With “communists” like these… (TINA is back!)

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Remember Margaret Thatcher’s sonorous declaration of TINA–There Is No Alternative (to capitalism)? Well, TINA is back!

Many moons ago (October 5, 1995, to be precise), back when Jyoti Basu was still the official party boss of the CPI(M), he had declared in very erudite terms to a New York Times reporter, that although “[a] debacle has taken place in the Soviet Union, … we don’t think it as the end of Marxism.” The “debacle” he was referring to, of course, was the collapse of the USSR, which had been understood as signaling the death of marxism. Okay, I hear you say, a leader of a communist party defended the relevance of Marxism following the collapse of the Soviet Union. What’s so remarkable about that? It’s rather mundane and predictable, isn’t it?  Hmm…. Well, read on.

The NYTimes article ends thusly:

“We are not inviting capitalism to West Bengal; we are inviting capital,” said Anil Biswas, editor of the party’s newspaper.

Reaching for a dog-eared copy of the Communist Manifesto, he turned to the section on capital and added triumphantly, “Read that, and you’ll see that capitalism and capital are two entirely different things.”

What an astute, incisive, and enlightening insight: capitalism and capital are two different things! Who knew?! Not only are they two (entirely) different “things,” but apparently you can have one without the other.

What could have prompted the editor of a supposedly “communist” newspaper to make such an asinine statement? I can only hazard a guess. For the CPI(M) and its ideologues, Communists are apparently miracle-workers, and sort of like the alchemists of yore, they can take “capital” and somehow extricate it from all the icky stuff that we call “capitalism.” So, if you are stressed out about all that exploitation and oppression that you associated with multinational corporations, banks and financial institutions, don’t worry–because the Communist State will clean it all up for you.

Well, twelve years later, the good comrades have further developed their novel thesis, only this time without the pretense at cleverness. The reason for their forthrightness this time around, of course, is the absolute disaster they have on their hands thanks to their brutal attempt to impose neoliberal policies in West Bengal. (For the best ongoing analysis, see sanhati.com.) In the wake of the protests against these policies, both at home and abroad, CPI(M) propagandists and die-hard knucklehead apologists like Vijay Prashad have taken it upon themselves to issue Stalinoid rationalizations for these policies. This is old news now.

On January 3rd, according to an article in The Hindu, party stalwart and West Bengal Chief Minister, addressing an audience on the occasion of the 42nd anniversary of the founding of their newspaper, Ganashakti (“People’s Power”) put it quite clearly: “We have to accept capitalism…. This is being realistic in a situation where there is no alternative.”

Then, as if on cue, Jyoti Basu repeated the same argument two days later. Here’s an article from The Tribune, dated January 5, and titled “Basu: We want capital; socialism not possible now”:

Veteran CPM leader Jyoti Basu today conceded that socialism and classless society were Utopian ideas. He admitted that though they were communists, they had accepted capitalism since they were living in the capitalistic system.

“It is always wise to accept the situation and accordingly take necessary steps for quickly developing the country,” Basu suggested….

Strongly endorsing CM [Chief Minister] Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s policy of rapid industrialisation with the private and corporate investments, Basu complemented the CM for taking the right step.

The party patriarch said the people would have to wait some [!] more time to see the true socialism in practice and a classless society in reality.

He said the entire nation has been running under the capitalistic system and the communists, commanding only three small states, cannot enforce [sic!] socialism in the entire country…. [full]

Well, thank goodness for the fact that they “command only three small states,” is all we can say!

(Today, I read in The Hindu that Sitaram Yechury, another  senior CPI(M) Politburo member has declared that in fact, the CPI(M) is looking for a “third alternative” to neoliberalism and communalism.) Moving on….

Well, what of those who don’t believe that we must accept capitalism? What of those who feel there is something wrong with neoliberalism and corporate globalization, and that a party that claims to stand in the tradition of Marxism ought not to enforce such policies? Well, the West Bengal Chief Minister has an answer. According to The Hindu, “The Chief Minister stressed the need for clearing the misunderstanding of ‘those who are genuinely confused.’” In other words, those who oppose the forcible acquisition of farmers’ land for the creation of tax-free Special Economic Zones for multinational mega-corporations like the Salim Group (with ties to erstwhile dictator Suharto’s family) are simply “confused,” and the party newspaper can presumably “clear” up the “misunderstanding.”

With Communists like these, who needs neocons?! And when will the Vijay Prashads of the world give up the charade, and accept that they too, like their party patriarchs, have accepted the idea that There Is No Alternative?