On their Marx, ready to bow
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Even in a political culture used to its most privileged classes, professionals, officials, captains of industry acting servile in the presence of power, the self-abasement of so many intellectuals in the service of power still comes as something of a shock. At one level, absurd to suppose that the sole task of intellectuals lies in opposing power or restricting authority, wherever these may touch them. Denying the moderate claims of duly constituted authorities and politicians can itself be a symptom of fanaticism. During NDA rule, scientists and intellectuals lined up to put their seal of approval on many hare-brained schemes. But little did we imagine that Indian intellectual servility to power would reach a new low. A recent example is a statement issued by a group of prominent Left intellectuals that once again confirms that their loyalty is to power and party, not morality and argument.
The Left is gifted with some of the finest minds. But too often their ingenuity is used for artful circumlocution. The recent statement on the violence in Nandigram is a perfect example of that. The statement begins with a tone of sincerity that only Left intellectuals can feign, expressing pain and anguish at the violence in Nandigram. But it swiftly descends into a premature exoneration of the state government. It says that the tragedy at Nandigram on March 14 was "entirely unanticipated, unjustified, and unfortunate turn of events". In the annals of circumlocution this use of 'unanticipated' is almost on par with 'collateral damage'. Imagine a Modi or a Bush being exonerated by the magical power of the term 'unanticipated'.
The statement then goes on to say that the CPM has asked for a judicial inquiry into the incident. Why not instead ask: what took the government so long to institute an inquiry? Why not condemn the fact that the CPM is still launching an assault on the judiciary for asking for an inquiry? The statement says: "Nobody belonging to the Left would ever justify repressive action against peasants or workers, who are the basic classes of the Left." This is another piece of circumlocution. What does basic classes of the Left mean? That only the Left can speak for them? This is hubris. Or that these classes primarily support the Left? This is a fantastic piece of wishful thinking. Yes, nobody would "justify". But why not outright condemnation? Why not at least say that the government badly mishandled the situation? Why engage in that perpetual deferral of assigning responsibility on the state government, to which the Left so objects in others? In the statement there is a sincere call to make efforts so that "tension subsides and normalcy returns to the area". But the statement ends with: "We appeal to all concerned not to let the wounds of Nandigram become festering sores." Again, reasonable enough. But in the context it is difficult to read it as anything other than a plea not to interrogate the state government too closely; as if any critical intervention will transform wounds into festering sores.
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