Out to Assassinate the Left: A rejoinder to Aditya Nigam

[In reply to Aditya Nigam's critique of Prabhat Patnaik's stand on the cartoon row]

None can challenge Aditya Nigam in spitting venom against the organised Left, of any kind! That's bound to be the case for Nigam specializes in nothing else! Now its Prabhat, Earlier it was the rumour of Maoism! Even earlier was that piece in which Nigam documented both his fears and the relief.. To quote him..

"fear at the sight of these hundreds of little Stalins crawling out of the woodwork, and sheer relief that they will never be able to rule over us ever again."
Hundreds of little Stalinists! They must be Indian Citizens as well, ain't they? They must have their right to form associations and hold meetings guaranteed by the Indian constitution itself? Don't they? After all, whatever the argument of some of the organizers of MR, MR did neither issue a call for any sort of violence nor did it stop anyone else, including Nigam, to hold their WSF! Seems the term 'Stalinist' has gotten a whole new meaning!

Let's come to the 'diatribes' of Prabhat that Nigam is so scornful of! Prabhat's article had made a lot of sense to me, and it in my view represented the best possible stance the Marxists, of any kind, should had taken in this ongoing war of positions! Well, one can as well add Laltu's article that was published in Jansatta in the same league. Now, before someone jumps into some conclusions and/or discoveries, I have always been opposed to CPIM's political line all my life and have belonged to the ML camp. I have found many of Prabhat's positions highly problematic, including the ones he had on Nandigram.

But what is wrong with Prabhat's argument here?

He definitely is not treating the Parliament as some sacred and sacrosanct institution that is beyond any critique. He, quite on the contrary, is making it very clear that the Parliament will have to earn the respect it wants. All he is arguing is that the Parliament is a reflection of the collective will of the people and how deficient or efficient it is, is beside the point. He also argues that the power to make decisions cannot be abrogated to any other group that is not accountable to the people unlike the parliament! Is there any problem with that?

Nigam might be well in his right in locating all the Debates that are happening on issues ranging from the Nuclear Bill to Right to Food to the drawing room discourses of these EXPERTS of Prabhat whom he chooses to refer to as Citizens, but then who are the people who are waging their own wars on the grassroots? Are they all really so peripheral to the debate as Nigam makes them out to be? And mind it, I am not talking either of the erstwhile Harmads of the CPIM nor the Little Stalinists! I am referring to struggles like that of the MKSS in Rajashan to the one against Posco in Odisha. They might not be intellectuals but is it so easy to write them off altogether as Nigam finds it! Ah, Nigam did refer to his ‘perverse view of things’, albeit in a different sense, didn’t he?

Perverse. That is the word that defines rather amusing ‘evidence’ of Atal Bihari Bajpeyi justifying the deletion of ten passages from a book that Nigam uses to establish the expertise of Congress in such affairs. And all this while we thought that Bajpeyi belonged to the Bhartiya Janata Party and not Congress.

Apart from maligning all the different strands of Left, Nigam excels in one more thing, that is parrying the real questions away. Prabhat did not merely focus on the rights, and the wrongs, of the parliament. He had scrutinised a few other things as well. For example, the very first thing he argued was that the issue is not about ‘freedom of expression’. Then he buttressed the fact that this is not about any sense of humour either. He also touched upon the issue of sensibilities and how they develop into organised political actions. Yes, the cartoons might not have drawn an immediate protest but then the reasons for that can be located in the strength of the then Dalit movement. It could also have something to with the vocabulary, rather the lack of it, it had.

Even though Prabhat avoided using the classical categories like class and caste, he hinted at the composition of the experts (Citizens for Nigam) being so terribly schewed in favour of the so called upper castes and classes. Now, socialisation does has a role in shaping our sensibilities and perceptions, doesn’t it? Nigam decided to parry this question away as well. Why? For it is not that easy to fault someone on that account. Also, it is far easier to do an Anna Hazare than engage in the rigours that organised Left is all about. Doing Anna Hazare comes with its own middle class benefits is beside the point.