Thursday, April 3, 2008

Communists and freedom

Everyone I know is either a Communist or despises communists. Would some middle ground not be possible? I am appreciative when Communists bring up important and inconvenient topics - such as whether capitalism and globalisation are really providing the promised benefits to all Indians, whether health care and primary education in India are adequate, whether specific international deals are in the country's interest. One may agree or disagree with them, but when there is a conspiracy to sweep certain issues under the carpet - and I use the word "conspiracy" advisedly - one must support the persons who bring them back out.

As an example, in the make-believe South Bombay world that I live in, people would have you think that caste and class discrimination have ceased to exist in India. Or (this is a spectacular one that I hear all too often) that their own success in life is due purely to merit and not to any extraneous considerations like having been born in Malabar Hill. Yes, capitalism, like bad wine, can induce strange delusions.

The problem is that the communists (at least the ones I know of) are more than capable of siding against the very person they claim to support - the human being. Herewith the esteemed Prakash Karat as quoted in The Telegraph on the subject of Tibet (which as you can see from my blog, has been somewhat obsessing me lately):

`The CPM general secretary said there was a tendency to violate the sovereignty of nations in the “name of human rights” and “ethnic minorities”.'

Good show, Mr Karat. Suggest you take a quick look at Wikipedia (the peoples' encyclopaedia, after all!) which tells us that "fascism is an authoritarian ideology ... that considers the individual subordinate to the interests of the state, party or society as a whole." Next time, don't complain when Communists get lumped with Fascists. In discussions I've often tried to explain the distinction between the two, but today I don't fully understand if there is one.

The tragedy is that on the issue of Tibet I happen to agree with the BJP, whose divisive ideology I utterly despise (I should qualify - I agree broadly with their publicly stated views on Tibet today, keeping in mind that such views differ from their privately held ones and from their actions when they are in power). At the same time the Communists, whom I would love to admire for their principled defense of humanity, have just come across as scoundrels who would cheerfully condone death and torture as long as the nation remains sovereign. For what?

If further reading about India's CPM party is desired, you could start with the Wikipedia entry on Nandigram violence.


Cheeta said...

As an aside to your main topic, I think one needs to distinguish between communists (i.e. people who believe in, follow, and propagate, the philosophies of communism) and Communists (members of political parties which owe their origins to a belief in the philosophies of communism). Such a distinction is necessary because it does appear that there are many communists who are not formally members of any of the so-called "Communist" (with a capital C) political parties, and more interestingly, many Communists (i.e. politicians) who seem to observe and propagate an entirely different philosophy to that of communism.

With such a distinction, it becomes perfectly possible follow a middle ground between being a communist (or at least being sympathetic to them)and despising a Communist (a somewhat different kind of being).

Although it is dangerous to try and assess the personal philosophies and beliefs of a person one has never met and does not know, it would seem that perhaps Mr. Prakash Karat is truly a Communist-wth-a-capital-C rather than a communist. Which would also explain why he is defending the sovereignity of a neighbouring country rather than siding with the people who are objecting to that country's way of ruling them; i.e. he's just being a politician, not an idealist, or even an idealogue.

Anonymous said...

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary
depends on his not understanding it.
- Upton Sinclair

Cheeta said...

On the distinction between communism and fascism: as George Orwell showed us so brilliantly in Animal Farm, perhaps there isn't a difference. Tyranny is tyranny, whether it calls itself "left" or "right".

readerswords said...

There is a difference between fascists and communists (where they rule). The Nazis/ Fascists go out and kill those whom they profess to consider their enemies. The Communists kill those whom they profess to defend.

Cheeta said...

An interesting question on which one would like to hear from Mr. Karat is which nation his party would like to see as "sovereign" (and undisturbed by such embarassing matters as protests about human rights).

It seems that the CPM-led government in West Bengal has banned the public rally against China scheduled to begin in Kolkata yesterday. The state's Home Minister said that he could not tell reporters why permission had been withdrawn. He did add, though, that permission couldn't be given to all rallies "considering the . . . threat they pose". Eleven other rallies, on different subjects, were permitted and in fact took place in Kolkata that day. That this one should have been singled out for prohibition makes one wonder just who was feeling threatened.

Another state minister has been quoted as saying, "both Centre and the state are confused about Tibetans" and claimed the ban was because of Darjeeling. A shortage of tea, perhaps?

But at least one person in Kolkata firmly agreed with the decision: he's quoted as saying "what the Kolkata police have done is absolutely right" - and that was Mao Si-Wei, consul general of China.