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The reds and cursed totems - The Observer

P P Bala Chandran ()
October 9, 1998

Title: The reds and cursed totems
Author: P P Bala Chandran
Publication: The Observer
Date: October 9, 1998

I think it was sometime in the early nineties when a Japanese soldier,
still donning his Second World War battle gear, had to he persuaded out
of his jungle hideout in Burma by telling him the truth he initially
refused to buy - that the war had indeed ended almost 50 years ago and
that his country, along with its axis partner, had lost it to the
Allies. Again, around the same time, a valiant Vietcong, still waging a
guerrilla war against the US marines in the Vietnamese jungles, had to
be told that it was all over more than two decades earlier. These were
individuals caught in a time warp, lost in a geographical maze and
misled by their own sense of misplaced patriotism. They are not to be
despised or lampooned, but to be understood, sympathetically..

Communists all over the world, more so the comrades at home, are caught
in a time warp, but are refusing, unlike the Japanese and 'the Vietcong
fighters, to admit or get out of it. They refuse to admit the fact that
a historic movement, no doubt, born out of a genuine need to change the
lives and lifestyles of the world's deprived, has failed in its mission.

What does one do in such a situation? When does a movement get caught In
a time warp? How does one react when its acolytes, normally sensible and
well meaning people, still roam around in obsolete battle gear,
pretending to be fighting an obviously hopeless trench war against an
enemy they are still trying to identify, frothing slogans that have
become as out of place as some voodoo mumbo-jumbo, making idols out of
individuals most of whom have already been condemned by history as
megalomaniacs in private and ruthless dictators in public?

When comrades of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) are meeting in
Calcutta for their 16th party congress this week, the student of history
cannot help wondering whether they would realise, at last, that the time
has come for them to get out of the time warp, drop their outdated
ideological gear and be happy about the little things in life, like
ruling a state or two and playing a harmless clown in the ongoing
political circus - instead of trying to set ambitious agendas like
ruling the country or sabotaging people's mandate by hook or by crook or
by hooking any crook.

Hooking any crook, it turned out to be. As the latest reports claimed,
the party congress has decided that the party cannot do without the

The news from E M S Nagar, Calcutta, is that the Marxists have realised
(!) that, in order to fight the BJP which it now sees as the enemy
number one, it should align even with the devil. Because the BJP is
worse than the devil. And the devil, in this case, turned out to be the
Congress. To those who are short on understanding the Communist
doublespeak, it might seem like yet another ideological meltdown.

But for those who are long on memory and up to date with the Communist
history, it should come as no surprise. About the BJP versus the
Congress, their memory only need to travel as far as the beginning of
the nineties, precisely during the V P Singh government - a government
that was put in place by the BJP and the CPI(M) as non-resident
partners. As the Communists looked at it then, it was better to shack up
with the BJP than to have a matrimony with the Congress, whom the
comrades Congress whom the comrades saw, then, as fascists and
surprisingly not the BJP. In less than 10 years, the CPI(M) has again
changed beds. There is a brief interlude of celibacy in 1995 when the
party kept an equidistance from both the BJP and the Congress bedrooms -
During the Chandigarh congress that year, the CPI(M) leadership had
decided that both these parties were equally villainous. The protean
qualities of this strange political phenomenon called the Communists
cannot be better illustrated than by the glossary of historic blunders
and Galilean compromises their leadership has committed, both at the
national and the global level.

Let us begin with Gandhiji's appeal to his countrymen to support the
British against the fascist Germany in the Second World War. Naturally,
the Communists could not find any sense in Gandhiji's appeal as they
looked at it, Britain was the real enemy and not Germany. That was until
the Soviet Union joined the War. Once the Soviet cousins took up arms,
the home-spun comrades had no problem hailing it as the people's war.
Polemics is an integral part of a Communist's survival kit and it was,
therefore, no problem finding a polemical explanation for this sudden

The Communists' role in the rise of Hitler and his National Socialist
Party is the beginning of historic blunders. The German Communist Party
which had a powerful labour movement in Germany in the thirties could
have checked the growth of Hitler if only its leadership showed enough
common sense. Instead of focusing its attack on the Nazis, the German
Communist Party asked its followers in particular and the Germans hi
general to fight the Social Democrats because, the Communists in their
wisdom, thought that the Social Democrats, and not the Nazis, were the
actual fascists. It didn't take long for the comrades to pay the price
for their historic blunder. In 1933, the National Socialist Party was
voted to power and the world's worst nightmare came true. But if anyone
thought that the Communists were good learners of bad lessons, that they
have learnt their lessons in identifying the real enemies, the Calcutta
decision has Proved him wrong. The only difference between the National
Socialists of Hitler and the Congressmen of Sonia Gandhi is that while
the former had a future, the latter only a past. No matter how hard the
Communists try to blow into the Congress balloon, it still won't float
because there are too many holes in it.

The Indian Constitution, in the beginning, was an instrument of
subterfuge for the Marxists. But once they joined the compromise
politics, it became an object of immense sacramental value. Parliament
was looked down upon as a circus, but as the comrades grew older, they
were clamouring to join the same circus, even as clowns. Article 356 is
alright when Kalyan Singh is at the receiving end, not when Jyoti Basu
is; no-confidence motions are alright, if they are moved by the
Communists, but a menace when others try it. In how many ways can a
party prove to the world that consistency is not a virtue, but confusion

One hundred and fifty years ago, the Communist Manifesto warned of a
spectre that was haunting Europe, the spectre of Communism. Today, a
spectre is haunting Communism, the spectre of confusion, contradiction
and compromise. The only way the party can ward off the spectre is by
freeing itself from the curse of the totems it had borrowed from a
distant land at a distant time and by putting on a more realistic and
less pretentious image.

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