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Grow up Comrades!

By T V R Shenoy
September 30, 2005 19:39 IST
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Our home-grown Marxists went to bed on June 22, 1941, breathing fire against the British, urging one and all to do what they could to hinder the 'imperialist' war.

On the morning of June 24, 1941, they were hurling verbal thunderbolts against Germany for its temerity, and cordially persuading workers to work twice as hard. In the 24 hours that it took the Communists to turn 180 degrees, Adolf Hitler had invaded the Soviet Union.

It had not mattered one whit to the CPI -- there was no CPI-M in those days -- that Britain had been fighting one of the most evil regimes of all time, Nazi Germany.

That was because it had not mattered to the Communists's distant master; Stalin had signed a Non-Aggression Pact with the demonic Nazi dictator in August 1939, supplying him with raw materials and dividing helpless Poland with Germany.

By the time of the Quit India Movement, in 1942, the Communists had swung the other way, not caring whether they weakened the Indian nationalist struggle -- because the sudden withdrawal of British strength would have put Russia in greater danger. It was, in other words, as fine an example of putting party above nation as one can imagine.

The CPI actually had something of a presence even in the Indo-Gangetic belt in those days. Harkishen Singh Surjeet is a relic of that era, and so is Inder Kumar Gujral. But the betrayal of the Freedom Struggle was remembered -- and resented -- by men and women less committed to Marxism than Comrade Surjeet.

Over time, the Left has been ground out of existence even in those industrial centres where, according to Marxist theory, the industrial proletariat would have been their natural base. Over six decades later, the Left Front seems bent on proving that they are still putting party above nation.

Hence, the "General Strike" of September 29, 2005, which the Left Front has already promised is a mere 'dress rehearsal.'

From beginning to end, the reasons given by the Left Front were a tissue of shabby lies. They said, for example, that they were organising the strike in defence of the 'workers.' I have to ask: Which workers are you talking about, Comrades?

For the record, the total number of men and women in organised labour unions accounts for less than 10 per cent of India. (I think it is about 7 per cent.) Second, neither the INTUC -- the workers' wing of the Congress -- nor the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh -- a member of the Sangh Parivar backed the strike.

(Did you know that the BMS actually has more enrolled members than the Left parties do?) So, we are talking about a bunch of people who account for less than 5 per cent of the population trying to hold the other 95 per cent to ransom.

It could be argued, perfectly justly, that the cause is more important than the mere numbers. But what were the reasons given? The Left Front wanted the airports in Delhi and in Mumbai to be shut because the Airports Authority of India is trying to privatise them.

Please note that not a single worker is going to be sacked because of this, in fact several thousand more shall be required because airport expansion will mean more hands to do the jobs. (The figures I have seen indicate a minimum of 7,000 jobs in just these two airports.)

In effect, the Marxists are making people suffer -- not just travellers, but also those who are now going to be deprived of gainful employment -- for no reason.

Elsewhere, the Left said it was asking banks to shut because here again there is a whiff of privatisation in the air. Bank nationalisation was a stupid ploy that Indira Gandhi pulled out of her bag of tricks in 1969; I remember the banks as they were before then, and believe me, customer service has taken a tumble since then.

Walk into the branch of a multinational bank and then one of out nationalised banks, the difference is painful. But how many of us can afford to keep the huge minimum amounts required by the multinationals? Opening up the banking sector to private operators is the only way to ensure that decent banking services reach the rest of us.

The Left, apparently, seeks to ensure that 'service with a smile' is reserved for millionaires!

The game was given away in Kolkata, that bastion of the Reds. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya found that his car had been stopped by some unusually stupid Leftists who couldn't recognise their own leaders. "You have the right to strike," he rebuked them, "But don't stop those who want to go to work!" (Elsewhere across the city, the same scene was being played out when his wife's car was stopped!)

The Bhattacharyas have already openly admitted what the rest of the Left knows (but is too cowardly to say in public), that strikes are actually counterproductive to the public weal. And, without coercion, they are also unsuccessful.

Who cared about the 'General Strike' in the major centres of the economy -- Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, or Bangalore?

So, at the end of the day, was there any real reason for the 'General Strike'? (Which, as usual, was not 'general' outside West Bengal, Kerala, and Tripura.) Only the Left Front's fear that they are in danger of being identified too closely with the Congress.

This means that they will pick any reason to start a fight. Thus it is that Prakash Karat tried to flog a dead horse to life, accusing the prime minister of betraying the Non-Aligned Movement when India voted against Iran's nuclear proliferation. The Non-Aligned Movement was a bunch of crock at the best of times, who cares a damn about it today!

The disruption to the economy in a single "General Strike" has already cost India several hundred crores. The public spat over foreign policy has embarrassed the Government of India. Karat and his comrades couldn't care less. They have driven home the message that there is a difference between the Congress and themselves.

Thank you, Comrades, we have heard you loud and clear: 64 years after 1941, the Communists are still putting party interests above national interests!

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T V R Shenoy