Saturday, 12 March 2016

A Communist Party in Power in a Capitalist State -- Misdirected Critique

(A letter to the editor)

Reg. CPI(M)'s Congress Crutch;
in: Frontier, Vol. 48, No.30, Jan.31–Feb 6 2016

Dear sir,

The anonymous author of the article (for short, AA) criticizes the West Bengal unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
in two respects: (1) in respect of the state of moral fiber of the party's cadre and (2) in respect of the party's political and economic policies during its long rule in that province. Seen superficially, the critique may appear to be justified in both respects, but it should not have been directed at a particular unit of a particular communist party that happened to rule in a province of a federally constituted capitalist state. It should have been directed at, if a little generalization is allowed, all or nearly all communist parties of the world that sometime or other ruled over a country.

(1) Anybody having some knowledge of world history of the last hundred years knows of the moral degeneration of various kinds that set in, sooner or later, after a revolutionary communist party became a ruling party. That was the case in the Soviet Union, and that is the case in China and Vietnam.* The case of Cuba still remains to be investigated.
    The erstwhile "socialist" republics of Eastern Europe were ruled by communist parties that did not have to make their own revolution. They had power handed to them by the Soviet Red Army on a platter. So their moral degeneration, if that had taken place during their tenure of power, does not contain any lesson of great significance. For their mentor, the all-powerful Stalinist Communist Party of the Soviet Union, was already a morally degenerated party.
    It must be said to the credit of the CPI(M) that it did not get, but won power, albeit very limited, by organizing, leading, and taking part in movements of the masses for a better life. Many of its cadre, although they could not be called revolutionaries, were inspired by a high ideal (I know that) and accepted a life of many sacrifices before they came to power. But power corrupted them too, from the provincial capital level to the village level – not all of them, to be sure, but the majority.
    In view of the apparently universal experience mentioned above, it is pointless to criticize the CPI(M) cadre and functionaries for failing to have become the kind of new men that Mayakovsky, inter alia, had expected of the Soviet communists who were in complete control of everything in their country.
    Today, what is needed is a deeper and analytical study of this ubiquitous negative phenomenon, with, I suggest, help of psychology, ethology, anthropology, and some other social sciences.

(2) As to economic development of West Bengal, nobody in his senses could have in those days demanded from the CPI(M)-led government that it should pursue a really socialist policy. Even if it had wanted to try to do something in a really socialist sense within the limited power that a provincial government enjoys in India, it could have done so, I guess, only at the risk of being dismissed by the central government. That was the fate of the communist government of Kerala in 1957.
    AA writes that in the early years of the CPI(M) rule "there were large scopes of organizing the benefited peasants into various kinds of cooperatives". Maybe that is true. But peasants organized in cooperatives could only have initiated some rural development and created some rural jobs in rural small industries. However, in any development theory including socialist ones – except those of Gandhi and his followers – the goal was, and still is, transition from a poor underdeveloped agricultural economy to a prosperous industrial economy. In such theories, also small-scale farming was to be developed to large-scale mechanized farming entailing reduction in the number of people working in the agriculture sector. This was/is deemed to be necessary not only to bring prosperity in the rural areas but also to make more and more labor available to the expanding industries sector.
    Another point that has been ignored by AA is that during the 34 years long rule of the CPI(M), both the total population of West Bengal and the number of unemployed and precariously employed people in the province had been continuously rising. For instance, in the decade between 2001 and 2011 the population increased by 11.17 million.
    Against the background of these facts, the CPI(M) had no other choice but to pursue the economic policy that it did, to industrialize. It has after all never been a Gandhian party! And the people of India had rejected Gandhian economic theories long ago. AA criticizes the CPI(M) for having pursued a "pro-corporate policy of industrialization and development". But both China and Vietnam did the same.1 They had to. For the CPI(M), a Nehruvian policy of "socialistic pattern" of planned industrialization for West Bengal was out of question, for no government of West Bengal could have raised the necessary capital itself.
    Any industrial project needs land, water, and the necessary infrastructure. With 90 million people living in a small and densely populated area, these things had to be taken away from the peasants. The only thing that was open to negotiation in Singur and Nandigram2 was the kind and size of compensation. The only justified criticism against the CPI(M) has been that a communist government did the unthinkable: it ordered the police to kill poor peasants and their supporters in the interest of development.


1. The case of China is well-known. For the case of Vietnam, I recommend my article Victorious in War But Defeated in Peace – How Development-Socialism Ended in Capitalism.

2. In Singur, the Tata Group was to build a huge car factory for producing their cheap cars christened Nano. The project failed to materialize due to strong resistance from the peasants and their anti-CPI(M) supporters. In Nandigram, where the shooting and killing of 15 people took place, a South Korean corporation was to build a large chemicals factory.


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