‘Socialism is not attainable at this juncture.’ Words from the economic reform lobby? No, straight from the CPI(M)’s grand patriarch Jyoti Basu. Mr Basu is being realistic when he says that at the present juncture there is no way out of the capitalist system and that there is no option but to industrialise the state. This is a shot in the arm for Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who has been a strong advocate for reforms. The Nandigram fiasco stemmed from opposition to the CM’s pro-reform strategy, something he has been pilloried for by the CPI(M) politburo in New Delhi. In fact, Mr Bhattacharjee’s pragmatism has often brought him into direct collision with the party’s hardline General Secretary Prakash Karat who has refused to dilute the ideology that has governed the CPI(M) all these years.
Given his stature, Mr Basu’s words will not be taken lightly. Ever since Mr Bhattacharjee embarked on his quest to industrialise the state and bring in foreign investment, Mr Basu has preferred to remain in the shadows leaving the former to fend off criticism from Mr Karat and Co. on his own. Mr Basu’s words will send a signal to the politburo that even he who has been a dyed-in-the-wool socialist realises that the party needs to change to remain relevant. He has also displayed remarkable realism in saying that with only three states under its belt, the CPI(M)’s chances of ushering in a socialist system are all but impossible. The party’s rank and file, confused at the disconnect between the party’s high command and Mr Bhattacharjee, will now find it easier to discern in which direction the CPI(M) is heading. Mr Basu was obviously concerned at the manner in which the party was being portrayed as a house divided. He is clearly concerned about the state’s economic stagnation that has kept the party from delivering its utopian promises to the people.
Mr Basu and Mr Bhattacharjee, unlike the comrades in the high command, realise that ideology alone won’t bring in the votes. People are no longer content to blindly follow the leader and live on a diet of ideology. To this end, Mr Basu’s remarks signal a turning point in the CPI(M).