An Intellectual Loss
The invasion of Hungary cost Communism its moral halo. The Soviet Union dissipated the goodwill it had generated during its battle against fascism. To many of the extremely talented individuals who became party members, fellow travellers and even Soviet spies in the 1930s, Communism became the ''God that failed''. By the time the Berlin Wall was breached in 1989, the Comrades in Moscow discovered they could no longer inspire a defence of the cause. The Bolshevik Revolution died unmourned - except in Cuba and West Bengal.
It is intriguing that the wave of disillusionment bypassed Bengal. Barring hiccups between 1972 and 1977, the Communist movement in the state has expanded steadily since 1947. After 30 years of uninterrupted power, the CPM today exercises control over almost every walk of life in Bengal. Its organisational stranglehold is complemented by a staggering degree of intellectual hegemony over an otherwise garrulous and fractious people. Intellectual relevance in Bengal has become synonymous with 'progressive' thought. Public discourse has been moulded to fit into an ideological structure. Heretics have bought one-way tickets out of Kolkata.
The revolt of the intellectuals against the CPM for its conduct in Singur and Nandigram was not prompted by either an abhorrence of violence or respect for human rights. On both counts the record of Kolkata's intellectuals is shoddy - witness its glorification of Naxalites and silence over umpteen examples of CPM hooliganism. They were agitated because they instinctively sympathised with all opposition to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's reformism. In their eyes it was the chief minister who stood indicted for betraying the right of Bengal to live in a time warp.
The banner for last Wednesday's impressive rally in Kolkata extended the 'revolutionary greetings' of intellectuals to Singur and Nandigram. Medha Patkar, a deity of the Flat Earth fraternity, was a star attraction; and an email of support from Noam Chomsky was read out. Berating those fellow-traveller intellectuals who have remained loyal to the CPM, poet Shankha Ghosh sneered: ''Time will decide who are the real Leftists.''
The CPM should beware. The alienation of its committed intellectuals may yet trigger Bengal's decisive break from decades of mental darkness.