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Red in the face - The Telegraph

Editorial ()
15 November 1997

Title: Red in the face
Author: Editorial
Publication: The Telegraph
Date: November 15, 1997

Indian communists have a tedious habit of rethinking positions which they had adopted in the past. It is tedious because this never goes hand in hand with a review of the fundamentals of their ideology. Only tactical positions long dead and therefore irrelevant are reconsidered and then regretted. The latest example of this kind of "revisionism" is the statement made by Mr Jyoti Basu, the chief minister of West Bengal, that communists had made a mistake in criticizing Subhas Chandra Bose. In the Forties,
Indian communists had denounced Bose because he had sought the intervention of the Allied powers in overthrowing British rule in India. The conjuncture of this criticism is worth recalling. When Adolf Hitler attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, the Communist Party of India, tied as it was to the apron strings of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, declared World War II to be a "people's war". In India this meant that communists, following the Anglo-Soviet alliance, became friends of the British. They w
re thus opposed not only to Bose but also to the Quit India movement. This line was decided by Indian communists not on any close understanding of the prevailing political situation in the country but on diktats from Moscow. Basu is willing to admit the mistake on Bose but unwilling to acknowledge the complete subservience of communists to Moscow. In substance, Indian communists then had very little politics or ideology save mouthing and valiantly trying to implement what Joseph Stalin ordered.

In the Forties in India, it mattered little what position the CPI adopted. Its following and its impact was restricted to a very narrow circle; its mass mobilization was restricted to certain rural areas of Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal and among students. There is implicit in Basu's admission the assumption that CPI's support to Bose could have made a difference to the outcome. Basu's admission has some contemporary reverberations. The Communist Party of India (Marxist), an offshoot of the CPI, has been
trying for some time to become a part of the national mainstream. This is suggested in its revaluation of the Indian national movement and its reassessment of the role of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Admission of the error on Bose is a part of this process. Of course, it has regional political implications as well. One of the partners of the Left Front is the Forward Bloc, a party which swears by Bose. Basu is keen not to hurt the sentiments of Bose's present day followers in West Bengal.

It is important to analyse why Indian communists are so prone to political mistakes. Only the other day, Mr Basu described his party's decision not to join the United Front government - the decision meant that Mr Basu could not be the prime minister of India - as a "historic blunder". The history of Indian communism is replete with instances of such blunders. One reason has already been indicated: the communist party's lack of autonomy from Moscow. Another reason is that the very ideology of communism
ndows to its adherents what is best described as "tunnel vision". They are thus blind to the reality around them and obsessed with one particular idea. In the cause celebre regarding the offer of the prime ministership to Basu, the CPI(M) remained obsessed with its anti-Congressism and thus refused to be part of a government which would receive the support of the Congress. It thus isolated itself from what was clearly a consensus within the United Front and the Congress. It failed to act responsibly tow
rds the nation. The communists had recorded a similar failure during World War ][I when it had supported the British war effort in India. Then and now the behaviour of communists has shown their irrelevance to the needs of Indian politics. In this context, admissions of mistakes are not only of very little consequence but also a touch naive. Only the communists believe in the sincerity of their confessions. Unsuccessful political groups can only feast on their failures.

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