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Home > News > Columnists > Rajeev Srinivasan

Nandigram: Communism as fascism - Part II

April 03, 2007

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Part I of Rajeev Srinivasan's column: Nandigram: Communism as fascism

I was reminded of three different incidents when I heard about Nandigram:

  • the Jallianwallah Bagh massacre
  • the Tiananmen Square massacre
  • the Odessa Steps sequence in the film Battleship Potemkin by Sergein Eisenstein
  • The Jallianwallah Bagh parallel is obvious.

    The Tiananmen Square analogy is also obvious: a naked misuse of State power.

    The Odessa Steps sequence requires a little explanation. The film is a fictionalized account of the mutiny on the Battleship Potemkin at the port of Odessa, in the Ukraine, that is considered the seminal event that triggered off the Russian Revolution. Sailors on the ship revolted against the bad conditions, including maggot-laden food they were forced to consume, and this turned into a general uprising. The population, fed up with the rule of the Tsar, joined the agitation.

    In Eisenstein's brilliantly imagined sequence, a phalanx of heavily-armed Cossack soldiers marches down the steps to the waterfront, robot-like, shooting down helpless civilians like dogs. This sequence, with the vivid editing technique of montage, is often named the single most memorable scene in all cinema, and indeed it is overwhelmingly powerful. Close-ups show a pram bouncing down the steps with a baby in it after its mother was shot down; a cracked and blood-spattered pair of glasses fall next to its dying owner.

    The good thing about the Potemkin incident is that the injustice and the inhumanity finally got the oppressed ones to take some action. I wonder if the long-suffering Bengali will finally see that he too has to take some action and rise up in revolt against the oppressors.

    Potemkin shows how the ruling classes' inhumanity towards the common man leads to frighteningly barbaric behaviour. Which, of course, is exactly what happened in Nandigram too. The Communists demonstrated that they are tyrants just like the Tsars. If they had any sense of ethics, they would have immediately resigned, taking the blame for this tremendous show of State monstrosity.

    Instead, the luminaries of the Communist Party attempted to brazen it out. A famous comrade, who was captured on film after the hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight chivvying on the families of the hostages to force the Centre to capitulate, was seen after Nandigram forcefully asserting the State's 'right' to kill people! How very predictable: When comrades rule, the rights of the 'people' go for a toss.

    This business of the State annexing the property of the common man for the benefit of large industrial groups is routine in Communist-ruled areas. Which leads the impartial observer to conclude that crony capitalism and Communism go hand-in-hand.

    Here's news from Cambodia again: the comrades are grabbing the citizens' land, according to The Economist of March 8: Invasion of the land-grabbers. Corrupt politicians are simply grabbing land from the common man.

    What is quite intriguing is that the grand-daddy and oracle of Communism, its very Vatican, is doing something against the trend, after decades of the State violating all the rights of the proletariat. See, for instance, the expose 'Survey of Chinese Peasants' (banned in China and not available on the Internet), but this review gives one an idea about it the land-mafia and the atrocious condition of the peasantry.

    The Chinese are now beginning to warm up to the idea that private property matters and that it is important to not snatch it away from people as though it were the State's birthright. Amazing turnaround for the godmen of Communism, if we are to believe the Economist of March 15: Caught between right and left, town and country.

    But that does not mean the Communist bigwigs in India, who regularly make pilgrimages to China to be advised by their cardinals and archbishops, are going to wonder whether if the Chinese are codifying individual property rights West Bengal should do so too. Nosirreebob!

    As one famous comrade explained to a stunned audience in Trivandrum some years ago, if China invites FDI in manufacturing, that is a good thing. But if India invites FDI in manufacturing, that is a bad thing. Whatever China does is good and proper, but if India does the same thing, it's bad for the proletariat revolution. Something about goose, gander, etc., I gathered.

    The only hope for West Bengal -- although it may already be too late, as the classic Communist maxim of 'One man, one vote, one time' has taken hold through the elimination of all opposition -- is to rise up in revolt like the citizens of Odessa did in 1905. Ironically enough, the saviours of the poor in 1917's October Revolution have now, in turn, become the oppressors. Strange, isn't it, the cyclic nature of things?

    There is some hope for Cambodia, though, as it slowly sloughs off the horrors of Communism, as in the Economist's story of February 22: Back from the dead. And the only way this country is forging ahead is by rediscovering its ancient faith, as exemplified by the late Preah Maha Ghosananda, a Buddhist monk. It is only by abjuring the absurd dogmas of Communism -- much like Europe forged ahead by ditching the Church -- that these long-suffering areas under their thumb can improve.

    Comments welcome at my blog at

    Rajeev Srinivasan