One step left, Two steps right:

CPI(M)’s Reaction to September 11

IT IS strange and yet understandable that September 11 has become the most important date in history since the start of the Gregorian calendar, not because on this day, valued real estate was destroyed or many people lost their lives but because it happened on US soil, the epitome of the Western world and the nerve center of imperialism.

Buildings, bridges, power stations, water supply systems, hospitals, schools and much more was destroyed in the former Yugoslavia by NATO. So was the fate of Iraq, not to talk about hundreds of other mass murders committed by the US starting with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But in all these non-11 September instances (including the forgotten September 11 of Chile), the targets were in the countries of periphery, inhabited by real or potential enemies of the Western imperialism. Events are never judged by the magnitude of the effect they have on human lives but by the quality of humans involved – the lives of blacks and whites, of the poor and rich, of workers and industrialists cannot be treated as equal.

It is nonetheless strange because the significance of September 11 is not only a preoccupation of imperialist countries and the media but also of victims of imperialist plunder and even political formations of the Left. Obviously the left had to respond to the belligerent stands of the US government and its British and other allies by mounting as much opposition as they could muster. The left had to unequivocally denounce US imperialist war. Fortunately this has been done by CPI-ML (Liberation) and numerous groups and individuals, who are neither tuned to opportunism nor have anything to gain by taking a wishy-washy stand against the US.

The strange part is that the stands of many Indian left parties led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] has been soft on the US and hard on the victims of the US aggression. Fortunately for them, crimes of the Taliban against their own people, especially girls and women, provided all the excuse they needed to come to the rescue of the US. Little do they realize, or if they do, prefer to ignore, that the damage done by the US bombs far exceeds anything that the Talibans could do even if they repeated their crimes many times over.

In a statement on September 29, the CPI(M) Polit Bureau demanded that the Prime Minister (Vajpayee) adhere to the assurance given at an all-party meeting [which included CPI(M)] that “India’s involvement in the war against terrorism will not be beyond exchange of information with the United States”. Two days after America started the war, the CPI(M) Polit Bureau (October 9) did not oppose the US war against Afghanistan; their position was “Oppose US Intent to Widen War”. The General Secretaries of CPI and CPI(M) demanded to “Curb Terrorism through Lawful Means” and by “Lawful” they meant “through the United Nations and on the basis of international law”, perhaps as was done during the Gulf war. Eager not only to resolve the problems of India but also of the world, an acknowledged prerogative of the US and UK, the CPI(M) Polit Bureau wanted (November 15 Press statement) “the (Vajpayee) government to stick to its earlier stand and not get pressurized to accept any Taliban participation in the new dispensation in Afghanistan.”

The CPI(M) Polit Bureau statements quoted above are pathetic attempts to please both the left and the right. They are pathetic not so much because they are indefensible but because they provide some insight into the motives of these leaders, of which their members may not even be fully aware. It might not be worth its while to detail the weaknesses of each of these statements. Perhaps each of these statements underscore the CPI(M)’s attempt to appear a responsible, respectable opposition worthy of being trusted as a constituent of an alternative government capable of maintaining a diplomatically acceptable relationship with imperialism. CPI(M)’s position is identical to that of the US and BJP that terrorism has no political bases and can be stopped by tightening security.

CPI(M) seems to believe that if there were no foreign, specifically Pakistan-controlled, terrorists there will be no problem in Kashmir and that there would have been no problem in Punjab. According to them, there is no internal basis for the rebellious dissatisfaction among Kashmiris, who left to themselves, would rush to declare their allegiance to the Indian Constitution and their desire to be an integral part of India.

The US and the imperialist media built a crescendo that any mention of the causes of terrorism is tantamount to condoning it. Despite this, the obvious was echoed by many though not by CPI(M). Even ex-cabinet ministers of the British Labor Government raised the issue that the causes of terrorism are rooted in extreme uneven distribution of wealth, humiliation of the third world especially the Arab world and the grave injustice done to the Palestinian people. Why then does CPI(M) demand that terrorism should be curbed through “Lawful Means” and not raise the issue of changing the existing world order?

It is redeeming to speculate that CPI(M) might have been a factor in the decision of the All-Party Meeting to restrict India’s involvement in the war against terrorism merely to exchange of information with the United States and not provide landing facility for American aircrafts. But then why agree to exchange of information and what information could India have that the CIA does not? Why does the CPI(M) not unequivocally condemn American war against Afghanistan rather merely does not wish it to extend beyond? And what business it is of the CPI(M) to decide as to who should form a government in Afghanistan? As it is, the composition of the new Afghanistan government is decided by the US and UK and that is why Hamid Karzai, a former friend of the CIA is at its head; neither is the advice of Vajpayee nor of the CPI(M) solicited.

The whole concept of liberal and hardliner Taliban is a western creation just as hard-hitting Advani and soft-hearted Vajpayee is an Indian invention. Of course, there are differences in the temperament of members of any party including the CPI(M). But Talibans are Talibans. They were all the same when it came to brutalizing Afghan people, especially girls and women. And that is one of the reasons why their regime collapsed so swiftly and Afghanistan could not become Vietnam for America. And yet who should rule Afghanistan is ultimately the collective decision of the Afghan people. CPI(M) is neither called upon to offer advice nor is it capable of giving a sound one. Nation states have their own historic evolutions; an artificial new course cannot be imposed. Soviets wanted to impose a government of their liking; the consequence was utter misery for the Afghan people and the collapse of Soviet Union. The present government imposed by the US, independent of the advice of Vajpayee and the CPI(M), might also lead to a civil war. Defeating Taliban is a responsibility of none other than the Afghan people and it will certainly happen.

The main question, however, is as to why the CPI(M) is saying what it is saying. They have nothing to gain. One could understand this when Jyoti Basu was to become the Prime Minister. One could understand, if these manoeuvers could make the CPI(M) a national party and win over Hindu votes from BJP. None of this can happen at least by following these methods.

– D. Gupta