Daya  Varma


It is surprising that the brief note “To our friends in Bengal” by Professor Noam Chomsky and his peers, which appealed for left unity in India in the aftermath of the unfortunate developments in Bengal and expressed solidarity with forcibly dispossessed peasants, received such a scathing attack by the venerable Mahashweta Devi, writer Arundhati Roy and 16 other intellectuals.


According to Ms Devi and her associates, Chomsky and other “fellow travellers” wittingly or unwittingly fell prey to “A CPI (M) public relations coup”. About a year ago when Arundhati Roy was accused of saying something under external pressures, she blurted out: “I am not stupid”. Ironically, she and her colleagues seem convinced that Chomsky et al., all of impeccable integrity and independent thinking, were sucked into making a statement because of public relations maneuvering by CPI (M).   


The note by Mahashweta Devi and others is a tirade against the “unbridled” capitalist policies of CPI (M) as well as some remarks about the Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, who has been living in sanctuary in India. They might as well have written a lengthier essay on a rational policy for India’s and West Bengal’s economic development, but why lecture to Chomsky and his peers who know as much, if not more, about this subject. Incidentally, the Left Front government of West Bengal has made no claims that it is dismantling capitalism.


The appeal by Chomsky and his friends for left unity is both timely and desirable. Unfortunately it seems to have made things worse, which merely points to the utter confusion about the feasibility of a non-capitalist path of development in the aftermath of the failure of the one that was tried. It is very possible that Chomsky et al are more concerned about an organized left with a mass base and less so about the attitude of free lance leftists. Only the Indian people can ultimately decide what is good for them and whether they should opt for other options after 30 years, if all is so bad in West Bengal ruled by the CPM-led Left Front.

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