Saturday, September 03, 2005

Learn Truth from Facts

Saturday September 3 2005 17:41 IST

T J S George

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is the new face of India. In fact he is more. He is a bit of a miracle. In a world of 19th Century minds, he has projected 21st Century ideas and still managed to stay firmly in power. (So far.)

Just look at the man's astonishing pronouncements. "Reform, perform or perish," he said. "Marxism is not a dogma, it's a science," he said. "We have to learn truth from facts," he said. "I don't see the colour of capital," he said. For the first time in India, we hear practical commonsense from a confirmed communist mouth.

In Indian terms, this is biplab, revolution. When Manmohan Singh took the reform route to free us from decades-long socialist mismanagement, he had the backing of his Prime Minister, Narasimha Rao, and the bulk of his party. Today when BB talks reform, he has his comrades snapping at him. That's why the courage of his new-found conviction is more laudable than Manmohan Singh's.

Will he change the face of his party as well? It's a historic coincidence __ if it's coincidence at all __ that a dogmatist like Prakash Karat and a pragmatist like BB have risen to the top at the same time. If they are fighting, one will lose. On the other hand, it is conceivable that they may not fight and both may win. That would mean a new kind of ideological mix offering an improvement over Deng Xiaoping's communism.

After all, Deng's I-don't-see-the-colour-of-cats philosophy is severely circumscribed by an authoritarian one-party political system. India's big plus point is its democracy. A non-exploitative egalitarian system that accepts the checks and balances of democracy may be what the world is waiting for. And may be India's new generation Leftists have the opportunity to device just such a system.

Since BB is already speaking in the accents of Deng, let us remember that Deng was first and foremost a Communist ideologue. Mao had designated him chief ideological spokesman and Deng's mastery of presenting arguments had won for him Mao's life-long admiration.

But Deng was also unbeatable in courage and innovativeness. In 1975, when Mao was still alive, Deng summoned the courage to oppose Mao's tyrannical wife Jiang Qing who controlled all aspects of culture. It was the riskiest thing he could do, yet he did it. In 1978 when he finally took charge of post-Mao China, his first priority was to tackle the famine that had been plaguing China's two major provinces, Sichuan and Anhui. Famine had raged there for nine horrible years, farmers had taken to begging and children were dying everywhere. Deng sent two of his handpicked "technocrats" to these provices. They ended the famine in one year. The solution was simple: Abolish the communes, and give farmers their own plots of land and a share in the profits.

This was not communism. It was governance. It stopped deaths and begging. Poverty, as Deng said, is not communism. Starvation is not communism. Only by recognising prosperity as communism will communism survive. BB is moving for prosperity in Bengal. The deals he has struck include a health city near Dum Dum, an industrial township, a biotechnology park. In the offing are a drinking water recycling plant, low-cost housing, a modern dairy, a paper mill. This means progress, jobs, prosperity.

If this man wins, communism wins. Pragmatic communism, that is, not violent communism of the Naxal kind or egocentric communism of the Kerala kind. BB must win __ for India's sake

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