People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 23, 2006
‘Capitalism Can Never Be The End Of Human History’
Following are excerpts of the interviews given by Bengal chief minister and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to Bengali dailies Ganashakti and Aaj Kal. Both have been translated from Bengali.
In a recent press conference what you have said has been reported widely in a section of the press. They stated that you are not practicing socialism and you are pursuing capitalism. One of the newspapers has also reported that Buddhadeb remarked “He is a capitalist”. Why do you say such things which can be commented upon like this?
If I have to seriously take everything which is misquoted then there will be no time for anything else. I will reiterate what I have said. I will continue to repeat that. West Bengal happens to be a state among 28 others in the country. Can there be a socialist state within a capitalist country? We want employment generation – capital is a prerequisite for this to happen. We are working within the capitalist system – how can I forget that?
“We are trying to be friendly with the capitalists” – what does it mean? You want investment and they want profits. This is understandable, in fact a question of mutual interest. But where does the question of friendship arise?
We are not seeking to be personal friends! We are trying to make the state government “investment friendly”. This is to accelerate industrialisation in West Bengal, to speed up employment generation. What was my principled position, it continues. I am trying to work accepting the present reality, drawing lessons from history taking the contemporary global context into account. Capitalism cannot be the “end of human history”. That socialism is a developed system – is a settled question. It is proven that Soviet Union had surpassed other nations not only in food production but also space expeditions, winning of Olympic medals and in production of Shakespeare plays. But some mistakes were committed and price had to be paid for that, and it continues to be paid.
What is China doing? They are advancing by taking the present reality into account and strengthening socialism. China has stunned the contemporary world. In the first week of March, during my visit to Vietnam, I found the same confirmation of my belief. Fidel Castro who continues to be rallying point for the Cuban people and who pronounces – “Socialism or death” – has to also take into account the practical reality and make certain unconventional adjustments. America is trying to cordon Cuba to finish it off, impose intensive economic blockade. Cuba does not have oil – it had almost hit a blind alley. Today, Venezuala is sending oil and Cuba in turn is sending her doctors. The political landscape in Latin America has changed. It is the United States that is on the defensive. But Cuba was facing serious crisis. Fidel who pronounced “Socialism or death” allowed five star hotels to come up on Cuba’s Carribean coast which will be run by multinationals, western companies. Cuba secured oxygen for its sustenance based on the tourism industry. Five star hotels also bring in lot of cultural muck. Castro had to accept this – to save Cuba.
Even then you have faith in socialism? Even today?
Otherwise why should I be in the Communist Party? I am with the people, because I am with the Party. I have reached here through struggles. Being in the government, I may have to take certain different decisions in different circumstances. Even while working within the framework of a capitalist state, an alternative approach can be developed – this is what I believe. In the context of capitalist globalisation, we continue to firmly hold on to that belief. We think about the workers of closed factories. Although a pittance, we have decided to pay them five hundred rupees allowance. Has any other state in the country done this? We have decided to provide Provident Fund for workers/employees of the unorganised sector. We have also done something to address the concerns of employees in the construction industry. From the ideological standpoint, I firmly believe that capitalism is not a finality. Bush will not have the final say. I believe in the historic inevitability of socialism. It is the socialist ideology which will finally triumph. America has been taught an appropriate lesson once. Millions of Vietnamese poor peasants and people had defeated the mightiest military power of the world under the leadership of the Communist Party. We are continuously hearing about advances of the socialist forces from Latin America. Then, why should I lose heart?
In quite a few instances you have stated that mistakes have been committed in the past. So many “mistakes”? People might say – if the CPI(M) and the Left Front government had committed so many mistakes, why should they vote for you?
There have been so many positives – big achievements. But if we have committed some mistakes, should we not accept them? We are communists, we accept the mistakes of the past and also draw lessons from them. That is why we are realists.
No. What we are trying to do is not pragmatism but realism.
You can invite capitalists. But the way you are rolling out the “red carpet”, does any “Red” remain?
“Red Carpet” is a coinage of the media. I prefer ‘investor friendly’ to describe our policy. Should I not talk properly with Azim Premjee or Ratan Tata? When big domestic corporates were not coming, the Salem Group wanted to put up a motor cycle factory and should I have said “No” then? This is an untravelled path. This trajectory is not completely smooth. Remaining firmly premised in our basic ideology, we have to take flexible steps in the interest of the people. Should I not think about the employment for the youth? Not only Information Technology but there will be huge investment and employment generation in other sectors as well. We are not only thinking about the boys and girls with merit, but also those who are average. We have been late in starting our work with Information Technology and that is why I highlight this more. Bengalis have advanced in this sector and that is why, this emphasis. Not that we do not talk about other sectors – we do; you do not publish these.
Who ensures your victory? ‘Those’ who say Buddhadeb is good, but CPI(M) is bad? Those who are all praise for Buddha, but entirely rightwing in their belief? Or Leftist people? Ordinary people?
Whom you are referring to as “those” – they are in some instances forced to support us now. We do not work on their agenda. At times you will find I am criticised in the media, suggesting why are you not doing this? Or "What is to be done”? “They” try to suggest that I should discard Alimuddin (the state CPI(M) headquarters – translator) and govern the state from where “they" are.
In some of your statements, or even if I accept the misrepresentation of some of your views, is confusion not being created within the Left? In such a situation is it not necessary for you to clarify your position in all such cases?
People are not fools. The Left cannot be confused. Cannot be and cannot be, that is why we have advanced where we have advanced. 'I am good but the Party is bad' –– can this ever be accepted? I exist because of the Party. I have been given certain responsibility. Individuals do have a role in history, but “they” blow up that role. There is no scope for confusion. We discuss everything in the Party. We have debates –– just like in any Party which is alive and kicking. Those who try to create clouds of confusion, those who try to see a Chinese Wall between me and the Party ––the problem is theirs and not mine. “They” are what “they” are. We are what we are.
ELECTIONS AND LEFT FRONT
The basic difference marking the campaign of the Left Front with those of the others, including the principal opposition parties, is that the Left Front is never a mere electoral alliance as the opposition jot and mahajot are. The Left Front has grown up through a process of struggle, blood, sweat, and tears.
The people have witnessed the struggle the Left Front has led of the workers, the kisans, the student-youth, and the women. On assumption of office, the Bengal Left Front has decentralised power: the rural and urban self-governing institutions, the panchayats and the municipalities have become centres of popular governance with a pro-poor inclination.
The opposition with its trio of outfits in the main have entered into the duality of enmity and alliance among themselves, keeping their principal thrust reserved against the Left Front. The alliance is an opportunistic grouping of convenience. They would not abide by principles and policies of any sort. The people would have decided by now on whom to repose their trust and on whom not to do so.
The late Comrade Anil Biswas had spoken about that we must strive to increase our electoral support to over 50 per cent and we are working towards that target.
AN IMPROVED LF
An improved Left Front connotes more speed and better mobility. It means to take quick decisions and to implement the decisions quickly. We have carried on a comprehensive drive in this regard. We have carried out a wide struggle for development because development cannot take place without struggle.
We aim to make continuous progress in agriculture. From agriculture emanates agricultural trade and from thereon agro-industry. We have targeted to increase investment, both indigenous and foreign. The industrialists have realised that the LF government is an investment-friendly government. Several industrial houses have come to Bengal, and more are coming. Japan has the highest investment here of the foreign concerns. China has invested in power; the US has invested in IT and food processing.
The process is based on mutuality of interest. The contradiction between capital and labour is a basic and core contradiction. But we know that we would be able to set up socialism in Bengal. We are engaged in the task of development within a capitalist structure. We always try to secure and safeguard the interest of the workers. We have ensured that the workers enjoy full rights. Thus the twin tasks of development and struggle go together.
CONGRESS-LED UPA AND THE LEFT
We have supported the UPA government up in Delhi because of compulsions. The straightforward choice was whether it is to be Congress or it is to be the BJP. We had realised as had the people that should the BJP make a come back, the entire country will face a Gujarat-like situation. This compelled us to support the UPA from outside. But the support is never unconditional. We oppose all initiatives that are disengaged from the Common Minimum Programme, inside and outside of the parliament.
PRIORITIES BEFORE THE SEVENTH LF GOVT
First, we must lift above the poverty line all those who yet remain below it, and we must do this as quickly as possible, by bringing about an improvement in the standard of living. Second, we must consolidate our successes in agriculture leading to diversification of crops and transition from agriculture to agro-industries. Third, the acceleration that has marked industrial development must be further speeded up.