Friday, 9 July 2010

Jyoti Basu's great service to India

There was a time when Bengal mattered. The Bengalis were the brains of India. The 'bhadralok' were the most successful and creative comprador class produced by European Colonialism.

The Bengali 'gentleman' truly deserved that name- Siddharta Shankar Ray, a bitter foe of Jyoti Basu, nevertheless helped him evade arrest because Basu, too, was a gentleman.

Ramdas Menon has written an excellent, higly critical, obituary on Basu here. Menon's ire is prompted by love of Bengal rather than partisan politics. He is careful to point out that Basu's Bengal was free of regionalism/communalism. Menon was able to complete his Engineering course there- without being made to feel an outsider or having to fear the violence of lumpen 'son-of-the soil' gangster/politicians.

Basu chose to subscribe to revolutionary Communist ideology at a time when it was still fairly intellectually respectable- just as believing in Neo-con 'regime change' for Iraq- on the basis of Kanan Makiya's evidence- was okay a few years ago.

Maoism isn't inherently more nutty than Gandhism, or Jihadism, or whatever shite it was that Ram Manohar Lohia and J.P Narayan and so on were peddling.
I don't recall whether Dr. Dutta Samant had any ideology at all. That didn't stop him destroying the Mumbai textile industry. But, even earlier, the Ahmedabad textile industry was in the doldrums- though there were no Maoists in Gujerat.
Economists point the finger at Mrs. Gandhi for India's stagnation in the 70's. However, Morarji Bhai's ban on gold imports, in the previous decade, was a comparable piece of idiocy- India decided to subsidize the smugglers of the Gulf and the criminalization of its own polity- indeed India became the easiest place to double your money. An aristocratic British criminal, Guppy by name, was astonished at how easy and lucrative Gold smuggling into India remained. Incidentally, he was roped into this business by a posh friend whose father was a High Court Judge in Bengal.
If Basu had a corrupt son, so too did Mrs. G and Morarji and.... but let's not get started down that road!

Yes, Basu's goons were violent and corrupt, but kidnapping did not become a Heavy Industry in West Bengal in the same way that it did in Bihar under Lalloo- who, lest we forget, was being feted by Harvard Business School just a few years back.

Was this because, in Bengal under Basu, the old elites kept their monopoly of high office in a manner unprecedented elsewhere in India? Did Mao become the camouflage of a new ManuSmriti? If so, it was a vehicle to class power which destroyed its own basis because an increasing proportion of the bhadralok's best and brightest had to leave their homeland to find work.

Menon mentions the murder of some Ananda Margi sadhus by Basu's goons. However, my memory is that Mrs. G was paranoid about the Margis back in the mid 70's. Nothing Basu did could match what Mrs. G sanctioned during the Emergency. R.A.W published a scurrilous book depicting the Margis as degenerate C.I.A agents adept in Black Arts or something of the sort. Oddly, Ravi Batra- who subscribed to Margi philosophy- was a favourite Economist for some people close to Mrs. G later on. My point is that there were plenty of people in New Delhi who were quite as batshit crazy as Bengal's Commie nutjobs.

Basu's own culpability is limited as he himself was probably not responsible for some of the decisions Menon mentions in his article- including the ones which assured his Party of a monopoly of power for more than three decades.
My feeling is that
1) Unlike Lohia (agrezi boli equals angrezi goli!) or Mulayam Singh Yadav (Angrezi hatao!) Basu did not hate the English language as such. He couldn't stop State Schools from banning English- he was already an old man whose prestige derived from being the last surviving Communist 'navratna'.
At least, he kept up his visits to England and occasional Scotch and so forth.
2) Like his former mentor, Rajni Palme Dutt, Basu was basically friendly to the Nehru/Gandhi dynasty. While Punjab, Kashmir and Assam became nightmares for the Center- West Bengal did not create headaches. They did not try to export their ideology to Bangladesh or seek to embarrass India w.r.t America or the Islamic world. On the contrary, Gentleman Basu was content to carry Bengal with him on a tide of senile decrepitude wholly unthreatening to the rest of the world.
3) Had Basu become P.M.- instead of Gowda- it is possible that a useful purpose- not his ambition merely- would have been served for his party. Urm... sorry, I can't see how this would have done India any good BUT

4) Basu was lazy, stupid, vulgar (he read P.G. Woodhouse) and and immensely tolerant of wrongdoing by his underlings. This is the mark of a true gentleman. He succeeded, virtually single-handed, in destroying the sense of superiority of the Bengali intelligentsia and ensuring that Calcutta would remain a fetid backwater. This was a great service not merely to India but to the entire Civilized world.

Ultimately Marxism, as an ideology, stands above personalities and rejects the 'Great Man' theory of History. Basu, coz he was so utterly and irresistibly shite proved that Marx was right. Fucking Bhadralok Barristocrats can only fuck things up- coz they are shite in their class origins- no matter which brand of Marxism they espouse.

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