Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

Western leftists attempt to silence left-wing critics of Communist atrocities in India

The Communists who run the Indian state of West Bengal are implementing a brutal Chinese-style development policy that favours the interests of big business over local people. They are attempting to turn over paddy fields at the village of Nandigram to a special economic zone for an Indonesian-owned petrochemical complex. Local protests have been met with violence; last month, Communist thugs raided Nandigram, murdered six people, raped local women and demolished homes. It is a case of state-sanctioned looting and rape by criminal militias. When Indian writers and artists demonstrated at Kolkata in protest, they were attacked by police.

West Bengal is today the site of a genuine, mass popular protest, backed by left-wing opinion throughout India, against a regime that is promoting the most brutal form of capitalism. So it is entirely natural and in keeping with their tradition that left-wing celebrities in the West, including Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali and Howard Zinn, should sign an open letter of protest – directed not at the West Bengal authorities, but at the left-wing Indians who are publicising their crimes. The open letter warns the Indian leftists against splitting the left at a time when the US is threatening war against Iran:

‘News travels to us that events in West Bengal have overtaken the optimism that some of us have experienced during trips to the state. We are concerned about the rancour that has divided the public space, created what appear to be unbridgeable gaps between people who share similar values. It is this that distresses us. We hear from people on both sides of this chasm, and we are trying to make some sense of the events and the dynamics. Obviously, our distance prevents us from saying anything definitive.

We continue to trust that the people of Bengal will not allow their differences on some issues to tear apart the important experiments undertaken in the State (land reforms, local self-government).

We send our fullest solidarity to the peasants who have been forcibly dispossessed. We understand that the government has promised not to build a chemical hub in the area around Nandigram. We understand that those who had been dispossessed by the violence are now being allowed back to their homes, without recrimination. We understand that there is now talk of reconciliation. This is what we favour.

The balance of forces in the world is such that it would be impetuous to split the Left. We are faced with a world power that has demolished one state (Iraq) and is now threatening another (Iran). This is not the time for division when the basis of division no longer appears to exist.’

Indian leftists have expressed their anger at this betrayal by supposed comrades in the West. Veteran Indian Trotskyist Kunal Chattopadhyay writes, in an open letter to Tariq Ali, ‘I read, and re-read, with a growing sense of wonder, shame and above all anger, the statement that some of you have signed.’ He then goes on to tear the Ali-Chomsky open letter to shreds, for its apologising for a brutal regime, its dismissal of the popular protests as ‘rancour’, its readiness to accept the Communists’ phoney assurances that grievances were being addressed and its talk of ‘reconciliation’. It would not do justice to Chattopadhyay’s damning letter to summarise it; I strongly recommend reading the original.

Chattopadhyay should not be surprised at this betrayal. When it is a question of showing solidarity with ordinary people defending their homes and livelihoods, or showing solidarity with a Communist or Socialist regime, no matter how brutal or murderous, a certain type of Western leftist will always show solidarity with the Communist regime. Time and again, this led leftists of this kind to minimise or apologise for the crimes of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Milosevic. They will never change.

Genuinely progressive politics are defined in opposition to leftists of this kind, and in opposition to all apologists for oppression and injustice.

Friday, 7 December 2007 - Posted by | India, The Left

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