to the Patents Act of 1970 have succeeded in ensuring that medicines are beyond the reach of the poor.

The nation’s inability to deliver basic services to the poor cannot be blamed on the communists, and Rao knows that. It is also unfair to think that the onus of bringing about administrative and economic reforms lies solely with the left. Neither should the left be held responsible for law and order problems all over the country. It may be noted that the communist strongholds of Kerala, Bengal and Tripura have not been troubled by Naxalite violence so much as many other states. Rao’s article has become more of a rant than a well- thought-out analysis.

Yours faithfully,
Sucheta Chatterjee, Calcutta

Sir — It may not be wrong to say that “everybody except the communists wants a prosperous India”. But, there is sound reason behind the policy of the communists to obstruct the economic progress of a country: a prosperous people will never yearn for a communist state. In no prospereous country in the world have the communists ever managed to make headway.

Poverty, squalor, hunger and corruption combine to create the ideal breeding ground for communism. Naturally, communists are likely to root for a society which is poor and corrupt. Their empathy with the poor is an eyewash and no communist state supports “workers’ right to strike” as the leftists do in India.

Yours faithfully,
Asoke C. Banerjee, Cambridge, US

Sir — It has been generally agreed upon that the communists have no more interest in the development and prosperity of the country than any other political party has. Their role in Indian politics has always been suspect. They have made no contribution to the Indian economy, except hindering its progress on a few occasions. Their prime weapon is militant labour activism. Post-globalization, this weapon has become more ineffectual than ever before. No wonder the left is still struggling to eke out an identity in the national political scene.

Yours faithfully,
Birkha Khadka Duvarseli, Siliguri

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