सीपीएम की क्रांति

सीपीएम की क्रांति
हम एक लोकतंत्र में रह रहे हैं! 14 मार्च को हुई घटना और उसके बाद सीपीएम के बंद के दौरान गायब हुए दो सौ लोगों का अब तक कोई अता-पता नहीं है्. हां। कुछ लाशें हैं जो इलाके में इस हालत में पायी गयी हैं. क्या हम बता सकते हैं कि इन्होंने किस बात की कीमत चुकायी? क्या हम इसको लेकर आश्वस्त रह सकते हं कि हमें भी कभी ऐसी ही कीमत नहीं चुकानी पड़ेगी?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Nandigram has stood up

Nandigram has stood up

March 30, 2007

By Saroj Giri

Everytime in India, large numbers of people, as in Kalingangar, Singur and Nandigram today, stood in a direct and antagonistic relation to capital and the state, a middle class ideology of alternative plans and people’s plans has not just acted to limit the initiative and political character of the movement to the ‘enlightened interests’ of the urban radical intelligentsia but, as a consequence, capital has instead ultimately gone ahead with its own original plans without even any kind of green restructuring. And this happened since the problem is always identified at the level of a particular technology or system of production (industrial modernisation) and not in terms of social relations, not in terms of class and power relations.

The suggested way out is then not the overthrowing of the existing class, social relations, relations of power, but a new mode of technology, a new way of, as they say, ‘relating to nature’. The question of who will control this new way of relating to nature, who and which class will be in power, the fact that the proposed new, alternative people’s plan will also be part of the regime of capital is not raised. Hence the middle class debate on displacement and rehabilitation, and people’s plans ultimately ends up justifying, providing the rationale for a possible restructuring of capital: worse, when such middle class initiatives take the form of a social movement it ends up rallying huge masses of people in the interests of capital. However we have not seen anything like this really take place in our country and this is not due to the radical character of such a social movement but since capital in India is so arrogant and powerful today that, given the extremely favourable class and political balance of forces, it does not, on this account, feel the need to restructure itself. This means that post-Narmada Bachao Andolan, the radical urban middle class is redundant, no longer needed and retrenched by capital.

This, however, has opened the space for a direct and antagonistic fight between capital and the state on one side and the people on the other. Nandigram and before this Kalinganagar represent this new juncture in the relationship between capital and the different social sections and classes. Reports from Nandigram seem to suggest that people are not just fighting to keep their land and their present means of livelihoodbut they are also destroying the relations of power that tied them to capital and the state: the CPIM after all is not exaggerating when it says Nandigram was beyond the reach of the law. Now the problem for the state is not just the setting up of the industrial plant there but of first establishing this relationship, of ending the ‘liberated’ status of Nandigram.

In the absence of any middle class radicals ‘from outside’ in the movement (for example, Medha Patkar also seems to be no more than a concerned visitor there) and the isolation of the local MP who happens to belong to the CPM, Nandigram is today unrepresentable. Different political forces willing to represent Nandigram are making their rounds to end its unrepresentability and put it in some relationship with one or the other sector of capital and the state so that while the land acquisition would not take place and the proposed plant would not come up there, it should not become another Maoist ‘hotbed’. It has therefore triggered off a clear polarisation in the Indian polity today between capital and broad masses of the people. And this polarisation is clear and the contradiction sharp since except for the CPM the rest of the left and social movements who are broadly siding with affected people are however not in there among the masses fighting the brutal might of capital and the state in both Nandigram and Kalinganagar: they are outside lamenting at the violence and ‘loss of life’ and busy dissociating themselves from the CPIM. The Maoists are of course a different story.


In perhaps the most obscene instance of the internalisation of dissent, a West Bengal minister recently claimed that the ongoing industrialisation of the state through SEZs seeks to undermine Fukuyama’s thesis of the end of history. While this claim is ridiculously bogus, its obverse is strikingly true for some voices opposing the SEZs: don’t large sections of social movements believe that there is no possibility of large systemic transformation and most such attempts at revolutionary transformation end up in one or the other form of totalitarianism. History has ended and we need to work towards bettering conditions under some form of a benign, reformed capitalism. In the CPIM and the social movements we therefore have two forces: one speaking in the name of the onward march of History and the other opposing precisely the rationality of such a History which only tramples peoples’ lives and autonomous ways of life. If one is speaking in the name of History, a History which is objectively given from before, the other is opposing what happens in the name of History, History as a ruse to justify power.

Both positions are, however, complicit in exonerating itself from History as such, from the making of History. In treating History as identical to the depredations of capital or as merely an ideological construct used to legitimise certain regimes of power, both positions exclude the possibility of people as the makers of history. This is the possibility opened up by Nandigram which refused to submit to the dictates of capital nor to any kind of ‘pro-people’ representation or bargaining for the right kind of technology or rehabilitation package. Nandigram did not just reject the setting up of the plant but also freed itself, at least temporarily, from the relations of dominance and subjugation that tied it up with various sectors of capital and its representatives. Thus they have actually displayed the energy and creativity of making history and have actually disproved the thesis of the end of history. Again here Nandigram’s convergence with the Maoists cannot be underestimated.

The convergence of the positions of the CPIM and of the urban intelligentsia-led social movements, therefore, cannot be underestimated. Their refusal to view people as the makers of their own history comes out very clearly also in the debate on the question of the impact of industrial plants in the concerned areas. In its broad essentials the CPIM argues that industrialisation will create much needed employment in the state while the social movement position is that it will lead to displacement and the destruction of the means of livelihood. Now this is in many senses a sterile debate since there is no basic difference between them. Both the positions view the problem in terms of what impact the new technology or plant has on the people in the region so that each tells only half the story: for isn’t it true that both displacement and the creation of jobs would take place once the plants come up so that, within this framework, what position one takes now depends on a kind of cost-benefit analysis of whether the given employment generation justifies the displacement of people. Add to this the entire issue of rehabilitation package and other economic benefits to thedisplaced and then the entire issue turns on narrow economic benefits, compensation and relief packages. What is overlooked in this framework, is that regardless of whether people, in narrow economic terms, get a good or a bad deal, they are already in a relationship of dependence with capital and hence are regarded as merely victims of modernity.

The problem is that formulating the problem in terms of the impact of the industrial plant on the people or the region completely overlooks the fact that the setting up of these plants and industrial units are the expression of the relationship in which the people and the area stands to those who wield power both within that area and outside. The proposed plant or the technology to be used and the fact of displacement are an expression of the social relations that exist both in Nandigram and in society as a whole. Capitalist or feudal social relations existed in Nandigram before the present attempts at land acquisition and it is precisely since it was already enmeshed in such relations that capital and the state attempted to set up an industry there.

Now in most cases of the movement against displacement from industrial projects, social movements have failed to challenge these oppressive social relations since they do not view displacement/rehabilitation as a reflection/symptom of these relations, of the particular form of society. The coming up of the industrial plant is viewed as something coming from outside, which will, for social movements, lead to displacement and loss of livelihood and, for the CPIM, lead to much need employment generation in the state. It is true that the technology, the capital equipment etc come from outside the village or perhaps from even outside the country but that itself is not the problem. The problem is that it usually comes as a further intensification of the oppressive social relations that exist in Nandigram or in the country as a whole: that Nandigram is in the chain of capitalist and feudal exchange and production, whose political form is provided by its representation in Parliament.

Nandigram today has rebelled against these oppressive relations and have refused to be represented in the political processes of Indian democracy. The events there so far testify that they are not just against the industrial plant or for a better rehabilitation package but against the very power relations that seek to represent them in any form, including any mediation by social movement or NGOs. Further, it also forecloses radical middle class debates on big dam versus small dam, nature-friendly technology versus nature-destructive technology that are largely forgetful that capital, particularly late capitalism, can operate as much through small dams, wind-mills or through solar energy. The essential question is who controls, who has the power to decide, what are the social relations within which the technology, the industry, the dams operate. In rejecting not just the plant or the fact of displacement but all channels of representation and rehabilitation by all factions of capital and the state, Kalinganagar and Nandigram stand in an immediate and antagonistic relationship with capital today. No wonder various leaders of the CPIM are stressing on the role of Naxalites in fomenting trouble in Nandigram.


Kalinganagar and now Nandigram stand out since instead of making the cost-benefit calculations through the displacement/rehabilitation, livelihood-loss/job-creation, big industry/small industry ledger, they have refused any kind of quid pro quo, any truck with any faction of capital and the state. As the state ministers bitterly complained, Nandigram has been out of the reach of the law and the state since the last two months: like the banned Maoists it has outlawed itself. It has de facto seceded providing no chance to capital and the state to show their human faces, to provide jobs, to bring in perhaps a more eco-friendly technology which will not lead to displacement, or to put in place a more robust, inclusive democratic process.

This only means that the people of Nandigram have stood up and are defending themselves. In exiting from all relations with capital and the state their lives had no value and were killed. Various concerned citizens, human rights groups, and social movement initiatives are trying to side with the victims of the massacre and have called for a judicial inquiry and have upheld their right to dissent and protest. The way however to save them is not by bringing Nandigram back into the relations of capital and the state, by revalorising them as partakers in the system, but by reversing the flow of traffic: joining the people in Nandigram in seceding from the existing social relations. Marx once said, the educators need to be educated. One can today say, the saviours need to be saved. There is a real danger today that civil society initiatives might be used by capital and the state to bring Nandigram back to the ‘democratic process’ and stop it from slipping into the hands of the Maoists. Nandigram, unmediated and unrepresented, is what needs to be defended and replicated elsewhere in the country today. This will be the first step in refuting the thesis of the end of history.

2 Responses to “Nandigram has stood up”

  1. Anonymous Says:
    April 2nd, 2007 at 11:16 am

    Saroj’s writeup, though coherent and to the point, defocuses his own correct logic by utilising borrowed notions from ideological populism (”people” etc) and post-modernism. Statements like the following, which are abundant in the note, are in fact his own non-inclination to put things in a class perspective, of which he accuses others:

    “Reports from Nandigram seem to suggest that people are not just fighting to keep their land and their present means of livelihood but they are also destroying the relations of power that tied them to capital and the state”.

    Who are these people? Are all of them seeking to destroy “the relations of power that tied them to capital and the state”? If we understand the West Bengal situation in a political economic and historical perspective, we will have to disaggregate this “people”, since there isn’t any homogeneous connection of “the people” to “capital and the state” today (at least not in the societies like West Bengal, which are well integrated with the mainstream Indian political economy). There must be an attempt to understand and ‘deconstruct’ the present agitations in terms of class differentiation that has perpetuated in rural Bengal under the CPIM rule. Various class interests might have integrated temporarily in the present agitations, but this is not sustainable, any Marxist intervention should start with disaggregating them and strategising on this basis. Any “people” vs capital type logic is bound to lead to the deadend of the status quoist power politics which nurtures itself by such homogenised dichotomisations, “civil society” vs the state etc.

    In my view, Saroj is correct when he criticises “rights groups” “social movement” for their legalist and ‘right’-ist discourses, but he utilised similar reified notions of people, outside, secession etc. Like the former, he too thinks in terms of “middle class” “joining the people”. The only difference is that the former suffers from the middle class impotency, while Saroj seems to represent his energy from the middle class self-hatred which integrates him with the Maoists.

  2. rama Says:
    May 31st, 2007 at 7:12 am

    Here’s an article by Sunanda Sanyal published in The Statesman (Kolkata) of 31 May 2007.

    The pus focus of a deep festering abscess

    by Sunanda Sanyal

    What’s absolutely the limit to violence on their women that males in Bengal can bear with? What future do those living in Bengal intend for their children? These are two of the many questions that confront us today, following the state terrorism at Singur and Nandigram.

    On 18 December, 2006, Tapasi Malik went out, before it got light, to defecate in a field close to her house at Singur. Girls her age have to because the state government has failed to cash in on the centrally-sponsored Nirmal Gram (Clean Village) Project which funds toilets in poor homes. Tapasi was seized by the hands and legs, gagged, and repeatedly raped. She was lifted to a fireplace and thrust into it – headfirst. Well, my description of her death by fire is imaginary but, you can see, the reality must have been as grim, if not grimmer. However, contemporary Bengal failed to sense the searing pain Tapasi had been through – till she died. We in Bengal failed to burst into the kind of rage that the CPI-M takes seriously. And Nandigram happened, as a result!

    Dr Sarmistha Roy, who has worked with medical teams at Nandigram, says the women in particular had been shot at the genitalia. A cadre, reported Medha Patkar to the Governor, pressed a rod into a woman’s vagina. Her uterus ruptured. Another woman, Kabita Das (35), was pinned between two sticks, and gang raped. Her husband tried to rescue her, but forced to watch on instead, since the cadres had threatened to dash their six-month-old baby to the ground and stamp it underfoot. The Statesman reported (21 March) that Sahadeb Pramanick (30), a CPI-M cadre from Gangra, was caught on 20 March while sneaking into Sonachura. He admitted to having raped two women, including a 13-year-old, on 14 March. It is also widely reported that police had opened fire near a bridge on March 14, virtually helping the CPI-M cadres to shepherd 17 girls into a deserted house owned by Shankar Samanta, a CPI-M leader. The CBI officials later found bits and pieces of women’s undergarments there, stained with blood. “Villagers had heard women’s shrieks from that house, which the cadres guarded.”

    Led by Ganamukti Parishad, this writer visited Tamluk Hospital where he met a farmer’s wife in her twenties. Seeing a man in his mid-seventies, she confided that she was gang raped in the presence of policemen, the cadres tore off her blouse, and bit off her nipples. One of the women she knew had a part of her cheek bitten off. I urged the camera crew of a Bengali TV news channel, shooting around, to record her experience. But she didn’t breathe a word of what she had unburdened to me. I later heard Dola Sen reporting, at the instance of Mamata Banerjee, to Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi that the number of women thus maimed ran into hundreds.

    The whole truth, though, will never be out with the CPI-M government, headed by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, in place. And Biman Bose expects people to “forget about Nandigram very soon”. Our insensitivity to Tapasi’s death shows that he might well be right.

    Reportedly again, when cadres and police together acting in tandem went on the rampage at Nandigram, a child was seen falling to a cadre’s bullet. A woman rushed to him. They beat her with truncheons. She fled. The cadres beheaded the child, dead or half dead, for the ease of transportation – or for the fun of it. Some they buried and covered with slabs of concrete. They disembowelled the rest, so that the corpses wouldn’t float, stuffed the severed heads and torsos into sacks, drove off in truckloads, and flung them into the canals. Those who ended up in the hospitals had bullets in their heads, stomachs, chests and so on, which proves that the cadres had shot to kill them. The Dainik Statesman has since published photographs of a cadre in police uniform thrashing a villager. A local shop, called Sunny Tailors, sewed the uniforms.

    The whole operation was a blitzkrieg – masterminded by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Nirupam Sen – with Laksman Seth, Benoy Konar, Biman Bose and the rest of the party providing logistic support at various levels. Much as Buddhadeb owns up his “constitutional responsibility”, he pleads innocence. Kshiti Goswami, RSP leader, said on TV Buddha had two faces – one of them was a mask. Prasad Ranjan Ray, state home secretary, commented: “We had mobilised forces on the basis of Intelligence reports… of course in the full knowledge of the chief minister.” Unsurprisingly, the most preferred charge against Buddha is that he is a “habitual liar”, a “confirmed liar”.

    The Dainik Statesman reports (10 March) that at a meeting of 14 political leaders and police, the District Magistrate of East Midnapore announced that “any resistance to the repair of the bridges and roads at Nandigram would be dealt with according to the law of the land”. On 13 March in another meeting held at the house of Sambhu Maiti (CPI-M), police and cadres together decided on the plan of action for the capture of Sonachura and Nandigram. They fabricated fake number plates for the cars in which to carry off dead bodies, the caps the cadres and their leaders would put on – down to the last detail.

    Another report says the CBI found at the Jononi Brickfield, where the cadres had encamped, buntings, bulletins and leaflets of various CPI-M outfits, six police helmets, a Chinese revolver, 500 bullets, 14 country-made firearms, nine modern rifles and two binoculars.

    Now given the size of the village, and the time (two to three hours) taken to complete the operation, the whole village, including children, must have witnessed the arson, rape and murder in action. What is to become of them – particularly the children? Small wonder, Bengal’s society today teems with arsonists, rapists and supari killers.

    Dr Tapash Bhattacharjee, who frequently visits Nandigram with medical help, says living as they do under the depressing prospect of a perpetual threat of CPI-M attacks, the young men there demand “weapons rather than medicines”. The fear is not baseless, if you keep in mind Benoy Konar’s warning that only the first two of the “five-act play” are over.

    Actually the CPI(M)-run state government is the pus focus of a deep social abscess that has festered over the past 30 years. Its brand of politics is an unremitting evil. It splits the entire society into us and them: those who take dictates of Alimuddin Street are us – the rest them. When the farmers of Nandigram, including their cadres, disobeyed the party, Benoy Konar threatened to knock hell out of them (life hell kore debo). Konar, of Sainbari notoriety, in which a young Sain was hacked to death before his mother, had earlier warned that, should Mahasveta Devi, Medha Patkar or Mamata Banerjee dare to visit Nandigram, the women of his party would show their bottoms (pachha). And he was as good as his word. He wouldn’t care if what he said had demeaned Indian womanhood, not to speak of that of his own party. So the villagers of Singur and Nandigram had to pay the price with arson, rape and murder. If the CPI-M has its way, the rest of India will have to in the not too distant future.

    (The author is former member, West Bengal Education Commission)

    from sanhati.com

Nandigram and the Unravelling of Social Democracy

Nandigram and the Unravelling of Social Democracy - Blog article (open for comments)

June 12, 2007

By Saroj Giri, Sanhati

Movements against displacement have for a long time been understood in India largely in pre-political terms of an almost natural opposition between an undifferentiated modernity of global capitalism and equally undifferentiated local communities of traditional societies. Kalinganagar and Nandigram, in putting up a tenacious resistance to capital and the state, have however made such viewpoints untenable and call for a political understanding of movements against displacement. Events in Nandigram therefore will be here presented in the light of the decomposition of social democracy represented by the CPIM. The jolt of Nandigram comes at a time when, after long years of social democratic containment of working class movements, the party was just settling down to actively spearhead the march of capital in the state.

Nandigram, like Narmada or Kalinganagar, marks a specific conjuncture in the balance of political forces, of class and power relations and hence cannot be understood as yet another ‘movement against displacement’ whose contours are given from before. Nandigram represents an implosion against the specific conjunction between social democracy and neo-liberalism. It has dealt an early blow to the CPIM’s vanguardist role as enforcer of capital’s interests in the state. Further, in both their methods of resistance as also their success in forcing capital to retreat, Kalinganagar and Nandigram stand out as marking a break from neo-Gandhian social movements like the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

Indian democracy

In Indian democracy till recently, while the parties like the Congress and the BJP were directly in the interests of capital, those like the CPIM and the Socialists, that is the social democratic left, played the role of controlling and limiting working class struggles against capital [1]. It was as though the Congress and the BJP actually planted and run the capitalist machine; the CPIM and others protected it from assaults by the working class. But in the division of powers and shares, the latter were always of secondary importance: after all, they only guarded the machine, the system from outside, never themselves taking the burden of owning, running, managing it.

Around the early 1990s however as the international and national balance of forces between capital and labour went in capital’s favour, and capital emerged stronger and more confident, capital’s need for social democratic protection became negligible. From the viewpoint of the system as a whole, social democracy lost its rationale. It has to now find ways to save itself or be ready to accept the end of its own history. While it might have lost its systemic use to capital, the CPIM however holds political power in West Bengal. So it need not go into oblivion. It will use what it has at its disposal to prove itself useful to capital. It crosses over to the other side.

In a situation where capital does not need social democracy to rein in the working class, where capital is strong and labour weak, but where as in West Bengal today social democracy still holds political power, capital can march without much problems since social democracy’s political power and clout can work to neutralise any working class opposition to capital. However given that capital perceives hardly any threat from working class movements, when the social democratic party in order to save itself from oblivion, deserts the working class and jumps completely to the side of capital, things can go in either of two directions. It might lead to complete domination and hegemony of capital so that class contradictions go extinct – a post-Marxist assumption. Or, with what the working class thought to be its own party now leading the drive of capital, with no disguises among the working class, class polarisation sharpens and the resistance to capital gets radicalised. Kalinganagar, Singur and Nandigram point to this latter possibility.

Movements against displacement

Industrialisation projects have not, however, always faced the kind of sustained opposition not to speak of antagonism that we saw earlier in Kalinganagar and now in Nandigram. This cannot be explained only in terms of a general opposition of an undifferentiated ‘people’ or community to any attempt to displace them from their age-old habitat, and their refusal to loose their autonomy, self-sufficiency and freedom at the altars of again an undifferentiated modernity. Most accounts, particularly among proponents of local communities and indigenous ways of life as a bulwark against neo-liberalism, treat opposition to industrialisation and displacement in frustratingly pre-political terms, as though it is not itself a function of the particular balance of political forces, class and power relations that exist.

Even as presenting this opposition to displacement as primordial, spontaneous or natural (hence pre-political) might paint it as uncompromising or radical, with neatly given dichotomies of human/nature, science/tradition, community/state etc, it often works as no more than an ideological cover to the actual conflict of interests and class positions that constitute the movement. Among other things, treating movements against displacement in pre-political terms and hence as homogenous does not enable us to explain the differences between them, or the reasons for their failures and successes. More importantly, it does not give us politically relevant answers to why for example the Narmada Bachao Andolan failed. Frustration with such a way of thinking is what seems to be expressed by Arundhati Roy when she states: “The NBA had a lot going for it — high-profile leadership, media coverage, more resources than any other mass movement. What went wrong? People are bound to want to rethink strategy” [2].

If we are then not to portray Nandigram as another spontaneous, natural, primordial opposition by local communities to industrialisation then we need to examine the balance of political forces and the related class and power relations that constitute the socio-political terrain there. This is a task which cannot be done in a neutral, objective manner but in the spirit of partisanship against capital and the state. Nor is it an appeal for an objective social science understanding but as something which cannot be detached from the movement and its interests. In spite of the huge amount written on movements against displacement, hardly anything serious has been written on it from a political perspective, examining the class basis of the movement and its relationship to the various detachments of capital. I here provide an initial broad outline of one possible aspect of such a political understanding which can be described in terms of the decomposition of social democracy in India, with the CPIM a key component of this trend in the country.

Everytime in India, large numbers of people, as in Kalinganagar, Singur and Nandigram today, stood in a direct and antagonistic relation to capital and the state, a middle class ideology of alternative plans and people’s plans has not just acted to limit the initiative and political character of the movement to the ‘enlightened interests’ of the urban radical intelligentsia but, as a consequence, capital has instead ultimately gone ahead with its own original plans without even any kind of (green) restructuring. Kalinganagar earlier and now Nandigram however mark a new turning point, in this long tiring history of co-option and failures of movements against displacements.

Nandigram so far has stood up in its militancy and antagonism towards capital and the state without giving way to negotiations and appeals, dharnas and hunger strikes, and knocking at the doors of the powers that be. Reports from Nandigram seem to suggest that people are not just fighting to keep their land and their present means of livelihood but they are also destroying the relations of power that tied them to capital and the state: the CPIM after all is not exaggerating when it says Nandigram was beyond the reach of the law. The agitators blew off bridges, and cut off contact with state authorities or any representative of capital and the state [3]. While one has to examine the role played by dubious factions of capital and the state like the Trinamool Congress, Nandigram stands out for its refusal to engage in any dialogue or compromise with state authorities, for its refusal to bargain for its interests, better rehabilitation package etc with the state and agents of capital. Now the problem for the state is not just the setting up of the industrial plant there but of first bringing Nandigram back into channels of mediation and communication. As we shall see, the balance of political forces in terms of the specific trajectory of social democracy in the state is what explains the character of the movement against displacement in Nandigram.

Balance of political forces

Like all social democratic streams the CPIM’s long political history of course suited its present bid to don the interests of capital and usher in development of the state. Having successfully ‘run’ the working class movement for decades, with sound, time-tested knowledge of the ‘toiling masses’, the CPIM was, among the political forces, in fact best placed to push through the agenda of primitive accumulation of capital in the most unapologetic form of SEZs. Its misplaced confidence in pushing through this agenda in Nandigram and Singur was based on years of experience in containing working class movements at the service of capital.
However now that it closed all distance with capital and fully identified itself with it, there was no ‘neutral’ force or party left to do what the CPIM earlier did: negotiating between capital and labour in order to contain labour. This was partly the result of its dictatorial clout over political power in the state so that the state lacks any developed social movement, NGOs or citizen groups with some following in society that could have now carried out the CPIM’s earlier function of mediation and class compromise in favour of capital. Maybe it thought now that it is spearheading capital, how can the oppressed raise a voice against it. Maybe it hallucinated that it is now a party which cuts across classes, that it simultaneously represents the interests of both the capitalists and the oppressed masses: a classless party in a class-ridden society. Here, it fell victim to its own promise of bringing about the development of the state as a whole, as though this development represented the interests of all classes in the state.

By putting up an immediate and antagonistic opposition to capital and the state, Nandigram drove home the point that the CPIM and the development it promises are not just not above class interests but they are directly in the interests of capital. Further in refusing to be a party in the dialogues and discussions with the state Nandigram has steered clear of the alluring fictions of finding a middle path, of protecting the interests of all, in the interests, for example, of the development of the state as a whole. Forget the CPIM and the social democratic left. There is here a strange paradox for capital itself. As soon as capital in its confidence forsakes those who looked after its interests and guarded it from working class assaults, precisely in this moment of self-congratulatory celebration of its inevitable and uninterrupted march, the dispossessed and the oppressed offers the strongest and unyielding resistance. Maybe it was a bit too premature for capital to invite those guarding the outer frontiers to come and join in managing the system from the inside.

Thus, the situation in Nandigram going out of hand was not just a result of the CPIM’s dictatorial use of state power or of its utter disrespect of human rights. For it was true that the people in Nandigram had indeed refused any kind of negotiation or rehabilitation package: it was a radical situation and with no social movement representative or party or citizen’s group to negotiate and mediate on behalf of capital or of the people, the ground was indeed laid for a violent confrontation. Even as it spearheaded the onslaught of capital, the CPIM’s political dictatorship presented itself as the sole voice of the workers and peasants and the marginalised who are subjected to this onslaught. This meant that other social movements, NGOs etc could not work among the affected people as the negotiators/mediators to silence/infiltrate the movement in Nandigram. Nandigram, unrepresented and unmediated, stood on its own, without giving in to the machinations and sops of the representatives of any sector of capital and the state.

Such a situation led to a radicalisation of the movement, quite clear from the presence of Maoists in the movement. This is what explains the fighting spirit and radical position of the people in Nandigram and their unwillingness to buckle under pressure from the CPIM and the administration. This is what explains the fact that the people in Nandigram did not stand in awe at the upcoming industrial plant and desiringly watch the impressive equipments and machinery of capitalist industrialisation, ready to be part of it any moment. Nor is their self-understanding based on any kind of blanket rejection of modernity or of pitting the local versus the global [4].

With no middle class radicals able to put up base there, agitators in Nandigram, unlike in many other anti-displacement movements, have not fallen victim to the pre-political, class-effacing conceptualisations in terms of a blanket opposition to modernity. Thus the present movement can be understood only as an antagonistic opposition to the state and capital without taking an anti-modern stand to science and industry. It comes as a challenge to the post-modern, neo-Gandhian left represented by social movements and many NGOs. Foreshadowed by the unprecedented 431-day road blockade in Kalinganagar, in its tactics as well Nandigram has gone in for active resistance and antagonism in place of disobedience and satyagraha. The covert and not so covert presence of Maoists in the movement further proves this point.

Moribund social democracy, weakened working class movement and an aggressive, confident capital, therefore, constitutively define the present socio-political conjuncture wherein the events of Nandigram can be placed. While, given its political power in West Bengal, even this moribund social democracy, the CPIM, secures its function as the vanguardist henchman of capital, it has also narrowed down the space for middle-class led social movements, NGOs and citizens groups to act as mediators in order to disactivate through dialogue and the search for ‘common solutions’, any immediate and antagonistic struggle against capital. It is in such a specific conjuncture of socio-political forces and tendencies that the specificity of Nandigram (partly foreshadowed by Kalinganagar) needs to be understood, instead of understanding it in terms of a pre-given generalised, supposedly primordial opposition to modernity by self-sufficient local communities. This of course calls for the need to have a fresh critical look at the nature and political character of the movements against displacement in the country so far.

Commodity fetishism and social democracy

Marx had long ago pointed out the mystical powers of the commodity. One key mystification is that the relations between persons appear as the relations between things expressed in the term commodity fetishism [5]. Capital no longer appears as accumulated dead labour (capital-labour relation), as the result of its exploitative relationship with labour but only as the ‘things’ owned by the capitalist as the reward for entrepreneurship etc. In this mystification, the worker is a worker, poor and exploited, not because of the specific social relations in which he exists but because he does not own those things. It appears as though those things are not the result of the surplus extracted from his own labour but as something to be earned by competing, working hard etc. Capitalism therefore spontaneously generates tendencies among the working class to overlook the underlying social relations and instead join in the run after things, to make a fast buck in what looks like a neutral, competitive space (the economy, market).

Capitalism is therefore unique in presenting itself as an immense accumulation of commodities, obfuscating the underlying social relations. In the face of a revolutionary working class movement however, when these underlying social relations are challenged and the mystifications torn down, it is social democracy which steps in to stunt working class consciousness with the mystificatory powers of the commodity. The major form which social democracy took in this context has been welfare state capitalism in most countries and of course in India too (but in the form of ‘socialist pattern of development’). It was however the Congress which earlier carried out this function but after its rightward shift it is the CPIM which occupies that ideological space. But now the CPIM seeks to combine that role with its present neoliberal turn.

The historical role of social democracy has been to keep the working class enchained onto the run after things, in treating itself and its politics as partakers in this competition to acquire things [6]. It gives away the revolutionary potential of the working class to overthrow capitalist relations in exchange for welfare benefits, increased wages etc. Under a welfare state framework, in the short run, as in India under Nehruvian socialism, social democracy as a form of capitalism does ensure that some sections of the working class get a greater share of social wealth. In the long run, however, the series of compromises and defeats so weaken the working class movement as a whole that capital realises that it can now do without the social democratic deal with labour [7]. Once capital feels no threat from the working class, social democracy itself, so far parasitic on a strong organised working class movement, is no longer needed by capital.

As we see with the CPIM today, the earlier service it provided capital in containing working class movements is now no longer needed. But since it still wields political power in the state, capital still needs its service. Singur and Nandigram are the new services it is providing capital and ‘development of the state’ is the new mantra through which it is redefining and strengthening its time-tested relation with capital. The CPIM might have been useless for capital, would have died as a fading social democratic force, retrenched by capital through a golden handshake but with the political power it commands in the state it is vitally needed by capital: as the regional henchman of neo-liberalism.

Capital’s vanguard

In West Bengal today, the older form of the working class movement has not just been weakened but systematically decimated. The point is that now that social democracy through its own acts of commission and omission have so badly impaired the working class movement which was earlier its own basis for bargaining with capital, it cannot but cringe before neo-liberal capital and carry out its dirty job. The party’s organisational tactics built in the name of proletarian vanguardism is now used to force people out of capital’s way. The fact that CPIM’s present drive to develop and industrialise the state has come not in the form of, for example, reviving the locked-up industries and restarting numerous such industries that are lying sick with lakhs of workers unemployed, but in the form of setting up neo-liberal capital, only goes to show that, in the name of development and industrialisation, it is presiding over capital’s consolidation of its present victory over the working class and the start of capital’s neo-liberal aggressive, arrogant drive.
With the option of being at the forefront of containing a strong organised working class no longer available, the CPIM cannot continue with fostering the older kind of capital, the old industries that lie sick and moribund; on pain of being retrenched by capital, it can continue its relationship with ever-dynamic capital only if it identifies itself with the most advanced detachment of capital which is what the SEZs represent today. In order to publicly prove capital that it is not communist, it has to go that extra bit which even parties like the Congress might not need to: it has to assume the vanguard role.

It is this aggressive, vanguardism in favour of capital which explains the ruthless violence in Nandigram. It was actually not a question of the Left Front government’s violation of human rights or its violent tactics when dealing with any opposition to it which is what explains the violence and brutality in Nandigram. The rot is deeper than that. Apart from the violations of human rights these events mark an important phase in capital further tilting the balance of political forces and power relations in its favour. It is important to keep this point in mind since in trying to pull up the CPIM for what it is doing, we should not let capital off the hook for this latter is the larger enemy: the CPIM, the Left Front or social democracy are no more than its different moments.

1. I think it is standard practice now to consider the CPIM as social democratic party (perhaps the debate henceforth being whether it is neo-liberal). One recent such application in a respected journal is in R. Sandbrook, M. Edelman, P. Heller and J. Teichman, ‘Can Social Democracies Survive in the Global South?’, Dissent, Spring 2006, pp. 76- 83. Incidentally, the article is in deep appreciation of the CPIM.

2. See her interview with Shoma Choudhury in Tehelka, March 31, 2007.

3. The character of the resistance put up by the movement in Nandigram against any kind of dialogue with representatives of capital and the state or intervention by mediators or ‘civil society actors’, is clear from its actions destroying bridges and roads and putting up dug-pits and trenches, seceding from the social relations of power and domination. See Medha Patkar’s report posted at http://www.kafila.org/2007/03/15/medha-patkar-on-civil-war-in-nandigram/

4. One main argument given by those opposing displacement is that panchayats and other local bodies were not involved in the decision making process for the industrial plants. However, as Nandigram for one showed the local panchayat itself is a divided house, not just between different sections of the local but also between the local and the global so much so that the local pro-displacement panchayat leader, Shankar Samanta was killed by agitators. Presenting the local (communities, panchayats, gram sabhas) as forever benign weakens the fight against capital by overlooking its local basis, thereby often ending up on the side of global capital’s local detachments. The National Alliance for People’s Movements report on Nandigram for one suffers from such a valorisation of the local. See NAPM Report: To Nandigram via Singur posted at http://www.kafila.org/2007/02/27/napm-report-to-nandigram-via-singur/.

5. K. Marx, Capital, Vol. 1, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1986.

6. Based on class compromise through the presence of a political party which can keep the working class organized into a movement under its thumb, the benefits the working classes get under a welfare state are those that the elite, the ruling classes agree to in order to buy peace and stability in society so that business as usual does not come unstuck. For a pro-social democracy exposition of this point see R. Sandbrook, M. Edelman, P. Heller and J. Teichman, op.cit., pp. 76- 83.

7. Proponents of social democracy however advise the capitalist classes to maintain the ‘social pact’ with labour and wisely “accept a smaller share of the surplus in exchange for legitimacy, political and social peace, and high productivity” (ibid., p.79).

One Response to “Nandigram and the Unravelling of Social Democracy - Blog article (open for comments)”

  1. Sukla Sen Says:
    June 13th, 2007 at 11:51 am

    The author, if I correctly remember, had written quite a lot on last year’s popular upsurge in Nepal. He was apparently more sympathetic towards Baburam Bhattarai as opposed to Prachanda. Gradually grew somewhat apathetic with the Maoist movement as the things unfolded the way it did since April 24 last year.

    Quite an informed analysis. Only problem is its reluctance to come to grips with the reality of the TMC providing the leadership at the ground level in West Bengal. The TMC is of course nowhere near Kalinganagar.

    The other point is that all these are essentially open mass resistances, with varying degrees of very controlled and calibrated violence, falling in a category very different from Dantewara.
    And while Dantewara has evoked only negative responses from the state, Nandigram has to a very large extent slowed down, though far from halted, the onward march of SEZ with the state taking due note of the agitation after its initial disastrous failure in crushing it.

    And equally significantly all these struggles - Kalinganagar, Singur, Nandigram and scores others all across the country, are by all means for protecting lands and livelihoods, not for state power, even if Nandigram became, and still remains, a “liberated zone” in the model of Tamluk in 1942.

    Then brutal violation of human rights is of course a very important issue though not for the votaries of Pol Pot and the likes.
    And in case of Nandigram, we come across the merger of the State and the Party. An dit is precisely in this respect it differs significantly from Kalinganagar.

    Then as regards the shifting balance of political power is concerned, the scenario is pretty complex.
    The people displaced by Bhakra-Nangal, Hirakud and such other huge dams and other state-owned steel plants and such were completely invisibilised. One is hardly aware of the fact that human beings were affected on a massive scale. Those who knew they considered these are necessary sacrifices to be made, as long as of course the victims belong to the lowest rungs of the socio-political order, at the alter of “development”.
    Baliapal, in Orissa, was one of the rare instances where the local farmers could effectively resist the state’s move to evict them in spite of the fact that the issue of “national security” was involved.
    The Narmada Bachao Andolan, in spite of its apparent failure, changed all that. It could successfully register, the first time on a significant scale, with the national psyche that the victims of “development” are also human beings - citizens of the country, even if children of a lesser god.

    So on the one hand, we find a state driven by neoliberal economic doctrine coming out openly and aggressively on the side of the corporate capital and out to destroy the lives of thousands and thousands of common citizenry.
    At one level, there is grand convergence of political forces, and on the other the democratic consciousness percolating down to grassroots levels people are actively resisting such aggressive moves by the state with commensurate ferocity, but broadly from within the perimeters of the given political order and trying to make fullest use of it, and thereby causing a degree of disarray amongst the “political” class and rupture in the consensus leading to partial reversal of the state policy.

    The common people have, to a very significant extent, become adept over the decades in making use of the system to fight the system - whether, media, courts, mass protests or whatever, without shying away from breaching the red line in a very calibrated manner.

    This had been totally undreamt of in the days of Bhakra-Nangal.
    And this is how not only Singur and Nandigram, even Kalinganagar, fall in a category so very different from Dantewara.
    The contrary impression given in the article notwithstanding.

    courtesy : http://sanhati.com

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यह फ़िल्म 14 मार्च की घटनाओं के सूक्ष्म विवरण के साथ आयी है.

देखें : नव उदारवाद का नया चेहरा बजरिये नंदीग्राम

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नंदीग्राम में 100 से ज्यादा लोग मारे गये हैं, 200 अब भी लापता हैं. वहां महिलाओं के साथ सीपीएम के कैडरों ने बलात्कार किया. बच्चों तक को नहीं छोड़ा गया है. सीपीएम की इस क्रूरता और निर्लज्जता का विरोध होना चाहिए. हमें नंदीग्राम, सिंगूर और हर उस जगह के किसानों के आंदोलन का समर्थन करना चाहिए, जो अपनी जमीन बचाने के लिए लड़ाई लड़ रहे हैं. यह दस्तावेज़ी फ़िल्म किसानों के इसी संघर्ष के बारे में है. यह फ़िल्म नंदीग्राम के ताज़ा नरसंहार से पहले बनायी गयी थी.

नंदीग्राम में जनसंहार के बाद के द्श्‍य

यह फिल्‍म पुलिस द्वारा नंदीग्राम में बर्बर तरीके से की गयी हत्‍याओं एवं उनकी भयावहता व बर्बरता के बारे में है. इसके कई दृ़श्‍य विचलित कर देनेवाले हैं.

नंदीग्राम प्रतिरोध्‍

नंदीग्राम में सरकारी आतंक

देखें : माकपा की गुंडागर्दी

नंदीग्राम में सीपीएम सरकार की पुलिस ने जो बर्बर कार्रवाई की, वह अब खुल कर सामने आने लगी है. यह फ़िल्म उसी बर्बरता के बारे में है. इसके कई दृश्य आपको विचलित कर सकते हैं. आप इसे तभी देखें जब आप वीभत्स दृश्य देख सकने की क्षमता रखते हों. हम खुद शर्मिंदा हैं कि हमें ऐसे दृश्य आपको दिखाने पड़ रहे हैं, पर ये आज की हकीकत हैं. इनसे कैसे मुंह मोडा़ जा सकता है?