The Soviet Union sent troops to quell an uprising in Hungary in 1956. Twelve years later it sent troops to Czechoslovakia to oust a regime which stepped out of line. The two events shocked many of its admirers.
If the Soviet leadership had the good sense to introspect over these developments and take appropriate corrective action, the collapse of Communist regimes all over East Europe and in the Soviet Union itself two decades later could possibly have been averted.
Nandigram poses before the Communist Party of India (Marxist) leadership a challenge similar to that Hungary and Czechoslovakia posed to the Soviet leadership. The initial reactions of General Secretary Prakash Karat and Politburo member Sitaram Yechury indicate that it is no better equipped to face the challenge than the Soviet leadership was.
Against this background, the measured response of Ashok Mitra, who was Finance Minister in Jyoti Basu’s early Cabinets and a CPI (M) member of the Rajya Sabha later, comes as a refreshing contrast.
“Till death I would remain guilty to my conscience if I keep mum about the happenings of the last two weeks in West Bengal over Nandigram,” he wrote in the leading Bengali daily Ananda Bazar Patrika on November 14. “One gets torn by pain too. Those against whom I am speaking have been my comrades at some point of time. The party, whose leadership they are adorning, has been the centre of my dreams and works for the last 60 years.”
He goes on: “My ardent appeal to the central leadership of the party, which I still love to think to be mine: please think it over. You shiver at the terror of Maoism. Will that shivering compel you to throw West Bengal into the gutter of fascism?”
I have taken these lines from an edited extract from the article, translated into English by Debarshi Das. It appeared in The Hindustan Times on November 18, 2007 under the heading “The party’s over”. Over to the article.