Prabhat Patnaik



Economist and the former Vice-Chairman of the State Planning Board Prabhat Patnaik has said that “the developments in Kerala over the last several days have been a source of great pain and anguish” for him and called for interventions against the twin threats of “hegemonized bourgeois liberalism” and “feudal Stalinism” preying the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) in Kerala and elsewhere.


Prof. Patnaik has, in an e-mail response to criticism about his participation in a seminar to be organized by the Chintha Ravindran Foundation to commemorate the late film-maker and writer ‘Chintha’ Ravindran, given his association with the CPI(M), which is facing serious allegations following the murder of Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) leader T.P. Chandrasekharan, said what the developments in Kerala posed for him were not just moral but also existential. Prof. Patnaik, who was replying to the criticism from K.T. Ram Mohan, associate professor at the School of Social Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University, that Prof. Patnaik’s participation in the program scheduled to be held in Kozhikode in the first week of July would amount to legitimizing the “murderous party,” said that he was looking forward to the seminar as an occasion “to critique the feudal-Stalinist trend that one encounters in Kerala, and also elsewhere.”


“I have been with the party for 37 years, having joined it at the start of the Emergency. My father had been a freedom-fighter and an early Communist (he was a founder of the Communist Party in Orissa in 1936). Having seen in my childhood the enormous sacrifices the Communists made, and the dedication to the cause of the working people that they had, it had always been my ambition to join the party which was finally realized in 1975. For this very reason, however, the developments in Kerala over the last several days have been a source of great pain and anguish for me. The problems they pose for me are not just moral but also existential.”


“I see Communism in India today as being threatened in two ways: either being hegemonized by bourgeois liberalism, or as falling prey to a  feudal-Stalinism. What is common to both these trends is an implicit lack of conviction about socialism, an implicit subscription to the neo-liberal ‘development’ agenda, and an implicit denial of scope for people’s empowerment. Succumbing to either or both these threats would be disastrous and totally against the interests of the people. If socialism is to be brought back on the agenda, then an alternative de-Stalinized Marxism has to be practiced. I saw the seminar as such an occasion because I knew that it would be attended by intellectuals seriously interested in Marxism. I do not often get an opportunity to interact with such a group.”


A reflection of trends


When contacted for his permission for reproduction of his mail message in print, Prof. Patnaik, a member of the CPI(M) since 1975, told The Hindu from New Delhi that “anybody who is serious about the future of the party and the country would want to see the democratic traditions of the party strengthened.”


His observations should be seen in the general context of Kerala.


“Kerala is a feudal society, fundamentally. The trends in the party are not exclusive to it, but a reflection of the trends in Kerala society,” Prof. Patnaik said.


Thiruvananthapuram, June 18, 2012 (Supplied by Sukla Sen)

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