The hypocrisy of Chomsky over Nandigram
Noam Chomsky, the intellectual icon, is the biggest draw for a cause the Leftists all over the world hold dear. That is why when the left-wing intellectuals -- who were protesting the other day on the streets of Kolkata against the brutalities of the Left Front government in Nandigram -- read out an e-mail message of support from Noam Chomsky, they must have thought that it was a big chastisement for Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the chief minister.
But some rearguard action by the Left Establishment in India seems to have done the trick. An open letter written by Chomsky and some other intellectuals to 'Our Friends in Bengal (published in the Hindu dated November 22) has virtually taken the case away from the Left critics and reinforced the hands of the Left Establishment.
Take, for instance, how deftly the letter is framed. It begins like this: "News travels to us that events in West Bengal have overtaken the optimism that some of us have experienced during trips to the state. We are concerned about the rancour that has divided the public space, created what appear to be unbridgeable gaps between people who share similar values. It is this that distresses us. We hear from people on both sides of this chasm, and we are trying to make some sense of the events and the dynamics. Obviously, our distance prevents us from saying anything definitive. We continue to trust that the people of Bengal will not allow their differences on some issues to tear apart the important experiments in the state (land reforms, local self-government)."
This 'unity of the Left' principle, come what may, is the bane of the Chomskian intellectual paradigm. Chomsky himself has said: "It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies." And that is exactly what the intellectuals, who have been friends of the Left politics in the state for decades, were doing on the streets of Kolkata and other cities.
Yes, they shared the values represented by the Left. But when they found a political party, which is supposed to be the vanguard of the Left politics, resorted to thuggish methods of an arch reactionary outfit. They had no other option but to give vent to their anger. And they did it, not by wreaking havoc on the streets, as the Left and the Right hoodlums often tend to do; their silence spoke their angst.
Instead of giving moral support to their cause, what Chomsky et al are doing? They are exhorting the presumably misguided Left activists not to 'tear apart the important experiments undertaken in the state land reforms, local self-government).'
And, pray, who is Chomsky reminding about the milestones of the Left Front government's achievements in West Bengal? People like Mrinal Sen, the celebrated filmmaker and a friend of Buddhadeb over half a century, who despite his ripe old age, took to the streets to register his protest. Sankha Ghosh, the poet, who till the other day was an integral part of the Left Establishment in Bengal (he was the vice president of the Bangla Academy), Medha Patkar who has been championing the cause of the marginalized for years, Sumit Chakravarty, the Editor of 'Mainstream'
which remains an uncompromised platform for leftist ideas, Praful Bidwai whose passionate critique of the Indo-US nuclear deal in his writings earned him the derisory remarks of being a 'Leftist hack'. The list is long, as many who had for long earned the epithets of 'Left intellectuals' were found crossing the swords with the Left government over Nandigram issue.
By asking them not to 'allow their differences on some issues to tear apart the important experiments undertaken in the state', Chomsky and his fellow writers have virtually thrown their weight on the side of the Left government.
For, in the entire letter, there is not a single indictment of the government, but there are a whole lot of endorsements. There is one vague statement: 'We send our fullest solidarity to the peasants who have been forcibly dispossessed'. Dispossessed by whom? By implication, the Bhumi Ucched Pratirodh Committee, which is accused by the CPI (M) of evicting its cadre during the seven months it laid siege to the area.
But Chomsky is very definitive about who deserves the praise. 'We understand that the government has promised not to build a chemical hub in the area around Nandigram. We understand that those who had been dispossessed by the violence are now being allowed back to their homes, without recrimination. We understand that there is now talk of reconciliation. This is what we favour.'
Clearly, in Chomsky's assessment, the Left government in West Bengal is doing all the right things. It is the Left critics who need to be chastised. Chomsky sets out the reasons in the next paragraph: 'the balance of forces in the world is such that it would be impetuous to split the Left. We are faced with a world power that has demolished one state (Iraq) and is now threatening another (Iran). This is not the time for division when the basis of division no longer appears to exist.'
So Chomsky, as his wont, uses the American bogeyman to silence the Left critics. Yes, the US is an Evil Empire. It is the duty of every Left intellectual to stand up to thwart its evil designs. But does that mean that the Leftists blink at all the misdeeds of what calls itself a Left government? Shouldn't the intellectuals speak the truth and expose the lies of even a Left government? Or, their ire should only be targeted against the governments that don't call themselves leftist?
Chomsky would opt for the first and third option and dump the second, as he has done in the past. He wrote and spoke eloquently and rightly about the Indonesian terror in East Timor, but downplayed and rationalized,
hypocritically, the brutalities committed by Pol Pot in Cambodia just because he rode to power on a Left platform.
The Left is morally superior because it is humane; but when monsters are masquerading as Leftists, it is the job of the Left intellectuals to expose them. But Chomsky would rather defend them. He perhaps has a rationalization for the CPI (M)'s Nandigram terror, as he had about the terror unleashed by the National Liberation Front (NFL, the communist outfit of North Vietnam) while trying to take control of South Vietnam.
He had said: "I can't accept the view that we can just condemn the NFL terror, because it was so horrible… If it were true that the consequences of not using terror would be that the peasantry in Vietnam would continue to live in the state of the peasantry of the Philippines [this was the rationale put out by the NFL] I think the use of terror would be justified." Had there not been the Left intellectuals in the forefront against the government in West Bengal, Chomsky would have promptly issued an NFL-like justification of official terror by the Buddhadeb government.
This double standard is the bane of Chomskian legacy. The Leftist intellectuals in India will have to carry on their struggle fully aware that Chomsky's sympathies lie on the Establishment side of the Left divide.